Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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November 23, 2013

Personal takeaways from #NCA13 Conference

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!

Best Wishes,


November 20, 2013

Establishing professional, research, & social media connections: Heading to #NCA13

As we speak, I am on my way to attend and present at the upcoming National Communication Association Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. This will be my third time heading to DC this year for a conference. Yes, I did say three. :) However, I am looking forward to connecting with fellow colleagues and students in PR and other related fields.

I first attended NCA when I was a PhD student at the University of Tennessee, and the last conference I went to was in 2011 during my first semester at the University of Louisville. Both presentations focused on social media and crisis communications, which was pretty cool. My first paper was focused on H1N1 and the social media bookmarking site Delicious, and the other was from my dissertation (primarily the data I found with my focus groups). I was not able to attend and present last year due to being all of the way on the other side of the world for the World PR Forum in Melbourne (which was a fabulous conference and great experience!).


This time, I will be part of a panel to discuss the real time crisis challenges and opportunities we are seeing right now in PR. From social media to wearable technologies, I am going to be talking about some of the growing issues and concerns.  I will be posting my PowerPoint deck online as soon as the presentation is done tomorrow.

Safe travels to all of my friends heading to DC and have a great day, everyone!

Best Wishes,




October 1, 2013

A year older, another year… blessed

Yesterday was my birthday [woo hoo!] and it made me think about a variety of different things. I have had friends who have asked me – well, how do you feel now you are a year older? Do you miss your 20s or have you embraced your 30s yet?

With these questions, it made me think a lot. Sure, I was able to do a lot in my 20s, but when I started thinking about my 20s, I realized that it was a decade where I was working hard [REALLY hard!] – both in track and in school.

When I was 20, I was a sophomore at the University of Florida and graduated a few years later with my undergraduate degree in PR. Two weeks later, I entered graduate school at USC and competed for the USC Trojans in the shot put. A couple of years later, it was off to the PhD program at Tennessee where I graduated as Dr. Freberg 2.0 in 2011, at age 28. I finished up the decade at the University of Louisville as an Assistant Professor and continuing doing research, teaching, and consulting in my areas in crisis communications, PR, and social media. With all of these degrees, I had the chance to present, work, and travel internationally to South Africa (2007), China (2008 – check out this great blog post from my sis Kristin on our trip!), The Netherlands (2009), Greece (2009), Brazil (2010), and Italy (2011). Whew!

I would have to say that I feel like I have gotten wiser each year – but this year I felt that it was another year where I felt truly blessed. My 30s have been awesome so far – I have been able to do a lot of cool things so far in this decade. I have grown professionally and personally, and had a chance to see the world even more! Just this past year alone, I have been able to present research in China (June 2013), Barcelona (June and October 2013), and Australia (November 2012) – let alone spend a little bit of time in Paris for a mini vacation with family and friends!

Even in my 30s, I am still working hard – I do thank coffee every day to help me with this! :) I am still working on projects and continue making my courses better and better – but these are the things I love to do in my profession. I am also able to pick and choose what consulting projects and research I want to do, which is pretty awesome. I am lucky to have the ability to work with some amazing students and colleagues at Louisville, collaborate with some awesome reseachers, and continue growing both as a scholar and person.

In summary, each day we have is precious – don’t take it for granted. Spend it with the people you love and mean the most for you. Don’t sweat the small stuff – sometimes it is good to chillax and take a moment for yourself. Be the best you can be in your profession. Make meaningful moments by helping others and mentoring them to be all they can be as well. :)

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


September 22, 2013

What is a social media professor?: Interview w/ Blitzmetrics

We have seen many programs of course create social media classes (pretty much is standard for most universities now), but there are others that have taken it a step further and have a designated person assigned to be the professor of social media. This seems to be the current trend we are seeing both in the job market as well as from universities.

However, when we are looking and what it really means to be a social media professor, what does this exactly mean? What are the necessary qualifications for someone to have when it comes to have this title? What research do they have to do and what assignments should they have their students do in social media classes?

Well, I am going to tell you what it means. BlitzMetrics interviewed both Scott Sanders (UofL’s new social media professor hire this year and got his PhD from University of Southern California) and I a few weeks ago about this very issue, and we were able to share how we use social media into the classroom in this interview on their corporate blog.

Scott and I both share our perspectives when it comes to how we not only incorporate social media into the classroom, but also how we teach the social media class specifically as well. I am currently teaching the social media class at UofL last spring and again this fall semester, but Scott will also be teaching the class as well at UofL. We hope to continue building this specialization within the Department of Communication as well as for the university.

While Scott is coming from a Communications perspective and my background is more on the PR side, there are still certain characteristics, best practices, and ideas we share when it comes to social media. This is what is great about teaching and researching in social media – there is going to be crossover when it comes to what has been done in research as well as how it can be used both in and outside the classroom. One thing we both agree on is the balance between theory and practice, especially when it comes to the classroom.

Special thanks to Dennis Yu and the entire Blitzmetrics team for taking the time to speak to both Scott and I about what we are doing in the classroom when it comes to social media. It was fun and a great experience  sharing with you our ideas, perspectives, and insights on this topic! :)

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


August 25, 2013

7 best practices & tips for establishing a personal brand as a professor

As professors, it is key to make sure to establish your personal brand online to not only present what you are researching or presenting at various conferences, but also in teaching. The perfect equation for achieving the strongest personal brand for professors is to have a strong reputation in research as well as teaching. In fact, it should be equal. However, many professors forget the other key component that is needed to make the complete package, and that is the sustainable and collaborative relationship with the practitioners.

I know several professors who fall into one category or another – but we can’t afford this in 2013 or for the future. We have to be on top of our game in the classroom and make sure we are preparing our students for the workplace, but we also have to make sure we share our experiences in research and how this can be strategically applied into the practice. Teaching these lessons as well as learning from students at the same time is the perfect combination to have. Some professors have done a great job in establishing their reputations online with personalized websites and blogs, podcasts, and Twitter chat sessions. However, there are those that say that they “don’t have enough time” or it’s “not relevant to them.” Well, I say that this is something we all have to be aware of, especially when it comes to teaching.

This is a particular issue I have tried to address in my social media class specifically, and here are some ways professors can establish their own personal brand in the classroom for students, colleagues, and practitioners:

  • Personalized Hashtag: I have seen fellow professors use Twitter for their online conversations for their classes, but what happens if you have the same number and abbreviation as another class at another school? Best way to get around this is to have your own personalized hashtag. This is what I have done for my class, and it will be changing every year since it’s just #Freberg13. Let your fellow colleagues know your hashtag so they can promote it for recruits (who are interested in the class possibly), advisors, fellow professors, and even practitioners so they can see what you are covering in your class. You can track your hashtag with a variety of different resources to see the scope of the reach via Hashtags.com or Hashtracking.
  • Opportunity to share your story: By establishing a name for yourself online by sharing insights and relevant information, you are in a sense telling your story. In addition, if you are willing to share some of your personal interests and hobbies, the better. Whether it is traveling, cooking, working out, or other related hobbies and activities – this shows a level of transparency to others that you are not only a professor, but also a human being as well.
  • Constantly prepping for class: This is pretty much what I think any professor teaching a social media class needs to consider – it’s a constant prep before, during, and after the class! It’s good to have a foundation of key strategies, tools, and methods/principles for the class, but you need to make sure you present relevant information to your students and communities in real-time. This can be done by 1) spending a set amount of time looking for trends, cases, and topics before and after the class – similar to the time you spent looking at the news to see what is going on in the world and 2) using tools that will help aggregate the information to you directly based on preset topics. These two strategies have helped me out a lot. In order to establish your personal brand as being innovative and creative, you have to spend the time and energy to look at what is going on that’s new and relevant for your class – and be willing to share this with others.
  • Being generous with resources: One way to separate yourself from others is to be generous with materials from class, research, and practice. Whether this is establishing a resource page or exchanges of presentations, assignments, and syllabi, We are all in the same team here when it comes to education, and what better way to establish yourself as a resource by sharing your insights and knowledge with others?
  • Thinking ahead to be an innovator: This is where creativity comes into play – we talk all the time in PR about how to do an environmental scan across the various landscapes our clients are involved in, but do we actually do this ourselves as professors? I have found that those who have been successful in separating themselves from the crowd have done this. This is one of the reasons why I looked to Hootsuite University as an option last spring and have incorporated it into my class for this fall. The other thing that I wanted to do was to look at ways to incorporate Google Glass into the classroom as a member of their Explorer program. Dr. William Ward (Syracuse) has done a great job with this so far with Google Glass, so it’s going to be interesting to see what other ideas we can generate with this new tool.
  • Documenting guest lectures and shared experiences: One of the things I have seen from fellow colleagues as a good best practice for establishing their personal brand is to invite practitioners into the classroom to cover a particular topic. These can be in person or done via Google+, Skype, or another video conference call set up. Important thing to note is to make sure you also publicize their efforts on social media as well. Not only their Twitter handles, but you may want to consider also tagging their association as well. In addition, help document these guest lectures through pictures and video. This is one of the things that I am going to do more this semester, so stay tuned! :)
  • Promote it with owned media: As professors, you are the best PR person you have to promote what you are doing in the classroom. This means establishing your own website and blog as a personal hub where you are able to house all of this great content and information about what you are doing in research, teaching, and consulting. You want to make sure to connect this of course to shared media (ex. social media) with others. For example, one of the things I did this past semester was create a video with all of the guest lectures and final presentations from class. Here’s the video”

In summary, we give advice for students to establish their own personal brands and reputation in the profession, but we also have to consider this as well as professors. Prospective students, parents, businesses, and practitioners are all looking online to see what universities are doing in the classroom, so they will be looking to see what is available online about specific courses and professors.

I wish all of my friends and colleagues the very best as they start their fall semester courses! Have a wonderful day.

Best Wishes,


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