KUALA LUMPUR: The role that effective and strategic public relations (PR) plays in the 21st Century marketplace cannot be denied. It is with this in mind that BERJAYA University College (BERJAYA UC) developed the Diploma in Public Relations (DPR) programme, it is another significant programme catering to the services industry to go with the University College’s culinary arts and hospitality management programmes.
"PR practitioners do more than just craft press releases and cultivate relationships with key media representatives" said Dr Wong Kok Keong, Head of the BERJAYA School of Communication & Media Arts. "They must also keep up with consumer attitudes and concerns, government policies, organisational behaviour, public interest groups and the community at large, in order to establish and sustain cooperative working relationships for their companies or clients."
Further to the traditional role of getting a company's key messages out to its various audiences, Wong highlighted that PR practitioners also "create, manage and ensure the lines of communication are open between a company's representatives and the targeted audiences. This may consist of activities such as scheduling corporate social responsibility (CSR) engagements, organising strategic alliances, arranging speaking gigs (for example, TED talks and strategic conferences) for key company staff, and speech writing."
PR essentially centres on a common truth, that is, "people typically act based on their perception of facts," Wong, an academic who had taught for more than 20 years in the U.S. before returning to Malaysia, pointed out. "When PR successfully creates, changes or reinforces a preferred perception through the art of persuasion, its main objective is achieved."
Steven K C Poh, senior lecturer of the BERJAYA School of Communications & Media Arts, pointed out that because everything out there, regardless of industry, is about perception, knowing and acquiring the necessary skills to persuade effectively is critical when students go out into the dog-eat-dog corporate world.
"Effective persuasion affects people's perceptions and is able to generate a positive and favourable image of an individual, an organisation and even a nation," said Poh who was journalist and a PR practitioner for more than 25 years before joining academia. The complexity of globalisation coupled with developments in communication technology has transformed the business, political and media landscapes resulting in the high demand for problem-solving graduates.
"Complexity brings about risks," Wong explained, "and the risk to reputation is one of the leading drivers behind the remarkable growth in the international PR business; thus people capable of coping with risks and complexity are much needed".
BERJAYA UC helps train future PR practitioners with an accurate and rounded view of the world so that they can bring something to every industry they are involved in. "We cannot know exactly what tools our students can be using in five or 10 years' time, but we are clear that they will be facing some very complex problems that do not exist today," added Wong.
In view of this, he is convinced that BERJAYA UC's PR education and training, with its progressive problem-solving approach and its strong emphasis on English language competency and proficiency, should provide that firm foundation to prepare our students well for work.
Alongside rigorous course work guided by experienced lecturers with contemporary industry skills and/or cutting edge academic knowledge, BERJAYA UC's DPR students undergo a semester of industry training through their internship which is designed to give them an intensive hands-on learning experience in a challenging work environment, and opportunities to work with award-winning industry practitioners.
At a time of a general sense of global recession, especially high levels of youth unemployment in Malaysia, Professor Dr Eileen Lee, Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at BERJAYA UC, said it makes sense to ensure that one will be employable at the end of one's studies.
"BERJAYA UC's PR programme offers good prospects for PR graduates," Lee said. "As a practical course, PR offers precious work experience and life skills and a PR graduate can find work in almost any industry. That's how versatile the PR graduate is."
Having made its mark in the culinary arts and hospitality fields, BERJAYA University College is now expanding with new faculties and schools. As part of the expansion, the BERJAYA School of Communication & Media Arts is planning to offer the Bachelor of Communication (Hons) programme with four exciting areas of specialisation.
"Prospective students interested in communication and media as a career should definitely check us out and speak to the academic staff about our interesting specialisations in this field," said BERJAYA UC's Dean of Liberal Arts.