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Communications professors without a social media clue

by Frank Strong

A little more than two years ago I contacted one of my old professors from American University.

We were working on a Webinar theme and I thought he’d be a good fit.  A published author, an associate (not an adjunct) professor (but without a PhD), he had a lot of real world experience with political communication.

It had been about 10 years, but I could still remember the slide overlays he used in class to stimulate discussion.

And that’s the problem.  Zero social media presence.  How can a professor of communication profess to be an expert in teaching the skill if he’s not using the tools that are so widely adopted, and in many ways, have turned the idea of (a very weak) communications theory on its head?

They can’t.  That’s right Professor.  YOU can’t teach communications if you don’t have a clue about social media.  And prospective students, you should avoid their classes. The university should drop you from the program.  Sadder still, those of you implicated will never see a post like this one here.

“I’m a very private man,” he said to me.   Please.  You don’t have to share intimate details on Twitter if you choose not to.  You do have to understand its impact on communications. Go be private in the private sector. Oh, wait, maybe you can’t. 

Not only did this guy lack social media experience, he sniveled at the idea of having to provide a PowerPoint presentation.  Seriously?  You don’t know how to use PowerPoint?

His next question was about consulting fees.  He’d dropped a several pegs on my esteem chart with his comment on social media, and hit zero with his remark on PowerPoint, the last thing I intended to do was give him an audience of 5,000 marketing and PR professionals and pay him to flop.  Worse, I know that he had no idea that was what I was thinking.  It was beyond him.

Now I’m a big fan of theory and every student should have to slug through and summarize 30 page journal articles.  Every student should meet the challenge of  statistics and conducting a scientifically valid survey. If you are considering graduate school, I’d encourage you to get an MBA and not an MA or MS, because it’ll open so many more doors to you (I ended up going back to grad school again, this time at night, to get an MBA).  But  to the point I’m making, I’m not advocating getting away from the core.  What I am advocating for, is that if you can’t teach the application in today’s world — the real world — then your value as a teacher is significantly lower.

That’s one of the reasons why I admire Deirdre Breckenridge, who often blogs for her students, and Mark  Schaefer (who I often find myself disagreeing with, but he makes me think) whose post tonight about the Mayo Clinic sparked this idea you are reading.  There are 17 professors on my list of PR and marketing professors, but these two are stand out:  theory combined with real-world experience.  That’s what students today need.

How many of your professors don’t have a clue about social media?

Photo credit by to cindy47452.

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Such a great post, Frank! You've inspired me to write about this issue at some stage too, as it's huge.

Frank_Strong moderator

 @Leigh_Andrews Thanks Leigh!  I suppose pointing out this isn't isolated.  Recall back to your old comms text books, check out the author's name and then look for them in social media.  Very few can be found.  Even among some of the most renown academics in our little industry.   


 @Frank_Strong  Agreed! It's very true and very sad. I also find that the public relations professionals who are meant to be guiding their clients into the social media space tend to be hesitant of doing so. Could be a generational thing?

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