On first researching entry routes into PR my initial port of call was the CIPR website. After further research, I returned to the site to enrol on the CIPR Foundation Award.
The Award is intended for those interested in a career in PR, be they students, or entering from other fields, such as journalism, and is particularly useful for anyone whose degree discipline lies outside of public relations, media or communications.
My own degree is in English Literature and Religious Studies, which – while useful, being both creative and analytical, and encompassing knowledge of other cultures – is hardly amongst the most commonly requested subjects by agencies or companies. However, this is where the Foundation Award comes in.
While it will undoubtedly prove unnecessary for those enrolled on CIPR-approved degree programmes, the course has for me been invaluable in gaining solid, fundamental knowledge of the industry.
At just over £600, it can, at first glance, appear a little pricey. However, after completing it, the Award is undeniably money well spent.
The Award is a three-day intensive crash course in all the essentials of the industry: from developing practical writing skills, to learning about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and crisis management. It also explores media relations; the CIPR’s code of conduct and ethics; takes in a brief history of PR from Edwards Bernays through to Max Clifford and current CIPR president Paul Mylrea; and the role of photography in the media.
The course is unique in that each class of students brings their own different ideas and opinions to the course, coming to the forefront in group activities: when it comes to brainstorming case studies, everyone has their own enthusiasm and humour to contribute, which really enhances your overall learning experience. It is undoubtedly a cliché when it comes to PR, but it really is the people who make it what it is.
This also includes the tutors – who prove approachable and happy to answer your every question, regardless of how big, small – or in my case, obvious – it is, also on hand to supply help, if needed, via email.
Only one topic struck me as odd in its absence, given the ways in which it has revolutionised how we communicate, and that is social media. The course could perhaps, in future, incorporate a stronger element on the topic, exploring the influence of Twitter and Facebook, considering that they have now – perhaps sadly? – become a staple in most PR campaigns. However, the CIPR is savvy enough to keep evolving, so it will only be so long now until the syllabus incorporates the topic.
It was only when it came to discussing the exam that we all felt a little nervous. It consists of three parts: Part A – a report on number of studied PR topics, including CSR and crisis management; Part B – an essay question, arguing both for and against a claim; and Part C – a press release. But after just three (albeit thorough) days, was this enough to pass the exam?
Exam day itself wasn’t without its hitches, including my laptop crashing and the internet refusing to connect, but within minutes, City Lit – one of the venues for the Award – had emailed me a copy of the paper as a back-up.
However, all was well when a month or so later, I was overjoyed to receive the email saying: “Congratulations! You have passed the CIPR Foundation Award in Public Relations … with a Merit grade …”.
The course has proven even more informative in that, for me, it has solidified the thoughts I had prior to enrolling on the course: that I want definitely to pursue a career in public relations.
Here is how the Award can benefit you:
1. It is a nationally – and internationally – industry recognised qualification
It is equivalent to a vocational A-Level or NVQ3, and is registered as Level 3 on the NQF (National Qualification Framework).
2. It increases your employability
The Award looks great on your CV. It also demonstrates to employers that you have dedicated both your time, and money, to gaining sound, academic knowledge of your industry – that you are taking your career seriously. Plus, if your degree is PR-free, then it will also give you valuable material to discuss in interviews.
It shows a commitment to investing in yourself. Employers, after all, will only invest in new graduates if we illustrate that we are willing to invest in ourselves.
Your time on the course is a great opportunity to meet new people in the field: from those at the beginning of their careers (like me); those with more experience, working in PR or related sectors (enrolled on the course by employers, for example); and the tutors – experienced practitioners themselves – who each have their own unique insight to add from personal experiences.
The course is in itself a chance to network, and our class was exchanging email addresses within minutes. So be sure to add your fellow students on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
My advice to anyone contemplating enrolling on the CIPR Foundation Award is to not hesitate, as I really could not recommend it more highly.
It is a strong, instant knowledge platform on which to build further PR experience and education, including the CIPR’s subsequent qualification, the Advanced Certificate (which I myself hope to enrol on sometime soon).
Have you completed the CIPR Foundation Award or another professional course? Leave your feedback below.