• 14Jan
    Categories: teaching Comments: 1

    Once again this semester, I’m teaching two concurrent sections of Public Relations Campaigns. I’m in the process of changing the course a bit, though, trying to better adapt it to the changing PR landscape. Since this class is the capstone for seniors majoring in public relations, I want to do everything I can to prepare them for a professional career.

    In my view, part of doing that means shifting the emphasis away from media-based campaigns. I continue to be surprised at how many students come into the class thinking that press releases, media kits, and a Blackberry full of journalists’ contact info represent the core of their future career. This capstone course is my last chance to shake them free of this idea. At the same time, they definitely need to come out of this class knowing how to research, develop, and evaluate a strategic plan. There is only so much time in a semester to give them the conceptual and methodological tools they need, practice dissecting campaigns to figure out what does and doesn’t work, expose them to enough examples to remind them just how vast a territory is covered by this field, continue their socialization into the profession, and coach teams as they work on their specific client projects. It’s a delicate balance. I push them hard, because I know I’m doing them a favor that way, but even so there are objective limits on how much you can do.

    I’m still fine-tuning the syllabus (and probably will be right up until Tuesday morning before the first class), but I think the course description now says everything I want it to. Read more »

  • 10Sep

    So, this week we’re talking in class about persuasion and propaganda, and the way that public relations seems to be inextricably linked in the public’s imagination (and the mind of many journalists) with the latter.

    This discussion reminds me of a TV commercial that ran for Telecom Italia a few years back, and that I find fascinating when viewed from the perspective of communication theory. I made sure to record a copy of it for future reference, since I was so struck by it.

    This ad makes me think of at least four different theories. What about you? And would Gandhi be engaging in propaganda if it were true?

  • 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

    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.