IPRMSA’s special link with IPRM to enhance professionalism

By Aznan Mat Piah

Many might not probably be aware that one distinct student entity in the Department of Communication in the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) has a direct link with a professional body. The student organisation that I am referring to is the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia Student Association (IPRMSA) – IIUM Chapter that has a close association with the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia (IPRM), a national body of public relations in Malaysia.

The significance of the establishment of the student chapters of IPRM in the universities and institutions of higher learning in the country stems from the objective of the Institute to see that future leaders in the public relations profession are nurtured from the days they are still students at the university. Hence, the Institute had encouraged universities and institutions teaching communication and public relations programmes to set up student chapters in their respective institutions.  

Following this call by IPRM leaders several years ago, a total of 12 institutions in the country has to date established their own chapters – six in public universities and another six in private educational institutions.

IIUM became the second university to set up its chapter in the year 2000 following the first move made by Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in 1999. The chapter in IIUM was set up through the initiative taken by Prof. Dato’ Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid, a senior professor in the Department of Communication and former IIUM Rector. He was also the former president of IPRM. Currently, the IIUM chapter is supervised by none other than the Head of the Department of Communication, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zeti Azreen Ahmad.

Other public universities like Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) followed with the setting up of their student chapters. The recent one was the establishment of another chapter in UiTM – this time, in its campus in Melaka.

Meanwhile, among private universities and institutions that have already established their student chapters are HELP University College, SEGi University, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in Kampar, Taylor’s University, and Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARUC) in Kuala Lumpur.

The student chapters at the respective universities and institutions are free to organise their own programmes and activities based on the advice and supervision of their lecturers who are teaching communication or public relations courses, and their own university guidelines.

During my years serving the IPRM Council since 2008, I observed that the Institute has been very supportive of the activities conducted by the student chapters through participation in webinars, talks or seminars organised by students. Every year during its Annual General Meeting (AGM), members would be reminded of their contributions towards the student chapters. This is followed by the expectations of the industry to ensure that potential graduates meet certain standards and qualities set by the industry. The student chapters indeed provide such platforms.

The members also raised the issue of how the Institute could further bring about an increase in its membership from among communication or public relations graduates and young practitioners, apart from ensuring that graduates who enter the industry would gain the necessary exposure to the field in terms of accreditation and networking by joining IPRM.

Notwithstanding the encouragement given from time to time, IPRM would extend assistance to student chapters to identify suitable practitioners from the field to share their knowledge and expertise in different aspects of public relations work with the students. Some of these speakers have great experience in the field from various established organisations in the public and corporate sectors. Students will be exposed to topics like stakeholder management, media engagement, strategic management, issues and crisis management, media relations, investor relations, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and event management.

The message that goes around to the campus today is that “We want to see more of potential graduates gaining the right professional knowledge, skills and exposure while they are still studying”. This would also give them good opportunity for networking so that by the time students graduate from their institutions they would have already established some kinds of relations or connectivity with practitioners. At the same time, they acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. The networking would also be useful for them to seek placement for internship and employment opportunities upon graduation.    

It is not surprising for a professional body like IPRM to look forward to graduates from tertiary institutions to join the industry for continuity sake. Without doubt, the industry needs to continue to have young blood injected into our professional entity to take over from the older generation in the field who would soon retire. The future indeed lies with present graduates and it depends very much on how we shape these students to become professionals.

Recently, the Council Meeting raised a suggestion for the student chapters to join hands in collaboration to organise a national event or programme of an educational nature to share their knowledge and experience to benefit from each other. In addition, this would be a good opportunity for enhancement of further networking. This is something for the student chapters to explore about, and for IPRM to provide the necessary support.

Being in the governing council of the national body (IPRM) for several years, I have always given my attention to the activities of the IPRMSA – IIUM Chapter. This is coupled with my role as its external advisor to provide my best assistance to ensure success of its events. Following this, we have organised several programmes with the involvement of Council Members and the participation of experienced practitioners from the field for the benefit of students in campus.

Needless to say that the establishment of the student chapters was purposely designed to accommodate the needs for communication students to acquire professionalism while they are still in the university in fulfilment of the national agenda. This also gives them the opportunity to network directly with the public relations and communication professionals.

Being members of the student chapter, it also gives students the opportunity to attend events and programmes organised by IPRM at the national level where they can interact with practitioners not only from Malaysia but also from abroad, such as prominent events like KLIP 2020 and KLIP 2021, and currently in the events conducted through Global Alliance. IPRM is fortunate to have its Vice President, Jaffri Amin Osman, currently sitting on the Global Alliance’s Asia Pacific chair from 2021 to 2023, which gives the Institute greater visibility at the international scene.

This allows students to explore knowledge beyond classrooms and to put into practice what they have learned in class. The connectivity and engagement with these institutions also give them the advantage to seek places for internship or practical training with the organisations they identify.   

Students would be able to learn fast on the professional expectations of the industry, and this would give them a better understanding of the concepts and best practices of public relations. If in the class, they are only exposed to theories and concepts, the professional programmes that they are involved or participated in, would give them greater exposure.

It is interesting to note that the chapter also teaches the students to run their own organisation, that is a good learning process. They strategise to extend on membership. They elect their own committee members and develop their own programmes that are public relations or communication oriented. They identify speakers and invite professionals from the field. They think of the topics for talk programmes, and they manage their own administration and finance. In the process, they develop leadership roles.

This is what I have observed during my time serving in the university. They also conduct programmes to raise funds for the organisation. To sustain their organisation, they need to be very creative in organising their activities that benefit their members. The leadership is dependent on to see the success of their initiatives.

In light of many benefits that students would stand to gain from being members of this student chapter, I should think that more of the students, especially those specialising in public relations or strategic communication, should enrol as members to be able to expose themselves directly to professionalism while they are still studying. I am happy to note that there has been good response from students of other non-Communication disciplines as well who are keen to learn about public relations.

It’s a good learning process, it is an opportunity to venture and explore, and it’s a great experience to go through. True enough, nothing ventured, nothing gained. ***

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