Karen Russell – Teaching PR

Connection # 17  Karen Russell

Karen Russell is an associate professor teaching public relations and media history at the University of Georgia. Karen hosts Teaching PR, where she shares her thoughts on teaching public relations.

Do you feel that PR students are prepared for the work world upon graduation ?

Some students are better prepared than people already working in the profession; others are woefully unprepared. Some PR programs are better than others – I obviously think the University of Georgia has one of the best – but even within programs the quality of student varies.

 What are some things that PR students can do to better prepare themselves for the work world ?

The really good students are inveterate learners. They read everything, they take advantage of every opportunity to learn whether it’s participating in social media or applying what they’ve learned in class in campus/volunteer situations, and they certainly don’t rely on their professors to teach them every single thing. The profession is changing so rapidly that they need to learn how to figure things out for themselves.

What do you feel is the most valuable lesson PR students learn from higher education ?

Thinking for themselves! Critical thinking, challenging what you read or hear, not accepting something just because it’s always been that way before – this way of thinking is invaluable to an employer, not to mention an important ability for citizens in a democracy.

 Can you describe your teaching strategy ?

I see my students in person for about 3 hours a week. I can’t teach them everything, but I try to expose them to many ideas, perspectives, and approaches in hopes that they will have the initiative to follow up, think it through. My least favorite question is, “Will this be on the test?” because that means students are thinking about grades and not about what it all means.

 Can you explain the thought behind your most recent blog post, ‘Every Employee is a PR person’ ?

I’m supposed to be taking a break from blogging this summer, but a couple of incidents on my recent trip to England resonated so much with something that we talk about in my PR Administration class that I just had to post. In class we discuss various departments or functions in organizations – PR, marketing and advertising, HR, customer service – and how they often overlap or are difficult to separate in the real world. For instance, when someone posts a video negative toward a company, it’s not just a customer service problem, it’s also a PR and marketing problem. Watching how two flight attendants from the same airline handled problems brought the customer service/PR link to life for me. I’ll definitely be using my experience as an example in class.

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