Bringing PR Education into the 21st Century

26 02 2009

On Sunday night I participated in a conversation that was started and moderated by College Journ, a live-chat that takes place every Sunday evening from 5-8 pm PST. It started on Twitter as #collegejourn, but moved to collegejourn.com because of the extremely high traffic flow. The moderating helps to make the conversation more enjoyable (#journchat should consider switching over because it is experiencing that same problem) In the conversation this past Sunday, the moderators encouraged students, educators, and professionals to join together to discuss the changing Journalism industry and how universities can catch up with the rapidly changing technologies. You can view a wrap-up of the conversation on their website

A few people (mostly educators) suggested that social media tools should be self-taught and the classroom should be saved for theory and “traditional media” skills that will always be needed. While I do agree that learning skills such as reporting, editing, writing, etc are essential to a journalism student’s education, I also think that it is important for students to know how to use the tools in which their stories (campaigns for us PR folks) will be placed. My favorite suggestion to solve this issue was:

  • Teach all of those essential journalistic skills while learning for example what tags would be most appropriate or what multimedia elements would work well.  

I am pretty sure that I was one of the few (if not only) public relations student who participated in the chat, but I think that the conversation was completely relevant for a public relations student. Understanding the evolving “news room” (which in many cases today look completely different than that of Clark Kent’s newspaper, The Daily Planet) is extremely important for journalist and Public Relations students and professionals. PR students/professionals cannot use dated techniques because they do not work for the 21st Century journalist, blogger, or whoever you are attempting to communicate with.

 A recurring topic during the conversation was the need to incorporate the use of multimedia and social media into the journalism curriculum; I cannot agree more. 

There are a few very important elements that my university’s PR curriculum are lacking. A few of the points were discussed in the Journchat conversation, and a few of the points are ones that I have been thinking of for a while now. Here are 6 elements that I think would improve our PR curriculum to bring it into the 21st Century:

  1. Online PR Campaigns/Current use of PR tools (check out The Digital Bus, it is a class that is doing all the right things for PR students)
  2. Closer connection with Broadcast/Print concentrations
  3. Better screening of clients for our firm so that we get REAL PR experience
  4. More structured PR firm
  5. A PR current events class if not just the incorporation of discussing PR current events (in turn, it will keep us up-to-date with the tools that PR campaigns are using)
  6. Pitching — who? what? where? when? why? how? (It amazes me that this is only briefly, and I mean briefly, discussed in PR classes at my university. Unless you have an internship before you get into the campaigns class, you are going to be very confused and have NO idea what to do. This takes our university motto “learn by doing” to an inappropriate extreme. But I’ll save that for another post)

What would you do to improve your PR education?





Think mulitmedia and Social Media

15 02 2009

If you are new to being fully engaged in social media (like me) then I would recommend that you read a new free ebook, Brink, by the Principal of SHIFT Communications and the author of the blog PR Squared, Todd Defren. Defren explains the importance of using of Social Media in Public Relations campaigns in order to engage with customers. Starting on the first page, Defren clearly defines the difference between old and new PR, which are separated by their use of social media. Old PR: “Only unhappy customers are particularly vocal.” New PR: “But in an online world, a company can been seen and noticed as being responsive, even by non-customers.”

I particularly enjoyed the case study about the “Neat Company”, which makes a portable scanner. The initial target audience was businesspeople who are always on the go and looking for the next best convenience. However, because of SHIFT’s close relationship with a techie blogger who moved to Martha Stuart Omnimedia in the middle of their pitch, the Neat Company was featured in Martha Stuart. While reading this case study I was probably just as surprised as the rest of the SHIFT employees to hear that Martha Stuart was interested in the portable scanner. This case study is the the perfect example of the importance of relationship building in public relations through social media. Communication with a blogger resulted in a feature in Martha Stuart, #1  on Amazon, and a whole new audience for the scanner that SHIFT probably would have never known about, “mommybloggers”.

Another very important part of using social media as a tool in public relations campaigns is to always be engaged in the conversation. I love his letter to a CEO who is interested in blogging because I also think that aspects of it work as a letter to any person who is interested in blogging for the first time. If you are interested in blogging, Defren suggests that you begin by not blogging. “Instead, spend that time following OTHER blogs in your industry. Read them. Comment judiciously. Leave your “agenda” on the coat-rack. Just get to know a few folks. Introduce yourself.”

As students, it’s probably okay to jump into it and learn as we go. But, the important thing is that you learn as you go. I have only had my blog for a little over a month now, and as you may have noticed, I have started slowly by only writing a handful of entries in that time. The reason for my slow start is because I am a sponge right now, taking in information and the blogging culture from the 27 blogs that I read on a daily basis, the books and ebooks that I am reading, and the twitter conversations with which I am engaged.

This is difficult for me to say since I have worked very hard during my college career in the past three-and-a-half years, but I have learned more about public relations through social media in the past 42 days than I have learned in my entire college career. At Cal Poly I only have two public relations teachers, but on the Internet I have an infinite number of teachers that range from Public Relations professionals to CEO’s and from students to college professors. I urge you to take advantage of all the resources that are available to you. As Defren says many times in Brink ENGAGE in the conversation. It will benefit you now as you are a student and it will benefit you later when you become a public relations professional.