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Preface

This report is required reading for everyone who thinks public relations professionalism matters: practitioners, educators, students and university administrators.

If you work in public relations, or teach it, you probably have used the word “profession” from time to time. Indeed, when we define public relations in its broadest sense—as an essential management function that helps an organization and its publics build relationships that enable them to understand and support one another—a case can certainly be made that public relations is a profession.

Many scholars argue that an occupation becomes a profession only if certain conditions exist, among them:

  • a substantial body of research-based knowledge;

  • standardized education systems to help create and disseminate that knowledge;

  • a commitment to lifelong professional learning;

  • core ethical principles;

  • and a fundamental sense of responsibility, increasingly global in scope, for bettering our civil societies.

While it might seem that The Professional Bond has been developed primarily to assist educators as they develop public relations curricula and administer programs in this field, the Commission on Public Relations Education believes that this report will have value for a broad spectrum of other audiences as well:

  • Public relations practitioners, as employers in virtually every kind of institution. They will gain a clearer picture of how public relations education prepares today’s students to match practitioners’ criteria for entry and growth in the field—and perhaps conclude that practitioners must increase their support for public relations education.

  • Business, government and nonprofit leaders. This audience may find new insights into how public relations can help organizations build and maintain robust, mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders at a time when the challenges of globalization, technology, diversity and ethics have never been greater.

  • Students who are studying or considering public relations at the undergraduate and graduate levels. They will learn the intellectually challenging, socially significant field that awaits them—where job prospects are brightest for those who have experienced a thoughtful, well-rounded curriculum that prepares them for what lies ahead.

  • University administrators who may develop a stronger appreciation for the growing appeal of public relations study, as evidenced by increasing enrollments. They will perhaps be moved to channel increased support to such programs.

This report is structured for all of these audiences. An executive summary, available in both print and online, aims to satisfy those who seek to quickly grasp the overall direction and importance of the Commission’s recommendations. Readers in search of more depth will want to review the complete report, which also is available in print and online.

The Commission on Public Relations Education includes representatives of 12 professional societies in the field of public relations and communication. The Commission published its first curricular guidelines in 1975. The 2006 report marks the fourth revision over three decades.

The last report, issued in 1999, carried the title A Port of Entry. That report articulated its mission as providing guidelines, recommendations and standards for public relations education— undergraduate, graduate and continuing—for the early 21st Century.

The 2006 report seeks to surpass even the ambitious mission of 1999 in connecting public relations education more closely with the practice. This new effort reflects two years of national research and study conducted pro bono by the Commission’s educators and practitioners. It will be judged a success if intended audiences conclude that public relations education today is more attuned than ever to helping the profession build understanding, credibility and trust between organizations and their publics.