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Archive for January, 2007

Day Two of spring semester begins clear and cold here at Towson University. People are scooting about, trying to find classrooms and asking all sorts of questions, trying to figure out what to do and where to go.  And you should see the students!

I’ve met with all four of my classes now. To make a point about public relations and customer service, I related to one of classes my negative experience with the product quality and technical support of a certain brand of computer I had purchased. Immediately, several students said in unison, “I’ve had the same experience with that brand!” For a couple of minutes we all shared horror stories about the brand.

Then one student said, “Just because you as an individual had a negative experience, that does not mean that the computer company is bad. They are one of the largest and most successful such companies. You just had a bad time.”

Yes, we did. In the past, we would have had little recourse for our troubles. But as in that classroom, so it is in the blogosphere. My one voice adds to another, then another, then another, perhaps thousands more. Special blogs spring up to spread the word.  Negative customer service and product quality stories are amplified and repeated.

That’s the point. Organizations who ignore the power of this incredibly powerful force — the blog — will suffer for it.  By simply listening to what is being said in the blogosphere, and then participating in a nondefensive way, enlightened organizations can know what is really being thought and said about their products or services. They can participate in solving problems with the very people who they need most — their customers. This simply must be an integral part of any public relations and/or integrated marketing communication program.

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Bill Sledzik, associate professor at Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is a practitioner turned educator like me. He uses his insightful blog, ToughSledding, to share public relations lessons with students and to connect with professional colleague and friends. Bill and I agree: we can use our blogs to help integrate social media into our curriculum. Lead on, Bill. He says Kent State is “working overtime” to integrate social media. That is to me both a powerful endorsement and a clear wake up call.

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I am beginning to hear from fellow educators. Some are veteran bloggers. Some are novices like me. They welcome me to the blogosphere. I am humbled by their helpfulness and hospitality. Such is the nature of blogging. I am becoming more of a zealot with every encouraging comment I read.

It is a good thing that educators will join us here because I want this blog to be a place of discussion and sharing about strategic communication/PR and IMC, plus life in general. A place where students, instructors, and working professionals can come and chat. Everyone who is passionate about learning — and helping others learn — is welcome here. I am devoted to Student Centered Learning Environments (SCLEs). That simply means focusing on problem-based, project-based, inquiry-oriented instruction. Remember Constructivist Learning Environments from my last post? Blogs are the ultimate in quick participatory learning and sharing.

Okay, enough of that. So you will know what we might discuss, here’s my course line up for spring semester:

  • Public Relations Writing — two sections, about 40 students total. Students have 20 major writing assignments that cover all types of typical assignments they will perform on the job.
  • Theory of Organizational Communication and Strategic Public Relations and Integrated Marketing Communication — about 20 students who will learn strategic comm/PR planning and management via case studies. Each will develop a strategic comm/PR plan, step by step, all through the semester. Those who finish successfully will be strategic thinkers.
  • Professional Communication Competencies In a Changing Environment — about 10 grad students in our Masters program. This is a new course that I developed. I will teach it instead of my usual Public Relations for Nonprofit Organizations. The grad course will emphasize social media among other high level comm/PR management knowledge and abilities.

Each course is Blackboard-supported. I also supervise 13 internships and serve as faculty advisor to our Student PR Group, made up of both PRSSA and IABC student chapters. We have about 50 members total.

I’ll also be taking a doctoral course called Transformational Leadership and Professional Development.

That’s what I will be doing. What do you think? Any advice or counsel from students, instructors, and working professionals is welcomed.

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I am a candidate for an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology at Towson University. My doctoral studies fascinate me, especially constructivist theory. In doing this blog, I am struck by a cosmic truth: blogging is pure constructivism.

For example, in my learning environments at Towson, I use Case-Based Reasoning (CBR) to teach strategic communication/PR planning and management. I develop real world case studies from my 30-plus years of experience in corporate America and from my consulting. Research shows that individuals think in terms of cases — interpretations of their experiences that they can apply to new situations. CBR integrates memory, learning, and reasoning, so say two thinkers I study, Kolodner and Guzdial.

CBR defines a model of cognition (knowledge gained) including the processes and knowledge structures that can be revisited for advice and guidance in future circumstances. Like when students graduate and get real jobs with real problems.

CBR, like constructivism, claims that what individuals learn is consciously constructed from their own concrete experiences. Reflection is also a key component of learning. Learners “construct” by combining new information with existing knowledge and experiences.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. McConnell and Huba say in their blockbuster, must-read book, Citizen Marketers,“the future of personal publishing (blogs) and the business of culture are being driven by the inherent ease and desire for people to build knowledge together. The academic world has done this for ions, building knowledge atop one another’s research and relying on a peer-review process to validate work. The amateur culture attempts something similar, but the time period is days or hours.”

Eureka! Blogging is pure constructivism. And you thought you were just mouthing off.

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News flash to students (and far too many adults): If someone asks you a question that is answerable with a simple “yes,”then just say “yes.”

In other words, just say NO to saying ABSOLUTELY as an answer. Saying the A word can mean A. yes, or A. no. Take a stand. Don’t equivocate. Be clear. Just say “yes.”

Do I have strong feelings about this? Abso…  Ahhh… YES!

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The Scrunch Bunch

This is about the importance of professional association membership to a career in communication/PR.

I got my first corporate communication job in 1973.  I had an enlightened boss who encouraged me to join IABC. He not only advised me to join, but said I should take committee assignments and officer positions, too. Little did he know that he created a life-long IABC zealot.

While attending my first IABC conference soon after joining, I met a few people who formed the nucleus of a group of friends that I still have to this day. This happy little band of communicators worked hard, played hard, and laughed with wild abandon. We gathered at everything IABC offered. We worked our way up through IABC chapter leadership positions, then district leadership jobs, and for many of us, on to Camelot and the Round Table, the Executive Board. My boss was correct: you learn so much more and get so much more out of professional association membership by getting involved. Checkbook membership alone sucks.

When we met, we always had to sit together no matter the venue. We would crowd into one booth or at one table so that someone once observed that we were always “scrunched up.” The name stuck, and we band of crazies are forever known as the Scrunch Bunch. But tempus sure does fugit, doesn’t it. With time, we saw less and less of each other.

Recently, we managed to reconnect via that wonder of techno wonders, email. Now we are happily sharing all sorts of work and life experiences as if we had just arrived at conference. We are planning a F-2-F reunion at the International Conference in New Orleans this June.

The point is this — you will get so much more out of your career if you join and get active in a professional association. Why? Several reasons:

  1. Networking. That’s where you meet and interact with other like-minded professionals. It’s called “networking,” and networking works. I got every good corporate job and most all of my consulting clients, both domestic and international, through IABC. No brag, just fact. IABC is truly international. My network is worldwide because of IABC.
  2. Professional development. IABC has always been my graduate school. I knew I could always count on IABC for communication/PR professional development.  So when I went to real graduate school, I got an MBA to learn more about business. Then, I wrote a manual on business management for communicators. Guess who published it? You bet — IABC.
  3. Friends. As my Scrunch Bunch recollections illustrate, you will meet the best people — the smartest, the most accomplished, the most helpful, the funniest, the hippest, the most supportive, and the most well-connected — through IABC. To be fair, other professional associations have merit, but IABC is by far the most welcoming.

If you are a student, don’t wait until you graduate. If your school has a student PR group like Towson does, then join now.

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My First Comments

The first person to comment on a posting to my brand new blog was one of my students. Priceless!

In their wonderful book, Citizen Marketers, authors McConnell and Huba say “Google never forgets.” Having commented, my studentAnna Marie Forbes Worthington, will be right there on the blogosphere record with me on this journey. Anna Marie is not only an accomplished student, but while attending college fulltime, she also works full-time in advertising at The Cyphers Agency. She is now adding her excellent PR skills to her work at the agency. I hope that she and other students and friends will let this blog be a source of discussion to help us all learn and grow.

The second person to comment was strategic communication consultant, writer, seminar leader, and organizational communication expert Robert J. Holland, ABC. Robert has been my best friend and partner in so many meaningful professional, career, and life experiences over the years that I could devote a blog to him alone.

Robert’s experience and abilities rank him as tops in the profession. But Robert is truly a good man. That is a simple statement, but it is profoundly meaningful as it is instructive for students who wish to find a role model (Students already have me as a “roll” model).

As a consultant and counselor to his many and varied clients, Robert is formidable in ability, customer-focused in service, and always exemplary in character. His integrity is above reproach, and in these cynical times, Robert stands apart in the values he brings to his work. Just check out his core beliefs.  

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