Let’s turn PR researchers into blogging professors

My head hurts. It’s not from the Heinekens I was throwing back at the IPR bash last night in Miami. I knocked off early. Really.

photo-9.jpgThe headache comes from taxing my underused grey matter, trying to absorb all of the great research presentations I watched over the last two days. In the last post I said I wouldn’t try to report what I’d learned. Now I know that I can’t. Just too much there. Besides, a good number of the papers will soon go up on the IPR website. You can read them there if you’re so inclined.

But most of you won’t read those papers. And I think I know why.

We all know that research papers take some effort from the reader. They’re detailed academic works, most with lengthy literature reviews and painstaking statistical analysis. Some are exceptionally well written, but I’ve not found one yet that I’d classify as a “page turner.”

So I’m wondering…

Why don’t more of these brilliant PR researchers/educators get into blogging? They could use blogs to present executive summaries of their research. They could use blogs to discuss what the research means — maybe even speculating a bit on its meaning – like I did here.

By blogging about their research, PR educators would engage truly interested readers in a conversations that almost certainly would expand interest in the researchers’ work. They could use their blogs to test ideas, invite input, build bridges to possible research partners.

By blogging about their research, PR educators would vastly expand their audiences and, in the process, their influence. Practitioners are eager for cutting-edge knowledge that can improve their performance. But they won’t read 40-page papers to access it.

So why not practice what we preach? Write to the audience while also including them in the discussion.
constantinbasturea.jpg

Last night at poolside, Constantin Basturea and I talked about the relative dearth of blogging PR professors. He agreed that this audience could really benefit by using the social media. And you know, most of them are pretty solid writers, too.

I’m honestly puzzled over why the PR profs aren’t blogging fiends. Social media have been front and center in PR practice for at least three years. And a number of these researchers are actively studying them. Why not join the party and make blogs work for you? For all of us?

I don’t have a research agenda anywhere near as ambitious as the scholars I met at IPR. Doubt I ever will. But I’m betting that more people already have read about the BurrellesLuce/Kent State blog research on this site than will ever read the formal paper on the IPR website.

This is what blogs do so very well – they allow us to expand our reach and to extend the conversation to a worldwide audience. People will listen.

8 Responses to Let’s turn PR researchers into blogging professors

  1. Bill my friend… let’s reign in the boosterism a bit. You’re preparing people for a career in communications not cheerleading.

    In order of appearance:

    “So why not practice what we preach? Write to the audience while also including them in the discussion.”

    Because open discussion is NOT always (to be read “rarely”) productive. Actually, this is the root argument Association of American Publishers has against the Free Information Movement. We already have a vetting system that actually is in place to eliminate anarchy.

    “Constantin Basturea and I talked about the relative dearth of blogging PR professors.”

    You mean professors that blog not French-like assistants that teach blogging, correct?

    Well, to address both just in case… We do not need one more person teaching moral relativism and sham curricula in the American university system. As to using blogging to replace academic discipline with “conversation”… forgetit.

    “Social media have been front and center in PR practice for at least three years. And a number of these researchers are actively studying them. Why not join the party and make blogs work for you?”

    Because so far the evidence is pretty damning and the jury is still out.

    “This is what blogs do so very well – they allow us to expand our reach and to extend the conversation to a worldwide audience. People will listen.”

    Blogs, etc. are the easiest way to spread misinformation and defraud large audiences that history has ever seen.

    Careful Bill.

    – Amanda

  2. Andy Curran says:

    Maybe the answer can be found here:

    http://chronicle.com/free/v52/i47/47b00601.htm

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Amanda. You raise some excellent points, as always. Just remember that I do give you credit for that while so many others don’t.

    The reason we academic types study blogs is precisely because the jury is still out on their role and impact. And one of the concerns that comes through loud and clear in my research is the “control of message” issue. The boosters of blogs say we must hand that control to our audiences. Most of our CEOs and many PR professionals aren’t buying in. Nevertheless, social media are out there, and their influence, in the short term at least, appears to be growing, even if overall readership is flat. Social media are part of the practice of public relations whether we promote them or not.

    No, we can’t replace academic discipline with “conversation,” nor should we. Didn’t mean to imply that. But there’s a good bit of really useful research out there that’s obscured by the jargon and the presentation style of academe. This “language barrier” makes the work difficult to access, as do the high subscription rates for refereed journals.

    It strikes me that blogs are a perfect way to package research summaries for a broader audience, to share it with them, and to engage in some discussion about it. It would help practitioners do better work, and it would help academics focus their research agendas. I saw this happening at IPR in a face-to-face environment. All I’m suggesting is that we extend it to the blogosphere. There is no “control” issue here, as we’d simply be expanding the circle of discussion. I don’t see a downside.

    As for my suggestion that we “practice what we preach,” point taken. I’m not a blogging evangelist, though I DO play one in this post. Point is, if I see a good fit for social media, I’m going to encourage it. This is a good fit.

  4. Andy makes a good point about the political risks of blogging for academics. But there is also a simple economic reason: blogging is work, and it’s not likely to be rewarded. 40-page academic papers are. I first decided to learn about blogging in order to inform my teaching, not to advance my career or increase my salary. But there is a clear choice to be made for what Amanda calls “professors that blog” in that time spent on blogging is time not spent on what really pays.

    Did I mention this is supposed to be spring break?

  5. Bill Sledzik says:

    First to Andy, then Karen…

    Anyone following this thread should check out the link you supplied to the Chronicle along with the 7-8 other links you find there. Fascinating stuff, at least if you’re inside the ivy-covered walls. I don’t like to see anyone persecuted for posting opinions, but our writings have consequences over which we may have no control, 1st Amerdment notwithstanding. That applies to all of us, and tenure doesn’t mean you get a pass on accountability.

    Dr. Pino, here at Kent State, learned that last week, didn’t he? For those who missed it, check my posts of March 1 and 2.

    Karen may have nailed it. Blogging doesn’t “count” when you go for tenure and promotion, so you spend your time on the stuff that does. Sadly, those 40-page academic papers — and all of their wisdom — could have a lot more impact if they also had a blog component, and some input from the blogging community as they were developed.

    I also have to acknowledge that some of the truly “serious” academics see blogs as frivilous, maybe even detrimental to reputation. To them I say, lighten up.

  6. Andy Curran says:

    I have found that a lot of these papers bog down when they discuss the research methods, particularly when the statistical analysis is explained.

    I believe that a companion blog for research papers would be acceptable to the academic community. I suggest that even though it shouldn’t be written in that dry academic style, it should be written in a professional tone. I would also suggest keeping it separate from one’s other blogs so the research doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Links could be posted from the general blog to the research blog, but I believe that having a separate repository/archive for research would make it easier to access.

    I agree with Bill 100% that research is more useful when it’s shared with many. We at UC-Clermont have a quarterly research forum for faculty to discuss their work in a “brown-bag” setting. It would be nice to have that work available online for those who can’t attend.

    I might go back and take the media/internet/computer training research I’ve done and blog the summaries. A lot of it relates to the PR business. The companion blog idea has some merit. If I do this, I’ll let you know how it turns out. And where to find it.

    UC has a research section on the website, as do many other institutions. But I think an individual having a blog to summarize their own research is appropriate, too.

    The UC site is:

    http://www.uc.edu/ucresearch/

    Under the Publications heading, there are quarterly research summaries in PDF. This is the type of summary that would be appropriate for a blog. Written in plain English, easy to understand, yet written in a professional style.

  7. Bill Sledzik says:

    Got to thinking more about Karen’s comments last night. You are so right on.

    When I was tenure track in the mid-90s I discussed my research intertests and other issues on some PR-related listservs — some of the first online social media outlets. I included a paragraph about these discussions in a reappointment letter, as I truly felt I was furthering the objectives of the school — and my own research agenda — by engaging in them. Was told in no uncertain terms to delete the references before the file went up the line for approval. My attempts to extend the discusssion were seen as “Internet chat” that would elicit hrrumphs from tenure’s gatekeepers.

    Of course, I wasn’t trying to assign a value to those communications, nor define them in any scholarly way. I was simply trying to expand my reach along with the school’s reputation. And I said so because I believed it had value. Is it scholarship? No. Is it useful, relevant and important? You bet.

    Chock up one more reason I don’t like the academic tenure system. After 15 years, you’d think I’d learn.

  8. Of course it varies by school. At the University of Georgia, it wouldn’t be frowned upon as you’re suggesting; it’s praised as long as it’s IN ADDITION to research and teaching. In other words, it’s seen as a bonus. Actually, Grady College has a new initiative relating to faculty blogging, but it’s not ready for the public reveal yet… stay tuned.

%d bloggers like this: