I had the pleasure of sitting in my very first PR Instructors meeting at UMD to plan out the fall semester. I was happy to find that the first item on the agenda was a presentation by my good friends Beth Kuch and Abbey Levenshus on social media and the PR classroom. My colleagues were fortunate enough to receive a grant from UMD’s College of the Arts and Humanities to revamp the PR curriculum to include new media (exciting, right?) and so they were sharing their findings from a lit review they were working on this summer to explore what research is telling us about this new trend in PR and PR Education.
Here are just a couple of their findings.
On the practitioners’ side, organizations currently use new media for:
- Environmental scanning and research;
- Relationship management;
- Issues management/crisis management;
- Media relations/blogger relations;
- Organizational image/brand construction or management; and/or
- Internal communication.
However, one of the issues that PR academia faces is the disconnect between the academy and the practice of public relations. One way that we can try to bridge the gap between education and practice is through teaching new media – a trend that is definitely changing the landscape of how public relations is being practiced. My colleagues offered some suggestions on what to teach about new media, including:
- Current uses;
- Potential uses;
- Critical and strategic thinking about how to best utilize it for their clients;
- How to choose the most appropriate channel;
- How to apply for specific client needs;
- Evaluation of the information they receive through new media; and
- Conducting research on and with new media.
However, because new media is well, so new, there are some challenges that educators face in integrating it into their curriculum. We ended the session by discussing these challenges, which included the following:
- Student engagement;
- Keeping content up-to-date;
- Student resistance;
- Battle of control;
- Enforcing a social media policy in the classroom;
- Information overload;
- Lack of trainings; and
- Lack of interaction with professionals.
Of course, this brief post doesn’t do the presentation justice, as it was well planned out and very informative (it also made me a little jealous – I now kind of want to teach this new media course!) but these were just some of the highlights of the session. And of course, what they found just scrapes the surface of everything that is out there on social media and the PR classroom…more research is being conducted, and more resources are becoming readily available.
What about you? Do you agree with what current research is telling us? Are organizations using new media in the ways that were proposed? Are there expectation gaps between PR students and professionals? In other words, How should we as PR educators teach this new trend, and what challenges stand in the way of achieving this goal?