Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

See it! —– Believe it! —– Deal with it!   

October 6, 2013

Experiencing the beauty, culture, and cuisine of Barcelona

One of the things that I have thoroughly enjoyed about traveling for conferences is the exploring new cultures and meeting new people. I had the chance to present at the EUPRERA Congress this past week in Barcelona on research I did with a few of my colleagues in crisis communications, emergency management, and social media.

Overall, it was a great and wonderful experience. I am going to do a recap of the congress in another post, but I am first going to talk about the time I had in Barcelona the city. As I mentioned earlier, we had a great time exploring around the city and meeting new people at the conference. I always think it’s cool to connect with people on social media after the conference – very cool!

I have been to Barcelona before – earlier this year – but this trip was somewhat different for me in many ways. First, we were able to get around mostly without a map and without apps to tell us the directions. Shocking, I know! :) I also felt more of a local and was able to blend in a bit more this time around than the first time.

We were able to visit some of our favorite places from the first trip (parks, tapas restaurants, etc) as well as exploring new places like the Museum of Chocolate. Where else can you go and see the history of chocolate and some amazing chocolate creations? Did I mention the fact that our ticket was a chocolate bar? For a foodie, this was right up my alley.

Having tapas is the thing to do in Barcelona – and what better place to go than Princesa 23? We found this place during our visit in June and loved it – if you want great tapas in Barcelona – you must go there! The chicken wings and chips are amazing (the Princesa Frida special).

Now, as I am heading back to Louisville and enjoying the last few days of my fall break, this time in Barcelona has given me a nice break but also professional experience that I feel not only helped me in my research, but also my own personal perspective on traveling. It’s been a wonderful experience and I hope to visit Barcelona again in the near future!

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


June 23, 2013

Global networking, rise in social media, and growth of a city: A few of my thoughts about Dalian & the Emerging InfoTech Congress Presentation

I arrived in Dalian on Wednesday, and I was pretty jetlagged since I had been traveling for about 24 hours. The first day of the conference was both filled with amazement and wonder for me – not only due to the size and scope of the event, but how I was treated.

Dalian was indeed different from Beijing and Hong Kong in so many ways. The residents were very friendly and accommodating – and a lot spoke English, which I was not expecting. Dalian is also considered to the technology hub for China, so if people found out you work in the technology industry, you were treated like royalty.

What were some of the things I experienced during my time in Dalian?  Here are just a few experiences and perspectives I wanted to share with you all:

  • Getting the rockstar treatment: Never before have I entered a conference where photographers were clammerating and pushing each other to take pictures of the speakers. I felt like they were the paparazzi and thought they were taking pictures of someone else. However, they kept following me and were not only taking pictures, but video as well. I was taped throughout the RI Conference in Beijing a few years ago, but never to this scale. I was followed to my seat where again, I was the focus of many camera lens and photographers. This was indeed a first for me.
  • Growing need and curiosity of social media in China: One of the first things I realized when I got to the conference was how technical some of the presentations were since they were all about how to set up networks, wireless connections with mobile, etc. I was one of the few communication professionals at the conference, and one of just a couple dedicated to talking about social media.
  • A true global conference: What I also found out about this conference was that there were so many people from all over the world not only from various professions, but also businesses. I had a chance to talk with a couple of IBM distinguished engineers about their Smart Cities initiative and what they were doing to help out cities solve problems. I thought this was very interesting to learn more about.
  • Great presentations, but great networking opportunities as well: Where in the world do you get the opportunity to share a meal with someone from Japan, China, Germany, Canada, Australia, and the UK? Not too many places – we were sharing stories, experiences, and perspectives when it came to the issue of emerging technologies.

My presentation was discussing the past, present, and future trends in strategic communications when it comes to social media.  It was a fun presentation to work on and the response I got was very good. Several wanted to talk to me about it further not only regarding possible collaboration projects, but also potential future invited speaking engagements abroad as well. Pretty cool!

This conference meant a lot to me in many ways. First, it was my first invited speaking engagement overseas, which I was honored to be a part of. Also, it marks the last of my 2013 conferences in the new cycle (next one is AEJMC in August). So, this means I will not be traveling across the globe for at least a few more months. :)

Overall, I was able to experience China again in another city filled with promise and inspiring goals in the area of technology. Dalian was a wonderful host and it was an honor and privilege to be part of this line up of invited speakers.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


June 17, 2013

Off to present on social media and strategic communications in China

I am off to another travel adventure and conference presentation. It seems this particular month has been pretty busy for me in terms of travel and conferences. I guess that’s the life of a social media scholar and professional – but that is what makes it very exciting!

Just in the last couple of weeks, I have been across the US and even overseas. Washington D.C., West Virginia, Barcelona, Paris, and now I am heading to my last conference for the summer (until August for AEJMC), and this one is going to be in China.

Off to China!

I am heading to the  BIT’s 2nd Annual World Congress  of Emerging InfoTech  to give an  invited  presentation on social media, particularly focusing on the area of the past, present, and future of strategic communications.

The conference is going to be located in Dalian, China. I was in  China a few years ago (Beijing and Hong Kong) for the Reputation Institute Conference,  and thoroughly enjoyed my time in the country. I am looking forward to the conference as well as spending time in Dalian.

Well, I’m about to board my flight now – hope you all are having a great day and will keep you all posted on my travels! :)

Best Wishes,


Beautiful Bayshore Hotel in Scenic Dalian

June 12, 2013

Bonjour from Paris!: Lights, cuisine, and an experience of a lifetime

One of the places I have always wanted to go to was Paris. You hear about the city all the time as being the fashion capital of the world, the place of amazing food, the City of Lights or the most romantic place on Earth. I was able to finally experience what it was like to be in Paris these past few days after my trip to Barcelona, and I can say that it was one of the most enjoyable trips I have had.

Where do I begin with Paris? Well, we took the Eurorail up to Paris from Barcelona. You really get a chance to see the countryside this way – which I really liked.

We were on a whirlwind tour when we finally got to Paris – we took a boat cruise around the major sites (thanks to Sabrina for organizing this!) and saw some of the major landmarks. We got to see Notre Dame, which was pretty fab! It was also great to see all of the fashion and interactions with others while we walked all over Paris. It was fun to sit down in a cafe and have a cafe and croissant and just people watch. I have to thank my friend Patrick for his wonderful suggestions on what to do in Paris – thanks Patrick! :)

There were so many experiences I felt were very wonderful to participate in when we were in Paris. Sabrina and I stayed a few extra days so we could do a few more activities.


We got to see and go into the Sacre Coer (which was amazing!) as well as shop and talk with some of the locals. We embraced the cuisine of France with open arms with trying out some amazing restaurants. The food was incredible – we went to this tiny restaurant (our hotel manager recommended it to us) where we had the best chocolate cake ever. It will indeed be a legendary memory for me as a foodie! :)

Coming from a family of foodies, of course we had to take a cooking class. Dad found us a great place called La Cuisine (which was truly amazing!) Kristin and Scott learned how to make macaroons and Sabrina and I learned how to make croissants.

Chef Justin was very helpful and we truly were able to embrace the culture through food. The precision, time, and perfection in selecting just the right ingredients along with understanding the reason and history of the food in Paris was very enlightening. A truly remarkable experience that I will never forget.

As I am writing this blog post in the Paris airport, I am reflecting on a past post where I talked about what are some things I found out about myself from each of my travels. If I could categorize what I found out about myself on this trip, it would be appreciation.

I was able to appreciate all of the history, culture, cuisine, and people I met and saw during my trip to Barcelona (and at the RI Conference) and in Paris. I also appreciated the people I was able to travel with for their friendship and support. Also, I appreciated the life and opportunities I have both professionally and personally.

Hope you are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


May 20, 2013

Finding yourself through travel adventures

In preparation for my upcoming trips, especially the one to Paris [not necessarily a business trip – more like a mini vacation].  I have been watching several movies to get prepared for the lovely scenery, cuisine, and atmosphere of Paris.

One movie in particular I have watched recently has been Sabrina. I have both the original movie with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, but I also have the updated version with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond.

One quote that Sabrina [played by Julia Ormond] that struck out to me in this remake was how she described Paris. She talked about how her friend “found herself in Paris.” This got me thinking – has there ever been a place I have been where I found myself?

The answer of course is yes, but for me, it has not been one place – but many that make up various aspects of who I am as a person. Every place I lived or traveled to has shaped me into the person I am today.

Here are just some of the highlights of my travels and what I found out about myself along these incredible adventures:

  • Curiosity: I have to thank Mom and Dad for allowing my sisters and I to travel and experience our first international travel to Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Fiji, and Raratonga (Cook Islands). We experienced so many new elements during this trip that it really sparked my curiosity of the world. I knew even at 10 years old I wanted to see more of the world – not just read about it – but see it in person. The more I travel, the more curious I become of the world and want to explore more of it.
  • Strength: Strength comes in many forms, but I would have to say this is represented in many places I have been to. My time of Florida taught me how to be strong mentally and physically in athletics and academics. I also learned this lesson when I went abroad for the first time by myself. Each of these experiences taught me how strong I was – both mentally and physically.
  • Passion: Passion comes in many forms, but I would have to say that I found passion when I was in several places.  Florida introduced me to my passion in the current field I am right now, PR. Tennessee was the place where I found my passion for teaching and becoming a professor. I found my passion for exploration with every aspect of a culture during my time in South Africa.
  • Community: Being part of the USC Track Team and Annenberg Community in LA for two years taught me the importance of community. Engaging in teamwork and focus towards a common goal was a strong emphasis highlighted for me in both of these categories. To this day, I still have contact with many of my friends at USC and the relationships and connections still remain today.
  • Tradition: My first trip to China really brought this forward to me back in 2008.  The history, cultural elements, and tradition was prominent in every aspect I saw in Beijing. Walking around the Forbidden City and up the Great Wall to oversee the landscape of China was remarkable. Experiencing a traditional Chinese tea ceremony was also another experience that allowed me to not only appreciate tradition, but embrace it as well.
  • Persistence: Track and academics both taught me this, but it was really put to the test during my time in Tennessee and both at Florida and USC. Track was a very rewarding athletic adventure with many highs, but there were some challenges. One of the biggest I had was at the 2004 Olympic Trials. Before the trials, I had a serious back injury which almost made me have to retire from track and field permanently. I had no throwing practice in an actual ring two months before the meet and was second to last to get into the meet. I worked out on my own with my Dad’s virtual coaching from CA. With Dad’s help and my persistence to work out hard to do as well as I could at the trials, I was 6th in the prelims and made the finals at the Olympic Trials to finish 9th.  Also, a PhD program is tough – you don’t see many PhDs for a reason! :)
  • Cuisine: Ah, the love of food – of course, I am from a family of foodies! South Africa taught me to explore and open my horizons to wonderful Afrikaan cuisine, Greece showed me the happiness that is brought with food and dancing, Amsterdam taught me about my home roots and appreciation of apple flaps and stroopwaffels, Italy introduced me to cheese and cured meat [and expresso!] along with fabulous fashion in Milan, Brazil opened my eyes to the lovely Brazilian cuisine of meats and amazing desserts.

As you can see, there are many characteristics and attributes I do contribute to my travels and stays in various places around the US as well as internationally.  However, there was one place I know several of my family members and friends mentioned to me that they thought I did change and grow up from this experience. This place was of course South Africa.

Reflecting on top of Table Top Mountain, South Africa [2007]

 Not only did I grow as a professional in the field of PR, but also as a person. This was the first time I ever lived abroad for long periods of time [four months], so this gave me a chance to meet new friends [still friends to this day] as well as experience a wonderful, energetic, and warm culture. I experienced new foods I never had before that I still make to this day as well. I saw with my own eyes the beauty of a culture and landscape. By the end of my time in South Africa, I felt like I always was there, and realized that I did change for the better from the experience – and indeed “found” myself in the process.

While I am just 30 years old, I know I will continue to grow and evolve as a person and professional based on my travels. I will be traveling to Spain, France, and China this summer (actually all in a month’s time – amazing!), so I will most likely have to add these characteristics to the list here as well. I will make sure to note these in my blog as soon as all of my travels this summer are complete to keep you all updated. :)

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


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