Learning from Case Studies

by Sam Schechter

The study of public relations is one more defined by best practices than theory or models. While both exist, the experiences—both positive and negative—of PR practitioners working in the field, often in harrowing circumstances, offer invaluable learning opportunities for students.

Many of the case studies in this OER textbook link real-world events with models and/or theories that PR practitioners may have learned in school, perhaps even from another OER textbook: Public Relations: From Strategy to Action. Such connections help to crystalize the thinking of a PR practitioner, giving structure and tangible examples to otherwise conceptual learning.

This is one of the pinnacle learning opportunities that comes with case studies. Generally, a case studies explores what happens in a microcosm to consider what learning from that case can be applied globally or, in the reverse, a case study may explore a global phenomenon and consider how learning about that phenomenon can be applied to a specific campaign, client, crisis, or circumstance.

As students read these case studies and consider the learning opportunities to which they are exposed, these are the questions they should be posing to themselves:

  • What happened in this case study that could be effectively applied elsewhere?
  • What happened elsewhere that could have been applied to the circumstances of this case?
  • How does this case study validate PR models and theories?
  • How does this case study challenge PR models and theories?
  • What successes from this case study can be replicated?
  • What failures from this case study should be avoided?

Critically considering those questions will bring each case study to life and maximize the learning that each offers students.

Enjoy the case studies and take note that more will be added over the coming years.