…I’m proud of my students! They worked really hard on our fundraiser!
Did they raise $5,000? Nope. Did we have a huge crowd? Nope. But I really didn’t expect that as this was the first time we’d used this particular format.
I did, however, fail to remember what our speaker said this morning…”A leader’s primary function is keeping hope alive.” So if you think my last post was about my students not listening or not taking the advice of others or not performing well, you’re wrong.
My earlier blog post was aimed specifically at Faculty Advisers. The ones who expect and demand perfection from students. The ones who would do everything themselves in order to ensure they raised $5,000 and had 150 people in attendance. I’ve seen it happen too many times and it bothers me greatly!
The purpose of this blog is to help make the difficult job of advising PRSSA Chapters a little easier. The message I intended to send this morning was that our profession can’t afford for we advisers to grab the reins every time we think things aren’t going perfectly. Having the courage to sometimes stand by and let things run their course is an extremely important part of growing leaders, IMHO. So is encouraging them to learn from the lessons provided by that course.
The OU PRSSA chapter has started using a blog as our Chapter website…please check out ouprssa.wordpress.com. After months of frustration over not being able to update the website linked to our College (we still had the 2009 officers posted), we knew we needed to do something. But let me back up a bit, first.
This summer, I had the opportunity to teach a course on media relations, which included field trips to speak with public relations practitioners and journalists about what it took to build and maintain an excellent relationship with each other. Thanks to Evan Handy, one of my students in the class, we were able to schedule an audience with Damon Gardenhire, Director of Communication for the Oklahoma Department of Education (ODOE). During his presentation, Gamon mentioned that he no longer used a website to disseminate information and see feedback. His new strategy was to use a blog, because according to him it was easier to update, everything could be archived in one place and stakeholder feedback was easier to gather. Also, every news release, statement or media advisory became the news feed.
Serendipitously, I saw several articles indicating that this was becoming more and more prevalent in the industry. So, armed with this information and the consent of the executive committee, I pointed our Webmaster in this direction. Within a week, without ANY training, she had us up and running. It’s pretty plain right now, but at least the officers are current and we’ve got greater capacity to provide much more content to our members than ever before.
I’m not getting paid for this, honest! But it can certainly make your life easier if you go the blog route.
The Fall semester just started. My first class was yesterday as was our first PRSSA executive committee meeting. I tell you, I’d be absolutely slammed right now if it weren’t for the planning my ExCom put in this summer! I’m so proud of my incoming president, Michelle Stephenson, and especially my incoming programming chair, Rachel Worthen. Together they put together the meeting schedule for entire year and put names against the Fall meetings. Yeah, I had to meet with them briefly before the end of the Spring semester to talk about expectations and answer a couple of emails over the summer. But what a relief to have all that done before classes started. Having that schedule will also help all our returning members and especially the newbies to block out their calendar. I’ll keep you posted, but I’m expecting our attendance at meeting to increase by at least 25 percent; it tripled last year when Michelle first conceived of this approach!
BTW, props to the Colorado State University chapter for sharing their format for the Fundraising Breakfast in PRSSA Chapter News update I read this summer! We’re going to give it a try here at the University of Oklahoma (OU) asking a big name speaker to talk about a subject of great interest to our campus – the future of the Big XII – and opening our promotion up to the entire University. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes as well.
You simply MUST read the sidebar story on page 17 of the summer issue of PRSA’s “The Public Relations Strategist” titled “5 Common Characteristics of CEOs!” I’ll probably never be a CEO, but this article still tells me a lot about how to be a great PRSSA Faculty Adviser:
- Passionate curiosity: Bryant writes that CEOs “share stories about failures and doubts and mistakes” and that “they wonder why things work the way they do and whether those things can be improved upon.” If we’re not sharing our stories about failure and doubt and mistakes…appropriately, of course…we aren’t fully doing our job to prepare our students for the business world. Heck, half of my most important lessons came from my mistakes. I’d sure hate for my students to have to make the same ones. We should also be constantly questioning how our Chapters are working and what we can improve upon.
- Battle-hardened confidence: Bryant equates this “to a positive attitude mixed with a sense of purpose and determination.” Our students face so much negativity every day that I really feel it’s up to us to instill in them a confidence and passion about what they do and will do. Equally as important, we need to help them develop their goals focusing not just on the short term, this academic year, but on the longer “legacy” view of the organization. Talk about helping them become part of something bigger than themselves!
- Team smarts: Bryant describes this as “the ability to recognize the players the team needs and how to bring them together around a common goal.” In addition to helping them take the long view on things, I think it’s also important for us to suggest and recommend the right people for the right job. I’m not saying we should EVER be in the middle of their elections or campaigning, but a little friendly encouragement to someone who you see has potential is often all it takes to get somebody to run for office. I also think we can help them put aside petty differences and work better together when we remind them occasionally that this is their organization! In my experience, that helps them set aside personal feelings in a hurry.
- A simple mind-set: Bryant points out that leaders want presentations that are brief and to-the-point, that people “place a greater premium on the ability to synthesize, connect dots in new ways and ask simple questions that lead to untapped opportunities.” As Faculty Advisers, we can promote this by helping our officers run effective and efficient meetings and by helping keep meetings on task. Learning how to do these types of presentations is an art form and the more practice our students can get the better they will be.
- Fearlessness: Bryant talks in terms here about CEOs being “unafraid of situations where there is not a roadmap or compass.” Helping our students have the confidence to use their instincts will help them dramatically with their critical thinking and confidence. If they’re going to make mistakes, the schoolhouse is the place to do it. Going into the business world knowing they can enter uncharted territory and survive will put them miles ahead of the competition, not to mention the boost to their confidence!
Anyway…that’s my take. I’d be interested in your thoughts.
I can’t believe it’s been more than a month since my last post! This summer has been a lot more hectic than I ever thought it would be, but the quest to grow leaders take a summer vacation.
With Amy Bishop’s (Forum editor) help I’m starting a column titled “Advice on advisers.” It will first appear in the Fall and in that inaugural column I try to give students a little perspective on the life of an academic. I wanted them to understand the sometimes intense pressure advisers are under to perform in research, teaching and to a lesser degree, service. I also encourage the students to stop and say “Thank you” every once in awhile.
But as I wrote that article I began thinking about what I’m doing to help my students understand the demands on my time. I certainly don’t want to come across as a whiner, complaining about how hard I have to work and how I had to walk to school barefoot…uphill both ways! But I think it’s OK to let them know what you’re up to now and again.
I think it’s healthy for them to see how busy you are…as long as you don’t try and get any martyr points out of the deal. It helps put what they’re doing into perspective. It also helps them understand why you aren’t always able to get back to them immediately or why PRSSA might not be the highest priority at the moment. Ideally, you’re also modeling proper work/life balance (an area with which I have a great deal of trouble).
Finally, a little bit of encouragement goes a long way. I tell my students to focus on two things: Passion and confidence. If they are passionate about what they’re doing and have confidence in their abilities, they’ll go far. This approach has often been exactly the kind of encouragement my students have needed. The results have usually been well worth the effort!
I don’t have any research to prove it, but in my experience showing up is 90 percent of being an outstanding faculty adviser! The support you demonstrate by physically being there is incalculable. Showing up doesn’t really require an preparation (except perhaps to schedule a babysitter or find somebody to watch the dog). Yet the return on that meager investment of time and attention will reward you for years to come! I think our most important job is to grow leaders, but you can’t do that effectively without engaging. But don’t take my word for it…just show up for the first couple of meetings for the year and see what happens to the motivation and enthusiasm of your chapter’s members!
A number of the top professionals in our profession have been extremely generous with their time and are joining the Lindsey + Asp Leadership Academy students to talk about topics of interest in public relations. You can watch them live every Thursday at 10:00 a.m. CDT on the Speaker Series http://gaylord.ou.edu/live/landa.html. If you can’t see them live, check out the archive at the same URL.
Lindsey + Asp is the student-operated advertising and public relations agency in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma. This summer, we’re trying a new concept; a leadership academy for a select few students. We’re discussing not only topics of interest, but drilling down into agency management and leadership and working on client projects that need to be continued over the summer. These students will then become the account leads for our more significant clients in the fall.
As you know, the deadline for the Hall of Fame award has been extended to June 30. Each of us is in a great position to recognize those individuals who provide (or should provide) a valuable service and perspective to our students…our professional advisers! It’s simple to do; complete the application on the PRSSA website, send a letter of recommendation and a copy of your nominee’s resume. The simple process of nominating your professional adviser says a world about what you think of them. In my experience, they will redouble their efforts to help your students, so don’t wait. Please don’t wait.
“Whattyagonnado?” It was the only English my neighbor in Gaeta, Italy knew. It aptly describes why I’m here and what I’m trying to do with this blog.
I took over as the PRSSA National Faculty Adviser on June 1, 2011. My predecessor, Dr. Julie Henderson, had told me she wished she’d been able to do more outreach to faculty advisers during her term of office, so I wanted to send a note to all the advisers introducing myself. Great idea, but it ended up being short on execution. You see…the PRSSA Faculty Adviser listserv wasn’t functioning properly and I hated the thought of always having to ask Jeneen or Amy at Headquarters to post stuff for me.
So, while talking with several chapter presidents at the 2011 PRSSA Leadership Rally, I struck upon the idea of creating a blog that could become my primary method of keeping in touch with faculty advisers everywhere. My ultimate hope is this blog will take off and become a forum for best practices, tips, suggestions and lessons learned.
I’m no expert, certainly, though I have learned a lot from my mentors and the school of hard knocks about how to motivate students and build a successful chapter. Moreover, if I’m able to realize my dream for this site, others will jump in with their own input, ultimately making this a rich resource for advisers new and experienced.
I hope you’ll join me in this endeavor, for in my mind, there is no more important responsibility for a public relations educator than to grow the future leaders of our profession!