#AEJMC17 Panel Preview: PRD & Law & Policy

“Can Communications and Legal Get Along? Examining Tensions and Cooperation between Legal Counsel and Communication Practitioners”

(Co-sponsored with Law & Policy Division)

By Matt Ragas, DePaul University, and Alexander Laskin, Quinnipiac University

This panel is scheduled from 10:00-11:30am on Wednesday, August 9. This PF&R panel will focus on recent issues, developments and interactions involving communication and legal professionals in a corporate context. It will bring together experts from academe and the industry, who will discuss the benefits of transparent communication within legal and regulatory constraints and protections.

Specifically, this discussion will provide an overview of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) regulations that affect when and how stakeholders can communicate content about their organizations on professional and personal social media accounts. Many internal stakeholders also have access to sensitive and proprietary information about an organization, and their use of that information on social media can have major reputational impact. Managing such communications is a struggle for organizations, and represents a tension between PR practitioners and legal departments.

The panel will kick off with introductory remarks from two senior practitioners that have encountered such challenges and tensions, Susan Fleming, senior vice president of Marketing for OptumRx, and  Kirtsten Hines, deputy general counsel, OptumRx. OptumRx is a fast-growing unit of Optum, a health services and innovation company owned by UnitedHealth Group, which ranks sixth on the FORTUNE 500. Susan and Kirsten will discuss their roles and responsibilities, how their two functions collaborate and address possible tensions. They will share key learnings relevant to professionals and academics.

Gone is the day when a cease-and-desist letter was quietly filed in a desk drawer and met with compliance. Now a cease-and-desist letter over trademark or copyright infringement is posted on social media as fodder for a David vs. Goliath battle. Courtney Barclay, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Jacksonville University, will discuss why consulting with public relations professionals to understand the public risks associated with these types of legal actions is a must to prevent an unwanted social media backlash.

Cayce Myers, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech University, will discuss internal stakeholders, including employees who often have the greatest affect on an organization’s image.  Because the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recent decisions have made it more difficult for an employer to control what their employees say online, it is important for organizations to establish well defined social media policies that comply with legal standards while also serving the needs of the organization.  Sometimes this represents a clash of values between PR and legal departments.  The question is how to strike the right balance between organizational engagement with stakeholders and controlling social media use?

Publicly traded companies are overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) and must follow key regulations, such as Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD). Investor relations (IR)  is an area undergoing transformation around corporate disclosure and communications practices, particularly regarding the use of recognized social media channels. Matt Ragas, Ph.D., Associate Professor at DePaul University, will discuss recent developments around corporate disclosure and transparency, trends within investor relations, and the relationship between IR, the general counsel and the C-suite.

The panel will be moderated by Alexander Laskin, Ph.D., Professor of Strategic Communication at Quinnipiac University.

#AEJMC17 Panel Preview: PRD & SPIG

Breaking the Cycle of Burnout for Minority Professors:

PRD and SPIG to Co-sponsor Important Panel Discussion at AEJMC

By Rowena Briones Winkler, University of Maryland

The Issue

As college campuses find themselves diversifying themselves faster than the number of faculty that can teach them, a phenomenon called invisible labor has emerged for minority professors.  According to June’s 2015 Chronicle of Higher Ed article, this “cultural taxation” causes professors in minority groups to feel immense pressure to serve in a variety of different roles to meet the needs of their institutions, as role models, mentors, and ethnic representatives. This disproportionate and seemingly endless cycle of demands can lead to negative outcomes for minority faculty including tokenism, quick burnout and issues with recruitment and retention.

The Need

Although this issue appears to span across campuses across the nation, very little higher ed administrations are making strides toward offering support for minority faculty. There are few exemplary examples where institutions document these additional service commitments and mentoring relationships for what they truly are; and even if they are, they typically do not “count” toward promotion and tenure as research and teaching typically do.

The Panel

In an effort to spark conversations regarding this important issue, the Public Relations Division and Small Programs Interest Group are teaming up in a special panel discussion at the AEJMC annual conference. Panelists from various career stages will come together to discuss their own lived experiences regarding diversity in the academy, along with potential solutions for how to contend with invisible labor issues that are in need of becoming more visible.

Panel Information: Thursday, August 10 from 5:00-6:30 p.m.

Dr. Vivian B. Martin is professor and chair of the Department of Journalism at Central Connecticut State University. She is a former head of SPIG and helped found SPIG’s journal. Dr. Martin can share from her 16 years of experience in the academy as an African-American female professor.

Dr. Hua Jiang is an assistant professor teaching at Department of Public Relations, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University. Dr. Jiang currently serves as Chair of PRSA’s Work, Life and Gender (WLG) Committee (2014-2016).

Dr. Nathian Shae Rodriguez specializes in critical-cultural and digital media studies. His research focuses on minority representation in media, specifically LGBTQ and Latinx portrayals and identity negotiation, as well as pop culture, identity, radio broadcasting, and issues of masculinity.

Dr. Jack Ryan, is the coordinator of the Consortium for Faculty Diversity and Vice Provost at Gettysburg College.


Dr. Rowena Briones Winkler is the Managing Director of the Oral Communication Program in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland. Her research agenda explores how digital media impact public relations and health contexts, particularly in the areas of social justice, crisis communication, and risk communication.

Source: June, A. W. (2015, November). The invisible labor of minority professors. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

#AEJMC2017 Panel Preview: PRD & ComSHER

By Geah Pressgrove, West Virginia University

Public Relations, Public Health, Public Good: Preparing a New Generation of Nonprofit and Public Sector Communications Professionals

Wednesday, August 9, from 8:15 to 9:45 a.m.

Joint Session Panel: Public Relations Division & ComSHER

In recent years, the field of public relations has become more focused on doing public good. Certain areas, such as health, science, and environmental communication, have been recognized as growing areas within public relations and concurrently, the number of nonprofits that address these issues are on the rise. While public relations, science, and health are often considered separate domains, education in these areas overlap, particularly related to strategies and tactics that nonprofit organizations use to reach audiences and motivate actions.

Thus, topics that will be covered in this panel include incorporating nonprofit issues and lessons in the public relations classroom, showing students how their skills can be used to improve the public good in a variety of career paths, partnering with science agencies to share science with stakeholders, partnering with nonprofit organizations in the public relations classroom and discussing the relationship between health, science, and public relations communication. Panelists include Brooke McKeever, Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina; Geah Pressgrove, Assistant Professor a West Virginia University; Katherine E. Rowan, Professor at George Mason University; Rebecca R. Ortiz, Assistant Professor at Syracuse University; and Chris Wilson, Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University.

Relationship between health, science, and public relations communication

“Health and science communication and public relations have natural ties that have grown stronger in recent years, and nonprofit and government organizations often help facilitate these connections or manage relevant campaigns,” said McKeever. “Media advocacy is the perfect example of a concept used in health and science communication that really has roots in public relations…. At the intersection of these three areas – health communication, public relations, and the nonprofit/public sector – are where many of the best, research-based strategies and campaigns come from, some of which will be discussed during this panel.”

Partnering with nonprofit organizations and incorporating nonprofit issues in the public relations classroom

In response to student interest in these careers, sector demand for trained communicators, and the service-focused missions that many universities are adopting, numerous colleges are experimenting with varying pedagogical approaches. For instance, numerous public relations programs have been enhanced with courses focused specifically on nonprofit organizations. Health, science, and environmental communication courses and certificate programs are proliferating across the country. Still other colleges and schools are experimenting with preparing students through special topics and skills courses, and service and experiential learning.

“My colleagues and I have been experimenting with different service-learning approaches over the past few years in both skills based classes and the capstone,” says Pressgrove.  “During the panel I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned from these varying experiences working with small and large budget projects; diverse partnerships across the college, campus and community; and experimenting with new technology like virtual and augmented reality.”

Wilson plans to expand on this idea by discussing how he integrates nonprofit communication education within his classroom. “Although we don’t have a specific nonprofit or public sector communications class in our curriculum, I have been experimenting with a few ways to give students exposure to this type of work in the classes that I teach,” said Wilson. “I look forward to sharing what I have learned with those who might be in a similar situation.”

Showing how skills can be used to improve the public good in a variety of career paths

Many students are breaking the Millennial generation stereotype by choosing careers that allow them to help others and the community. As such, Ortiz encourages professors to help students achieve these aspirations by providing examples and opportunities in and outside of the classroom. At the panel, Ortiz will be discussing how she incorporates public health topics (i.e. healthy eating, recycling, volunteerism, and sexual consent education) into communication research and how she plans courses to show students how their skills can be used to improve the public good in both non-profit and for-profit sectors.

“Our students, considered to be part of the “Millennial” generation, are often stereotyped by others as being self-consumed and narcissistic, but many are interested in career paths that will allow them to “do good” with their skills and improve their communities,” said Ortiz. “It is therefore important for college professors to provide examples and opportunities in and outside of the classroom for how they can fulfill these aspirations and to show them how these types of opportunities can occur in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors, as brands of all kinds are expected to become more socially conscious and transparent with their consumers.”

Partnering with science agencies to share science with stakeholders

Similarly, Rowan has found that science agencies such as state environmental offices, departments of fish and wildlife, as well as many federal agencies, need university partners to assist in sharing research with stakeholder audiences.

“We find that scientists enjoy thinking about the National Academies’ (2009) “best practices” for informal science education.  Each of these best practices is evidence-based, but some are more intuitive than others.  For example, scientists understand that they need to be emotionally engaging, one of the best practices, though they might welcome tips on how to be so,” says Rowan.  “At AEJMC, in August,  I look forward to sharing more about what we are learning when we help scientists share their research with stakeholders.”

Please mark your calendar to be a part of this panel as we demonstrate how varying approaches can be used to prepare students to work in nonprofit and cause-related public relations with a special focus on health, science, and environment. Panelists will share their experiences from classroom innovation including examples of effective activities and case study suggestions that will help prepare students for the unique challenges that face them in their chosen career paths.  


Inez Kaiser Award Call for Nominations (Due May 24!)

By Candace Parrish, North Carolina Central University 

Nominations for the Inez Kaiser Graduate Students of Color Awards are accepted by the Public Relations Division until the May 24th deadline. The award honors Inez Kaiser, who passed away in 2016. Inez was the first African-American woman to belong to PRSA and to head a public relations agency with national clients. Inez’s firm—Inez Kaiser & Associates—was the oldest African-American, female-owned PR agency. In celebration of her life and her many triumphs, PRD and the Inez Kaiser Committee will continue to provide minority students with the opportunity to advance their academic journeys in her name. The Kaiser Awards are supported by a grant from the PRSA Foundation.

Up to three award recipients will receive a $1,260 check to cover one year of PRD membership, AEJMC membership, and travel costs to the conference. To receive the award, winners MUST attend the 2017 Awardees Dinner and PRD Business Meeting during the AEJMC National Conference in August. In addition, recipients will be assigned a Public Relations Division mentor and take part in recommended sessions at the AEJMC National Conference.

Eligible students of color must be enrolled in graduate study in a public relations program and intending to pursue a career as a public relations educator. The awards seek to encourage these students’ academic career aspirations, and in turn, their involvement broadens the diversity within the Public Relations Division, AEJMC and the public relations profession.

Preference will be given to applicants who are:

  • Doctoral students
  • Graduate students of color
  • Students presenting a paper at the AEJMC conference

Nomination process: 

  • Self nominations by eligible graduate students or nominations by PRD/AEJMC members on behalf of eligible graduate students are accepted via the online application form


  • Completion of online nomination and application form: http://bit.ly/2pnBbyC

Optional (but recommended):

  • Letter of recommendation from student’s faculty advisor
  • Current curriculum vitae of student

**Optional materials can be sent to: PRDInezKaiserAward@gmail.com.

Deadline: The deadline for nominations and materials is May 24, 2017.

Please contact Kaiser Awards committee chair Dr. Candace Parrish (North Carolina Central University) at: PRDInezKaiserAward@gmail.com for more information or questions.

PR Research Outside the U.S. Gets a Boost From a New Trial Partnership

By Emily Kinsky, West Texas A&M University

I have always been a fan of travel and learning about other cultures, so when I first heard about PRD’s award for international research in honor of Susanne A. Roschwalb, I became an immediate fan. For years, I have longed to increase that award. To help a student with international research in a substantive way, I wanted us to be able to cover a plane ticket.

The Roschwalb grant became endowed under AEJMC’s earlier minimum of $5,000 (the minimum is now $10,000). The funds were gathered from countless PRD members. While the award is endowed, the interest we receive from it is tiny. We don’t even get the $250 that we give away each year. As far back as I know, the interest has had to be supplemented with money from the general fund for each award, except for last year when American University covered the $250.

At the conference in Minneapolis, Jensen Moore, the outgoing head of Mass Communication & Society, who is also a member of PRD, approached Tiffany Gallicano, the outgoing head of PRD, with an idea. The executive team of MC&S wanted to support a student travel grant, and because of her membership in PRD, Jensen knew about the Roschwalb award. Talks began. They continued as Jennifer Kowalewski and I became heads. Jen and I emailed and called each other numerous times from August through April as we refined the language and procedures for this 3-year trial partnership. We talked with our executive committee members and many past heads, and as of May1, the deal was made for a 3-year trial partnership.

I am thrilled that this year’s recipient can finally buy a plane ticket (or most of one) to help with his/her international research! Thanks to a donation from American University and an agreement by Mass Communication & Society to match the funds we give toward the Susanne A. Roschwalb Grant for International Study and Research awardee this year, the selected student applicant for 2017 will receive $1,000 in August to go toward international PR research efforts!

Thank you to Jensen Moore and Jen Kowalewski from Mass Communication & Society for approaching us with this proposal. Thank you to Tiffany Gallicano for recognizing how great this partnership could be and for initiating our annual outreach to American University for support. Thank you to Kathy Fitzpatrick and American University for helping us reach $1,000. And thank you to all of you who helped create this award and who have supported this grant in the past!

Now, I hope you will all share the news with every student you know who wants to study PR and how our field interacts with society outside of the United States!

Read more here: http://aejmc.us/prd/students/roschwalb-grant/