• 31Aug

    I really enjoyed Shel Holtz’s video/slide presentation on social media in organizations; I plan to assign it to my students in a few weeks. I think he does a good job of explaining the potential benefits of knowledge sharing and relationship formation that can come from active use of social media.

    The first time I taught a college class, I was surprised to learn that many students in the so-called Digital Generation had relatively little awareness or understanding of social media tools and their power. I found myself having to radically revise my assumptions about how much time most students spent online, and what they were doing. This was a few years ago, when the number of tools was limited, but I continue to find similar reactions even now, and even though I’m working with a somewhat different student population.

    These days I’m working on a project on Twitter, which I’ll be discussing at NCA in San Diego as part of a roundtable jointly hosted by the PR and Organizational Communication divisions of NCA. When I mentioned Twitter the other day in class, I discovered that none of my students had heard of it. I certainly don’t expect anyone to know of every social media platform that exists–I showed them the Conversation Prism developed by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas, while admitting that there were plenty of services shown that I’d never heard of–but I think of Twitter as pretty high-profile. Once again, my assumptions needed revising.

    I’ve been active in social media for many years, since well before the term “blog” was first uttered, and have always found there to be a divide between those who “get it” and those who don’t. For me, with a background and interest in organizational knowledge sharing and internal communication, the benefits seemed immediately obvious from the start. But it’s been an uphill battle: back when my online practices were limited to personal interaction, I would frequently encounter the “What’s the point?” question from less technology-minded friends. Then with clients, who were sometimes enthusiastic about the technology but not about the regular writing and communicating part, and sometimes vice versa. And now with students, who may or may not be active users of Facebook or MySpace, but who struggle with the idea that they need to know how to use social media effectively as part of their toolkit as professional communicators.

    So I continue to be surprised by what students know about social media and what they don’t, and to be challenged by figuring out ways to illustrate the professional usefulness of these services. Shel’s video is a good start.

  • 30Aug

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  • 30Aug

    I’m in the process of preparing an upcoming lesson on ethics and PR, and facing the usual dilemma. I think it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of ethics in any kind of organizational decision-making context, and the potential impact of strategic communication campaigns makes it especially key for public relations students (and practitioners, of course).

    However, I find it difficult to adequately cover the topic of ethics in a single class session. While I’m sure they’ve already had exposure to ethical concepts in previous coursework, some discussion will be necessary to determine just what they know and remember. In the past, I’ve been surprised and saddened to find that many students have solid personal ethics, but are convinced that they will have to abide by a completely different set of rules when they join a company. “The corporate world is ruthless, and you have to do everything you can to get ahead,” “There’s no room for ethics in the workplace,” and “If your boss tells you to do something, you can’t refuse even if it’s unethical” are all sentiments that students have expressed in discussions and written assignments. Obviously we need to spend more time making sure students understand the importance of upholding professional standards of conduct despite pressures in the workplace. That’s not going to happen in a single week of class.

    I would love to teach an elective on ethics, but barring that possibility, I’m trying to work in as much discussion of ethical decision making as I can throughout the semester. Aside from the PRSA code of ethics, I’ve found that movies and novels are often good conversation starters: The Insider, Thank You For Smoking, and Slick (A Novel) have all worked well for me. I’m interested in knowing how other instructors incorporate ethics into their public relations or other communication classes.

  • 25Aug

    Karen Miller Russell posted recently about advice to PR doctoral students. There is a lot of good advice in the post and comments, but as someone who is newly done with the process, it got me thinking what sort of suggestions I would give.

    For the most part, what comes to mind is advice applicable to doctoral students in general: time management is key, do your best to network in and out of your department, choose your advisor (and your committee) carefully. The usual, which the above post and its commenters have already mentioned. (Although the advice to limit TV time goes against my own experience: having something going on the TV or computer was crucial to keeping me in my chair during the many, many long hours of data entry and analysis. Writing, however, is another story altogether.)

    I agree that it is a nice goal to use all of your papers to develop ideas for your dissertation, and hopefully turn at least some of them into publications. In my case, the process was not quite so linear: I wanted to take advantage of graduate school to explore lots of different potential directions, rather than pursue a straight path. Now, if I’d had a clear dissertation idea from the start that had stood up to a few years of probing from different directions, I would probably have been quite happy to go along with it. But that rarely happens, for me: I need to walk down numerous roads, discarding most of what I find but storing useful bits from each, before I can figure out exactly where I want to go. This has been a recurring pattern, so I’m at peace with it, although I’ll confess a touch of envy for those who manage to be single-minded in their scholarship.

    On the other hand, I like to think that taking a broader, more winding approach has its own advantages. I have learned about a number of subjects I will probably never have the opportunity or inclination to explore again (although, never say never…), but that doesn’t mean that researching and writing about them was useless. It’s all been a part of clarifying my thoughts and refining my identity as a scholar, which is hardly a waste of time. Plus, I like to think that much of what I’ve discarded may come in handy in the future, working with students with interests different from my own.

    Maybe this idea that every bit of information and knowledge might come in handy, whatever the source, can be blamed on having seen Working Girl too many times at an impressionable age…

    All of the above applies to doctoral study in any field, really, although I suppose some might allow more flexibility than others. In terms of advice specific to PR students, I think going to conferences is probably the best way to remain aware of what is going on in the discipline, and if you’re lucky, making other people aware of you. In hindsight, I wish I’d become more involved in the nuts and bolts of my conference divisions while still in grad school, but I do think that presenting at a few sessions of NCA and ICA was a start in this direction. (I presented at a few other conferences as well, but none had public relations divisions. My work tends to cross a lot of disciplinary boundaries, though.)

    It’s important not to find a personal balance: I’ve seen people focus so intently on writing papers for and attending conferences that they neglect their dissertation research. That’s obviously a bad idea.

    I suspect I will have more, and different advice, as time goes on and I gain some distance from my own doctoral studies. Right now, though, with my PhD still hot off the griddle, this is what comes to mind.

  • 25Aug

    (Nothing to see here, move right along!)

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  • 25Aug

    The layout and design are just placeholders until I have time to play around a bit more, but meanwhile I want to go ahead and get started. This blog has been through several iterations, but has been offline for a few months: I wanted to rethink my purpose in having a professional blog, decide what I hoped to gain from it and what I thought I might have to offer. I also wanted to put together my professional site as a whole, and try to make it a little more cohesive than it’s been in the past. You know, do a little strategic thinking. It seemed appropriate enough.

    So, as I start over again, it’s time for (re) introductions. My name is Dawn Gilpin, and I’m brand-new to the faculty of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where I teach public relations. I recently finished my PhD at Temple University, under Priscilla Murphy. Before moving to Philadelphia for grad school, I spent most of my adult life in Bologna, Italy; by the end of my time there, I had my own small international communication business, and was also collaborating with a local PR agency, primarily focusing on crisis management and internal communication.

    You can read a lot more about my work over at the rest of my site, if you’re interested. Here in this blog, I want to focus on a couple of things:

    • reflecting on the particular challenges of teaching public relations;
    • discussing various issues in the public relations field as they arise or come to my attention;
    • talking about some of my own research, particularly in issues management, crisis communication, and social media;
    • becoming part of a community of public relations educators and practitioners, many of whom I’ve been following from the sidelines for months or even years.

    That last point is really the most important, for me. I’ve been active online for more years than I’d rather think about, and I have experienced first-hand the value of virtual communities for sharing knowledge, sparking ideas, collaborating on projects, and forming friendships. I look forward to finally engaging in the kinds of conversations I’ve been reading, getting to know some of my favorite PR bloggers better, and continuing to learn as much as I can.