Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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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,


August 1, 2013

Creativity is the cornerstone of relevance & innovation for today’s PR & social media practices

Creativity is what makes you relevant and meaningful for clients, organizations, and other audiences like students if you are teaching as well.

I have to thank Deirdre Breakenridge for sharing this article on FB yesterday – it really struck a chord for me not only as a researcher, but also as a professor and professional in PR. We have to not only encourage creativity in our classes with our students, but we have to embody it ourselves as well in our own work.  Thanks, Deidre!

My UofL Office

Here are some tips on how to become creative for your work in PR – both from a student, professor, and consultant point of view:

  • Don’t let others put you into boxes: If you have someone say “you’re an applied researcher” or “you only can study PR” or even “you have to become an expert in this tiny corner of the field to be relevant” – I say that is not true. You have control in deciding what you are going to do professionally, what you are going to research/teach/practice, and how you are going to communicate and share your ideas with others outside of the field.  You are in control of your point of view as a researcher, scholar, and practitioner.
  • “Innovation is about changing reality”: This is an awesome quote from the article I saw from BusinessWeek.  Focusing on what has already been done is important to note for research because you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but also ask – what HASN’T been done? What has been explored in other fields but not in the field I am in? What changes and questions need to be addressed? Researchers are obligated to be explorers as well as experts in their related field.
  • Reinvention is part of evolution: When we look at the most successful brands, most of them have evolved over the years due to reinvention – not necessarily on their core values or principles – but more along the lines of how they are crafting of their messages to their audiences.
  • Looking at items in new ways: The key thing is the concept of “new” – I know, it’s not rocket science :), but sometimes it’s hard to come up with ideas that have not been addressed yet.  So many times (as I know as a graduate student) we are forced to build off on research that has already been done and extend this point of view in the field.  However, this somewhat limits us to other considerations that could make an impact to the field.  Ask yourself – what hasn’t been done in the field yet? What are some new ways we can approach new assignments in our classes? What questions are relatively “new” for the profession in the body of knowledge?
  • Embrace a creative lifestyle: What does this mean? This means to make sure to take the time to 1) soak up the atmosphere and do activities that help you brainstorm (for me, it’s always been exercise) – so make sure to budget time to do this and 2) surround your space with ideas to help you generate new points of view. I have done this with my office at UofL as well as my home office – you want to have the best environment that will help you be as creative as possible. This has worked for brands like Edelman and Google to name a few. My office at UofL is not the typical office you see for professors – while I do have books, I do have Angry Birds, Minions, and Dr. Who items decorating my office. It keeps me entertained while working. :)
  • Be lifelong learners who are sustainable both in their work ethic & accomplishments: As professors and researchers, we have to think of this as well in terms of our own personal brand. How are we going to stay relevant and evolve along with the trends we are seeing in the field? One point is to always be a lifelong learner, and never sit on your accomplishments.  This point was raised by Brian Solis in this article, which I totally agree with. In order to be relevant, you always have to be hungry and keep moving forward to maintain your influence and presence in the field.

In other words, creativity is one attribute that will always be important to have as a professional today in 2013 and beyond. Coming up with new ways of approaching research or assignments in the classroom can be challenging, so if you have the ability to do this, you can really make an impact in the profession across the board.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


July 25, 2013

Scholars as Social Connectors: Bridging theory & practice in PR classes

When it comes to the classroom, professors have to be open to both the theoretical foundation of research as well as the application and strategic implementation of these findings for their students. Many times, professors either focus on just one angle or another.

To be honest, I always felt that I was never in one side or another – I felt that I was somewhat in the middle when it came to the theory and practice perspectives. I appreciate the foundation that theory brings to the table, but I also love the creativity and strategy that comes with the practice side of PR. So, this got me thinking – is this just something I am experiencing myself or are there others out there that feel the same?

The answer was – yes, I was not alone in this perspective. In fact, we are seeing a rise in the PR community with this hybrid perspective to integrate both theory and practice together for PR education and research purposes.

I had the opportunity to work with Dave Remund (Drake University) on a couple of research projects dedicated to focusing on this hybrid approach for PR professors. One project was with one of our other fellow PR colleagues (Kathy Ketler-Previs from Eastern Kentucky University) which was presented at the PRSA Conference and published in Public Relations Review.

However, this project we worked on focused on what we called “Scholars as Social Connectors,” which was published in the publication called Teaching Public Relations. The focus of the project was focused on looking at how PR professors can use digital media and leadership skills to bridge the connections between theory and practice in the classroom.

So, how do you become a scholar who is a social connector? Well, there are several things you can consider implementing in the classroom:

  • Be a student of technology (social consumers): It is essential for PR professors to know and be part of the digital community. Research what are some of the trends coming up and see 1) what theories could be applied to study these trends that have not been done before and 2) consider brainstorming projects on how to look at these trends from a strategic and applied point of view.
  • Share knowledge, tips, and best practices with PR community (curator): We are all in the same boat – so we have to look at what resources and tools we have at our disposal that we can share with fellow colleagues, students, and professionals in the field. This is what I have tried to do with my website, blog, and my page called “Becoming Social.
  • Create content that has both theory and application (creators): The days of focusing on just theory for professors are pretty much over – we have to be skilled in the application and creativity that comes with creating content that is relevant for the PR profession. Don’t focus on using a theory or practice that has been done over and over again – but think about – what has NOT been done or explored yet? We have to be creators as well as explorers in this day of age as PR professors.

Dave has been a wonderful colleague and friend in the PR community to bounce off ideas and projects with – it was great working with him on this project and I am looking forward to working with him on more in the future.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about our study in TPR. Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


May 27, 2013

Got Book Chapter?!: Co-authored chapter on social media & mobile in crises published

Got book chapter? Well, I do. :) I had a nice surprise when I came back from my trip to DC this past weekend for the APS Conference. I just found out I had one of my book chapters published! It is always very exciting to see your name in print. In case you are interested in seeing what other areas are focused in the book or are interested in purchasing the book itself, here is the link to the book on Amazon.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all about technology and love ebooks myself!  However, there is something about physically turning the pages and reading a book that is comforting and relaxing. It was fun looking over the book chapter I helped write a few years ago. It seems like yesterday I was looking at mobile media articles, discussing exactly what is considered to be a mobile device, and looking over the final edits for correct APA style (still working on it now even as an assistant professor).

It is amazing to see your writing in a printed edition of a book like this. This was a project I had the opportunity to work on with my advisor and chair at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Michael Palenchar when I was a graduate research assistant. This project focused on the challenges and risks associated with social media and mobile technologies in crisis situations.  This paper was presented at the ICA Pre-Conference on Mobile Technologies in Boston back in 2011, so it has taken a little bit of time to get the book published.

This was one of the first projects I had a chance to work on with mobile technologies a few years ago. Many people associate mobile and social media literature and research to be the same. There is a lot of crossover of course with emerging technologies both in research and practice, but they are each their own specialization. What is key for researchers and students interested in this area to understand is not only the differences, but also the bridge that connects these two fields together. They are alike in many ways, but they have their own distinct theories, principles, and studies associated with them.

This was a fun project to work on and I would like to thank both Kathleen and Larissa for their support and guidance with this project.  It was a pleasure working with these two great professionals and I appreciated the opportunity to have the chapter Dr. Palenchar and I worked on together be published.  I was very excited to see this book arrive and see my name in the book. :) Very fabulous! Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


May 18, 2013

Game of Thrones [Academic Edition]: Five Lessons to take away from Book & TV Series for PR pros

I have been off from teaching classes for the last couple of weeks, so this has given me time to work on research, conference presentations (I have four coming up in two different states and two different countries), and prepping for projects and classes for the fall. However, it has also given me time to catch up on shows my students, friends, and family members have recommended to me to see as soon as I have free time. :)

One of these shows of course has been the HBO hit Game of Thrones. This show is finishing its third season and the books go up to five (so far) – but there are some interesting themes that emerge from the series. One in particular is the issue of power – how it makes people do whatever is necessary to get it and can be almost corruptive in nature.

When thinking about this very issue, I saw this article talking about how brands can be looked at from this standpoint as well from the Game of Thrones perspective. After seeing this, it raised an interesting question – can we look at academia the same way? Are we searching for power and are there the same elements emerging in our field as in this book and TV series?

Interesting question – and I would have to say that the answer is indeed yes. Here are five ways academia is like the Game of Thrones:

  • Rise of Power for Academic families:  Like in Game of Thrones, there are “academic families” that have dominated or are strongly present in the field. There are successions and quote “academic offspring” that are supposed to follow the line and duties from the previous research and so forth. However, if you do not have an academic family, you are technically looked down on, which is unfortunate and not fair. Look at what happened with John Snow in the book and series.
  • A huge focus on where you came from: This is not necessarily based on location, but this really does focus on your academic institution. This does have a judging impact on the overall perception and reputation of an academic professional – and it is almost something that embodies the overall identity of the researcher. However, shouldn’t the work and personality of the person dictate how they should be perceived? You almost have to introduce yourself as not necessarily I am so and so, son of x, lord of xyz, etc – but you do have to introduce yourself with your position and where you are from.
  • Gatekeepers role in power: I see this all the time in academia – the gatekeepers that position themselves to decide who gets published, who presents their research or gets a position on a specific committee, and other activities that are not necessarily judged based on the work presented. The same goes with the Game of Thrones – this is a powerful message to say that life is not fair, but you have to be able to handle the deck of cards you are dealt with and strategize how to get around the gatekeepers. Sometimes it is tough, but it can be accomplished, even in academia. Everyone wants to be on the “iron throne” or the position of being a changer in the particular field they are in.
  • Growing need to formulate your own “teams” and alliances: The world for Game of Thrones characters is a tough place to be in, so they have to formulate teams to help them accomplish their goals and objectives.  Alliances have to be made, so you are seeing this with the Starks and the Lannisters in the series and book. Same in academia – there are going to be those that will do whatever possible to see your work not get published and there will be others that will help you and support you. Find these similar professionals and collaborate with them on projects to accomplish your goals. I have been very fortunate to have been able to work with some amazing professionals in the field on collaborative projects, which is good.
  • Triumph over adversity and challenges: Lots of the characters are either killed or are challenged during the course of the series, but some have overcome these challenges and obstacles. The same goes with academia – persistence and hard work will allow you to accomplish your goals and objectives.  If you get a rejection from a journal, find another outlet to publish in. If you find a conference where there are tons of politics going on, find another one. Look at the potential opportunities each action can give you – and go for it. Do things that are not excepted to keep people guessing – this is one of the things that worked well with Rob Stark with his war efforts in the book.

In summary, what are seeing here is a connection to the TV and book series with academia. There are times where we see great challenges ahead of us and that there are some things life throws at us in our field that are not fair. It is how we handle these situations and overcome them that makes us stronger, which is one of the lessons we can take away from Game of Thrones.

Staying focused, working hard, and thinking outside the box and formulating teams are just a few best practices we can look at when operating in the field of academia. We are seeing this become more of a trend and challenge for young professionals trying to establish themselves in the field and the growing pressures due to the tough economy and lack of job opportunities.  It’s definitely tough out there. As they say in Game of Thrones – winter is coming.

Hope you all are having a great day. :)

Best Wishes,


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