Leaving Clemson

I broke the news on Twitter last week, but here is a more detailed account of the events in my life. In the past 10 days, I:

– accepted a job offer at Purdue University
– resigned from my position at Clemson University
– looked for a house in West Lafayette, Indiana
– found a house in West Lafayette, Indiana
– put an offer, negotiated, etc., etc. – and now my husband and I are this close to being home owners.

It’s been a whirlwind: Things are happening much faster than my bewildered mind can process. So maybe writing will help.

As I write this, I think of my Clemson PR students, who I will miss dearly. They’ve been the best students I’ve ever worked with, and my heart is breaking knowing I’m leaving them. They’re bright, quick learners, amazing writers. If you haven’t hired them already, there might be a couple left. 🙂

So, why am I leaving? (actually, both my husband and I are leaving).

Many of you know that during the past 3 years it has become clear to both Krishna and me that Clemson (and Seneca), South Carolina cannot ever feel like home for us. We both come from large, crowded cities, and the quiet, rural lifestyle is … killing us (softly).

We’ll both be tenure-track faculty at Purdue, Krishna in Engineering Education, and I have a joint appointment in the College of Technology, shared between two departments: Computer Graphics Technology and Organizational Leadership & Supervision.

There will be some changes in my research and teaching focus: less PR (possibly no PR), a lot more technology – and its impact on culture, society, and communication. I will be teaching mostly graduate courses, at the Master’s and Ph.D. level.

This move is a bit sideways and up, and although I am very sad to step away from teaching PR (it will still be part of my research agenda), I am excited to tackle some research projects I’ve had in mind for a while now, that didn’t quite fit in with my PR-oriented research agenda.

I’ve done my best to make sure my PR students at Clemson are well taken care of. Dr. Denham has agreed to take over as PRSSA adviser, and I am so grateful and relieved that he’s stepping in!

Next semester, two wonderful instructors will be teaching a section each of the PR Principles class – and one of them might already be your twitter friend!

Dr. Hawkins, the CU Communication Studies Department Chair, has expressed a strong commitment in maintaining the momentum we have built here in PR @ CU, and I will do whatever I can to help her – and you.

If you were my student, I want you to know that I will always think of you as my student – and possibly friend. I will always be happy to hear from you and to be in touch. Follow me on twitter (@prprof_mv – should I change my user name?), friend me on LinkedIn – stay in touch.

To all of my wonderful PR friends from Greenville (you know who you are) – with twitter, facebook, linkedin, and whatever comes up next, we have no excuse for not keeping in touch! So, let’s.

To all my blog readers (both of you 🙂 – I don’t know which way this blog will go, but it’ll keep going, with some break while my life settles down into a routine after the move.

Like all big life changes, this one is bitter-sweet, exciting, exhausting, exhilarating… send me good thoughts, and you know you’ll get them back 🙂

How Twitter can make history

Here’s a talk by Clay Shirky about how the changing media landscape is changing the world.


A few takeaways from this talk:

* technology starts making a difference in society when it’s not shiny anymore, when it’s mainstream

* before the Internet, communication media that were good at conversation were not good at creating groups, and media that were good at creating groups were not good at conversation

* the Internet is still changing as it becomes more social

* May 2008 China earthquake: reported on Twitter several minutes before U.S. Geological Survey had any information online; BBC got the news from Twitter. Previous major earthquake in China: took China 3 months to admit it even happened. This is no longer a choice.

* the major change is that media consumers are also media producers. Not only can they talk back to organizations (“a bit freaky, but organizations can get used to it”, but they can talk to each other, building huge, powerful networks)

* mature use of social media: to convene supporters/people, not to control them

* “professionals broadcast messages to amateurs” – this model is over; social media is an environment for convening and supporting groups. It might not be the media model we want, but it is the media model we’ve got.

Should I Tweet?

It was a great pleasure to be invited to speak at the AAF Greenville meeting today. Below are some further resources related to the presentation I gave:

These are the slides I used for the presentation, but scroll down for a more basic introduction to Twitter and tips for getting started.

This brief video is a basic and simple explanation of twitter:

This is another explanation of Twitter.

See also a collection of links that should help you get started on Twitter, from Pistachio consulting.

Once you understand how to use the tool, here are some blog posts I wrote with more tips to get you started:

Step 1 – Beginners’ guide
Step 2 – Advice on how to Twitter: Good tweets are…
Step 3 – How to find people to follow on Twitter

Last but not least, I mentioned at least one blog you should be reading: Chris Brogan’s.

Should you need step-by-step instructions on setting up Google Reader to keep track of RSS feeds, and an explanation of RSS feeds, you can find a screencast tutorial here.

If you need explanations of terms such as blog, blog roll, permalink, etc., they are explained here.

I hope you find these resources helpful,

Mantras for Strategic Public Relations

Stimulated by Shel Holtz’ post about the 4-step strategic planning process, I want to share with you some “mantras” (PR principles) about strategic public relations that I (try to) drill into my students:

– Strategic PR begins and ends with research (from Dr. Carl Botan, George Mason University)

– Strategic PR is goal-oriented

– Strategic PR has data or theory-based reasons for all decisions (decisions are never random)

– Good research takes the guesswork out of PR

Do you practice these? What do they mean to you? Do you have your own mantras to add?

Can PR save a company?

There’s some discussion in the blogosphere about GM’s social media and crisis communication strategies these days, when they just filed for bankruptcy.

The arguments motivated me to finally start a new series of posts, For the Love of Theory.

In response to the question: Can PR save a company? I’d like to offer and overview of a “classic” PR theory, that of Issue Management.

PR can save a company, but not if it’s used to “get the message across”: If it’s used to listen, monitor and analyze issues, to enable the organization to adapt to its environment in a timely manner.

This is exactly what GM failed to do, and what the theory of Issue Management explains:


The theory posits that any issue in society (i.e. environmentalism, vegetarianism, etc.) has a lifecycle that revolves from dormant (no one thinks about it) to potential, as a few selected people start considering it, to imminent, when it starts picking up speed and media attention, to current, when it’s in the center of the public’s and the media’s attention, to critical, when the issue is demanding a solution. After being “resolved,” the issue goes back into the dormant stage, but it can wake up again at a later time.

The Issue Management function of public relations (which is thought of, at least in academic circles, as much more than media relations & publicity) is to continuously:

– scan the environment

– identify issues that can affect the organization

– analyze these issues to determine if action is necessary

– bring the issues to the attention of higher management, along with action recommendations

– design, implement, evaluate communication strategies around the issue (you often see companies taking positions on social or political issues)

Depending on how late/early a company identifies the issue and takes action, it can follow a reactive strategy (implementing actions imposed by others), an adaptive, dynamic, or even catalytic strategy – in this one, the company wakes an issue up from the dormant stage and moves it through the entire life cycle.

Of course, the earlier the company intervenes, the more power it has to frame the issue and to influence public discussion.

Can you see now how the issue management function of PR could have saved GM?

Many rhetorical scholars‘ view of PR is:

The good organization speaking well*

PR is widely understood as the “speaking well” part, but if the PR function is used strategically, and is given a seat at the management table, it is its job not only to speak well, but to help the organization be good.

Ultimately, the PR function can help an organization adapt to its environment (and change the environment to suit it better).

For GM, it’s a bit late. But I hope you can see now how PR can help an organization adapt, survive, and thrive. It’s just time we moved past the “free publicity” paradigm of PR and catch up to a bigger picture understanding of what PR can do for an organization.

If you’re interested in reading more:

Chase, W. H. (1977). Public issue management: The new science. Public Relations Journal, 32(10), 25-26.

* Cheney, G.D. (1992). The corporate person (re)presents itself, in: E. Lance Toth, R.L. Heath (Eds.), Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, p. 167.

Crable, R. E., & Vibbert, S. L. (1985). Managing issues and influencing public policy. Public Relations Review, 11(2), 3-16.

Heath, R.J., & Palenchar, M.J. (2008). Strategic Issues Management 2. Sage.

Teaching online

Observation_3__photovoice__alhall_Hall4.JPGI’m teaching PR Principles online this summer, and I thought I’d share with you my top 3 tips for online teaching:

1. Discussions don’t work. Unless you present very controversial, ethical issues where students can share opinions, discussions don’t take off in online classes as most teachers wish. I’m trying to use discussions now as preparations for assignments (solve a PR case in a discussion thread so you know how to solve it for a graded assignment). However, I see better discussions as comments to blog posts (all students are required to blog on PROpenMic). I hate grading discussions based on number of posts. I think it’s meaningless, I don’t do it, I don’t use it to motivate students to participate.

2. For every learning objective, think two steps: information input and information processing/output. That is, for every learning objective my students have to take in information (from book, recorded online lecture, blog, etc.) and then do something with it (take a quiz, write a blog post, write an assignment) that shows me they’ve processed the information and now they’re outputting it for me to evaluate. I usually have a relatively easy quiz, and a more complex application assignment.

3. Allow students to work at their own paces, but provide a lot of structure. I issue a schedule for every week, that includes learning objectives and for each learning objective information input and output activities (assignments), along with deadlines.

What works for you, either as a teacher or student, in online education? Please share tips, comments, questions, frustrations 🙂