PR in Education

Public Relations can be a powerful tool by assisting educational institutions to portray a proper image to the community.  This is much more prevalent for institutions of higher education that may rely more on a public image to maintain a balance of new applicants.  It might be an internal PR team employed by the institution or can it can be an outside firm hired to deal with a looming crisis.  Universities deal with PR conflicts regularly involving prestige and size.    However, it has recently been asked if primary & secondary educational facilities, often part of public school districts, should also use their own PR department.

Since academics and its impact on the public presents its own unique challenges.  Higher education is concerned about the school’s reputation both with the public and with employers. Additionally, their challenges include university budgets, or student and faculty relations.

As a student at Grand Valley State University, I have observed a potential incident slowly unfold.  The incident has to do with a recent Lanthorn article discussing how GVSU (a public institution) seems to cares more about its private donors then creating an environment to develop higher learning.  While I am paraphrasing, this implication can lead to opportunities where college officials might be perceived to retaliate against the writer of the article, because the article is unfavorable to the Universities public image.  The crisis began when FIRE (foundation for individual rights in education) got ahold of the story and has attempted to bring it to the forefront of the media.  Recently, in an attempt to control some of the damage from this story, GVSU sent an email to all students about hosting a Town Hall type of meeting to address the current state of student feelings on the issue of private donors.  For the university it a good way to publically address all students and understand their feelings about private donors, as opposed to engaging only the opposing organization.

In the new form of media and communications there are many outlets for opposing voices to be heard.  This is making it more important for public and private school districts to have PR departments, which would help them, develop a strategic message supporting the public image they wish to present to the community.   Communication and transparency are two of the ground level goal of public relations and would help the school districts explain their goals and how they are properly utilizing state funding.

Communication is never a bad thing and it is important for academic institutions to portray a positive image to the public.  Whether a private institution of education or public school, those in charge need get out ahead of any potential issues and show that issues are being addressed in a proper and expected manner. Public Relations can be powerful tools to assist educational institutions portray the proper image for the community.



Cherenson, M. (1925, October 12). Success Communications Group    We help our clients communicate. Recruitment advertising, public relations, traditional advertising, social networking, association management and interactive Web design are our core services.. Success Communications Group RSS. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from

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Wynne, R. (2013, July 30). Lessons In Higher Education Public Relations. Forbes. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from



PR Crisis: Miami Dolphins Workplace Conduct

A current public relations crisis that is currently going on is the whole Miami Dolphins bullying fiasco.  It was originally centered on two offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, and Richie Incognito.  However the issues have gone much deeper than that and Investigator Ted Wells researched and released a report on the improper conduct in the workplace, and it goes beyond just Martin and Incognito.

The whole story came to the view of the public when Martin up and left the team about 8 weeks into the season. As more details came out it was thought to be because a teammate (Incognito) had been bullying Martin and finally he lost it and left.  The report Ted Wells turned into the Dolphins and the National Football League showed that it went deeper. The report also lists other players, lineman Mike Pouncey and John Jerry as culprits to the workplace wrongdoing. In addition to the 2 players it was mentioned that the offensive line coach Jim Turner not only knew this was happening but also from time to time joined in the unfair treatment.   It was   exposed that Martin and other young players had been receiving harsh treatment for the past 2 or 3 seasons.  Not only did it include players but it also mentioned that an assistant athletic trainer had received many instance of racist treatment from Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry.

During the season, Martin had left and never returned to the team, after phone records and text messages were turned into the proper people Incognito was suspended for the rest of the year without pay, which cost him over 1 million dollars in salary.  With the report coming out only 4 days ago there has been no more action taken yet by the NFL or the Miami Dolphins organization.

This all begs the question of what will happen with the decisions from the Dolphins and the NFL with the people involved in the “Bullying” incident.  The Dolphins have to make a statement that this cannot be tolerated and the situation escalated so quickly that they are already to the point where they need to repair their image. I feel like what will come of this is that Incognito and Coach Turner will no longer be with the team.  I would also expect that Jerry and Pouncey would get a small suspension from the team.  On the NFL front I expect that they will produce a anti-bullying conduct policy that will go into effect immediately.

The NFL is a popular enough league that they will be able to recover their image quickly, but they will make sure nothing like this happens again.


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Ethics in Public Relations

Ethics deal with a choice and a decision that any individual will encounter frequently.

Ethics are a philosophy dealing with personal or societal values relating to human conduct, with respect to the acceptance or non-acceptance of certain actions.  Ethics also deal with the perception of right and wrong when it comes to a person’s motives for their actions.

The toughest part of studying ethics is to determine if the balance between conducting yourself in an ethical manner and being successful or efficient in accomplishing your short term goal. Public relations firms, as well as most businesses have to make these tough decisions on a daily basis.

The perception of ethics in the public relations industry, have garnered a poor reputation, primarily because of the prominent use of Spin used on every fact or story.  It’s difficult to imagine how the questionable perception of the PR industry will ever change because frequently, PR companies are hired to turn a negative public image into an acceptable or a positive public image. Each time a Public Relations campaign is launched, the circumstances or facts of the story will be spun in the favor of the client, even if the facts are in conflict with the public’s perception.

One ethically questionable tactic used is “Pay for Play TV”.  This is where the PR firm will pay to get their clients airtime on TV shows and news broadcasts. The firm is successful in getting the message to the public; however, the story itself may not be significant enough to get airtime on news broadcasts.  Media outlets also practice the balance of ethics with “Pay for Play”.   Many TV and Radio stations will take money to broadcast a message in a timeslot where they clearly begin and end the broadcast disclosing that the message is a paid announcement.  The disclosure allows the viewer/listener to make an informed decision on the message.  This prevents the TV/radio station from any appearance of taking money to make something a news story.

The importance of ethics has been questioned often; Shannon A. Bowen, Associate Professor of Journalism, University of South Carolina said; “as recently as 2008 a Dean at the University of Maryland (where she received her PhD) said that there was no need for an ethics course because no one cares about learning ethics”.

Recently ethics may have started gaining back some attention in the PR field.  Bowen indicated the renewed interest toward ethics in the PR field is a double-edged sword.  Stating that as a professor and advocate of ethics “it’s excellent to see the interest returning, however, the other side of the sword is why ethics were not important enough to have them included in the educational curriculum for Journalism and Public Relations.


Bowen, S. (2013, September 13). Explaining PR’s ‘newfound’ interest in ethics. PRWeek US. Retrieved February 2, 2014, from

Fawkes, J. (2012). Saints and sinners: Competing identities in public relations ethics. Public Relations Review, 38(5), 865-872. Retrieved February 2, 2014, from the Science Direct database.

Kennedy, M. (2010, August 9). Public Relations & Ethics: Why the Bad Reputation?. PR Fuel  Public Relations News  PR Tips. Retrieved February 2, 2014, from