One of the best things about being a PR-person-turned-teacher is the chance to bring colleagues from my former life into the classroom.
Recently, I had the opportunity to invite Janet Cabot , executive vice president, managing director US Food and Nutrition Practice at Edelman, to talk to the Intro PR class. She came well prepared and ready to speak to the 35+ students at DePaul University’s College of Communication class; and she shared some excellent insights.
Cabot, who’s is retiring at the end of 2012, chose not to reflect upon her entire career with the students, but instead to focus on just the last seven years by comparing her world in June 2005 when she joined Edelman to the present. Her then-and-now comparisons made the 20-somethings (and their teacher) take note. In 2005 Janet prided herself on carrying an iPod, a laptop and a Blackberry. Her flip phone wasn’t “smart” yet. Twitter wouldn’t be launched for another year at South by Southwest . Facebook was just opening to high school students, and didn’t invite the broader public in until the following fall. She called blogging the “shiny new object” of cyberspace opinion-making, and books still came mostly in hard copies. The iPhone and iPad were two and five years away, respectively.
She commented on the “seismic shift” that social media, the Internet and mobile devices have brought to the practice of public relations and how they have “changed everything.”
Students were full of good, open-ended questions: favorite project? (Oscar Mayer Talent Search), biggest challenge? (digital immersion), and best decision? (going into agency work), giving her a chance to share further insights on her extensive and highly successful career in the agency world.
Among the other pearls of wisdom she imparted to the students preparing to enter the field:
1) Be an engaged, intellectually curious global citizen
2) Be a story teller: know what the narrative is
3) Be a content creator with your own media platform
4) Have an entrepreneurial spirit that can tolerate ambiguity and complexity
5) Be digitally savvy: as more and more stories move across multiple channels; so understand social media and have a digital strategy
Jill Stewart is a lecturer at DePaul University’s College of Communication. For 25 years she owned and managed Stewart Communications, a Chicago-based PR firm dedicated to “issues that matter.”