I’m moving…to Texas

Some of you may already know, but I have decided to pursue a Ph.D. at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. They have a great mass communications program that I’m confident will prepare me for a career in academia. My ultimate goal is to teach and do research in public relations at a four-year university, and I think I’ve always known I’d be Dr. Lee someday.

I'll be a Red Raider for a few years, but you know I'm an Aztec for life :)

I’ll be a Red Raider for a few years, but you know I’m an Aztec for life ūüôā

Choosing a doctoral program was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and my huge spreadsheet of pros and cons wasn’t much help. All of the programs I looked at are great and someone else with the same options I had may have chosen differently. I went with what was best for me in terms of faculty, resources, research and teaching opportunities. However, on top of the practical considerations, the people that I will spend the next three years with really sealed the deal.

Tech had me come visit a few weeks ago and every single person that I have interacted with, student, faculty or staff, was incredibly helpful and welcoming. Plus, their facilities are amazing. I probably won’t use the eye tracking machines or physiology lab, but the high-tech focus group room and office with a view got my attention. However, Blake and I have been joking around about the crazy research projects we can do in the labs when she visits. Any suggestions on that?

College of Media and Communication building

College of Media and Communication building

While the program is a great fit, Lubbock will be harder to get used to. There is more there than I realized and university towns tend to foster creativity and forward thinking, but it still isn’t San Diego. There’s no ocean or city-wide recycling program, the shopping isn’t great, and everyone drives big trucks while talking on cell phones. I’ll be leaving my family, Blake and Whitney, and other friends, but luckily, I have an amazing partner by my side to navigate this adventure with. My boyfriend, Paul, and I, and our cocker spaniel, Tiger, will be moving in August. Trust me, we’ll only be in Texas for three years.


A Recap of IPRRC

Last week, I ventured to Miami for the second year in a row to present research at the International Public Relations Research Conference. IPRRC brings practitioners and academics together in order to share and advance the latest PR research. Unlike other conferences, IPRRC is made up of informal roundtable sessions where the presenters can share their research, then discuss it with a fairly small group of people. This facilitates conversation among practitioners, faculty and grad students and often leads to new ideas and collaborations.

SDSU had a great group of representatives in Miami!

SDSU had a great group of representatives in Miami!

With three very full days of presentations, I was pretty exhausted by the time I got to my own presentation (the very last session!). Luckily, it’s a very positive environment and there didn’t seem to be any judgment as I tripped over my words a few times. In fact, everyone was very kind and encouraging, just like they were last year.

IPRRC really has something for everyone in PR, as you can see in the program. If you are a practitioner, you are sure to find presentations relevant to your practice. If you are an academic, you are sure to find presentations relevant to your research interests. Right now, I’m both, and I found both.

Social media was one of the most popular research topics. From best practices to ethics to creating dialogue to measurement, there was a ton of discussion about social media. My paper was also related to social media, but focused on new PR professionals and why they are often the ones to take on social media tasks. If the topic interests you, go read my thesis! Haha… I know that won’t happen, but if you want a shortened version, I’d be happy to chat about it!

My Summer Research on CEOs and the Media

Over the summer, I spent six weeks at PRIME Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. thanks to the Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship. Although a wonderful opportunity, splitting up the Blake and Nicole bestie duo was difficult! I was able to get over the short separation and, as part of the fellowship, I did a research project on CEOs and media relations. Below is a snippet of a column I wrote for the Institute for Public Relations about it. Click through to read more, it’s short and written for practitioners, not academics (a.k.a you’re going to understand it and it may be useful!):

Me with my award in my living room since the Nor’easter a few weeks ago cancelled my flight to NYC ūüė¶

CEOs are often the face of a company, but having a visible, or even well liked, CEO may not help a company’s reputation in all situations. This is a topic I explored over the summer with PRIME Research thanks to the Grunig PRIME Fellowship. Specifically, I looked at how the tone and visibility of CEO media coverage is related to the tone and visibility of overall organization coverage.

The first big takeaway is not all publicity is good publicity… {Read more.}

If you want to dive into the numbers and check out the full paper, you can download it here.

Must-Haves for New Pros

So, you are embarking on your journey as a PR or marketing professional. You have your education and business attire, but there are a few other things that every new professional must have. While none of these things are particularly expensive, if you don’t have the extra cash, tell mom and dad you’d like a new pro starter kit for Christmas. It’s one gift they’d probably be happy to give!

My handy dandy padfolio containing my generic business cards!

  1. Business cards.¬†When you are first starting your career, there is a good chance you will move from internship to internship for a while. During this time, the organizations you work for probably won’t make business cards for you and if they¬†do, they will be outdated as soon as you are on to your next position. Until you are settled with a company that you know you will¬†stay with for a while, I suggest having some generic business cards made with your name, industry and contact information. There are plenty of online printers that make it cheap and easy like Vistaprint.
  2. A padfolio. These things are great for conferences, interviews and on the job. Great for keeping your resume, business cards, a pen and whatever else you may need all in one spot. Mine is similar to this one at Staples and it has had a ton of use in the last few years.
  3. Thank-you cards and stamps. Never under-estimate the power of a handwritten thank you. Always send a thank you note after an interview, informational interview, the end of an internship, or sometime someone just helps you out. Don’t wait until after one of these events to go buy thank you cards and stamps, keep them on hand (perhaps in your padfolio)! For interviews it is especially important to get your thank you delivered as soon as possible. Write that note in that in the car, stamp it and stick it in the mail before even going home. For the actual cards, you don’t have to spend a lot on them, it’s about the content, not how fancy the card is. I’ve even bought some at the Dollar Tree. My one suggestion is to buy ones that look professional and appropriate regardless of gender.

I’m sure there are other things, but I think these three are biggies. What is your favorite career accessory?

Not Writing a Thesis

So, last week in my blog post I talked about the decision to go back to get my MBA, in this post I’m going to write about how I¬†FINISHED¬†the process!

In my MBA program at SDSU we had the option of writing a thesis or partaking in a business consulting project coupled with an exam. Affectionately known as BA795, I chose to participate in the business consulting capstone project. My decision was partially based on:

  1. Unless you plan on going into academia, a thesis is seen as somewhat worthless to many in the business community.
  2. Hiring managers like to see “results,” a project was more¬†likely¬†to give me that over a theoretical research paper.
  3. I like to give my opinions (one reason a blog is a fantastic option for me) – I like it even better when people listen!
  4. I one day would love to pursue a career as a marketing consultant and this was a nice mini-start.

For BA795 all participants were given a list of participating companies and the help they needed. The companies and projects ranged from huge hotel corporations needing a diversified marketing strategy to start-ups needing to know if their idea would pan out in the marketplace.  Each member of the upcoming graduating class ranked which project they would like to participate in, we were then assigned a group and a company to consult with.

So, here lies the crux of the situation. As groups were announced we all sat around like elementary school kids getting picked for¬†dodge ball, “Will I getting picked for the ‘cool’ project?” “Will my group be a bunch of slackers?”


It’s the risk you take when you opt in for a group project rather than a solo thesis!

I ended up being assigned to a client that needed help with developing a branding/rebranding analysis along with three other MBA candidates. I knew one of the girls, Kari, personally and as much as I hate to admit this to her I knew she would make a fantastic group member ūüėČ (I have to keep up the teasing¬†relationship¬†we¬†developed¬†– Kari is actually one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I have had the pleasure of working with).¬† I had not had the pleasure of working with Adam and Melissa in my MBA career but I am SOOOOO glad they were my other group members! The four of us never had any issues with each other and everyone produced spectacular work ON TIME!

Once we jumped through some hoops and touchy issues with our two assigned¬†advisers¬†(who I still refuse to accept we needed) we were on a roll. Unlike other groups that had issues with difficult clients, our client was FANTASTIC! We met with a representative for our client’s organization who was understanding, compassionate of our time restrictions, incredibly¬†accessible¬†to any questions that arose, and warned us up front that even if our suggestions were not acted upon they were appreciated – dare I say it, they were the perfect¬†client we’ll probably never see again in our¬†consulting¬†careers.

On the client side, I believe most of the companies came out of the experience with applicable real-world direction and information they could use to enhance their business – at a great cost! I reached out to our client representative to see why they considered coming to SDSU MBA’s for help:¬†“I went with the SDSU MBA student consultant group not only because I was familiar with the program as a past participant, but also because I would get a fresh perspective and analysis based on techniques and applications the group had learned during their time in the MBA program. I’ve found the group’s final product to be a great road map and guideline to what the tribal development can be.”

Basically, our group was able to help our client with a fresh perspective and apply the education we had¬†received. Along with our 200+ page report (that cost about $100,000,000,000 to print at Kinkos) we left this experience with applied knowledge and a group bond that we still have (even if these guys blew me off for happy hour this week ūüėČ ).

Writing a Thesis

Not all master’s programs require writing a thesis. In the Mass Communication and Media Studies program at San Diego State I was given a choice between writing a thesis and taking comprehensive exams. Most people choose comprehensive exams for various reasons, but a big part of it is that the commitment isn’t as long term. Yes, they are very intense and require studying for weeks, but a thesis is a more drawn-out process that can take a year or more of dedication. Despite this, I chose the thesis route. That choice is not for everyone, but based on my personal goals, made more sense. Here’s why:

  1. I had an area of research that I wanted to explore and become an “expert” in. For comprehensive exams you must have a solid understanding of a wide variety of topics. For a thesis, you choose one topic and dig deeper… and deeper…and deeper.
  2. I would like to pursue a Ph.D. at some point. Most doctoral programs want to see that a candidate has done their own research and has what it takes to see a project through from start to finish.
  3. Writing a thesis is part of the grad school experience that I wanted. I wanted to add to the body of knowledge in PR and have something that I could take with me forever.

Knowing I made the right decision about writing a thesis didn’t make the process easier. In fact, there were times where I was so overwhelmed I didn’t think I would ever get to where I am now (very close to done). It does NOT have to be that way though. If you’re writing a thesis, here are some tips that might help you out:

Faculty, students and alumni representing SDSU at the International Public Relations Research Conference where I presented my thesis as research in progress.

  1. Buy a book on thesis or dissertation writing and read it. Demystifying Dissertation Writing by Peg Single is a book my friend, Navy Cmdr. K.C. Marshall, bought for me and I should have read it cover to cover BEFORE starting my writing process. It is full of great tips about establishing a writing space, writing partner, routine and overcoming the many forms of writer’s block.
  2. Talk about your challenges! This is definitely discussed in Single’s book, but I still want to call this one out separately. Writing a thesis can feel isolating. It is by far the biggest project you have ever done and you are doing it by yourself. My thesis became a source of anxiety for me and it took me too long to speak up about it to my adviser. I eventually did and felt much better after venting. Maybe your adviser will be the best person to talk to or maybe you’d feel more comfortable with someone else. Talk to colleagues also writing a thesis or see a school therapist. Your university has resources to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. Use them!
  3. Think beyond “getting it done”. Of course you want to graduate, but if you look into conference and publication opportunities for your research, it will be far more rewarding.

Have any of you written a thesis? Any advice I’m missing?

Getting Your MBA

My cap (and yes, I’m still available for hire)!

Some of the first feedback I recieved when I started telling people that I was trying to go back to school to get my MBA was: “You won’t get in”… “You need real-world experience”… “Without work experience more schooling is pointless”… “That’ll be a lot of¬†money.”

When first trying to put pen to paper (or keys to online medium) regarding the topic “why go back to business school” I couldn’t think of anything. I knew my reasons but I know people have different reasons for going back to get their MBA at different¬†points in their lives. So, to ensure I got the full spectrum I decided to ask a few of my fellow classmates.

Our reasons span the following for pursuing our MBAs

  • Hiding out from the recession
  • Networking
  • Opening up employment opportunities
  • Because we intrinsically wanted it

Below is some of the feedback I received from my fellow MBAers:

“I had finished my degree in psychology and realized I did not want to go into counseling or research. I decided that the best way to apply the skills from psychology to the real world was to go into business and that an MBA would be the best way to break into the field.” –¬†Jason Hebert

Bret Fredrickson¬†was the victim of company downsizing and had found himself unemployed. He saw his options as, “Spend[ing] my time writing countless cover letters or study for a test that to this day still makes me nauseous to think about (the GMAT).” Asking Bret about how he felt about his SDSU MBA program, he responded that it has, “opened a lot of doors that otherwise would have been shut… I met a lot of great people and heard a lot of inspiring stories that lit a fire under me. I gained a deeper understanding of the gray areas in business, and acquired the confidence needed to be direct, open, and to lead successfully. An MBA isn’t for everyone, and in no way is it more advantageous than actually running a business, but for me, it was a segue that launched an array of opportunities.” Bret gained an entrepreneurial attitude and Co-Founded¬†SoftSkate¬†a skateboard grip tape alternative company. Follow Bret’s upcoming endeavors on Twitter!

John McMillan, known lovingly as ‘Johnny Mac’¬†in our program (and as the kid that doesn’t wear shoes) thought that gaining an MBA would give his resume a competitive edge and land him a killer job. What he found was “the drive to start [his] own business, because who likes making money for someone else?” John also credits the program with expanding his professional network through his, “excessive involvement with competitions and business organizations that will truly help [him] succeed in the field of entrepreneurship. In the end it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that will make you successful!” – Seriously peeps, Johnny’s on the road to greatness with his enthusiasm so watch this kid!

Courtney Koscheka¬†was also downsized out of a job and decided to seriously act on her lingering idea of heading back to get an MBA. When asked about how she felt about her situation she replied, “They seriously did me the biggest favor. I packed up my desk, called my mom on the way home, and went straight to the post office to get my application packets in the mail. Fast forward a few years later, and I’m now in a tremendous amount of debt and feel like I’m starting at square one in the work force, but I’ve made some of the most amazing friends a girl could ever ask for. In addition, not only have I made friends, I’ve added some amazingly talented and helpful people to my ‘network.'” Courtney is also a stellar blogger like Nicole and me, so make sure you check out her blog!¬†To boot she has some interesting news about an emerging company!

Tara Taylor, Richa Saxena, Adrienne White, Meghann Reist Boyd, and Katie Lyons all indicated a mixture of a crappy economy, wanting to bolster their resumes, open new doors, explore new opportunities, and to meet new people as the reason they decided to get an MBA. (Be sure to follow what Meghann, Katie, and Courtney are collaborating on here!)

“I¬†swore I’d never go back to school when I finished my undergrad. My 4 year undergrad degree was the most unguided 6 years of my life. I was fortunate to have good connections and landed a career building job and started working early, so I knew I could build on my work experience. . .Later on though I began to think differently. I realized I was fortunate enough to have good work experience, but it was difficult to “legitimize” that work experience. . . So I figured the MBA would help me meet new people, get exposure to other industries and skills, and add credibility to the skills I had already developed, plus work paid for some of it. So far I have been right; I have learned some stuff in classes, but the best value I have gotten out of my MBA is the people I have met and the exposure to new things that I would not have seen otherwise.” –¬†Ross Bundy

“I did it…[for] the accomplishment of doing it for yourself. Everything else falls into place with determination, hard work and execution.” –¬†Alex Henry¬†

“My mom got her master’s at SDSU when I was little; She had her diploma framed beautifully in her office and I always wanted the same thing. After working for about 5 years, I decided it was finally time to go back to school. It was a lot of long hours and hard work, but looking back it was a great experience and I now have the same beautiful diploma frame as my mom.” –¬†Kari Evans

What we all got out of our experience was much of the same:

  • Meeting great and influential people. Not only each other (and we know we’ll all end up somewhere amazing) but incredible professors that inspired us.
  • Real world applications – our program was not just theoretical, and that’s essential for us trying to break into the different realms of businesses – we received a lot of applied instruction.
  • Finding our passion. Whether it be to create our own company (like Bret with SoftSkate or Courney, Katie¬†, and Meghann¬†with CKM Events) or discovering a facet in which you’re interested in (like me with marketing!).
  • Confidence. I tossed a post up on Facebook asking for help with this topic. I really expected some of these joksters to only write about the incredible debt we are in (which WAS mentioned) but the majority of the information was serious and EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. of them exuded the confidence that we will all become successful due to our obtaining our MBAs.

As a wrap-up. Every person I spoke with believes they received invaluable training in the 2 (often longer) years they spent (or are still spending) obtaining their MBAs. Besides the debt we are in, none of us would trade a second of our experience and education (well, I will say our capstone BA 795 was a bitch – more on that next week!).

Many of my classmates when we finally finished our MBAs! Obviously it was a tough road – illustrated by our glowing eyes.

Grad School for PR

Since a graduate degree is not required to have a successful career in PR, I have had many people call my education ‚Äúpointless‚ÄĚ, a ‚Äúwaste of time‚ÄĚ, and a ‚Äúwaste of money‚ÄĚ…and that‚Äôs what they say to my face! So, I feel that it is necessary to share a different perspective on the

Me with my buddies, Eric and Erika, at graduation.


First of all, it is true that grad school won’t help you pitch media, write press releases, create media lists, write web copy or draft tweets. Those are all things that entry-level practitioners should know after a Bachelor’s degree or their first internship. So, what are things that grad school WILL do? (Disclaimer: I am in no way saying that people that don’t go to grad school can’t develop any of these skills, I am simply saying these are areas that grad school can help you grow.)

  1. Improve your critical thinking skills. Grad school teaches you how to think in a different way. This is something I use from my education every single day without realizing it. In grad school you are expected to analyze complex situations, form opinions and defend them.
  2. Increase your knowledge of mass communication theory.¬† This is one that is often called ‚Äúpointless‚ÄĚ, but I disagree. Knowing the theoretical basis of what you do can help you make decisions about new situations as well as help you explain to your clients WHY you do what you do.
  3. Help you understand research and its application. Grad school is a great place to improve your research skills both to inform your strategies and evaluate them.
  4. Broaden your career opportunities. Interested in academia or applied research? Not everyone is, but if you are, grad school will help you get there.

Choosing to go to grad school is not for everyone and even after you make that decision, choosing the right program is very important. I personally have had a great experience at SDSU and would never consider any learning experience “pointless”. PRSA San Diego’s featured member of July also attended my program, for what he said about it, look at question five.

What are your opinions on grad school for industries where an advanced degree is not required?

Also, keep an eye out later this week for Blake’s thoughts on getting an MBA!

PR is Math

We’ve all heard it at least once, “I got into PR because I suck at math”. Sorry, but if you suck at math or don’t like math, you probably aren’t going to get very far in your PR career. There, I said it. Now stop making the rest of us look bad.

You can be a great communicator and have creative ideas, but unless you can show your organization or client the impact of your efforts through research and evaluation, they will have no reason to keep you around. Research means measurement and measurement means math. You have to be able to understand statistics to show your client their ROI.

So, now that we agree that you need to at least tolerate math if you want to be a successful PR practitioner, what about those who love math (yes, we’re out there)? You know, the few of us who get giddy over statistics. Well, one option is academia. There will always be a need for passionate PR professors who give back to the field through research and education. But, that’s not the only option for math lovers.

Somewhere between traditional practitioners (media relations, community relations, etc.) and academia is the world of applied research. This is a world that I will explore this summer in Ann Arbor, Michigan at PRIME Research as part of a research fellowship I was rewarded. PRIME’s services include advanced media analytics and stakeholder surveys to aid in planning and evaluation.

PRIME is not the only agency out there that values research. If you love stats and PR, but aren’t sure about teaching, a career in applied research may be something to explore. I suggest checking out the Institute for Public Relations¬†to learn more about the research side of PR. Are you now drooling over these possibilities? If so, get back to analyzing some data on SPSS!