Getting Schooled – And Liking It!

Events, Public Relations Posted Oct 19, 2015 by Chris Carleton

Boston Business Journal Technology Editor Sara Castellanos and I recently paired up to guest-lecture about public relations, media relations and branding at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.

questromI think it may have been the first 8 a.m. class I ever made it to at BU. I’m a 100-years-ago grad of the College of Communication, then-labeled School of Public Communications. They have a Starbucks in Questrom; that would’ve helped my crack-of-dawn class attendance back in the day. But I digress…

Sara Castellanos, Technology Editor at Boston Business Journal

Sara Castellanos, Technology Editor at Boston Business Journal

Chris Carleton, Founder CHEN PR

Chris Carleton, Founder CHEN PR

Sara and I were there at the invitation of Carol Meier to speak with her branding class. Carol’s name will ring a bell with many of you. Prior to teaching at BU and Northeastern for the past few years, she held a variety of exec-level marketing and strategy positions in the local tech community—Boston Technology/Comverse, MoreMagic and Artisoft. She also served as head of MassNetComms, one of the organizations that merged to form what’s now the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC).

Deep sixing the hackneyed antagonistic flak-versus-journalist urban legend, we talked about
what a typical day looks like for each of us; about the roads taken that led us to our current positions; about what it is that makes us really enjoy what we do, even on the bad days. (OK, not on every bad day.)

We shared tips “from both sides of the desk,” about how PR and press can work together productively—sprinkling in a few war stories to emphasize what works and what doesn’t. We went to lengths, through examples, to bust the silly (and dangerous) myth that that any press is good press. And we dug into the impact that media coverage—both good and bad—has on the brand-building efforts of companies ranging from seed-funded startups to publicly traded multinationals.

The students weren’t the only ones learning. I’m in touch with Sara pretty regularly. Sometimes I’m pitching her a story idea. Other times we’re comparing notes on what’s up in local tech circles. Yet, I didn’t fully grasp some of her day-to-day priorities, timelines and coverage benchmarks. Knowing those details, and sharing the information with my CHEN PR peers, enables us to forge a great working relationship with her as well as foster a better understanding of what other writers may be facing in the fast-paced era of digital journalism. Sara and I had to run in different directions as soon as the class was over, so I’ll have to ask her after-the-fact if she picked up on anything in my comments that she didn’t already grok.

Notably, we were impressed at the caliber of the students and the thoughtful questions they asked. Sara also gave them an in-class exercise where they broke into pairs, with one person pitching the story and the other serving as a reporter who’d decide if the hook was strong enough to care or not. A few of the teams then did an admirable job of pitching Sara.

Gauging that nobody fell asleep at that early hour, I supposed we proved at least somewhat entertaining, if not informative. We’ll find out for sure when we get the student-penned reviews shortly. Sara rocked it. For my part, I’m hoping the grade is based on the bell curve.

Pbuzz lab.S. I had the chance to grab coffee with Ian Mashiter after class. Ian’s a good friend and former client who’s now Questrom’s director of entrepreneurship activities. Between The BUzz Labs and a bunch of other initiatives, it’s great to see the tremendous program he and his peers are building at my alma mater. Had that been around when I was there, I might’ve made more 8 a.m. classes. Maybe? Hmmmm…