Thursday, June 22, 2006

Teaching and the unteachables

I had no idea how critical PR professionals are of recent graduates until I started reading blogs. It's a little disheartening to go back and read some of the comments people have made, especially because I think Grady students are fantastic-- either they are, or I'm under their spell-- and I'd hire many of them in a flash.

I liked the recent posts by Marcel Goldstein and Kami Huyse because they focus on qualities that the students or recent graduates should develop rather than just complaining about what's wrong with students or undergraduate PR programs. Although I can certainly teach my students about tools and techniques, and reward them for thinking critically, qualities like studiousness and agility aren't teachable: they come from within. As an educator, all I can do is point out that employers think these qualities are important. The students have to take it from there.

Addition: A former student and recent graduate just sent me this op-ed on "seven habits" for PR newbies that was given to her by her employer.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My summer "vacation"

Years ago a student interviewed me for a campus newsletter, and I talked to her about how faculty make a financial sacrifice in order to teach. I explained to her that although I wasn't complaining about my salary, the simple fact is that most full-time PR professors could make a lot more in the industry than in academia--especially those who have highly marketable research skills. Later, when I read her article, I saw her rejoinder: faculty shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves, she wrote, because we get summers off.

Inadvertently, this student made my point better than I did. It's not so much a sacrifice as it is a trade-off of time for money; moreover, it's time that I get to decide how to spend.

So, how am I spending my summer vacation? After attending the Business History Conference in Toronto (on my own dime, let me add), the first thing I did was clean the house from top to bottom. I won't talk about what it looked like before that, but I will say I'm now able to receive visitors. Then I started working my way through a giant backlog of reading-- journals, articles, stuff I'd bookmarked on the Web, miscellaneous magazine and newspaper articles. I'm especially looking forward to this.

I've also picked up where I left off last semester in reading about Guy Debord and the society of the spectacle. I want to understand his Situationist movement better because it's the basis of culture jamming, which has been studied in terms of advertising but not PR. But there are definitely PR implications to creating "situations" like this one.

Next up: Arthur Wilson Page. What a life--his, and mine!

Monday, June 12, 2006

5 things I hope my students learned

It seems unbelievable, but Maymester’s over. On the last day of class, I shared with my students a list of five things I hoped they had learned. Of course, they learned basics like how to write goals and objectives and what a timetable looks like. But as a course on management and strategy, my real goal was to get them to think big. CEO big. Even if they never get to be CEO—and I’m not betting against them—they can certainly think like one.

Here’s my list:

That organizations need help seeing and understanding their impact on their environment

That PR has an important function in society: helping organizations adjust and adapt to change

That organizations aren’t “good” or “evil,” but they do have both positive and negative impacts on society

That by being a part of the management team, PR can help to create a vision and organizational culture that are good for the organization and its publics

That the ideal speech situation and transparency are improbable but worthy ideals… and that both are important facets of PR 2.0

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Yeah, but it's still an MSM world

1. I (well, Josh and I) introduced my students to PR 2.0.

2. I turned 'em loose to submit comments on PR blogs-- I think Jeremy, Shel and Todd got the brunt of it-- and they were nervous, so I sincerely thank them and anyone else who did so for responding. (A large number also commented on Forward, and I hope they stay involved in that community.)

3. I read their comments (they had to submit links to me). I was generally impressed. A few sounded a little naive--but hey, they are students. A learning curve is part of the deal. For the most part I thought they were thoughtful and sincere.

Coincidentally, in the past couple of days several bloggers have posted on social media's place in the PR mix or on its challenge to the way we think about doing PR. I have to say I agree with Tom Murphy: mainstream media aren't dead. Last fall I sent a mass e-mail out to former students asking about blogging in their careers. Of about 50 on the list, from 1-12 years out, all over the U.S. and in all different kinds of organizations, close to 30 replied. NOT ONE was using blogging in any way, shape or form. Given that plain fact, it would be irresponsible for me to quit spending a reasonable amount of time on MSM. But I also agree with Elizabeth Albrycht's analysis of the potential for social media to change relationships between organizations and publics, and for that reason I will continue to make sure my students are aware of both.

By the way, several students commented that the assignment was challenging or thanked me for making them stick their toes in, and believe me, that doesn't always happen!

Correction: I just heard from a former student who saw this post and wrote to let me know he's using blogs. He's in NYC working at a very large agency on a very large tech account. Glad to hear from you, Jeff!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Rock star puts tour on hold to visit class

Another first for me today: a guest lecture via Webcast. And the star of the show was none other than Josh Hallett.

Josh was kind enough to take time out of his whirlwind world tour to devote an hour of his time to discussing blogging and social media with my PR Administration students.

Appropriately awed by his cyberpresence, they were too afraid (or stunned?) to ask any questions until he departed.

All kidding aside, it was fantastic. I posted last semester on my difficulty getting the students engaged. Once Josh had convinced them that Web 2.0 is the future of PR, I had no trouble holding their attention.

Anyone interested in talking to my grad seminar (PR bootcamp for people who were non-majors as undergrads) in the fall? All you need is a Webcam and mike. You, too, can be a rock star!

Look how fast we are

This is a test to show how fast we can post on a blog.

"More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given" --Bertrand Russell

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