There’s no greater honor for a teacher than to be recognized by his or her students. So when I was named 2016 Teacher of the Year at Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication last week, I couldn’t have felt more gratified, humbled and joyful knowing my students saw fit to give me an award.
But it’s my students who deserve the accolades. They inspire me every day. Their dedication to learning and desire to succeed fills me with the motivation to be the best I can be as an educator. As another semester ends, I say goodbye to our graduates feeling good about the work my colleagues and I do to prepare the next group of future public relations professionals.
This year I’ve been inspired by seniors and grad students including Lauren, who wrote and presented a significant research paper on #blacklivesmatter; Ashley, who thoroughly researched and reported on PR ethics; and Samantha, who studied the state of public relations agencies in Estonia where she lived for a semester. Their efforts rivaled the best of any academic work.
I’ve watched how Nathalie, whose charisma and unparalleled leadership of Hofstra’s PRSSA Chapter worked to build PRSSA into a powerhouse campus club, and helped inspire fellow students Saralynn, Kristin, Lauren, Tara, Arielle, Briana, Jasmine, and others to run dozens of programs and events. Together, they were selected to host what was a highly successful regional conference.
I’ve been inspired by international students who left their homes and moved thousands of miles to be educated in the United States. Significantly challenged by language and culture, they’ve succeeded through their determination to earn a college degree.
I’ve also been inspired by my graduate assistant Jessica and student aide Emily. They’ve handled several special PR projects this year with competence and enthusiasm.
I wish I could name every student who’s inspired me because as my sixth year at Hofstra ends, I’ve never been happier and more excited to be in a classroom. I’ll miss our graduates terribly but look forward to another year of inspiration. Your thoughts?
As I sat in on eight panel discussions during the regional conference “Start Spreading the News,” hosted by Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter this weekend, I thought back to the valuable advice I received during my quarter-century as a PR practitioner. I also thought about how lucky our students are to have learned from more than two dozen professionals this weekend, each generously sharing words of wisdom. I wondered which words created “light bulb moments” for the 150 student participants. What resonated with them as they listened?
Good advice has stuck with me through the years. One example: When I was just 29, I became the head of communications for the Town of Babylon and spokesman for Supervisor Arthur Pitts, the top elected official in a town of 220,000 residents. I was young and pretty naive, and whenever we’d talk about strategy I’d find myself thinking in terms of how we could quickly and effectively achieve our immediate goals. However, I’d sometimes neglect to regard the motivation, attitudes and concerns of those who would be affected by our actions. Supervisor Pitts, who was just a few years older but was far wiser, advised me to carefully consider others’ motivations, concerns and perceptions, and ultimately how our actions will be perceived and reacted to before decisions are made. Of course, this was a fundamentally sound public relations approach, but it was a light bulb moment for me.
Fraser Seitel, the PR guru who authored “The Practice of Public Relations” advises PR students to “plan from the outside in.” It was my former boss’s approach re-stated: Always begin your PR strategies by examining how your publics may react and respond.
There’s no question that lasting advice can come from anyone. Putting yourself in places where you can meet practitioners and really listen to their experiences and life lessons, creates a huge advantage for your own professional development. Sometimes just a few wise words can stay with you, influencing and informing your entire career.
If you were there, what was your “light bulb moment” at the PRSSA conference this weekend? Your thoughts?
People see the new year as a time to resolve to make certain changes in their lives. A well-publicized survey by GoBankingRates.com showed that while “losing weight” is a top priority for many this year, it ranked number three and a related resolution, “live a healthier lifestyle,” was number two. The top resolution was “enjoy life to the fullest.”
I agree with numbers two and three. Having lost 17 pounds since Labor Day, I’m going to try harder by adding exercise. However, I’m tweaking the survey’s number one resolution to read “enjoy life to the fullest by making the most of every opportunity.”
Professionally, I’m planning to make the most of the regional conference Hofstra’s PRSSA will be staging in March, and will be seizing an opportunity to teach in Hofstra’s “SCO in Rome” study abroad program in July.
Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter was chosen among 300 student chapters to present a two-day regional conference on careers in public relations. “Start Spreading the News” will be held March 18-19 and will focus on options in entertainment, fashion, food and hospitality, technology, nonprofit, and international PR. There will be panel discussions on Spanish-language PR and an interactive session on problem-solving. The conference will include two networking events with PR practitioners, a visit to the Museum of Public Relations plus a couple of social gatherings. It’s my goal to help our students maximize this opportunity and stage the best regional conference ever.
“SCO in Rome” will take place July 1-29, offering Hofstra School of Communication students the chance to study abroad. Students will earn three credits by working for an Italian nonprofit organization to create publicity materials and video over a four-week period. Weekends will be spent touring Rome and some of Italy’s great cities. I will be teaching and travelling with colleague Randy Hillebrand, and we’ll all be making the very most of this wonderful opportunity.
I’m looking forward to what should be a terrific year, and I hope all my students and colleagues can and will make the most of their opportunities in 2016. Your thoughts?
This weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving and (hopefully) spent some time thinking about what we’re thankful for. Family, friends, opportunities, and health top most of our lists; for me, I’m also thankful I’m a teacher.
More specifically, I’m thankful that I teach public relations because I can’t think of another subject that would allow a person to teach such a diversity of skills and career options. PR practitioners can apply their abilities to any environment in any type of business setting any place in the world.
In which other profession can a person write a speech, a blog and social media posts multiple times each day? Where else can one plan an event — selecting venues, choosing menus, hiring entertainment, finding sponsors, and notifying honorees–and when it’s done start all over again? What job allows one to write press releases, pitch reporters, create scripts, produce videos and podcasts, book interviews, and be interviewed? Where else can you lobby lawmakers, stage public hearings, create informative articles, and witness the results and benefits of your efforts? And which profession takes socializing, networking, collaboration, recognition, and celebrations to such a high level? The answer is PR.
On my side of the profession is the pride teachers feel when seeing their students succeed. Recently, a dozen PR alumni came back to campus for the Hofstra PRSSA’s Annual Networking Dinner as professionals, mentoring about 90 current students on how to find internships and begin careers in public relations. They’ve established themselves in major Manhattan and Long Island-based agencies and firms, and have each become PR superstars.
My former student and now good friend Annik Spencer just posted on CooperKatz’s corporate blog titled, “Six Things PR Professionals Are Thankful For.” Annik reflected on how winning clients, successful media placements, making connections, and working with “amazing” people has made her grateful she’s chosen this profession. I agree. After a long PR career, I can teach a thrilling diversity of topics while watching former students thrive as professionals. For this, I’m very thankful. What were you grateful for this Thanksgiving? Your thoughts?
It’s the end of another semester and I hope my students–and everyone reading this blog–had a productive 15 weeks filled with learning. I sure did.
This semester I learned that the new Museum of Public Relations, housed in the Baruch College library, is an important stop for everyone who’s a part of our profession. Anchored by the life and work of the “Father of Modern PR” Edward Bernays, museum founder Shellie Spector has filled the space with publications, academic papers, historic video and interviews, and artifacts illustrating the history of media and the people who shaped PR in the 20th century and today.
While it was important to rediscover PR’s past, our students heard from professionals at various events who reinforced what to expect for PR’s future. We learned how integrated marketing–bringing together elements of public relations, marketing and advertising in a communication synergy–has become fundamental to a successful client campaign. We also heard that more than ever, stronger ethics and transparency are transforming public perception of our industry.
I saw students with bachelor’s degrees and little previous exposure to PR become public relations graduates with tremendous career potential. The first graduating class of our graduate program in public relations will walk next Sunday, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Some of the most productive moments this semester were initiated by members of PRSSA, Hofstra’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. These enthusiastic young women and men staged an extremely well-attended networking dinner, a fully realized day-long professional conference, visits to Manhattan PR agencies and the national PRSSA conference, an alumni networking social, and several outstanding professional development programs. Their unstoppable energy and desire to learn is infectious, and through their eyes I experience something new every day.
So congratulations and good luck to the Class of 2015. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of what you’ve experienced. And for the students looking to the next productive semester, I’d love to hear how you felt about this one, and what we might do together to enhance the next. Your thoughts?
How often has this been said? It’s a cynical question, based on the belief that professional success is primarily due to connections rather than knowledge. But is it true? There’s no question millions of people can point to who they knew as the reason they have a particular job. Case in point: I’ve held 10 full-time positions since my junior year in college and was led to nine of them through people I knew, not through a “help wanted” ad (the one exception being my current job at Hofstra). Making connections through professional networking and personal friendships create an exponential increase in potential opportunities.
“Knowledge is power.”
There can be little argument with that quote. Gaining knowledge through a formal education is essential in our society, but learning beyond the classroom is just as–and is often more–important. When a person brings ideas, problem-solving skills, and sensible approaches to a job, he or she becomes very valuable. And the learning never stops; it’s why nearly every trade and professional group offers conferences, workshops and seminars designed to enhance members’ skills and knowledge.
The point is that both maxims are true. Clearly, knowing people who can help you, advise you and maybe even hire you is key. But you can’t be led to a job without having the smarts to do the job. Conversely, the most intelligent people among us face a lifetime of challenges if they don’t find ways to make connections with people in a position to support them.
It’s why I repeatedly make the case for students to experience PR outside the classroom. The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is one platform from which students can begin networking with professionals while learning more about the public relations industry. Hofstra PRSSA’s annual conference, to be held next week on Saturday, May 2, will include a half-dozen presentations in the morning and a networking lunch in the afternoon. It’s an essential opportunity for students to enhance both who they know–and what they know. Your thoughts?
I was thrilled to see that the Museum of Public Relations (yes, there is one and it’s in Manhattan–more on that later) posted a Facebook link to a book titled “Propaganda” which was written by the father of modern public relations, Edward Bernays, and published in 1928. I had never read it.
And what a fascinating book it is! Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud and a former employee of the Creel Committee which rallied public support for World War I, laid the groundwork for public relations as we now know it. In fact, much of the book’s content could have been written today; just replace the much-demonized word “propaganda” with “public relations” and read this sampling:
“From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public questions; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time.”
“This practice of creating circumstances and of creating pictures in the minds of millions of persons is very common. Virtually no important undertaking is now carried on without it, whether that enterprise be building a cathedral, endowing a university, marketing a moving picture, floating a large bond issue, or electing a president.”
“No matter how sophisticated, how cynical the public may become about publicity methods, it must respond to the basic appeals, because it will always need food, crave amusement, long for beauty, respond to leadership. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos.”
Bernays’ writings and teachings were prophetic, including mentions (in 1928!) of the just-invented television as a means “to approach the public mind.” He understood that to move people to action you have to appeal to their most basic needs and emotions. We in PR could still learn a thing or two from Edwards Bernays. I can’t wait to read more. Your thoughts?
Can you stand another blog post filled with good advice?
This week’s wise words came from Bruce Bobbins, executive vice president at Manhattan-based PR firm DKC. Among DKC’s 200 clients are governments, nonprofits and major corporations from Aeropostale to Yahoo with companies including Coca-Cola, Delta, Jaguar, Marvel, the Knicks, and dozens of other internationally-known brands. During a visit arranged by Hofstra PRSSA President Nathalie Retana, Bruce hosted 20 Hofstra students and me last Friday, and over pizza and soft drinks shared his personal and professional insights on what it takes to do public relations well.
Bruce said he’s enjoyed every minute of his three decades in PR. But like many senior PR people, he didn’t go to college to learn public relations. Bruce wanted to be a sportscaster, but when an internship at a PR firm turned into a job offer, he seized upon it. He found he was attracted to public relations initially because he enjoyed writing, and emphasized to the students the importance of the “3 C’s” of good writing–clarity, conciseness and creativity.
Bruce described good PR people as “three-headed monsters.” He said that effective public relations practitioners have three job descriptions: they have to be journalists and good story-tellers, they should be salespeople so they can create and maintain good client and media relationships, and they must be strategic counselors who guide their organizations through the often treacherous maze of public opinion. “You can do well in this business doing two of these three functions. But you’d do better if you can do all three.”
Bruce also spoke about empathy. “Be compassionate,” he told the students. He suggested that doing PR well also means caring about those who you can help through nonprofit organizations, and the people whose lives are improved because of social responsibility and good work your clients can do.
Finally, Bruce told his young guests that going to work every day has to be fulfilling. “Love what you do, have passion for it.”
Bruce and I are of the same generation and had very different PR careers, but I couldn’t agree more. Your thoughts?
Everyone should have something to point to
Something to be proud of
Look what I did, see what I’ve done
I did the job, I was the one
— from the musical “Working“
I felt kind of proud this week when WordPress electronically congratulated me on reaching 200 times that I’ve posted here on Public Relations Nation. It meant I haven’t missed a week in almost four years and I’m actually surprised at my consistency. You see, despite my somewhat organized persona, I can be quite the procrastinator and it sometimes take a lot of effort to get me to start–and finish–a job. Of course, working is much easier when you enjoy it, and writing this little PR blog for my students and colleagues is something I can point to.
Speaking of working, this past week Hofstra’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter hosted several faculty members who revealed the paths they each took in their PR careers. A student asked how she could distinguish herself among her fellow student interns. The PR program’s newest faculty member, Kara Alaimo, responded, “Work really, really hard.” Professor Alaimo, who held multiple internships during college, noted that she earned positive feedback from her supervisors because she always gave every task her all.
As questions about jobs and working flowed, other faculty members expressed that success really only depends on what you’re willing to invest. They also advised the 40 students gathered to stand out by “finding something you love and really excelling at it” and “keeping an open mind about your future” and “making your boss’s job easier.”
Some marketing people call the something that makes a product or a person different and special a “unique selling proposition.” This concept forces us to find what makes us different than others who will be competing for the same jobs. We need to find our passion and do something really well–and then ensure that others see and recognize our efforts. Because as we achieve whatever we define as success, we all need something to point to, something to be proud of. Your thoughts?