A Stirling academic has been honoured for advancing public relations, 'a small field trying to establish itself'
Jacquie L'Etang, director of Stirling University's MSc in public relations, has won an international award whose previous holders include former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago and cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Since 2005, the Xifra-Heras International Award has been ring-fenced for academics in PR, but it still retains the criterion of excellence in "professional and human qualities". The award is made by Girona University in Spain in memory of Jordi Xifra-Heras, founder of its School of Communications. "I was completely overwhelmed, and I still feel very humble," Dr L'Etang said. The award was particularly unexpected in "a very small field trying to establish itself".
Dr L'Etang graduated in history from the University of East Anglia before going to work for the British Council, where she took on a range of PR responsibilities. After a move to Scotland, she took a course in PR at Stirling to understand it better. "I came to realise it was a fascinating subject that touches on every aspect of our culture. It's embedded in politics, economics, sport and entertainment," she said.
Dr L'Etang also took an MPhil in social justice at Stirling, which she believed was important for her research and teaching. PR is well established in business schools and communications departments, but not yet generally accepted in disciplines such as philosophy and economics.
"There's still a feeling that it's not quite respectable, but it's part of a natural intellectual development," she said.