Over the past few days, I have been busy attending one of the largest communication conferences we have in our field. There have been a lot of great discussions and takeaways from my time at NCA (National Communication Association)’s annual convention here in Dallas. It has been 15 years since I have been in Dallas, and a lot has changed. Tons of construction, lots of new amazing places to eat, and many wonderful people to meet.

There have been many takeaways from my time at NCA I wanted to share with you:

Continued trends in research and teaching. I think this was one of the things that is always interesting to see here when it comes to sharing current research in the field. I had a chance to see some very good presentations, and it is inspiring to see the evolution of the work and what questions students and faculty are exploring in their work.

One common theme was indeed the relevancy of the public relations field, and what we are doing to address this head on in and out of the classroom. This is an important topic, and I think besides doing research and talking about this issue, we have to advocate for our profession and what we have to offer. Otherwise, it will be absorbed with other fields as we are seeing already happening in English and Communication Studies departments for PR.

Mentorship is more important than ever. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to be a professor. I wanted to help others, and if that meant spending time with them over a cup of coffee or in some cases, a nice plate of Texas BBQ, then it happened. I went to sessions throughout my time in Dallas, but I also wanted to make sure to spend time talking with students, fellow faculty, and even upcoming assistant professors who are in the process of going up for tenure.

I believe if we are able to pass along what we learned from the process and share our best tips, we can help others. It’s one of the most rewarding things we can do as educators, and I wish more professors would take the time to do it. However, I saw a lot of this happen at NCA this year with the PR division, which I was very excited to see.

Bridging practice and education together is essential.  We saw this theme come up a lot in the conference. How do we stay relevant? How do we prove to others we have a lot to offer? I have shared with students who are in PhD programs that they need to publish research and be great teachers, but they also have to have practice and a direct connection with the industry. This way, you can be the true social connector for the industry and education sector.

Let me tell you a short story. I presented in Dallas, but it wasn’t at NCA. It was at the Dallas Mavericks building. One of my star former students, Lizelle Lauron, asked me to present to her team (digital and social media marketing) a presentation outlining the top trends for 2018 I am most excited about and which ones I’d recommend them to pursue.

No pressure, right? I was truly honored and very touched Lizelle would ask me to not only see where she worked (she was in my very first social media class back in 2013 at UofL!), but wanted me to share what I thought with her colleagues. This meeting with these great professionals was one of the best experiences I have had. I loved the questions and ideas everyone was sharing, and they made me feel like I was part of the team and able to bounce around some different options and share resources with them. This was a blast!

To tap this off to be completely amazing, I was able to see Lizelle work in social media for the Dallas Mavericks at their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

This was awesome to see – and what really is the impact we love to see for our students. I was beyond thrilled to see Lizelle shine and do her best work. We had a chance to chat after my presentation, and it was really special to see how she’s grown and leading the way in this industry. I couldn’t be prouder.

Keep up the amazing work, Lizelle. I am so proud of you and thank you again for this incredible opportunity! It was truly amazing to see you!

The impact of creating a community. I have discussed how I have created a Social Media Professors community on Facebook and Twitter, and I would have never have imagined the impact this has had on the professor, student, and professional community.

In establishing a community, it is important to put others ahead besides yourself and your own personal agenda.  Communities are formed to help and support others while providing a space where everyone feels welcome and appreciated.  We are now over 460 members in our group (WOW!), and  I am happy to see the #SMprofs community continue to thrive as a leading arena for social media educators.

Speaking of #SMprofs, I got to see this first hand how this community has helped others. Many professors and graduate students at NCA went out of their way to thank me for establishing this community where they could connect, learn and see what other professors are doing in the field. They shared stories about how one connection lead to this great opportunity with a guest speaker  and another discussed how much success they have had with a particular assignment and resource list.

These are just some of the stories I heard of while in Dallas, and I think these are are so awesome to see. This is what really matters and to see the impact the community has made for these fellow colleagues and friends has been tremendous.

Embracing leadership. I have have a new role, so my watch begins. No, I am not signing up to be part of the Men of the Night’s Watch, but I am taking on the role as the Chair of the NCA Public Relations Division.

What does this entail exactly? I get to lead the division for the upcoming year, set the agenda for the meetings and help mentor and support fellow members (graduate student and faculty) in their research, teaching and service endeavors.

I am also thrilled to see there will be a social media working group, comprised of faculty and graduate students, who will be tasked to help build on the social media presence for the NCA PRD.

Overall, I felt it was a rewarding experience to attend and be able to plan the PRD program this year. I felt it was wonderful to see everyone and catch up with friends, colleagues, and even students this time around. I look forward to attending the conference again next year in Salt Lake City.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,