Thursday, September 7, 2017

Toddler Tips for Media Relations

If you have spent time with a toddler, you've practiced some key skills for media relations.

picture of toddlerNo, you can't have that toy, but you CAN have this one. You're a master at bridging. This is moving the conversation or interview to the messages you wish to convey.

Always be prepared. For the toddler, that might be an extra pair of pants in the trunk of your car or a coloring page in your bag. For the PR pro, that's a mental list of story ideas in case a reporter is on the prowl for a good article.

Think before you speak. Do you really want to bring up THAT topic? A toddler and a reporter ask a lot of why, why, why. Think your comments through to the follow-up question and its follow up.

Words matter. When talking with my toddler, I try to choose words carefully and select the word that best describes what I really mean. When I get lazy with word choice, I must do a LOT of explaining. Journalists appreciate precision, too.

Their vision may not be what you expected. When I think I know how my toddler might approach a toy or puzzle, she sometimes surprises me with an innovative approach. When you pitch a story idea to a reporter, he or she might take that story seed and grow it into something you didn't imagine. Not necessarily good or bad, just different.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Partnering on research

Partnering on research projects can be a way to maximize your time and efforts, learn new methods/approaches yourself, and add a layer of accountability. Some institutions and tenure/promotion committees want to see single-author publications, and others accept and value collaborative works. You can see from my vitae, the little girl who hated group work in grade school has learned how to co-author and co-present.

So if you're ready to partner up, let me offer these thoughts:
  1. Test run. Pick a small project to start. This could be a co-authored guest blog post or regional panel. You will be able to see how each other works. And it's OK if it's not a good fit.
  2. Consider your threshold for deadlines and procrastination. Before my little one arrived, I was up for late night writing sessions that pushed deadlines to within seconds. Now, I can't guarantee you that kind of window of work. I work much more in advance because I must.
  3. Find partners with complementary skills sets. Maybe you have a great network for survey solicitation, and your partner is a strong statistician. Find someone to strengthen your gaps and vice versa.
  4. Cross disciplines. Find ways to bridge the silos and connect with colleagues in different departments. This also opens your work to more publication options.
  5. Communicate. Discuss openly issues like order of authorship and timelines before beginning a project. 
  6. Going separate ways. You're kind of like a band. Play while it works. Strike out for a solo tour when you need, and be open to the reunion project. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Listening in social media

My colleague and I just published a piece on listening and social media. It was a fun collaboration because Dr. Chris Gearhart, Tarleton State University, is a listening guy and I'm a social media gal. We combined forces to apply listening principles to social media.

I have some free e-copies if you are interested:

Abstract: Researchers apply Bodie, St. Cyr, Pence, Rold, and Honeycutt’s (2012) model of listening competency to social media messaging for organizations. The article provides examples of how organizations and their social media managers, as de facto “listening agents,” can incorporate important verbal listening behaviors that represent active-empathic listening—pertinent responses, elaboration, offering advice and opinions, and answering and asking questions—into their social media profiles. In addition, guidance is provided to social media managers and organizations for how to adopt listening skills that will foster dialogue between organizations and their online publics. Potential areas for future research are also examined.

Citation: Sarah K. Maben & Christopher C. Gearhart (2017): Organizational Social
Media Accounts: Moving Toward Listening Competency, International Journal of Listening, DOI:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Quilting Adventure Update

Two mini-quilts down and I'm learning what I like, and don't. I'm also remembering what it's like to be a new learner. After the initial excitement of a new challenge wore off, I put the project on the back burner. It's the same stall-out I see with our students who pitch a great story idea or research topic and then peter out in the middle.

Picture of quilt
Doll bed quilt: A reminder of being a new learner 

I used this quilt for doll bed as a way to test different techniques and supplies. For example, I learned that I needed a wider border and made the adjustment for the larger quilt. I tried machine quilting and hand quilting. Discovering my talents and likes was valuable and something we can offer students with low-stakes projects. In my classes, I encourage my students to experiment with a new writing style or design. We need to create the safe spaces in our courses for students to use trial and error to make discoveries.

How would I grade my quilt? Average. C. I met the learning objectives, but my technique could use some work....OK, a lot of work. But I learned along the way, and that's our main goal as teachers, right?!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A semester in review

In my classes, I typically ask students to reflect at the end of the semester. Sometimes I hand back the first-day assignment and other times I challenge them to list everything they learned in the semester. What did they learn about themselves and what inspiration did they find this semester? It could simply be the revelation that they didn't like a certain aspect of public relations. This goes beyond the course learning objectives and regular course evaluations. If I believe it's good for them, then I should follow my own advice.

Reflections from this semester

1) Nap time is a great time for writing. While the toddler sleeps, I feel the urgency to work as efficiently as I can. I worked on two new research projects and three revise and resubmits. So far in 2017, I have added three publications to the vitae. I should have been doing this before the kiddo came along!!!

2) Class size makes a difference. In retrospect, I should have changed how I handle our graduate ethics class when it moved beyond the 10 students I had last time. Each night, we had so many peer presentations to jam into our time together that I fear class became predictable and routine.

3) Expect a lot. I'm a believer in setting expectations high and helping our students get there. And they will. Our grad students submitted to NCA, a call for book chapters, and a PRSA conference. The ethics case studies they wrote this semester were exceptional and I hope to see them present and publish soon.

As the semester winds down, what are your semester-in-review reflections?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Proud Moments: Ethics Panel

Tarleton communication graduate students Skyla Claxton, Elizabeth Lempeotis, and Keauno Perez, and Brandon Sermon, Tarleton outreach specialist, presented "Move over Utilitarianism: Incorporating and Valuing Additional Ethical Frameworks for Social Media and Public Relations" at PRSA's Educator Academy Mini-Friday on April 7 at Baylor University.

From left: Skyla Claxton, Keauno Perez, me, Elizabeth Lempeotis, and Brandon Sermon.
Each panelist presented a recent ethical situation and dissected how decision makers could have used other ethical philosophies to better inform their decisions. The peer-reviewed panel was a first for all four panelists and they rocked it! 

I was so excited when they decided to submit a panel for review, and doubly excited when it was accepted. I could not have been prouder of their effort and presentations. It's just icing on the cake that one of them told me, "Wow, this makes research fun!"

The PRSA Educators Academy Mini-Friday is a conference I would highly recommend. It was intimate enough to really connect with researchers, and is grad-student friendly. Now, we're looking ahead to Super Saturday.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A New Learner - Let the Quilting Adventure Begin

As part of my teaching philosophy, I write: "I want to forever remember what it feels like to be a new learner, and admit that I’ll never be in the exact position as my students."

I may not be able to hit rewind on my understanding of Intro to Mass Communication, but I can place myself in the vulnerable position of approaching an unfamiliar topic or task. So begins my quilting adventure.

Picture of a tiny quilt and quilter
My tiny helper and her quilt topper.
I'm immediately reminded that every topic has its own vocabulary. Have you ever "stitched in the ditch" or bought a "walking foot"? I had to look up so much just to understand what the online tutorials mentioned. I needed the online tutorial for the online tutorial. Our students feel this way when we start yammering on about any topic for the first exposure. This brings me to pacing.

Instead of zipping right along, I am having to move at a much slower pace. I read and re-read my instructions. Hesitation happens. The confidence I feel with well-known tasks and topics is not there. I struggle with the tools, too. Every bump in the road seems much larger than it might be for the experienced quilter. So imagine if our students are trying something new AND they are new to BlackBoard or a social media tool AND they experience setbacks.

Quilt topper
Quilt topper for Little One's doll crib.
As a beginning quilter, I want to see progress. Our students want the same kind of validation and assurance that they are on the right path. Maybe more checkpoints or self-checks are in order for brand new topics and tasks. And more self-help videos.

I would be lost without the quilters who have taken the time to post how-to's on YouTube. Some are better than others, but getting to see the process in action and being able to replay, replay and replay has helped me to understand quilting concepts. The take-away for me is to create more help videos of my own and develop curated lists of better videos for students.

How is the quilt, you ask? I'm starting small, a quilt for a doll crib. I have the topper complete and will now actually quilt (after I buy more supplies!). I'll let you know how it goes. What do you do to remind yourself of how our students might feel?