PR Training Thought Leadership

Public Relations: A Lifelong Learning Commitment

My students at Curry College hear this all the time from me: “Never stop learning.”

Most of them, having willingly (or not!) suffered through at least two or three of my PR-related courses, have figured out the best response is a gentle sigh and understanding nod of the head. They know they’ll hear it a dozen or more times in the course of the semester, so they humor me.

So it was with a gigantic sigh of satisfaction last night that I heard the guest speaker for our PR student association say exactly the same thing as part of her “how I got where I am and how I’ll get ahead” presentation.

Happily, I saw a number of the gathered crowd jotting her remarks down…as though a bolt of lightning had blasted through the room.

I know a lot of us feel as though we’ve seen or experienced it all…or are too close to the end of our career’s roller coaster ride for continuing education to really matter anymore.

I’m realizing more and more, though, that what I do know and what I have experienced only prepare me for yesterday’s and, maybe, today’s challenges.

I don’t know…and I seriously doubt any of us really know…what lies in store for us tomorrow.

I’m old enough to remember the “Dick Tracy” series in the comics and his wristwatch-radio with which he communicated with his colleagues. My impression at the time was “nice ‘dreaming’ but that kind of communication will never really happen.”

This thought came to mind last night as I stood in the back of the room listening to the CCPRSA guest speaker while tweeting and Facebooking comments about the speaker’s remarks on my palm-sized phone.

  • Who knew that mobile communication would become part-and-parcel of the current-day interaction process?
  • Who knew that internet-based communication platforms would become the default means of communicating with our publics, with the media, and with the world in general?
  • More important to me…who knew that we, as communication professionals, would have to become knowledgeable about and reasonably proficient in the application of these platforms?

Well…apparently someone knew, because I, for one, can recall attending a program here at Boston back in the early 80s in which the speaker talked enthusiastically about and provided a demonstration of computer-based communication methods. I also recall, in the late 70s, attending a demonstration of remote (Massachusetts-Arizona) computer-based communication.

Our challenge as public relations professionals is to keep ourselves informed/educated about new and emerging technologies and techniques so that we are able to provide clients or employers with the very best counsel and service we can.

We do this by taking advantage of online and in-person opportunities to see and to learn. While I always give a grateful tip of the hat to PRSA for its amazingly diverse slate of programs, I also remind my students (and others) that there usually are other organizations in their area that offer sometimes similar, sometimes different,  opportunities to learn. Look around you…you might be pleasantly surprised.

The main thing here is that opportunities to learn never stop…and the learning process should do the same. Regardless of our “place” in our professional lives, we should…no…we must…continue to study and to learn in order that we might be not just proficient in, but on the cutting edge of, the techniques and technologies that define our profession.

“In my lifetime, changes have taken place that often demanded revision of the conduct of our lives. New lifestyles were brought about by science and invention as well as by the social sciences. Some causes could be foreseen; others could not. The public had to adjust as best it could.” – Edward L. Bernays, Public Relations Quarterly:  “Closing Up the Cultural Time Lag” [Summer 1983]

About the author

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. Prior to his move into academia, Kirk practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk was inducted into PRSA’s prestigious College of Fellows in 2009 and is one of just two actively-teaching college professors in Massachusetts to have earned this distinction. You can read more of Kirk’s musings at his blog “A Professor’s Thought” and follow him on Twitter @KirkHazlett.


  • Good post. I keep a running list of courses and seminars I’ve attended on LinkedIn and my blog under the heading Continuing Learning. I attend journalism, marketing, social media and PR courses and events. Our Society of Professional Journalists offers an excellent slate of classes which allows me opportunity to get to know local journalists as well as learn what’s new on their side of the world. Thanks Kirk.

    • Hi Imelda ~ My sincerest apologies for the delay in responding…don’t know how I missed your response. Sounds like you’re way ahead of me on the concept of Continuing Ed…good for you! SPJ, IABC, PRSA…all are a great resource for keeping up with, if not ahead of, the curve. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • As I started my degree in Communication at Columbus State
    University, I was on the Public Relations track. I was excited to become a new
    member of the department and eager to learn as we all should be. After my first
    PR class however, my mind changed a little bit. I wasn’t sure that I could
    handle people the way that I should in that field. I have a relatively short
    temper that is a work in progress, if you know what I mean. But after all, I
    have to learn to fix that. I switched
    to the Mass Media track and have loved it since! Something that we all have to
    learn is ourselves and what works best for us, and communication department is
    helping me do just that. I hope you all find your niche too!

  • Kirk, you discuss a good point in your blog post: opportunities to learn never stop…and the learning process should do the same. I completely agree. As a college student studying public relations I am constantly being exposed to new information regarding the industry itself. Each semester there is something new to focus on and I challenge myself to absorb as much information as I can so that I can utilize it post-graduation. It’s interesting to read your article and see that even as early as the 70s people were speaking on the use of computers for communication. We have come a long way since then but the thing that has remained the same in public relations is the fact that you must continue to learn about the practice in order to keep up with what everyone else is doing. If you continue to educate yourself about public relations you won’t have to worry about adjusting to new changes as they come.This post definitely has me thinking of new ways to learn about the changing industry of public relations not only in the classroom but outside of it as well. I think a lot of professionals forget how important it is to keep educating themselves about the career they are in. Just because you already work in an industry does not mean you know everything there is to know about it!

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