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Posts Tagged ‘Teaching Communication/PR’

College is supposed to prepare you for your career and to lead a productive work life. In what ways do you feel most prepared for this challenge? In what ways do you feel least prepared?

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Writing skill is the fundamental core competency of the communication/public relations professional. Why? What will you do to improve your PR writing style and ability once you graduate?

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I normally do not need reminders of why I love what I do — teaching college students public relations management — but there are times when it all comes flooding back to me.

This past December was one of those times. The Public Relations Society of America, Maryland chapter, honored me with its Educator of the Year award. I was deeply touched by this. First, to be honored by PRSA-MD was incredibly special. Second, being honored for doing what I love to do is especially poignant.

Here is the official announcement:

The 2013 Best In Maryland Committee and the 2013 PRSA-MD Board of Directors are proud to announce the 2013 Educator of the Year recipient: Lester R. Potter.

Accredited Business Communicator Lester R. Potter, an MBA, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies at Towson University, Maryland. He is “ABD” (all but dissertation) for a doctorate in Instructional Technology at Towson.  At Towson, Potter teaches Public Relations Writing, Organizational Communication, Strategic Public Relations Planning and Management, and Public Relations for Nonprofit Organizations.  He has served as Faculty Advisor to the PRSSA chapter for ten years.

Prior to beginning his academic career, Potter was President of Les Potter Incorporated, an international consultancy he founded in 1998.  His firm helped organizations worldwide use communication as a strategic management tool to boost organizational effectiveness.  For over 30 years, Les Potter has improved business operation with innovative, results-oriented interventions.  To solve clients’ problems, Potter draws on successful experience in organizational communication, strategic and marketing planning, and human resources and project management gained from work with a wide variety of organizations and industries.

Les Potter’s background includes many different and enriching business situations that prepared him for successful client service.  Potter was Chairman of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) during 1991-92.  He was named an IABC Fellow in 1997, IABC’s highest honor.  He served on IABC’s executive board, accreditation board, and as a trustee of the IABC Research Foundation.  He earned IABC accreditation (the ABC designation) in 1978.

Les is also a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the invitation-only professional association for educators, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

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You have heard me talk a great deal about my Communication/PR colleagues and friends who I consider to be true professionals. What does being a Communication/PR professional mean to you? How do you become a true professional in Communication/PR?

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Yes, it is.

I could stop there and make this my shortest post ever. But my short answer to this frequently asked question needs some explanation.

I teach public relations/communication management at Towson University. A valid question is, can someone be successful in PR/communication without a college degree?

The answer is, of course, yes. But here’s the rub — you have to be hired first. And why would an employer hire someone for even an entry-level position without a college degree when so many graduates are churned out each year who vie for low-salary entry-level jobs?

Get the picture? You must have credentials to get hired. “Credentials” means “qualifications. You can become qualified over time by on-the-job training, but as I said, you have to get hired first. That’s the hard part.

The first thing any reputable employer looks at is your experience (qualifications) for the open job he/she is trying to fill. The old chicken-and-egg question is, “but how do I get experience if I can’t get hired?” The simple answer is, “go to college and get a degree in the field.” That gives you, at best, the entry fee to seek employment.

Businesses must consider the  return on investment (ROI) on all big decisions. Like any business, a high school grad must consider the ROI in deciding whether or not to earn a college degree.

But in considering college, a student must view the payout in more than just enhanced earnings over the life of a career. Enhanced lifetime earnings for those who have college degrees is well-documented. But intangibles like personal growth and life experiences should factor into the decision, too. College can help you in so many more ways that what happens in the classroom.

Does this mean you can’t obtain personal growth and life experiences without a college degree? Of course not. But the four years you are in college are an intense time of learning and growth that prepares you for your career and your life, too.

To many of us who have hired, trained, and fired employees over the years, a college degree is really just an entry fee for the world of work. Real learning begins on the job. Sadly, many organizations must offer remedial training to raise the level of competence of new hires, often on things they should have mastered in school.

Remember, to be hired for any job, you must demonstrate qualifications. It takes time to gain the qualifications you need, but earning a college degree puts you well ahead.

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What are the most important skills/abilities necessary for success in the Public Relations career you envision as being perfect for you? How will you demonstrate to potential employers that you have those necessary skills/abilities? How will you continually improve your skills/abilities after you graduate?

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Consider for a moment what you plan to do career-wise when you graduate. With that in mind, discuss what you are learning now that best prepares you for the career of which you dream. What else do you think would help to prepare you?

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