Posted by: Paul Jenkins | March 23, 2008

I am a tiger lily – hear me ROAR!

If I hear one more person refer to himself as a budding PR professional I’m going to be sick. How about aspiring PR professional? PR professional in basic training? Or, pubescent PR professional instead? I demand more creativity, blossoming students.

And to the word bud – yes you, occasional adjective and frequent noun – meet me at the bike rack in five minutes. I’m going to throw haymakers in your general direction.

Adjective bud doesn’t describe the growth of my communication education antlers, nor my newly ivory tusked PR skills – at best it forms a middle class description of marijuana or shapes the name of Rudy’s neighbourhood friend on the Cosby Show.

Around this time last year I was in the midst of applying for the studies I hope to complete next week. I applied for graduate certificate programs alternately titled corporate communications, public relations or corporate communications and public relations at five Ontario colleges: Centennial, Fanshawe, Humber, Seneca and Sheridan.

I chose to attend Centennial College – not for the obvious reason that it once schooled fictional Joey Jeremiah, Dereck “Wheels” Wheeler and dreamy Caitlin Ryan, but because its online brand, both in tone and content, reflected the qualities of an education I wanted to obtain.

As an aside, I think Centennial’s Centre for Creative Communications should better celebrate its televised legacy. I propose replacing its current moniker, “the Centre,” with the more historical “Degrassi College.”

Centennial’s online brand communicated an ambitious learning environment. One without pretension – one that was open to the affects of our digital revolution, yet still grounded in the traditions of the communications profession.

I accepted Centennial’s offer of admission while living and teaching in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. As such, I did so based solely on its digital submissions – the only information available to me six time zones away.

I explored static descriptions of the program’s curriculum and an agenda of a typical school day. I read form answers and when that advice was insufficient, received personal responses to e-mailed questions I had.

The application process itself was easily facilitated by its use of online tools. In effect, I said yes to Centennial’s invitation as much for the ease of the application process as the program itself.

To be fair, with the exception of Humber, all schools met my basic expectations of both static (unsymmetrical) and personalized (symmetrical) communication – allowing me to thoroughly evaluate the merits of the individual programs.

My application story is hardly unique. There are plenty of prospective students who are determining the direction of their academic careers based solely on a school’s digital communications.

What role, if any, is left for traditional advertising in influencing prospective student opinion? Why do students choose certain programs over others? certain schools over others? Are we searching for an education that meets predetermined stipulations? Or, are we moulding ourselves to fit programs that are already available?

Earlier today, my niece Samantha, leaning over me as I wrote the first draft of this post, asked, “what’s PR?” She’s seven. After a few failed explanations, I realized I couldn’t respond in a way she’d understand. Instead I changed the subject and asked her to tell me a joke.

Why did the gum cross the road?
Because it was stuck to the chicken’s foot.



  1. Hi Paul,

    After exploring all the options related to post-grad programs in communications and public relations, I too came to the conclusion that Centennial’s program was better than the rest. Now that our class sessions are over, just wanted to let you know that it was a pleasure working with you and getting to know you during our time at Centennial.

    Thank you for organizing the Super Fun Happy Celebration of Goodness. I had a blast. Oh, yeah, last but not least, this bud’s for you. Tee Hee.

    Cheers – Karin

  2. I am nut sure about the word ‘pubescent’ Paul but I get your drift about budding PR practitioners. for your sake I will try not to do it again.

    Like many of our colleagues I applied to a number of colleges. I ended up choosing Centennial because my experience with one of the instructors (Jessie May) during the information sessions left me with a positive feeling. I guess it goes to show that different things within the recruitment process influence different people.

  3. You’ve got the vocabulary that can make Websters jealous Paul.

    Love the pic at the top end too. You roar at those lilys and don’t let up!

    ‘Budding’ bothers me too – it’s a vague description. But it could be one of those words we all toss around yet all have a mutual agreement that no one really knows exactly what it means.

    And with that vagueness in mind, I leave you with this:
    “It really depends on what it is whether or not I like it”

    Peace Paul,

  4. Fascinating post…gives me some insight into the impressions the program creates with applicants from overseas. (Good to know that, from your point if view, the program’s positioning had some appeal.)

    I often tell applicants who’ve applied to several similiar programs to “get the feel of Centennial” because they will live here very intensively for eight months.

    I advise: “Walk around. Visit the LRC. Talk to front office staff. Look at the photograhs and certificates on the walls to see what we value. Get an impression from whomever handles the applicant session.”

    Like a job interview, it’s about “fit”–can you see yourself fitting in here? Obviously, with an overseas applicant, we have to try to make an impression through responsive e-mails, quick decisions and making the process as smooth as possible.

    Good to know it works.

  5. Paul teacher,

    I’ve always enjoyed reading your writing and listening to your comments. Be it over yogurt soju in the depths of a smoky Seoul establishment, while pulling cold ones from the snow outside your apartment in Klien-country, or simply during a poopsicle sales pitch.

    Well done. Keep the thoughts, writing, and public relation skills “budding”.


    Talk soon my friend.


  6. Those tiger lilies are far from budding. I’d say they’re on a fast track to retirement.

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