Spring time of 2016 I decided, with the encouragement of my work colleagues, to take on the Advanced Certificate course through the CIPR in an attempt to further my experience in public relations and communications, and to also maintain a better understanding of the field of expertise in which I’ve chosen. Now, twelve months down the line, I have successfully completed the course and passed with merit to my own jubilation.
My overall experience with the assignments we were given was a challenging one and consisted of delving into a different structure of learning that was both exciting and scary at the same time.
In terms of helping me obtain a better understanding of the field of PR I feel that I was introduced and exposed to many different theories that both complemented and challenged each other. The course has also given me more confidence since passing as my opinions about ethical practice have simply been reinforced by what I’ve learned.
The most challenging assignment for myself had to be the critique assignment at the end which involved a great deal of critical analysis. I chose to critique social judgement theory (the idea that an individual will weigh every new idea presented to them and will compare it with their current point of view to ultimately determine if they disagree or agree) in explaining the impact on PR practice of social media ‘filter bubbles.’
My findings in my critique found mixed research results in terms of whether or not the existence of filter bubbles is genuine. The concept of people limiting their exposure to different points of views goes far beyond the introduction of social media and is possibly a behavioural attribute in some people that has transformed over time, with the introduction of the internet and social media simply making it easier for them to close off contradicting opinions. Perhaps most interesting is that research also suggests that traditional media still holds an insignificant value in exposing people to varying opinions and information as it’s still seen as the more trustworthy source for news.
Through the analysis of social judgement theory, I came across an insightful experiment put on by Stanford University that studied confirmation bias. The experiment found that people will almost certainly believe and accept information that already supports their beliefs, rather than accept information that contradicts them.
Ultimately, my conclusion of research found that the overall behaviour of stubbornness towards new information only serves to support the theory of filter bubbles as it outlines how people will continue to believe what they want despite being presented with contradicting facts. Furthermore, when applied to social media, it means that users will continue to believe stories they view online which align with their already established beliefs and opinions.
I found that the theories discussed offer great insight into the value of a two-way communications model in practice and suggest that it’s worth taking part in a more genuine approach which would proactively go against the concept of filter bubbles. It suggests that engaging with opposition stakeholders is perhaps the solution in ensuring that parties with contradicting views are better informed.
The critique assignment was an eye opening and insightful experience for which I’m happy to have been challenged in learning more about the theories I encountered and analysing them to a high degree. I would recommend this course to anyone getting into PR for the first time who has a strong analytical mind. It will challenge your perspectives and give you a strong base of ethical practice from which you can rely on as a toolkit for your own knowledge in your career.