I think what is challenging for professors today with this perspective is that it is not just the field and profession of PR that needs to get a seat at the table for senior leadership and businesses. It’s about getting ourselves to the table as professors.
Yes, I said that right – professors. When you think about it, we are the ones who are educating future professionals in and out of the classroom in the field. We are responsible in connecting the foundation of the field in terms of research and theory with the application. We are overseeing the development and spark that emerges over time with students who are in our majors and evolve on their own as they enter graduation.
In order to get a seat at the table, we first have to look at benchmarks on where we stand as professors, but also where our graduate students are at in terms of preparation. We have lots of great and talented professors and graduate students out there in the PR field – which is very exciting to see. What we have to make sure to do is to help them adapt to both the changes we are seeing in the field, but the evolution we are seeing with the role of the professor in PR.
As I was traveling back from my conference in Miami to Louisville, I was thinking about the reactions I not only got at this conference, but others over the years. The reactions I have gotten have ranged from – wow! You are doing great work in your research that contributes both to practice and to research. I’ve also gotten some feedback on my work ethic and how it seems like I have a go-go mentality when it comes to projects and research. Yes, this is true – but I blame a little of it on my love for coffee.
However, since I have been at Louisville as an assistant professor, I felt there were several lessons I learned with taking on the role.
First year on the job – it is all about getting to know your community. Making introductions, setting up networking sessions and appointments to meet fellow professionals, and becoming familiar with the landscape of the profession both locally as well as nationally and even globally. Second year – all about displaying what you know. What makes you different and separates you from the rest of the professors out there. What are you doing in terms or research and where are you presenting and publishing in? It’s about establishing your voice, perspective, and personal brand to the field of academia, research, practice, and teaching.
However, the third year of being a professor is all about one thing:
It’s not about who you know or what you know: It’s about who knows you.
What I mean by this is simply – you have to invest in making sure professionals – researchers, practitioners, brands, and agencies – know you. They need to know your voice and point of view as a professor – what makes you unique and memorable. It is also key to be present and engaged with the conversations – wherever these are at. These can be at conferences as well as research meetings and online.
Another factor here is – you want to branch out in terms of who you want to know you. Meaning, if we are in PR, why are we not going to marketing, consumer behavior, or psychology events and conferences? For every person I talked to about this – I have said, it is key to go where the conversations are happening outside the field as well as in the field. I’ve been to many more conferences that are not PR than I have been to PR conferences. Go to these conferences to generate ideas. Talk to practitioners and start the conversation – not focusing on “okay, what can our students do for you” – but more along the lines “what can we do together to bridge the gap between research and practice to help the profession?” It’s all about having this hybrid perspective.
These are a few things I would have wanted to hear when I was a doctoral student, so this is why I was inspired to write this blog post. I’ve had several doctoral students and graduate students (even newly minted PhDs) reach out to me over the years with advice about best practices and what they can do to be successful in the field. We need more professors who take the time out to share these stories and best practices – we are all on the same page here, so why don’t we help each other out?
I’d be interested in hearing what you all think about this. Hope you all are having a great day.