Professor Punts: Another Quarter, Internship Intelligence and Life with Social Media

Posted by on Nov 27, 2012 in General, Lessons, Professor Punts | 0 comments

The summer sailing season winds down in September as the crisp air signals for me the beginning of another fall quarter teaching principles of PR at DePaul University. No sooner can we blink than the first frost brings with it final exams during Thanksgiving week.  Time flies.  In teaching, there is never a dull moment – especially with 28 engaging, smart 20-somethings eager to find out if PR is for them.

During 10 weeks and 20 lectures we wove PR conversations into current events. There were four Presidential debates, Apple’s release of the iPhone 5, Chick-Fil-A’s branding snafus, Kristen Stewart’s celebrity tryst and Lance Armstrong’s medal stripping. Don’t forget the NHL players strike, a spinal  steroid injection crisis, the horrific Hurricane Sandy, and the beginning of the end of General Petraeus as many people knew him. In PR there are never any dull moments.

We focused a lot on social media (SM) and its prominence in shaping the future of PR and community management. Today students are always – I mean always – connected. Course lectures, links and materials are accessible via a private DePaul Cloud. Today, popular social media tools include FB, LI, Twitter, Four Square, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.  But for those in-the-know, the ‘a-ha’ new ones are Quora and RedIt. The more links I added to the lectures the better they were received by this almost paperless generation in front of their Mac Books and smart phones. Ask a question in class and get an answer and a quote – after a 15-second Google search.

Guest speakers @Manamica, @NoeleenMcGrath and @KCGeen all Chicago SM PR gurus, sparked the most thumbs-up response regarding memorable moments in class. BEFORE the internet was common (what?), all of my grad school research was done solely on Lexis-Nexis. Lexis what? KC, after running global SM for Aberkrombie & Kent and now GrubHub, admitted that while at Boston College a decade ago, she started her social foray on AIM. Geez. Popular use of SM is not even 10 years old.  Students rely on Google+ and their FB feeds. This class is now corresponding with journalists via Twitter because of an assignment. PR majors have come far in two decades. I won’t let them forget our rite of passage.

Lining up an internship, or two, became my mantra.  My Rollins College junior year internship with Universal Studios’ PR team lead to my career in the field.  I urged: develop a portfolio of writing work and use your network to begin building a roster of recommendations. Before our class wrapped this week, several students scored intern positions at firms like @EdelmanCHI and @MarjieKorshak, while a Japanese student landed a gig at @WorldChicago, a citizen diplomacy initiative near and dear to my heart.  A U.S. News ranking recently reported that at the top 10 of the 48 National Universities that provided internship data, an average of 62.3 percent of students held at least one internship. DePaul made the top 10: 45.3% graduate with internships.

On final exam day, they said that this class better prepared them to use strategies to deal with a crisis. They learned to use a relatable and likeable spokesperson. They know that a journalist can evaluate or use just about every word spoken during an interview. From 10 weekly news assignments they learned the importance of  research before building someone’s story or releasing any news. And they now distinguish the differences between PR, journalism, marketing and advertising – all separate tracks of study in the College of Communications. It’s easy to blur these distinct disciplines.

In the end, two students’ remarks were most satisfying to me. “I now have the confidence in my career capabilities to pursue PR,” one female said. Her male counterpart said, “I know PR is the right field for me.”

Enough said…as I record the last exam score. Class is over. I see their appreciation for the field in which I’ve spent two decades.  Students have two weeks now before their next quarter and the real-world internships begin. Bring it on.

Prof J



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