Category Archives: PR Education

Connected Learning in an Open World

The keynote speaker at the Academic Practice and Technology (APT) conference, Stephen Downes blew me away.  It wasn’t just a question of knowledge, or space for new reflection, but I found what he had to say surprisingly political.

Keynote APT panel featuring Downes (2nd right)

Keynote APT panel featuring Downes (2nd from right)

His call to arms for a totally open approach to online content in education struck a chord, and left me resolved to do more to make time to make more of my teaching available online, as well as my thoughts and reflections.

One of the first things he said we could do is record everything we present, including conference presentations.  As I didn’t do this for the paper I presented to the conference, I made sure I recorded it soon after so I could post it here.

The Prezi on which the presentation is based can be found here: Prezi

It was about my case study of a project using digital camera equipment, to take an experiential, transformational approach to embedding digital skills in the curriculum, and improving employability, expanding on why images and narrative are such important concepts.  It elaborated on three main areas we focused on:- 1) real-time execution of creative briefs; 2) shop-window digital footprints on Pinterest, and 3) using the skills to raise the profile of guest speakers from the profession via the student-run society, the PR Fraternity.  Full details above, and here.

PR Fraternity students at Weber Shandwick HQ

PR Fraternity students at Weber Shandwick HQ

There was particular interest in the scope for the possibilities for students to be representing their own clients, and in particular, taking clients from elsewhere within the university – projects which might not have otherwise been deemed a priority, or which otherwise might not have been able to afford mainstream PR representation – for example, end of year degree shows.

There was also particular interest in a paper I referenced – Mull, I.R. and Lee, S-E (2014) “‘PIN’ pointing the motivational dimensions behind Pinterest,” Computers in Human Behaviour, 33, pp. 192-200.  Well worth a read.

The next step for the project in 2014-15 is to expand from photo skills, to video/film-making skills, using the Nikon Coolpix L320 camera as a simple device for capturing, and then students editing, remixing and curating content for a number of PR uses in the same was as they did for photo ends.

There was a great range of content at the conference, and I came away much more inspired than I thought I would by a conference that I thought would be restricted to functional rather than a philosophical gaze too.  A big ‘thank you’ to Stephen Downes for opening my eyes.

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A photo-call for digital media practice in PR education

I have just had a paper accepted for the APT (Academic Practice and Technology) conference, 2014, due to take place on my home turf of Greenwich in July this year.

It follows a project I received Greenwich Connect Seed Fund resourcing to provide thirteen digital cameras, together with Photoshop editing software for use with students throughout this academic year.

'Team Emily' interpret the brief for 'Project Wild Thing'

‘Team Emily’ interpret the brief for ‘Project Wild Thing’

We’ve used the cameras in a number of ways, and the Greenwich Connect team interviewed me themselves for a paper they presented at the LSE earlier this year – Bryant, P., Coombs, A. and Pazio, M. (2014) Are we having fun yet? Introducing play and experimentation into learning innovation through social media. In: OER14: Building Communities of Open practice, 23-25 Apr 2014, Newcastle, UK.  Excuse my fat face…..

Introduction to Project:

Generating Greater Engagement:

Developing Professional Identity:

Developing as a Community:

While I will discuss this in the academic context in which it is posed in the paper I have put to the forthcoming conference in a future post, I thought it was worth sharing a few examples of the way students have been able to get their hands much ‘dirtier’ with regard to photography, as outlined in the videos above:

1)  Generating Greater Engagement:

Students have been able to use the cameras to produce collateral in response to real live briefs, as opposed to such responses being ‘academic’ exercises.  For example, students were asked to develop ideas for media photocalls, and executions to encourage audience participation and sharing for the ‘Project Wild Thing’ initiative (see photo above) – and to include in assessed portfolios.

2) Developing Professional Identity:

Final year student (2013-14) Nenna Ofoegbu

Final year student (2013-14) Nenna Ofoegbu

Students were encouraged to use the digital cameras to develop a image that they felt comfortable with to be used in a ‘shop window’ on Pinterest.

3) Developing as a Community:

PR Fraternity students at Weber Shandwick HQ

PR Fraternity students at Weber Shandwick HQ

Within the team, students such as Nara Mackenzie took on responsibility for documenting guest speaker visits such as creative publicist, Mark Borkowski and Polly Ravenscroft (whose clients have included X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Hollyoaks) – and group visits such as that to Weber Shandwick HQ, or client-side discussions with the 2012 winner of BBC Great British Bake-Off, John Whaite.

Students with PR Squared's Polly Ravenscroft

Students with PR Squared’s Polly Ravenscroft

Social media editor for the PR Fraternity, Jo Ayre tweeted links to the photos, which were also posted in Pinterest.  This not only raised the profile of the events, it made students who had come together at the events (across 1st, 2nd and 3rd year undergraduate, plus postgraduate) develop a stronger sense of community – and made those who hadn’t come feel they had missed out on something – encouraging them to attend next time.

More on my paper in a future post, but I thought I would let you know a little bit about the project.

 

Guest Speaker series: PR @ University of Greenwich

With Frances being crowned the winner of the BBC’s ‘Great British Bake Off’ 2013 over Kimberley and Ruby this week, the University of Greenwich PR Fraternity is delighted to kick-off its guest speaker series for this academic year with the winner of the previous series, John Whaite.

John Whaite drops in on Nick Grimshaw's BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show

John Whaite drops in on Nick Grimshaw’s BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show

As well as discussing his experiences on the series and his views on how this one went, John will be discussing what it was like managing the media attention that the victory brought in its wake, and the consumer PR for his subsequent cookery book  and Greenwich-based cookery classes.

John Whaite makes the cover of Attitude magazine

John Whaite makes the cover of Attitude magazine

Immediately afterwards, John will be judging the audience’s attempts to bake, so if want to join us, bring along your buns, cup-cakes – even pretzels – for a cake-fight to the finish.  So please join us – Wednesday 30th October at 12.00pm to hear John Whaite in conversation, and for a bit of a network over a taste test afterwards.  Email me for venue details – p.a.simpson@greenwich.ac.uk .

Our PR Fraternity 2013-14 PR Speaker series to date is:-

John Whaite speaks as well as bakes!

John Whaite speaks as well as bakes!

Wednesday 30th October:   John Waite; Winner, BBC Great British Bake Off, 2012.

Greenwich graduate Igrid Asoni returns from Marrakech to discuss her PR experiences

Greenwich graduate Igrid Asoni returns from Marrakech to discuss her PR experiences

Tuesday 5th November:  Ingrid Asoni; founder, Asoni Haus lifestyle management, event design and PR management company with a focus on London and Marrakech.

Simon Long welcomes Nicki Minaj to Kiss FM's Central London studios

Simon Long welcomes Nicki Minaj to Kiss FM’s Central London studios

Friday 29th November:  Simon Long; Deputy Programme Director, Kiss FM.

After a pivotal role at the BBC, Andy Parfitt now advises Saatchi & Saatchi on talent issues

After a pivotal role at the BBC, Andy Parfitt now advises Saatchi & Saatchi on talent issues

Wednesday 12th February:  Andy Parfitt; Executive Director (Talent), Saatchi & Saatchi; Chair of UK charity, Youth Music; Former Controller, BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. Held in conjunction with the university’s Big Picture lecture series.

Campaigning legend Des Wilson shares stories from his years delivering change

Campaigning legend Des Wilson shares stories from his years delivering change

Wednesday 12th March:  Des Wilson; campaigning legend: Launch Director, homelessness charity, Shelter; Director of Public Affairs, Royal Shakespeare Company; led campaign against lead in petrol at Clear; Chaired Friends of the Earth; pioneering campaigner for freedom of information; President of the Liberal Party; leading role in campaign for Sunday trading; ran Paddy Ashdown’s General Election campaign in 1992; consultant with Burson Marstellar; Director of Corporate & Public Affairs at British Airports Authority until 2000.  Held in conjunction with the university’s Big Picture lecture series.

PRFraternity

If you think John’s media profile is all Radio 1, This Morning and Heat, he was even on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ discussing Fraces’ victory the night it was broadcast (26mins 14 seconds in).

If you are not a member of the University of Greenwich PR Fraternity, and are interested in finding out about becoming a member or supporter, and joining us at our events, do drop me a line at p.a.simpson@greenwich.ac.uk

‘PR Fraternity’ pins student success on story-telling

I’m really proud of the PR alumni and students I have had the honour to teach at the University of Greenwich.  As I start to prepare for a new academic year for 2013/14, I’ve started reflecting on some the great positions some of them have gone on to in the world of PR – and the exciting opportunities the current cohort are taking on through internships and work experience.

FratAmos

We have graduates who have gone on to careers at major agencies (such as Weber Shandwick and Bell Pottinger), specialist agencies (such as FTI Consulting, Kaizo and Ian Johnson Publicity), and in-house, while others have set up on their own.  The ‘Pinterest’ site aims to capture a snapshot of some of their stories of success.

FratDaley

The ‘PR Fraternity‘ is the student-led community of alumni and students which provides networking opportunities, and guest speaker events against the back-drop of one of the finest venues in London – the Old Royal Naval College.  Working with the students, we have just launched a ‘Pinterest site’ to celebrate achievements, promote experience, and encourage networking – not to mention support recruitment.

http://pinterest.com/prfraternity/  Do take a look at the rest of the images – we will be adding to them on a rolling basis.

The location of the BA (Hons) Public Relations and Communications and MA Public Relations at the University of Greenwich, with Canary Wharf and the West End on its door-step is perfect for being able set up this level of experience, which can help lead to ultimate career success.

ThomWill

Above: Michelle Amos (Top); Claire Daley (Middle); Thom Will (Nearest above).

Top notch

With a subject area like Public Relations, it is vital to be able to bring to bear scenarios from professional practice, and top-notch speakers who can grab students’ interests.  This can be with a view to providing the arena for deep reflection on the relevance of theoretical concepts discussed on the course – and for students to be able to develop their own new solutions to creative problems and responses to emerging trends.

This term is already set to be an exciting one for the PR and Communications degree at the University of Greenwich welcoming guest speakers who turn heads and inspire such reflection.

Colleen Harris (here commentating on the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on ABC News)

Topical, with the discussions around invasion of privacy associated with KateDuchess of Cambridge, and separately, Prince Harry (ahem!), Colleen Harris will talk to PR students at the University of Greenwich on Friday 16th November.  Colleen is a former Press Secretary to HRH Prince of Wales, and the Princes William and Harry.  She has served on the Press Complaints Commission, as a senior press officer across Whitehall (including at Number 10), and was Director of Strategy and Communications at the Commission for Racial Equality.

Weber Shandwick CEO EMEA, Colin Byrne

On Tuesday 16th October, Colin Byrne, CEO, EMEA of world-leading public relations agency Weber Shandwick will be dropping by the world heritage site that is home to the University of Greenwich to share his latest insights on trends in the industry.

In “Top trends for PR in the engagement era” he will discuss how, in considering influences on their brand’s sociability, most public relations executives look to external forces – winning the approval of the right media, achieving a target number of “Likes” on Facebook and dominating coverage of certain topics. Internal strategy, planning, cohesiveness and comfort in the digital space must come first; internal focus and consistency of vision are areas where substantial improvement must be made by most brands.

Ken Deeks

On Friday 23rd November we have the pleasure of welcoming Ken Deeks, who has insight gathered from straddling the PR/journalist divide in his career.  He started off as a journalist working mainly for local newspapers as well as a spell on the Daily Mirror, before moving into PR. For several years, Ken ran a series of PR companies, operating mainly in the tech sector, including Kaizo. He then set up his own communications company KDL, which he ran for five years, before joining up with Paul Smith and Richard Baines to create The Amber Group. Ken is also the founder of Byte Night, the tech industry’s largest charity event.

Bell Pottinger Business and Brand’s MD, Kevin Read

Kicking off the term is Kevin Read, MD of Bell Pottinger Business and Brand, who will be speaking at our opening day Induction Event on Thursday 20th September.

Kevin’s main focus at Bell Pottinger Business and Brand is on resolving complex, international communications problems, shaping fresh, modern strategies and implementing integrated solutions that are typically spearheaded by PR.

He has more than 15 years senior consultancy experience and specialises in strategic planning and providing senior level business counsel. He has worked extensively for leading global brands (HSBC, British Gas, Unilever), a wide array of industry bodies (Nuclear, Food, Telecomms, Cosmetics, Drinks), government departments, NGOs and professional services firms.  At the induction event for University of Greenwich PR students, he will be addressing the theme of creativity.

Not bad – and term hasn’t even begun.  I couldn’t help blogging about it.

Team PR: You’ll have a meantime at the University of Greenwich

It’s that time of year when A-Level results become clear, and Clearing becomes an option for those whose results were not what they expected.

I teach on the BA (Hons) Public Relations and Communications at the University of Greenwich – and if that is the subject area you are considering for study, particularly in London, let me make sure you have all there is to know about our degree.

We’re based in one of the most beautiful parts of London – you may have seen us on the TV for the last few weeks as one of the Olympic 2012 venues, and soon to be the same for the Paralympics.  It is truly amazing.

The Old Royal Naval College – home to the University of Greenwich – provides the backdrop to Olympic and Paralympic activities in 2012.

One of the most important stresses of our course is employability.  You will find graduates of our relatively new degree working, amongst other destinations as a Publicist on BBC and E4 programmes at entertainment agency Ian Johnson Publicity, and an Account Executive at Kaizo.  From an Account Executive at Bell Pottinger, to one at The Good Agency.

Students take work experience placements while on the degree, with what they have learnt from those times being assessed as part of a course on professionalism.  Recent student PR placements have included Accessorize, Burton, Clifford French, Macmillan Cancer Support, Sotheby’s and Twestival.

On the video you will see two of the other key lecturing staff on the degree amongst the many others – programme leader, Nicky Garsten , and Mark Phillimore, who runs the MA too.

As well as them, there are other experienced lecturers like Mandy Atkinson who make up the team, a number of specialist visiting lecturers, as well as a host of guest lectures during the year.  During the coming term, Colin Byrne, CEO EMEA of Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s biggest PR agencies is joining us to give a guest lecture.

Geographically, the Business School of which we are a part sits right across the Thames from Canary Wharf and London’s prime business district.

And then I suppose there’s me.  I’d like to think that not too many PR degree courses offer a lecturer who teaches the same way as me.  In a former life, I was head of PR at BBC Radio 1, and I will use many of the case studies of sex, drugs and rock and roll from my little black book to illustrate lectures, whether on crisis management, or media relations.  As well as the corporate profile of the station, I managed the profile of anyone from Chris Moyles and Tim Westwood to Sara Cox, Trevor Nelson and Scott Mills.

Radio 1’s record-breaking breakfast host Chris Moyles hugs successor Nick Grimshaw

I’ve also worked in political PR and in government, supporting MPs and government ministers.  And as a freelancer consultant, my clients have included London radio station Kiss 100, music technology app Shazam, broadcaster Nicky Campbell, and radio industry trade body, the Radio Academy – you try managing a photo-call with George Michael.

I put a big priority on getting to know my students – this is public relations – and using my experiences and contacts to their best advantage.

I think our course content and approach, the lecturers on the course, and our unique location in London makes the University of Greenwich the best if you are considering studying Public Relations and Communications in London for 2012/13.  Plus the degree is accredited by the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations), and is a partner university of the PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association).

If you are involved in Clearing – you know what you’ve got to do!  And I hope there might be a chance I’m teaching you next term.  Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

Embarrassing affairs

Last week was the International History of PR academic conference, hosted by Bournemouth University.  It boasted an amazing array of topics, covered by some of the leading names in the field whose books and journal articles I have used during the last six years in which I have been teaching, but didn’t dream I would meet.

The history of PR is too easily entwined with propaganda, when it could just as easily be associated with activism, such as the Suffragettes

One of those was Karen Russell, associate professor at the University of Georgia, and editor of the Journal of Public Relations Research.  She gave a keynote address, encouraging us to ‘embrace the embarrassing‘.  She was referring to those names in the history of PR (Bernays, Ivy Lve, Barnum, etc), because only by doing so might we actually start to look around these figures, and beyond them.  As Jacquie L’Etang pointed out in her keynote address, we are allowing these figures to dictate what the history of PR is, as if there was no public relations activity going on throughout the rest of history between the times of Ancient Greece (at the birth of Rhetoric), and the American Revolution.  We jabe allowed them to ‘spin’ their own role as creators of PR.

In modern day public relations, one of the most embarrassing corners of our profession for many due to negative headlines is that of Public Affairs.  The spur of professionalisation was one of the drivers that moved fellow PR lecturer Sarah Roberts-Bowman and myself to develop to the new CIPR Diploma in Public Affairs, which we will be delivering for the PR Academy from September.  It is not a ‘Westminster Explained’ type course, but is instead designed to put Public Affairs in a wider theoretical framework, and provide space for practitioners to reflect about their work in a Masters level environment.

The Thick of It's Malcolm Tucker, continues to act in a not too professional, yet utterly entertaining fashion

Part one of the Diploma looks at the trends and challenges facing the political and public policy landscape.  As well as political communications and the nature of campaigning and decision-making, the course brings in perspectives on the nature of power, democracy, pluralism and the ‘public sphere’.

Part two of the Diploma looks at the art and science of lobbying and campaigning, through the psychology of campaigning, how to influence decision-making, messaging and the media, the role of political marketing, the concept of relationship management, moving from channels to conversations, dialogue and discourse – and finally, ethics and codes of conduct – probably the biggest issue of the moment as the new Coalition Government (and the industry, in the shape of the UK Public Affairs Council, bringing together APPC, CIPR and PRCA)  looks at the role of lobbying in the ‘new politics’ and considers what form of regulation is most appropriate for the profession.

Part three of the Diploma puts public affairs into the context of managing organizational reputation, including its link with issues and crisis management, CSR – and stakeholder theory.

The project is assessed through a 6000 word research project, for which candidates are prepared for research philosophies, methods and techniques in a fourth part of the Diploma.

There will be some skeptics about the whole idea of having such a qualification.  We have consulted widely around the industry, and had a warm welcome to it when we have taken people through it.  As with the CIPR Internal Communications Diploma which was launched last year and proved extremely popular, it is seen as a way of helping to professionalize public affairs, and a perfect step for personal development.  And for those industry figures who don’t think you can teach such things, we want you to be part of the delivery of this diploma.  Any theory is only effective if it is delivered in the context of professional practice, and we want top embrace as many people as possible to share their expertise as guest speakers or mentors, and create a real community of professional development.

*Labour MP Bessie Braddock packs a punch against singer Frankie Vaughan! Much of the terrain may have changed over time, but have the principles?

Back to the International History conference, it was great to meet the author of one of my favourite journal articles, which I use to give undergraduate students a taste for diving into a wide range of journals and articles to inform their final year research.

McGrath, C. (2006) “The ideal lobbyist:  Personal characteristics of effective lobbyists”, Journal of Communication Management, 10 (1) pp.67-79

At the conference, Conor McGrath was presenting a paper arguing for a re-writing of history, presenting the first UK parliamentary lobbyist as Charles Weller Kent, working for the NFU between 1913 and 1916.  Prior to McGrath’s paper, accepted wisdom has been that Lt. Commander Christopher Powell was the pioneer of lobbyists in the UK.  He set up the parliamentary consultancy Watney and Powell in 1928.

If McGrath’s research proves correct, it would mean that we would nearing the centenary of the profession in 2013 – and an ideal time just ahead of that for the CIPR to launch a Diploma in Public Affairs, so that when it comes, we no longer have to ’embrace the embarrassing’ in order to celebrate it!

[*Credit for the fantastic Bessie Braddock photo to the Pool of Life blog on the Liverpool Daily Post site]