For most of my three decades as a communications professional I put together content and programs for target audiences on behalf of my employers. Whether it was my brief time as a reporter or my lengthier tenure as a public relations practitioner, I worked on instinct, direction from my bosses, and trial-and-error. I also got professional advice and learned about the profession from my colleagues who pretty much used the same approach to do their jobs.
It wasn’t until I starting working in higher education, first on the administration side and then as faculty, did I realize there’s a world of academic research examining our profession. In the area of communication and public relations, university professors, graduate assistants and research teams look at the effectiveness of the tools and techniques professionals use. They analyze PR campaigns and results, audiences and influencers, pedagogy and practice. When I joined Hofstra in 2010 I quickly learned that I would also be involved on the research end of our practice, the goal being the advancement of our profession through journal publications and conference presentations.
This week I’ll attend the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Montreal, a several day event which will bring well over a thousand educators and professionals together to share their academic research. Papers will be presented on topics both highly specific (“Chinese Milk Companies and the 2008 Chinese Milk Scandal: An Analysis of Crisis Communication Strategies in a non-Western Setting”) and day-to-day practical (“An Analysis of How Social Media Use is Being Measured in Public Relations Practice”). Professors and graduate students will discuss their findings and we’ll all get a little smarter.
I’ll also be joining a group of more than 100 of my colleagues to visit the Montreal headquarters of Edelman Public Relations where top PR practitioners and managers will share their perspectives on our fast-evolving profession. We’ll hear about their staffing needs and they’ll give us their thoughts on teaching PR. Their positions and the important work of our academic colleagues are essential if we, as educators, are to be effective in the classroom.