Coffee Talk with the Winners of #PRStudChat Challenge

Earlier this week I chatted with Assistant Professor Brooke Fisher Liu and Lecturer Susan Whyte Simon from the University of Maryland, the winners of the #PRStudChat Challenge. UMD won the challenge by having the most students contribute to the chat. The university had over 30 students participate in the challenge (You can find a list the students here*.)  I had the opportunity to chat with two of them: Jeana Zamanski, a junior communications major, and Rowena Briones, a graduate student in the department of communications.

How did you learn about the challenge and what made you want to participate?

JZ: I learned about the challenge through my Comm350 professor, Brooke Liu.  She offered it to the class as a bonus opportunity and said it would be a fun way to build our social networks.  I had to create a Twitter account for my Comm232 class, so I figured I should participate just to get the bonus. But, I also realized that as a Junior I should start expanding my network and making more connections in hopes to land an internship or job.  My Comm232 professor also decided to use the chat as a bonus opportunity, which was an added incentive!

RB: I follow Valerie Simon and Deidre Breakenridge on twitter so I had previously heard of #PRStudChat. I actually participated a #PRStudChat in August before the challenge, and was mostly observing and listening. I learned a lot that afternoon from PR pros about the industry, and decided that this particular chat was worth becoming a part of.  As a representative of UMD’s PR program, I thought it would be important to participate to support my school and help us win the grand prize!

(Note: The next #PRStudChat is November 17th. The discussion will focus on careers in the field of public relations.)

Have teachers started to include social media in their classroom curriculum?

JZ: Social media has definitely been incorporated into all of my communication classes.  I first remember my communications theory class using YouTube videos to demonstrate theory principles.  That trend continued in to my PR theory class.  Professor Liu uses links and videos to support concepts and themes. In my news editing for PR class, my professor is dedicating a week to social media and we are required to create a Twitter account if we don’t already have one.  This way we will learn how to navigate this particular site and its benefits. In my pre-course to news editing for PR class, we focused on SM towards the end of the semester. We went over media sites, learning their differences and how each was used.  Additionally, we were required to write a blog so we could practice using social media. I still don’t feel very familiar with other sites like LinkedIn, but hope to become more familiar with them.

RB: The faculty at the University of Maryland are definitely starting to realize the power of social media, especially in public relations, and so I have noticed that many of them have begun to incorporate teachings about SM into their classes. I think it’s becoming more prevalent in the undergraduate classes than in the graduate courses I’m taking, but it’s certainly starting to come in the forefront of our studies. Personally, I have gotten a lot of training on social media outside of the classroom from my mentors and from reading articles posted on the web. As I aspire to become a PR professor someday, I have already saved great posts and articles on my delicious account to share with future students. So if classes do not already teach SM, I will certainly make sure of it in the future!

When did you start using Twitter and why?

JZ: I started using Twitter at the beginning of this year because I saw on the 232 syllabus that we would be required to have one.  I figured I would start early and gain practice.  It came in handy because when I learned about the #PRStudChat, I already had my account and was familiar with the site, which made it easier to participate.  I’m still learning about Twitter, but definitely think it is a going to turn into a vital website for the PR world.

RB: Initially, I was very wary to start using Twitter. I was under the misconception that it was just a series of status updates about what people are eating for breakfast. It was not until my colleagues started using Twitter that I figured I should create an account if I were to become more knowledgeable about these technologies for the practice and teaching of public relations. Once I came to the realization that it is more about creating a conversation and dialogue, I was instantly hooked! I was immediately floored by the connections I could make and the fantastic people I could meet on Twitter. It instantly became a resource for PR advice and information.

Was Twitter the first social media network you started to use to further your knowledge of PR and build your networks?

JZ: Yes.  Once I started following my professors on Twitter, they encouraged us to follow the people they follow.  Because they are already established professionals in the PR world it was an easy way for us to use their connections as a benefit towards us.  The chat was my first experience with communicating with PR pros via social media and thought that it was an excellent way to build a network.  It provided an outlet for students to hear other people’s thoughts on PR topics and then gave them the opportunity to follow them.

RB: Absolutely. Like I previously mentioned, I realized that if I were to grow in the field of PR, I needed to learn social media like Twitter in order to build PR knowledge and expand my networks. I have only been in the Twitterverse for several months, but I was instantly amazed by the camaraderie within the PR field and people’s willingness to help students like myself. It made me come to the realization that social media like Twitter helps bring people together from across the nation – practically in real-time!

Do you write a blog?  Did you participate in chats like #prstudchat before the challenge?

JZ: I do not write a blog, but I do follow some blogs.  I haven’t really had an opportunity to try a blog out and really get a feel for them so I’m hoping one day I’ll learn more and then try one out!  I had never participated in anything like the chat before.  I found it a little chaotic, but for the most part I really enjoyed it.  I would definitely participate in another chat.

RB: Unfortunately, I do not write a blog because (a) as a full-time graduate student it’s difficult to find the time to write papers, let along a blog; and (b) I have not yet found the confidence to believe that I would actually have anything insightful to say that people would want to read. However, I do read a lot of PR blogs, written by both professionals and students, and I find many of their posts helpful. As I stated in the first question, I participated in the #PRStudChat prior to the challenge. I also joined the LinkedIn group, and created a column in my Tweetdeck exclusively for #PRStudChats. I am so grateful that this chat was created. I learn an awful lot from the participants and it is really refreshing to be a part of the conversation! The #PRStudChat challenge was a great idea as well – definitely keep incentives like this coming!

Jeanna Jeana Zamanski is a junior communication major with a concentration in public relations at the University of Maryland.  Originally from Pittsburgh, Jeanna moved to Maryland for its proximity to DC and hopes to work in Corporate or Government PR after graduation. Her hobbies included dancing, musical theater and cooking. This spring Jeanna will be studying abroad in Australia.

Rowena.BrionesRowena Briones is a M.A. student in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland, studying public relations. Her research has been presented at a variety of conferences, including the National Communication Association, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Eastern Communication Association, in which she has won a number of honors and awards. Rowena’s research interests include the intersection of public relations and health (in particular women’s health), social media, and gender and diversity within public relations. She is an active member of the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America as well as a student member of Washington Women in Public Relations.

*These students also participated but were not listed: Monica Karkhanis, Jess Ramos, Katie McDonald, Layne KaminskyErin KrebsDaniela Jaramillo

Now typically I would say, “I urge you to join this discussion,” and I still do. Feel free to ask additional questions but I would also love to hear from our community on how they tapped into the evolving world of social media. What is some advice you would give to social media newbies, especially students.

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  • valeriesimon

    It is great to hear more from Jeanna and Rowena and I look forward to watch their careers develop! It is exciting to see the steps they are taking to begin tapping into the world of social media.

    I encourage all PR students to read blogs, begin following PR pro's, educators and other students on Twitter and participate in PR related chats; join LinkedIn Groups and Ning groups that pertain to the PR industry, fan PR agencies that you are interested in learning more about on Facebook… As you begin to grow more comfortable with the conversation, begin to participate. Ask questions, offer contribtions. Respond (reply on twitter, comment on blogs, add to LinkedIn discussions) to those you wish to begin building relationships with. If you are not ready to begin blogging, consider guest blogging. Contact other bloggers (perhaps starting with other student bloggers you admire) and pitch your idea for a guest post. Social media provides a spectacular opportunity for students to begin networking, learning and even gain practical experience and I urge you to make the most of it!

    By the way, the next PRStudChat will be held Tuesday, November 17th at noon eastern, hope to see you there 🙂

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  • valeriesimon

    It is great to hear more from Jeanna and Rowena and I look forward to watch their careers develop! It is exciting to see the steps they are taking to begin tapping into the world of social media.

    I encourage all PR students to read blogs, begin following PR pro's, educators and other students on Twitter and participate in PR related chats; join LinkedIn Groups and Ning groups that pertain to the PR industry, fan PR agencies that you are interested in learning more about on Facebook… As you begin to grow more comfortable with the conversation, begin to participate. Ask questions, offer contribtions. Respond (reply on twitter, comment on blogs, add to LinkedIn discussions) to those you wish to begin building relationships with. If you are not ready to begin blogging, consider guest blogging. Contact other bloggers (perhaps starting with other student bloggers you admire) and pitch your idea for a guest post. Social media provides a spectacular opportunity for students to begin networking, learning and even gain practical experience and I urge you to make the most of it!

    By the way, the next PRStudChat will be held Tuesday, November 17th at noon eastern, hope to see you there 🙂