I have been to the NCA Conference before, but it has been a couple of years. The first time I went as a doctoral student at Tennessee, I just remember a couple things about the conference. It was busy, huge, and lots and lots of presentations. When I first came to the conference just a few years ago, I only knew a few people and my research line in social media and crisis communications was just starting. I was known as the PhD student from Tennessee who was studying PR. I was labeled as an “applied researcher” at times as well, which I was fine with.
Fast forward a few years. I did not attend NCA last year since I was presenting at the World PR Forum in Melbourne. So, I came back to DC (third time this year for a conference!) and was part of a great social media and PR panel. I was able to see some good presentations and panel sessions. While the research seemed to be along the same paths, something changed. However, this year, things were different – much different for me. Compared to other times where I knew a few people who were in attendance, I was amazed this time to meet people who I have connected with both virtually and in person at previous conferences.
I have to admit, I was a bit amazed and honored to have the chance to talk to so many wonderful students and professionals in DC these past few days. I had people come to me and said “Wow! I follow you on social media and thank you for always sharing your resources!” and talking about my social media class with the hashtag #Freberg13. Whoa – that was pretty cool!
Here were a few things I learned from NCA which really went beyond the research and presentations covered at the conference (which were all good):
- Your reputation as a scholar does change from a PhD Student to an Assistant Professor: I had the chance to talk with one of my good friends and colleagues (who also was one of my favorite professors in graduate school at SC) about this very issue, and he told me that as a PhD student, people are attributing their perception based on your potential as a scholar, but as a professor, they are basing this on what you have accomplished. This really hit a point with me and realized this is a key lesson for me to realize and it made sense to me. You are starting your career as a professor and you have to prove yourself with your research, teaching, and consulting.
- Social media allows a window to showcase your brand to the world: I’ve been active with social media for years, but it was really at this conference where I was able to see how what I have shared online – from Twitter to my blog to even what I have done with the AEJMC PRD social media team – to professionals and students I have never met before the conference. I was honored and amazed at the same time – social media is all about being social, and if you take the time to share your resources and insights with others – they will appreciate it. It was wonderful to see this being acknowledged at the conference this past few days.
- Being put into the research box: There are times where people and others put you into “research boxes” for what you do in the field and what your contribution is. Some are theorists, some are known for crisis communications, and there are others that are known for other fields. At tis conference, I was put into the “social media box.” This has taken several years to get acknowledged in the field for this work, but I was amazed with the level of respect and enthusiasm displayed from others in attendance with my work. It was both exciting and amazing at the same time – truly honored by this.
- Paying it forward is crucial: I was EXTREMELY impressed with the level of professionalism, commitment, and creativity with research and ideas from the PhD students I ran into this past week at NCA. They are the future for the field, and it wasn’t long ago where I was one of them. I’ve tried to give them the advice I either got or wished I got as a PhD student myself. Mentorship is absolutely a key duty we have in the profession, so it is important to make sure to pay it forward.
As you can see, you get a chance to learn much more at conferences than just the presentations and research being shared. I found that this conference in many senses opened a new chapter and mindset for me as a professional. One of my goals for my work as a professor/researcher has been to make a difference in the field – I just didn’t realize how quickly this could happen or how rewarding it is to hear others share their stories, insights, and comments about the work as well.
I had a wonderful time catching up with everyone at NCA. Thanks to all who came to my panel session and met with me for coffee, talked with me at the conference and at the business meeting, and reached out to me at the PR social. Hope you all enjoy the rest of the conference and safe travels!
Have a great day!