PR Trends & Program Spotlight Webinar

PR Trends & Program Spotlight Webinar

AP PR Trends & Program Spotlight Webinar


Angela: Hi everyone, and welcome to Kent State University’s Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relation Trends and Spotlight Program Webinar. My name is Angela and I will be your moderator for today.

Before we begin, I’d like to go over some logistics for the presentation and address some commonly asked questions. All participants who are joining today are in listen-only mode. If you have any questions, type them into the chat box on the right hand side of your screen and hit Enter. We will be addressing those questions throughout the session and also during our dedicated Q&A at the end of the webinar. You will also receive a copy of these slides.

Your panelists today are Julie Napieralski, she’s an instructor with the MAJMC Public Relations Program with fifteen years of experience as a practicing public relations professional. She is currently Account Director at a digital advertising and public relations agency located in Rochester, New York. Julie works with clients on a daily basis to execute public relations strategies that have a theoretical foundation, bringing theory and practice together to help elevate the role of the public relations practitioner within an organization.

Few also have Gregory Blase, he has twelve years of experience in corporate advertising and marketing. He began teaching advertising in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University in 1985, became Undergraduate Coordinator in 1992 and stopped teaching when promoted to Associate Director of the JMC in 2007. Greg was promoted to Associate Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Education in 2012. In addition, Greg served as Interim Director of JMC, Provost Fellow and Director of Academic Programming for the College of Communication and for Information, and Interim Executive Director of the College of Undergraduate Studies. He holds a BA and an MA in English.

We also have Stacy Stevenson, she is the Academic Program Officer for the Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication Public Relation Concentration online program. She works to connect instructors and educational designers, trainers and resources, as well as coordinate solutions for students between university offices and departments. Stacy is currently completing her PhD in Educational Psychology Instructional Technology and comes from a background in journalism, both professionally and academically.

We also have Latraniecesa Johnson-Wilson; she is currently the principal and owner of LJW Social Media and PR Strategies, a small firm based in the Washington DC area. Prior to starting her own business, she was a Communications Director for the Soyfoods Association of North America. Before embarking into her PR career, she worked in TV news production for several years. She is a former [Seaspan 00:02:46] producer and before that she worked for CNN as a media coordinator and the local news industry as a writer and production assistant. She is currently a graduate student at Kent State University’s Public Relations online program and is set to graduate in August 2013. For her undergraduate program she attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Mass Communication and minored in Film Studies.

We also have Twanna Lewis, our dedicated Enrolment Advisor online. She walks new students through the entire admissions and financial aid process, making it easy for them to get started. Keep in mind that both Twanna Lewis and Margaret Brown are your main points of contact as enrolment advisors when applying to the program. So feel free to ask questions throughout the session and we will also be providing their dedicated points of contact at the end of this webinar.
All right, so let’s get started. What I’m going to do now is just review the agenda that we have for today and then we will be handing off to our dedicated panel so they could talk to you a little bit about these topics.

So today we have Julie with us, who’s going to be talking about PR in communication trends, the five must-have skills for mastering social media.
We also have Greg and Stacy on board, who will be talking a bit more about Kent State University and also the Public Relations program and giving you more information on the curriculum.

We also have Latraniecesa, who will be sharing her student experience and what it’s like to learn online, and finally we have Twanna with us today, who will be talking about the admissions and advising. And again, I do encourage you to send in your questions; just use the chat box on the right hand side of your screen and we’ll be addressing those questions throughout the session and also during that dedicated Q&A at the end of the webinar.
All right, so let’s get started. I’m going to bring our first panelist onto the line, Julie, to talk about PR and communication trends.

Julie: Thanks, Angela. Hi everybody. It’s nice to be here today. Thank you for joining us. As Angela said, my name is Julie Napieralski and I’m going to be talking to you today about social media.

So Angela gave me a good introduction, but I have been part of the PR online program now for two years. It’s been a great experience, although my history with the university goes much further back than that. I’m actually an undergrad PR Kent graduate myself, so I love this college, I love this school and I’m glad that all of you are considering being a part of it.

So let’s talk about some social media. As we know, social media is a mainstay in public relations today, there’s no question about it. In fact, about seven to ten years ago, when social media started to show itself as a valuable tool for organizations to use, there was a battle that ensued, if you will, between marketing and public relations.

Marketing caught Windows on the power of social media and believed that that function should be in control of content development in running those channels on behalf of the organization. But luckily – and from my perspective, how I think the battle should have gone – PR won. And naturally social media has a foundation of relationships; that’s what social media is about, building relationships with one another, and it’s also what public relations is all about, so it only makes sense that public relations own social media.

So now that PR owns social media, we as practitioners have to hold our own and we have to understand how we can use this medium in the best way for our organizations and to our advantage.

So on the next slide there’s an info graphic here from the Huffington Post and this just gives you a good look at the power of social media, a great summary of just how prolific the change has been since we made this transition to online. Since the dawn of Twitter there’s been a total of 163 billion Tweets.
Today 80% of users on Facebook say that they would prefer to connect with your brand via Facebook than via your brand’s own website. And it makes sense, right; Facebook is such a more intimate experience and it allows for levels of engagement that you just don’t get via a website. Websites that use the Plus One button with Google Plus have seen an increase in web traffic by over 350%.

And then you start to get down into the more niche social channels that we have out there today; places like Instagram, where really it’s all about the photo; the photo is telling the story for the organization. Over five million photos are uploaded to Instagram every twenty four hours. And if you get specific with who you’re trying to reach as well, you’ll see in this last [unintelligible 00:07:48] here on the left, Pinterest, 50% of users on Pinterest have children and 80% of them – now if you’re a Pinterest user that may not be a surprise – but it really does show you the power of these social channels and just how well we are able to target in on we’re trying to reach today when communicating via social channels.

So with all the options that are out there, on the next slide, all of the options that are out there. It’s up to us as practitioners to learn how to master each of these platforms and use them appropriately and to their full potential. So how do we do that?

I’m going to talk through five of the ways that you can do that today and I hope that what you’ll see at the end of our discussion is- what you’re going to find is that a lot of the platforms may be new and the way that we communicate with one another maybe new online. The principles from which the public relations profession is built, crosses the lines between social and traditional means. Let’s talk through what some of those mean.

The first must-have in social media practice is understanding the mindset of two-way communication. Now two-way communication is a big buzzword today, it’s become a much bigger buzzword since social media has come into play. And simply what it means is that no longer are we communicating with our audiences in a one-way means. We’re not putting out a press release and hoping that our audiences or the media is reading it. We’re not simply putting on a commercial or a direct mail piece; it’s an open-ended, two-way discussion going on between ourselves and our audiences, and social media enables this two-way communication in great ways, which is why it’s become such a buzzword.

However, two-way communication is actually a term that was founded in PR research, and that may be something that you didn’t know. In today’s modern days PR series, the foundation of that is based upon this concept of two-way communication. Now if you haven’t been introduced to our friend James [Gruner 00:09:59] yet, when you enter the program, you and James Gruner will get to know each other very well. We talk a lot about his theories in how two-way communication came to be.

Now social media has made it a whole lot easier to implement two-way communication successfully, given the nature of the medium itself, because it allows you to talk with your audiences as we all know. But the concept itself isn’t new. It’s been actually over thirty years of research behind it.

So as a social media practitioner you need to understand what two-way communication means and how you can best implement it on your social channels.
Our next must-have is building strategies that align with business goals. So regardless of the platform that you’re using to communicate with your stakeholders, it’s fundamentally important that you understand the business goal behind your strategies.

Now that’s one of the things that again, we’ll learn in this program and perhaps if you’re in PR practice already, you may be experiencing, and that is that over time the role of the PR practitioner has struggled to gain the respect that it deserves within the organization. And some of the reasons for that is because the PR practitioner is sometimes seen as not having the business savvy, or understanding the business side, so comparing the PR function to that of the CMO or the CFO that are more traditionally associated with business degrees or business savvy. So the PR practitioner is often times kind of set outside the wall a little bit, because they’re not seen as having that.

So it really is important as a practitioner that you understand the business goals behind an organization. Having that mindset will make you not only a more strategic practitioner, but it will help you catch the attention of the [C-suite 00:11:53], and maybe – maybe, maybe – even give you a seat at the table, which is what ultimately we would love to have as practitioners.

So when you’re considering your social media strategies, make sure that you’re keeping your company’s goals in mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re online or if you’re on social media; just because the channels are out there for your use, it doesn’t mean that you need to use it. If you have a Facebook page, that’s great, but you’ve got to make sure that the content you’re putting out there and the engagement that you’re doing with your customer base or your audience is working to the advantage of the business goals of the organization.

There’s many companies out there that are muddying their brand with misaligned social media activities, so you want to make sure that you’re keeping your eye on the prize in terms of what you’re actually trying to achieve and making sure that you can tie it back to those business goals.
So for example here I have Warren Buffet. We all know that Warren Buffet is really good at making money, right, so keep that in mind if you’re on his social media team.

The next part is mastering the art of storytelling. So since the beginning of time, storytelling is what’s helped us relate to one another. And think about it: storytelling has probably been a big part of your lives yourselves. You know, holidays with your grandparents, sitting around the Christmas tree or special dinners on Thanksgiving, listening to history about your own family. Sitting around a campfire when you were a child with your parents, or telling ghost stories to your brother or sister to try and scare them. These are all ways that we use storytelling to relate to one another.

In public relations we use it just as well. In fact, we rely upon it to help build relationships with our stakeholders. And when I say stakeholders, I mean those who do have a stake in the success of our organization, our target audience.

Now, what’s great about social media is that they’ve instantly created a way for us to share our story with others immediately. We can share our story with them from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. In fact, the power of storytelling has never been greater.

But we have to use it wisely as PR practitioners. We have to understand the importance of storytelling in your work, we have to understand how to use it effectively. And we talk a lot about that in the PR online program; there’s a couple of courses that really dive into the art of storytelling. So whether you’re sharing information about a product or if you’re trying to convince shareholders that your stock has value and that they should buy it, storytelling is a more effective way to gain support, because it’s offering that extra layer of communication and relationship building.

So a great storyteller, who can transition those skills to online, is a force to be reckoned with. Storytelling is a very important part of our profession.
The next one is knowing why, when and how to make the right call. So in our profession, just as there are in many others, there are legal and ethical considerations that you have to know about before you begin a program. And that’s whether you’re working in online or via traditional means. In fact, the rise of social media itself has raised even more concerns when it comes to ethical practice of organizations, and I’m sure you can just think of a few of those on your own, when organizations perhaps have behaved poorly or badly online.

There’s also internet regulations. Let’s think about the pharmaceutical industry, for example. The pharmaceutical industry has struggled over time to be able to communicate with their audiences online, because the laws of the type of information that you can share with consumers about your product is so regulated that it’s made it difficult to be successful online.

Well, the PR or social media practitioner, you need to understand what those legal considerations are. You also have to understand the fundamental ethics that drive our profession and help us to be more effective practitioners.

So having an understanding of the laws and the ethics that drive us, will make sure that you’re always making the right recommendations. When your CEO, your boss walks in the door and says what should I do, how should we handle this; we’re facing a crisis, what’s our next step, having that background in [sound 00:16:33], the ethical and legal foundation behind you, is going to be very, very important.

The last point that I wanted to talk about today is proving your value. Now if you’re part of the PR profession already today, I’m sure that you understand the challenges that we have in our profession in terms of measuring and showing our value to the CEO. Marketing has the [speed 00:17:06]; marketing is very results-driven, very easy to dive down into the nitty-gritty in terms of what makes a successful marketing program.

PR, because we’re built on relationships and that’s what we’re trying to do, is improve relationships, not so easy, a little bit harder to prove. Social media has helped us, because we’ve moved online; we’re moving to a way that makes it a little bit more measureable, but again, when you’re talking about something as grey an area as a relationship, it makes it difficult to measure.

However, the pressure is no less, it’s still there. We’re still being pressured as a profession to be able to [assign 00:17:45] ourselves and show how we can prove RLI of our efforts to the organization. And when you look at it from a social media perspective, social media is such a convenient channel to use, and for the most part it’s relatively cheap, or even free. It doesn’t cost you anything to get on Facebook. Of course if you want to get really involved and use Facebook appropriately, you’re going to need to spend some money. But the channel itself is free to use.

But it’s only free from a cost perspective. In fact, it’s a huge and time-consuming resource suck for an organization. Now, six or seven years ago when PR won that battle that I talked about earlier, won that battle and started to implement social media in the PR departments, really in many cases it was the PR practitioner who now had social media responsibilities lumped up upon them, but that’s just not feasible anymore. The time that it takes to listen, to monitor, to engage, to develop compelling [tantum 00:18:49], is huge. It’s a big resource- lots of resources are needed to run a social media program effectively.

So in turn, there’s social media teams building up in organizations. One of the clients that I work with has a social media team that’s twelve people large; I think that’s a pretty substantial group.

Now, when you’re investing that much resources in social media, you have to be able to prove your value, you have to be able to show that what you’re doing is working, otherwise you’re not going to be able to maintain that type of resources or those efforts.

So understanding how the efforts that you’re making online are contributing to business goals, which goes back to what I said earlier, you need to do that through research-based measurements. You have to understand the tools and the methods that are available to you today, so that you can confidently tell your CEO why your program matters and why it’s effective for the organization.

And we’ll talk about that again. If you get into the program, you’ll see we spend a whole course dedicated to helping you understand how to measure the results of what you’re doing and it’s really important; proving your value within the organization, is really, really important and using measurement to do so.

So in the short time that we had together today, I’ve walked you through some of the principles that are key to mastering social media practice. These, again, are the founding principles of a well-rounded public relations practitioner. So social media, traditional practice, it doesn’t matter; if you have the foundational skills that I discussed today in place, it’s going to make you a successful, well-rounded practitioner. And that’s the goal that we have for you in this program and that we’re working towards through each of the courses that we have.

So I know that Angela’s going to be introducing the Q&A shortly. Thank you for your time and I hope to see you online.

Angela: Great, thank you very much, Julie. Thank you for showing us some tips and strategies that we can all take away. We do have a temporary Q&A here for the audience, and Julie, we have received a few audience member questions. The one that I want to start with is how do you build a strong story that appeals to your audience? Go ahead, Julie.

Julie: So all of that comes down to understanding what your audience wants to hear. Again, it goes back to that two-way communication. A good practitioner is going to understand what their audience is hoping to hear, because they’ve done research to understand that.

So when you’re building a story, you already know what your audience wants to hear. What you’re doing is, you’re taking the elements of your organization, what are the relatable elements of your organization that you know your audience is going to care about, and that’s where you start. You have to keep your organization’s goals and objectives in mind, but as a practitioner it’s really your responsibility to create that balance.

So you want to make sure that while your CEO or your boss may be telling you this is the story we have to tell, you have to rely upon research that you know about your audience and what they care about too. It’s a balance.

Angela: Thank you, Julie. The next question that we have from our audience is around the social media channel and measurement. So how do you measure the success of your specific product’s social media channel? Are there specific metrics that you rely on on a day-to-day basis?

Julie: Yes, that’s a good question and that’s actually one of the things that we do talk about in the measurement in our RLI class. So there are tools out there today, and very complicated algorithms that are used to identify how successful your social media program is. So understanding those tools, and you can spend a lot of money using those tools as well that show you if your message is being heard, who is sharing your message, how many people are talking about you.

So those are all automated tools that you can use. However, there is a tried and true benchmarking traditional research that goes into play in terms of understanding what objectives you set for your social media program, and then evaluating whether or not you’ve achieved those goals. I guess in this day and age it’s somewhat old school, but just a simple measuring your objectives against what you’ve achieved is another way to evaluate the success of your social strategy.

Angela: Thank you Julie. The next question that we have is around the various platforms that are available on the social media side, so obviously one of our audience members listed Facebook and LinkedIn; you’ve got Pinterest, you’ve got a number of different social platforms that you can leverage on the social side to help with your business strategy. But how do you find that right mix with all those social media platforms? Are there any strategies that you can share? Go ahead, Julie.

Julie: Oh, certainly, and you know what, I didn’t even mention it that the info graphic that I discuss on the site and even talk about LinkedIn. You know, LinkedIn has got over 2.6 million companies that have LinkedIn pages today.

So again, when finding the right strategy, again it goes back to understanding what you’re trying to achieve. So for example, if you’re an organization that has a lot of interaction with your customers, if you’re a consumer brand that you know a lot of people will be talking about, well, then you may want to be looking at- you know, Facebook and Twitter are going to be a key means of communicating with your audience.

This is not a solid line, but consumer brands tend to have a much better presence on social channels like Facebook and Twitter, because they’re more consumer-oriented. The B2B market is catching up and I work very heavily in the B2B market and social strategy is something that we’re focusing in on, as Facebook has become much more friendly to organizations.

But really again, it goes back to how much communication you’re trying to have. And again, as I mentioned, if you’re a pharmaceutical company, well, you may want to be on Twitter, because everybody else is on Twitter, but you have to be careful of what you’re going to say. So you really need to evaluate the purpose of each of the tools that you’re using or that you would like to use, and then see if that aligns with what you’re trying to achieve.

Angela: Thank you very much, Julie. What we’re going to do now is move into the next section for today’s webinar, and I’m going to be bringing Greg and Stacy on board to talk a little bit about Kent State University and also the program itself. But first we’re going to start with Greg. Go ahead, Greg.

Greg: Okay, thanks Angela. Hello, everyone. I’m going to tell you a little bit about the university and then I think Stacy’s going to get into kind of the nuts and bolts of the program.

Kent State’s a large state university. The slide you’re looking at now you can see a lot of things about it. I’m going to give you a few more statistics. We sit on 856 acres in a rural campus right outside the city of Kent, Ohio, which has about 20 000 people. The university – the total university with all its regional campuses – has 42 500 students, making us the second largest state university in Ohio. The Kent campus has 27 700 students and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with its both undergraduate and graduate programs, has about 1200 to 1250 students. 950 of those are undergraduates in our graduate program is about close to 300 students now, about 210 to 220 of those are in the online program which you guys are looking at.

The program itself is a little bit different than most programs in that it is in seven weeks turns, and I’m going to let Stacy talk a little bit more about that, but I did want to talk to you a little bit about the type of person that we’re looking for. These people who come to our program – and I see the list of people that are listening in, but I have no idea who you are or what you do – we look for mostly for people with some professional experience, who are looking to further their careers with a master’s degree and also learn more about maybe some of the theory and the intellectual curiosity that goes along with public relations.

We do accept people right out of college if they have very strong skills and we feel that they’ll be successful in our program, but what you want to keep in mind is that all of the professors in the program have very, very strong public relations experience. Many of them have twenty to twenty five years in public relations.

We also look at the writing skills, which are very, very important, and other skill sets, but I do want to let you know that this program differs a little bit from a straight skill set type of program, because it does talk about the theoretical concepts that go behind public relations. And of course critical thinking is very important in just about any educational endeavour that you want to get into.

Social media, as Julie said, is very, very important and we have that in just about every one of our courses; we talk about that type of thing, and that goes along with the basic writing skills, because if you look at social media, you’ll see that there’s a lot of writing going on in any kind of social media context.

A little bit more about Kent State. Our undergraduates, we have about 40% men and 60% women, and we have about 75% fulltime and about 25% part time students. So you’d be joining a university that is a very large university, has a lot of resources. I realize most of you guys probably will never see the campus, although if you ever have a chance, we’d love you to come, because it’s a very beautiful campus.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the resources that Kent State offers too, and we can tell you more about that when you get more involved in the program.
I’m going to turn it over to Stacy now and let her get a little bit more into the nuts and bolts of what the PR online master’s program contains.

Stacy: Okay, we’re doing a chair swop – hang on. So the master’s online program, as Greg talked about, the critical thinking and the combination of practical skills and critical thinking, those are two important components of the program. And you saw in the last slide, [unintelligible 00:29:41] the mission of the program.

So some of the topics that the program focuses on, and Julie touched on a lot of these too, you can see we talk about strategic management, campaign management, branding, internal communications, social media, those are all components that you would cover throughout the program.

And what we hear a lot from students – because most of our students are working professionals also – is that they come in a lot of times and they immediately are able to apply these skills and these concepts in their work environments, and that’s a really good and satisfying comment that we get to share, because so many times they’ll say I was in a meeting yesterday and I got to use this. And whether it was a theory from the theory class or something more practical from one of the strategic classes, the students are using these things right away that they’re learning.

And like Greg mentioned, some of the different kinds of students we have. A lot of students come into the program wanting to seek promotions, so they need to get a higher level degree to do that, where they’re looking to move within their company into a communication type role and things like that. But we’ve found that the great diversity of students have found what they need from the program.

I think some of the courses are in the next slide. So the program is set up in a pretty- it’s flexible in time and space, but it’s sort of in a [unintelligible 00:31:23] in terms of what courses are offered when. So there’s a total of twelve courses and there’s three credit hours each, so you finish the degree with thirty six credit hours. Each class is seven weeks long and you would take one class at a time, so in a traditional semester which is usually fifteen weeks, you would end up taking two classes, but they’re not concurrent. You take one class, have about a week off and then take another class.

They run in a specific order: when you start the program you take Theory and Management, the first two classes that you would take, depending on what session you start, then you may take Management first and then Theory, or Theory and then Management.

Once you complete those two courses, you would then move into the next offered course in the program, and it just depends on what part of the calendar we’re in. And you can see the courses listed there. So you’ve got your two sort of foundational courses, the Theory and Management, and then there are nine – sort of the meat and potatoes of the program – nine other courses. And then you finish the program with a Culminating Experience course, where you bring together all of the elements that you’ve worked on throughout the program in this Culminating Experience class.

The Culminating Experience class is sort of a nice way to round out the program. You work under the supervision of a faculty member. You’ll do a lot of discussion and interaction with other students that are graduating at the same time as you. These are students you may have started the program with and you’ll know them from being in class with them.

And you work to refine a portfolio that you will have built throughout the rest of the program. So all the courses you take, you’ll be contributing to this portfolio and in the end, the Culminating Experience class, you’ll refine that and do a lot of discussion and reflection. You’ll do some peer reviews and at the end you’ll have this really nice piece of work that you can show to employers. It is an example of academic and professional work, it’s a nice combination of the two.

So with all that being said, the online learning environment, the way this program is set up is, I will honestly say, quite fantastic. You will be able to interact when you have time. So a lot of the engagement is through weekly discussions with your fellow students in the class and one of the things that we hear a lot in the reviews of the courses, is that the students really value those weekly discussions. They’re able to gain perspective from students who work in a different part of the field, maybe students who have been working professionals longer, maybe you’re new to the field. And it’s a great way to exchange ideas and see what other people are doing.

And then, like I said, the flexibility is there to work in assignments and discussions based on your own schedule. People who work fulltime, it’s tough to go back and get a higher level degree, fit it in in the weekends and in the evenings. It takes away from family time. With this you’ll always know when everything is due, you can plan accordingly and you can get online and complete your assignments when you have time.

As I said before, we kind of refer to the format as a carousel format, meaning that the classes all run on a set cycle, and you saw that in the other slide. Once the cycle is completed it starts over. If you – and some of the students [unintelligible 00:35:37] can talk about this if you have questions too – if you have to stop out for a reason, the courses will come up again. And like I said, you’ve got one core course offered each session, the Management or Theory. You really don’t have the opportunity to take two at a time, so you need to think about that. It’s already considered an accelerated program, because if you stay in the program consistently, you would finish in two years.

And then we talked about Theory and Management being the foundational – or we call them prerequisite courses. You wouldn’t be able to move on to the next course until you finish Theory and Management, so those are completed right at the beginning. And then you end the program with the Culminating Experience course, which we’ve already talked about.

Angela: Thank you very much Stacy, for walking us through the program and to Greg for talking to us a bit about Kent State University. I do encourage you to continue sending in those questions; we will be getting to those in a few minutes.

In the meantime what I wanted to do was just get audience feedback around their motivation for pursuing the Public Relations degree. So you can actually let us know what you’re thinking; just go ahead and fill in that poll, it’s located on the lower right hand side of the screen and we’re going to leave that open for the next few sections. And I also encourage you to continue sending in those great questions we’ll be getting tonight during the dedicated Q&A.

All right, so what we’re going to do at this point is move into the next section for today’s webinar, where we talk about the student experience. So we have our student with us today, Latraniecesa, and I’m going to bring her onto the line. We do have some commonly asked questions and she will be talking a little bit about her experience as a student in the program, and she will also be addressing your questions during the Q&A as well. Go ahead.

Latraniecesa: Hello, everyone. As she said, my name is Latraniecesa Wilson and I’ll be graduating this August. I’m going to answer some of the common questions most students have about the Kent State University PR online program.

The first question commonly asked is what makes this program stand out when choosing a school to pursue your program. What made Kent State University’s program stand out for me is, I wanted to change my career to a PR and I wanted a school with a great reputation in communication.

As a fellow Ohioan I knew of all the outstanding journalists that came from the program and its longstanding reputation as an elite communications school in the Ohio area. So when I found out there was a PR program, I immediately was intrigued. I’d never been in a total online environment, so I still had to make sure Kent State had everything I was looking for. After I research the course offerings and learned how flexible the program was, I was completely sold. I knew this was a perfect program for me.

Since I was interested in leaving my broadcast career to go into public relations, I wanted to be educated on every element of PR and what it took to be successful. The program courses such as Social Media and PR and the Online Tactics for Public Relations, and Strategic Writing and Messaging were courses that I didn’t see offered in other programs. After being [unintelligible 00:39:06], those exact courses helped lead me to PR success.

I know many of you may be career changers – I was also one – but I’m sure you’re wondering how has the program helped me obtain a career in public relations.
The program courses require you to implement real-world plans for organizations or companies. My first project, I worked with the American Diabetes Association on creating a PR plan. As a result, they wanted me to be an intern while working fulltime.

I also created a social media strategy plan for the United Nations Association of the National Capital area. As a result, my plan is actually being used within the organization. I was also asked to prevent the plan to the staff and the board of directors. To this very day, I’m still asked to help the organization with communication plans and press releases.

The Strategic Writing course helped me design a social media and PR plan, using storytelling that helps an organization [unintelligible 00:40:10] interviews and become a primary contact for all [unintelligible 00:40:13] in the BC area.

After working for several different organizations and gaining results as a result of my education from this program, I decided to start my own small PR firm. I have not looked back since. The ability to understand how to manage or measure your campaign is important, as Professor Napieralski mentioned earlier. Most companies want to know what’s their return on investment from social media and PR.

After taking courses from this program, you’ll be ready to not only obtain a position in public relations, but also become a leader in PR.

Another question I had about the program, and I’m sure you do as well, is how did I manage my school work with other obligations? When I’m done fixing dinner, I usually read at night for about two to three hours, so by the time my Thursday form papers are due, I’m ready [unintelligible 00:41:10].

Some techniques to be successful in this program is to designate some time at the end of the day or at the beginning of the day to spend an hour or two reading, or going over the material, and designate a day prior to when your forms are due, to begin your write-ups of the form.

The forms are due every Thursday. You may be asking what is a form? It’s a general question that the professor asks every week and you’re expected to answer, utilizing your opinion in assigned reading to back up your stand on an issue. On Sundays you’re expected to respond to the class meeting [unintelligible 00:41:46] from the form.

This is when the learning really begins, because you have a chance to see your classmates opinion of a particular PR issue in the form and respond whether you agree or disagree. On Sunday you are also asked to turn in another paper, which is usually based on the readings and what you learned that week.

So basically Thursday and Sunday papers are due in most classes. You are more than welcome to turn in your work before it’s due. If you follow the two to three hour reading a night every day, or every other day, you have the ability to finish assignments before time.

Another commonly asked question is how the interaction between faculty and students, or how does that happen? I truly enjoy the interaction I have with my professors. Although we’re online they really give you pieces of their personality when they post interesting information about the latest in PR news, or when we interact [unintelligible 00:42:43], you know. If I ever have a problem with a paper or need advice about jobs, they’re more than willing to go out of their way to help. I feel like I have a great relationship with my professors and they understand me as a person and as a student.

[Unintelligible 00:43:00] interaction has always been innovative and quite a learning experience. Through our responses to each other’s papers and critique, we’re not only learning to collaborate with each other, but if we have a problem with an upcoming paper, we are supportive of each other’s work, so we also critique each other and letting each other know, hey, we could do better.

Kent State is the only online program I’ve ever been in, so this question may come to mind to you as well. What has surprised me most about online learning? I feel like I’ve learned more online than I did when I was surrounded by other students. I was sceptical at first if I would be able to create valuable learning relationships, but since I’ve started the program, I’m no longer sceptical. I’ve met students who, if I was in their state, I would probably call them for coffee, and most importantly, I’ve met some of the most caring professors who truly love what they do, and that means a lot to me as a student.

Once you master the idea of reading two to three hours a day, [unintelligible 00:44:07] the days you don’t have anything due you get ahead, you will see that you will finish assignments before they’re due. The Kent State University program is truly a program made for professionals. It’s designed for flexibility, but also designed to make sure you’re knowledgeable and becoming a skillful, creative and highly employable PR professional.

So that is my experience and I hope that you can join this program. It’s been a great aspect in my career and it can be one to you as well.

Angela: Thank you very much, Latraniecesa for sharing your experience in the program, and I know our audience also has a couple of questions for you, so we’ll be getting to that in a few minutes.

What we have for now, is the final section before the dedicated question and answer, and I’m going to be bringing Twanna Lewis, our enrolment advisor, on the line to talk about admissions and advising. Go ahead, Twanna.

Twanna: Hi everyone. It’s Twanna here and I do thank you all for being a part of today’s session. Just briefly wanting to go through what the role of Recruitment Services was here throughout the process. Essentially we’re here to help prospective students with the application, getting the information that they need to present a package to the Review Committee, and of course providing information regarding funding sources if they’re looking at loans or tuition reimbursement through their employers.

Next slide. The admissions requirements for the program, for those who we’ve not been able to speak with personally. Of course we’re asking that the individual has an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. However, there are certain situations where that may be under consideration for anyone that doesn’t have that GPA, certainly having a conversation with myself or Margaret to discuss exceptions to that. We do welcome that call.

For individuals that don’t have three years of work experience, we do ask that you submit a GRE score in lieu of that, and we’re looking for 150 on the verbal and quantitative sections of the test, and a minimum of four for the writing portion.

Other elements of the admissions package is a statement of purpose, and that is an essay written to the Review Committee outlining the reasons for pursuing graduate studies. You should be able to articulate what your motivation is, what your long term or short term career goals are and how you see this program facilitating that happening for you.

We look at your resume as well as a part of the package and you will need to submit transcripts from all colleges or universities regarding your undergraduate work history.

We do also ask that you submit three letters of recommendations, which could be either academic or professional, depending on if you are a seasoned professional or recently transitioning from an undergraduate program. Letters of recommendations from professionals should proverbially be from individuals that you’ve reported to in the past, that have had the opportunity to observe your work and can speak to that, as well as provide their opinion of how you would perform as a graduate student.

And for international applicants, the [unintelligible 00:47:36] will be required if you’re not from one of the exempt countries, and we’re asking for a score of 600 or more on that particular test.

The tuition fees for the program: there is a $100 non-refundable application fee and we do charge $10 per credit hour in addition to the per credit hour cost for distance learning. As the other members have previously discussed, it’s a 36 credit hour program and the total tuition in-state is 22 572, and the out-of-state cost is 22 932.
Next slide.

Angela: Great. Well, thank you very much, Twanna, for talking to us about the admissions and advising section. What we’re going to do now is we do have a poll for the audience. We’d like to hear from you, if you’re looking at starting the program for an upcoming fall start in August, so you can go ahead and fill that in. We’re also asking for your feedback on today’s webinar: did you enjoy it, did you have any additional comments or feedback? We’re always open to recommendations and we always take that back.

So you can find that poll, again on that lower right hand side of the screen, and that poll will remain open until the end of the webinar.
All right, so while you’re filling that in, let’s move into our dedicated Q&A section. I’m going to be bringing all of our panelists back in, and we will be addressing audience questions.

So the first question that we have is for you, Twanna; it’s related to the admissions requirements that you had spoken to earlier. The question is, what is considered significant professional experience? Go ahead, Twanna.

Twanna: Thank you. We’re looking at a minimum of three years of related communications or public relations experience to be considered for the GRE waiver, and we make that determination by reviewing the candidate’s resume, of course, to assist us with that.

Angela: Thank you, Twanna. I’m actually going to bring Julie back on the line. Julie, one of the questions that we had around social media was around the values. So an audience member wanted to know, what are other ways to prove the value of social media to a client, or even to a boss, who is somewhat reluctant to fully engage in that media? Go ahead, Julie.

Julie: I’m laughing, because that’s part of my life; I hear that question. I think when it comes down- the easiest way for me to answer that question is to- because I always take an agnostic approach to the channels. We’re not talking about how we’re communicating, it’s what are we trying to communicate. So if you can convince your boss or your client that you have a message that needs to be conveyed, how that message is conveyed shouldn’t be as important as what you’re saying, so it comes back down to strategy.

Now I know from my experience, the issue that comes to mind is the risk that takes place in social media channels. It’s just because you’re kind of throwing yourself out there, it’s a less protected forum and I think that just comes down to education and if you can educate your client or your boss on what social media is all about, how controllable it can be, that’s a good first step.

Angela: Thank you, Julie. The next question that we have is for Latraniecesa, and the question is, what are your professional goals after completing the program? Go ahead.

Latraniecesa: Well, some of my professional goals after completing the program is basically to really get into expanding my small PR firm. I really want to start really trying to engage and get more people on board. Right now I’m getting people organically; I really plan on to expand it, expand my services and just really take it to the next level.

So that is my goal and the reason why that’s my goal is, due to this program; if I didn’t have the opportunity to be in this program, to learn all the things that I learned about return on investment, measurement, everything that you need to not just only lead a social media and PR campaign, but lead it strategically and understand the value of measurement, I would not be getting the results that I’m getting with my clients today.

So I really thank the Kent State University program and those are my goals.

Angela: Thank you, that’s a very good answer. Now we also have a question for both Greg and Stacy. The question is: can you talk a little bit more about the graduates of the online Public Relations Program and what they have done in terms of their career? Do we currently have any information on our graduates? Go ahead, Greg and Stacy.

Greg: Well, most of the people who have been through the program so far have been working professionals and they are not necessarily seeking a different type of job. They may very well be seeking more advancement in the company that they’re with, or just being able to do their job better. We have had people from PR firms, we’ve had people who have their own businesses, we’ve had people from internal public relations firms, and it really just varies a lot, which we find very interesting.

And as Stacy said earlier when she was talking about the interaction that students have, students learn a lot from each other.

Stacy: I would say we’ve had a couple broadcast – professional broadcast – folks come through and graduate and move into communication officer roles that they were looking to change. We have had a couple folks come through that are actually active in the military while they take their classes, and they’ve graduated and most of them I think, were interested in communication roles in the military. A few have moved out into other professional careers within communication and PR.

The first couple groups I think, that have graduated, were working professionals. We’ve had some that were chief communication officers in large companies like Harley Davidson. So there’s been a really nice mix of graduates so far.

Angela: Great, thank you Greg and Stacy. The next question that we have is for Twanna. Twanna, this is a question again around the admissions requirements, around the GRE. Are there any waivers available for the GRE examination? Go ahead, Twanna.

Twanna: Again, with waiver consideration, the individual needs to have a minimum of three years of professional-related experience, so they have to be a practitioner in communications or public relations, demonstrating strong experience in these areas, to request the GRE waiver.

Angela: Thank you very much. The next question that we have is for Julie. Julie, the question is, can you give us a bit more information on the future of social media for the next two years, specifically around Facebook or Twitter, and if you feel that one platform will be more dominant than another. Go ahead, Julie.

Julie: That’s a good question, looking into the future. I think that we’re going to continue to see Facebook evolve. If you’re using Facebook for an organization, or if you’re an [unintelligible 00:55:37] for your organization’s Facebook page, you know that Facebook has become increasingly focused on working harder for brands and for organizations.

So I do believe that we’re going to continue to see Facebook evolve and be more company-friendly. This is a very technical term, but I think you’ll continue to see Facebook get creepier in terms of what they know about you and how they learn about you, very much like Google. Google and Facebook have been working toward trying to make the experience for the user far more personal and ethical [unintelligible 00:56:14].

Some people would consider that an invasion- you know, would consider some privacy concerns there, but again, I see Facebook growing more and more important for the organization as the platform itself makes more tools available. Specifically Facebook is becoming a much more mobile platform than it was before. The mobile applications for Facebook lagged behind and many times- in fact, that was one of the key issues that they faced with their IPO is that their mobile model didn’t follow suit with what they had planned in terms of how it was going to make money and be useful.

So again, Facebook will continue to evolve.

Twitter? I think Twitter is a question that- it’s actually a forum that I’m not as skilled on in terms of what the future of Twitter will be. I know how to use Twitter and we use Twitter often. Again, I see Twitter continuing to be influential for organizations, customer service. Customer service has moved online to Twitter and I see that in the future as well.

So I hope that answers your questions, partly at least.

Angela: Yeah, that works. Thank you, Julie. And to our audience member, if you have a follow-up to that question, go ahead and send it in through the chat box.
We do have time for just two more questions. Second last question is for Latraniecesa; it’s around how you found the time to balance your studies. Now you’ve spoken a little bit about your other obligations, but did you have to make decisions around prioritization of what your obligations were, to help your studies?

Latraniecesa: Yes, I did. I had to prioritize my time. And basically what I was saying earlier during the presentation, was that what I usually do is I schedule throughout the night times I usually do a lot of my reading, just because most of the time during the evening I’m very busy.

So I schedule these two to three hours a day, or at night, to start doing my reading, to try to catch up and make sure that I’m on point with everything. If you do it two to three hours a day, you’ll be more than enough catched up.

Another thing to consider is that a lot of our forms that are due, are due on Thursdays and a lot of our papers are due on Sundays, so that’s pretty much standard. So when you know that you can really put together your time correctly to work for you as a student, and I was able to do it and I’m sure that anyone else will be able to. As long as you know the days that things are due, you can actually work with this kind of schedule and prioritize your time to make it work.

I hope that I answered your question.

Angela: Yes, it does. And now the final question that we have is for Greg and Stacy. One of our audience members wanted to know if it would be possible for students to visit the campus, and also attend graduation once they completed the program. Go ahead, Greg and Stacy.

Greg: Yes, absolutely on both of them. If you want to visit the campus, all you need to do is, you can contact me and I’ll be happy to set up a time for you to visit the school. The admissions office here has a regular campus tour schedule and you can contact them about doing that.

As far as graduation is concerned, we encourage any student in the PR online master’s program to attend graduation here on campus. Obviously not all of them can, because they don’t live in the area, but we’ve had quite a few who have, and we very much like it when they come. We take your picture, we have a video interview, so as you go through the program we can give you more information about graduation.

And if you want to visit the campus prior to the program, you can set up a tour of the school here with me and then you can set up a tour of the campus with Admissions.

Angela: And if you would like more information on that, just send me a quick note through the chat box and we’ll be sure to connect you with the right panelist.

All right, well that is all the questions that we have for today. I do have a couple of closing thoughts before we close down the webinar. We do encourage you to follow-up with your enrolment advisor, either Margaret Brown or Twanna Lewis, if you have any follow-up questions, or if you think of questions that may not have occurred to you during the webinar. We have listed both our e-mail and phone on the slide, or you can even visit our program website. A recording of the session will be available over the next few weeks and we’ll be more than happy to send that out to you.

Again, we wanted to thank everyone for participating in today’s Kent State University Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication, with a concentration in Public Relations online webinar.

This concludes our session and have a great …

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