Can you actually hear a voice that’s behind another voice? How is it possible? Maybe it’s like listening to the still small voice of intuition when the more obvious clamors for prominence? Or, maybe it’s similar to how the conscience works in the face of a competing ideology? Whatever idea “the voice behind the voice” conjures up in your mind, in our minds it stands for what we do as public relations educators and professionals. It truly does represent the world of public relations when the public relations job is well done.
Actually coined by the UCM public relations faculty, the voice behind the voice tag is used by the program as a best practice in starting discussions of public relations. It helps bring understanding and clarity when explaining the program and its graduates’ promising futures to prospective students or questioning parents. In the words of recent graduate Andrew Wortmann, “voice behind the voice is pure genius. It really does help me ‘get’ what we do, and it helps me tell others what I do.”
For example, when UCM’s University Relations office alerted the national media that the next prime number was discovered at UCM, that was public relations at work. When the Reuters reporter was put in contact with UCM Professor Curtis Cooper, who led the last prime number search effort, for inside information and quotes, that was public relations at work. Or, when a program alumna communicated Bernstein-Rein’s story to The Kansas City Star as B-R reintroduced the Hostess Twinkie, that was public relations at work. When recent graduate Brooklyn Lutz participated as a 2014 ZF Fan Race Reporter public relations was at work. The resulting ZF video produced for global distribution included a UCM public relations program and a university “mention,” which means brand awareness was embedded in the audio file. And, finally, the recent work toward public relations program certification and the November 2014 conferment and national announcement of the UCM Public Relations Program as a Public Relations Society of America Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) recipient, was public relations at work. The announcement was also a hallmark of program, student and alumni excellence.
Following a year-long review process, the program’s recent certification positioned it for global recognition as the 38th in the world to receive the leading industry group’s seal of approval for curriculum, teaching, professional development, student outcomes and graduate achievements. “It’s clear that the UCM Public Relations Program fully satisfied all seven CEPR review criteria and it models ‘the global standard in public relations education as called for in certification review,” said Tricia Hansen-Horn, who serves as the UCM Public Relations Program coordinator. “Our program is clearly competitive at the national and global levels; the future looks bright.”
The program’s global competitiveness is represented in its curriculum and faculty, its student accomplishments and its world-class alumni. In fact, the CEPR review found that the UCM public relations program is host to the “ideal” core of complementary public relations courses recommended by the Commission on Public Relations Education. A UCM public relations major is required to take courses covering the following areas: introduction to public relations, research, public relations writing, public relations case studies, strategic planning and management for public relations, digital strategy, digital design, supervised work experience (an internship external to the UCM campus is required and work in the student-led Innovative PR agency is elective), law and ethics, and public relations campaigns.
The CEPR review found the UCM public relations curriculum highly satisfactory for today’s public relations students. And, the program’s faculty is committed to incorporating learning to a greater degree in as many instances as possible. Students are challenged with theory-driven critical course exercises while also engaging with real clients. For instance, the fall 2014 campaigns course worked with the Austin P. Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer out of Chattanooga, Tennessee to increase awareness of the organization’s mission among prospective donors. The spring 2015 class worked with Austin, Texas-based Frameworks Community Development Corporation to build brand awareness and position Frameworks as a thought leader in sustainable housing solutions. This summer the class worked with Children’s Mercy Hospital. And, the student work of a recent magazine and design class is in use by Fight Colorectal Cancer, a leading national patient advocacy group
In addition, two of the public relations faculty, Tricia Hansen-Horn and Adam Horn recently authored “Strategic Planning for Public Relations: Beginning the Journey” (2014) for international distribution by publisher Peter Lang. The authors are contracted for a second book focusing on the application of theory and strategic planning to case study analysis.
Highly engaged alumni were also a big factor in the program’s recent CEPR award. In fact, more than 50 alumni traveled to Warrensburg to participate in the November 2014 CEPR Celebration events held at the UCM campus. In addition, program alumni regularly visit classes, mentor students and seek current majors as interns and employees. Sometimes program alumni give back through teaching. Alumna Dani Myers serves the program as an adjunct instructor while earning her Ph.D. as the Mizzou Strategic Communication Program’s Missouri School of Journalism Synor Fellow. This past spring program alumna and co-founder of candid marketing + communications Sara Freetly-Grubb joining us March 3 for a day of high impact learning. “It feels right to give back to my alma mater,” said Freetly-Grubb. “I look forward to my time there because I am excited to share with students what I know and experience as a business owner.”
Additional public relations program excellence is modeled in its semi-annual newsletter that won a gold 2014 PRISM Award from the Greater Kansas City PRSA as a “best tactic.” Innovative PR, the student-led firm, is also award winning, most recently receiving a KC/International Association of Business Communicators Bronze Quill Award in the student social media campaign category.
Finally, a unique opportunity for engaged learning recently came to the program from alumnus Larry Schnieders, retired from more than 25 years as a Southwestern Bell corporate public relations professional. Schnieders served as a volunteer Innovative PR mentor, working alongside the firm in a service learning capacity called “Together We’re Stronger” benefitting the Kansas City DeLaSalle Education Center. “We’re providing a unique voice [the voice behind the voice] to DeLaSalle as it works to enhance its student successes,” said Schnieders. “The stories we are telling through film of the success stories linked to the DeLaSalle location will help position it for its own future successes. It is a great opportunity for UCM’s Innovative PR specialists to engage in important philanthropic work and help high school students.”