AEJMC is one of my favorite conferences just because it is not only about research discussions, but insightful teaching and brainstorming opportunities. I have been going to AEJMC since 2009, and it always is a place where I get a lot of great ideas to explore for the upcoming academic year.

We were back in Chicago, and I realized the last time I was in Chicago for AEJMC was when I just finished my first year as an Assistant Professor at UofL and started officially working with the social media team for the AEJMC Public Relations Division (AEJMC PRD). Wow! A lot has happened since then!

The past few days have been busy, but a good kind of busy. That’s where coffee comes in – lots of meetings, sessions to attend, and activities with fellow colleagues and friends.

It always takes me some time to reflect on what were some of the major takeaways from the conference. Each conference is different, but this year, there were some exciting things (and firsts!). At AEJMC, there were several themes I came away with that I wanted to share with you:

We are all in the same boat. In our teaching presentation, we got a lot of questions asked about how to really teach social media, but these questions were ones I also have asked myself in the past. We are all in the same boat and the best way for all of us to grow as a field is to come together and discuss these trends.

This was the focus of the talk Ai and I gave on our top teaching paper. We discussed the results we got from interviewing 31 social media professors and what were some of the challenges and best practices we could take on. Lots of discussions, questions, and even actions steps were taken based on our work.

What has been really exciting to see is how people have responded to teaching research. I was amazed to see how this line of work in public relations scholarship has transformed from being a paper or two being presented at the conference, to become a growing and rising area of focus in the field. The field and study of social media pedagogy is not only growing in popularity, but also respect in the field, which is one of the things I and several of my colleagues have been trying to do over the past few years to address. This has been an exciting journey and I look forward to continuing the work needed to make a difference in the field and in the scholarly community.

You can have a brand, but having a community and voice is key. We see personal brands all over the place, and that’s all find and good. It’s a key part of what we are doing in social media today. However, without a voice that contributes to a meaningful discussion, dialogue, and helps build a community, then the personal brand is just for show. Even educators can have a personal brand – which was indeed a prominent conversation today within the sessions I attended in Chicago. However, building a community that surrounds that personal brand is another story.

Take the case of the #SMprofs community. It was only a few months ago I started a FB group (based on the request from one of the participants of the study we presented on in Chicago), and we are now over 300 members.

We also had our first meet up during the conference where we could come together and meet in person. Some of us took the time to get some coffee (of course!) and it allowed us to brainstorm and even discuss future projects and initiatives to take on. Special thanks to Amanda, Ai, Brandon, Katie, and Jessica for joining us! You can see more here from this Twitter Moment on what we were able to do while in Chicago.

Swag is a key to a prof’s heart. I love, love swag. There’s nothing like getting a goodie or two to add to your office or keep as a memento of your experience at an event. This is what I wanted to do for the #SMprofs group I created. I didn’t know at first what I wanted to do, but I finally decided it would be fun to have buttons made to show people’s membership to our community.

When I came to Chicago with a bag of #SMprofs buttons, I thought – well, maybe a few people would want one of these but I can always bring them back for later occasions. The response to these have been INSANE. Everyone – not just PR professors – wanted one. Everyone who had a part of teaching social media wanted a button. I have to give a shout out to Sticker Mule for their excellent quality and timeliness of their work.

Also, MAJOR shout out to Adobe Spark for their generosity in providing some swag to our presentation as well. We had a chance to chat with other professors about these tools, and they were thrilled to use them for their upcoming classes.

Bridging the digital skills gap. What is exciting to see here are all of the programs and brands that are now working with universities and educators on what we can do to make sure students, as they enter the workplace, are prepared and ready to go with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experiences that will make them excellent candidates for future jobs.

Major thanks to Carol Ann Vance and the team at Meltwater for taking the time to demonstrate the #MeltwaterEDU program and to answer questions for fellow professors and students teaching journalism, PR, and social media classes. I will be using this program in my PR and Crisis Comm class this fall semester at the University of Louisville.

Did I also mention Meltwater had some EXCEPTIONAL swag?!! I was literally jumping up and down and can’t wait to bring my Meltwater coffee cup with me to class.

You never know how you are making a difference. This has been one of my own personal goals as a professor and researcher. I have been asked over the years what is my overall goal for what I want to do in the field, and I always say: I want to make a difference. I want to be the professor I wished I had when I was getting started in the social media field for up and coming students and young professionals. I want my work to contribute to answer the issues and problems we are seeing in social media, but also address some of the potential opportunities from a scientific and creative standpoint.

I spent a lot of time in Chicago talking with fellow professors and students about their work, and it was one of the best times I have had. Congrats to Luke, Sifan, Sylvia, and Devin for your successful scholarship and contribution to the PR scholar field. I know you all will continue to do amazing things!

In addition, there was a surprise that happened while at AEJMC during the business meeting. We found out our Hootsuite University paper was award the Top Downloaded Article from the Journal of Public Relations Education. I was beyond shocked and extremely surprised – and then I saw the metrics of how many times people had viewed and downloaded the article. So far, there have been 10k views. To know this article, focusing on how Hootsuite can be used in the classroom and the impact this has had on the professional and academic community, for me is huge. Never in my wildest dreams I would have imagined my work would have gotten this type of recognition. Truly honored by this. Major congrats to Emily, Matt, Carolyn, and Bill for this award.

Overall, AEJMC was a great conference and always will be one of my favorites. I am already looking forward to next year’s event out in Washington D.C.

Have a great day!

Best Wishes,