Almost a decade ago, trustees of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations began a conversation with our founder, Betsy Plank, about the need for equipping collegiate educators with greater knowledge and experience to help prepare students for the challenges public relation leaders face in their work. Our Plank Center Fellowship for Educators program was born of these discussions, and seven years later we’ve now placed 60 PR educators in summer assignments with 24 of the world’s great global corporations, agencies and not-for profit organizations.
The Plank Center’s mission is to help develop and recognize outstanding, diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society. Betsy Plank, known as the First Lady of Public Relations, had a life-long passion for matching educators and professionals so that both would grow together.
We designed the summer fellowship specifically for public relations educators with the dual purpose of exposing professors to current day-to-day operations of the public relations function and to help create an exchange of information and ideas that will enhance the professional development of both the educators and the practitioner-hosts.
As in past years, educators for 2016 spent two full weeks in the offices of the sponsoring organizations. During their period of service, they were given a full orientation to the sponsoring organization, a particular department or functional area, staff duties and responsibilities, clients and/or projects. Many worked side-by-side with host teams on corporate and client programs
A key facet of this program is the reciprocal nature of the fellowship: When the educator has completed their summer term, they will extend an invitation to their host/mentor to schedule time in 2016 on their college or university campus, during which the host/mentor will be asked to provide a lecture, have lunch or dinner with faculty, and meet with students.
Nine world-class public relations agencies and corporations stepped up to be hosts in 2016. Four public relations firms – Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum, Deveney Communications and WeberShandwick – were joined by five corporate hosts – American Airlines, General Motors, Home Depot, Cox Communications and Darden Restaurants. Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum, Deveney Communication, GM and Home Depot are all repeat hosts.
The educators selected from a field of more than 20 applicants and their host companies included:
We all should be very proud of a program that brings the Plank Center, as moderator, great visibility and recognition among world-class hosts and educators. It makes our profession better!
Insights from Keith Burton on leadership, mentoring, corporate culture and strategic employee engagement.