Spotlighting the Spotlighter: Dr. Karen Miller Russell
April 25, 2008 by Tiffany
Dr. Karen Miller Russell spotlights public relations educators in the “Meet the Teacher” series, which she hosts on her blog, Teaching PR. Today, we are spotlighting each other. Dr. Russell teaches at the Grady College of Journalism and Communication at the University of Georgia. She has supported and guided me in my social media endeavors. Without further adieu, let’s meet Dr. Karen Miller Russell!
Tell us about the University of Georgia’s public relations program.
Our program is housed in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. UGA students have to apply to be Grady majors, and PR is one of the most popular, so we tend to get the cream of the crop — most have GPAs well over 3.0. We try to maintain a balance between teaching theory and research about PR with practical, hands-on professional training.
Your Word of Mouth class sounds intriguing. What activities do your students do in this class?
It’s a special topics course, so this is my first time teaching it. It’s actually a good example of trying to balance theory/research with practice — I had them read Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail
and other research on word of mouth, making choices, and social media; and David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR
, which taught them how to write a “new rules” plan for our class client, the East Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross. They also maintained blogs, did the social media coverage for the Edelman Digital Bootcamp
in March, and used Twitter and other social media.
Congratulations to you and your students for winning the Bateman competition last year and for receiving an honorable mention this year. What tips can you share with aspiring teams?
Thanks! We actually also got an honorable mention 2 years ago, so the streak is building. 😉 The best advice I can share is that you have to keep your focus on helping the client, not on winning the competition. You can’t control what other schools do or what the judges want or like to see. But you can do a fantastic campaign on behalf of your client. If the students have been well trained, they should already know what to do — start with research and let that guide the strategies and tactics.
You wrote an insightful blog post about public relations serving society. There have been recent discussions about the definition of public relations. When you talk with students about the definition of public relations, what do you say? What are students’ reactions?
Students are like everyone else — they don’t have a clear definition of PR. I hope when they leave UGA, they want to make a positive contribution to society in addition to whatever personal goals they may have. To me that means choosing clients you believe in, and doing your best to promote them to the benefit of their constituents as well as the organization.
What first interested you in public relations history?
I’ve always loved history, but when I took a media history class in grad school (I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison) I saw that I could combine my interest in public relations with my love of history. Hardly anybody was doing research on it, and we had a great archive at the Wisconsin Historical Society, which included the Hill & Knowlton collection I used for my dissertation. I think doing the research is fun, and I think understanding history can help us better understand our field (including reasons other people dislike and distrust it).
What are some things that people might not know about you?
I won’t eat seafood, I love watching all kinds of sports, I have a 3-year-old, I spend way too much time on Twitter (students, feel free to add me, @karenrussell, and I’ll add you back), and I didn’t give any tests to my WOM class because I hate grading them! (Don’t worry, I gave them lots of projects instead.)
Thank you, Dr. Russell! It has been an honor to interview you.