Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Personal Knowledge Mastery Course with Harold Jarche: Days 5, 6, and 7

We’ve looked at two topics during the last three days of Harold Jarche's Personal Knowledge Mastery course: narrating one's work and the "seek, sense, share" framework. Here are my related thoughts:

Narrating one's work: Narration here refers to writing about what you do while reflecting on the experience. That means you identify challenges, glean insights, etc. It's a two-part process that doesn't come naturally to me. 

First, I rarely consciously step back from my work to think about what I do, how I do it, and why I do it. I tend to take for granted, and even trivialize, what I know and do. I short-circuit self-reflection that stokes curiosity and with it a desire for self-improvement. 

Second, such narration is written. I can draw on more than 20 years of personal journaling, so it's a muscle I've developed and used on personal matters. My challenge: cultivate a regular writing practice on professional issues that can make narration insightful, rewarding, and enjoyable. 

"Seek, sense, share" framework: After clarifying what to learn, one must identify and gather related information, hone in on what's most relevant and interesting; interpret/analyze/"add value" to it; and share it with others. 

As I noted in my post about the first day of this course, I find the initial task (seeking) extremely challenging. Instead, I find it easy to let my mind wander in varied, different directions (e.g., European history, language learning) to the detriment of real insight into topics that matter most in my work every day. So, I'm taking it one small step at a time, by focusing on one work-related subject at a time. I've made great progress in focusing my efforts on Twitter so they're more in line with what I'm working on. I've also resumed using Feedly and Google alerts to collect a consistent stream of information on relevant topics. 

I'm struggling with the "sharing" component, as it requires "knowing when, with whom, and how, to share." Indeed, these are acquired skills that run counter to the “share often about anything” mindset that dominates social media. I'm mulling over Harold’s guidance on this matter: to identify what people need and want, first and foremost. Then, share it via a blog post, as it can be sought out at one’s convenience (or shared when appropriate). That approach fits how I’ve attempted to use my blog over the past decade. That said, I hope that time and effort in cultivating a PKM mindset will translate into more consistent posts on important issues.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Personal Knowledge Mastery Course with Harold Jarche: Days 3 and 4

 The next section of Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) course covers using Twitter. The bigger purpose is to build professional community. I’ve been using Twitter for twelve years, so I didn’t need to start from scratch. Instead, I decided to take the opportunity to review how I use Twitter. I’ve challenged myself to determine how I can better use it to serve my learning and professional relationship-building goals. 

What I’ve learned as I’ve reviewed who I had been following has been astounding. First, approximately a third of these accounts had not posted recently (in 2021, that is)—and quite a few had not used Twitter for more than five years. I recognized many of these accounts as belonging to former students. That by itself didn’t surprise me, given how I urged them to use Twitter for educational and networking purposes. That most of them had ceased using Twitter left me little reason to continue to follow them. That said, I’ll admit that I experienced a brief moment of regret in doing so, i.e., how could I unfollow my students?

I was surprised to find in this group of quiet accounts a good number that had ceased using Twitter in early-mid 2020. I suspect that decision in some way related to the pandemic and its negative impact on organizations and individuals alike. That is, certain activities had to fall by the wayside with Twitter use being one of them. Some of these accounts had an impressive number of followers (10,000 plus), moreover. 

I identified a second group of accounts that I couldn’t determine why I was following in the first place. My guess is that they came across one of my tweets, followed me, and I felt obligated to reciprocate. I’ve dropped most of these accounts.

A third group of accounts consisted of several categories. The first were “digital marketers” or “social media consultants.” There are an awful lot of people who describe their work in these terms. The second category consisted consultants and coaches active in areas I’m interested in (e.g., leadership). The third category included what I call one-way tweeters. These accounts share information that's largely marketing oriented, but haven’t responded to my past questions or comments. I’ve pruned this group considerably, one account at a time, after reviewing some of their recent tweets. I’ll admit that in doing so I felt a pang of remorse—i.e., they’d take it personally and unfollow me. Yet I know it’s time to clarify why I’m using the platform, and I simply can no longer follow accounts that don’t relate to my interests.  

That leaves me with about half as many accounts to follow as I had at the start of this week. And I’m still going through them, one by one, as I get clearer why I follow who I’ve been following and why I plan to continue to follow them.

The 1,170 accounts I’m following at present generally fall into the following categories:

  • My employers (universities) and related entities (e.g., public affairs at these university)
  • Public relations practitioners, as I remain active in the field even though I’m not currently practicing
  • Public relations academics, as I have written and done research in the discipline
  • Academics representing a broad range of fields
  • Higher education administrators
  • Teachers in higher education, as that’s my primary occupation
  • Adult learning

The vast majority of accounts I follow are US-based individuals and organizations. I want to do more work internationally, so I plan to follow additional accounts from outside the U.S. in one of the categories I’ve identified above. 

No doubt my assessment of Twitter will continue throughout this class, and well into the future. Stay tuned for my further thoughts on the topic. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Personal Knowledge Mastery Course with Harold Jarche: Day 2

I'm into the second day of the 40 day course on Personal Knowledge Mastery, led by Harold Jarche. Our first assignment was to map and visualize our network, initially by completing a "Network Mapping" to identify people I most readily seek out for support, guidance, and insight when tackling work challenges.


While spending time completing the "Network Mapping" worksheet, as well as some of the other optional exercises designed to help one analyze social media networks, I observed the following:

  • In terms of me doing my primary job (teaching), I rely on the same 3-4 people at my institution who are in my department (business school) to help when needed. We're about the same age and work in the same physical location. 
  • By and large, I work alone with little support or guidance in terms of preparing for classes, teaching, etc. My institution provides opportunities for faculty to gather to discuss topics of mutual interest. I attend some of these, and have even spoken at them. Outside of these gatherings, I occasionally have conversations about teaching with 2-3 colleagues I've come to know and like. These colleagues teach business classes, but not the ones I teach. 
  • I tend to rely on a small group of people (3-4) for advice/guidance on career-related matters. None of these individuals works in academia, or in business for that matter. 
  • I have frequent contact with professionals who practice public relations (as I once did) and teach public relations (as I do now), primarily through Twitter, a Facebook group, and my service on the Board of Directors of an industry professional association. 
  • In addition to public relations professionals, my Twitter feed consists of individuals who work in higher education (where I've worked for 14 years) and a mix of professional speakers, trainers, coaches, and consultants (roles I've also filled at different times over the last three decades). 
  • I was inspired to being to prune my Twitter feed, seeing that a lot of people I was following have not been active. In many other instances, I'm following people who followed me but for no other apparent reason.

Takeaways and Challenges

Jarche's narrative challenges class participants to ask network-centric questions (about what you're learning and who you're learning from) as opposed to hierarchically-focused questions (i.e., what do you do for a living). To focus on learning in networking never occurred to me. 

I've also prided myself on having a broad, deep network (especially on LinkedIn), which I've used over the years to connect students with employers, recruit organizations to work with students in my classes, etc. I'd characterize such use as largely transactional. Knowledge creation and sharing has never been part of the equation, for the most part. 

In short, I'm facing a sea change in terms of how I think about and practice networking. The timing is ideal for me to tackle this domain.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Personal Knowledge Mastery Course with Harold Jarche: Day 1

I've signed up for Harold Jarche's 40 day Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) course. Jarche defines PKM as a set of processes to make sense of our world so as to work more effectively. 

I only learned about PKM and Jarche's work ten days ago, in the process of listening to podcasts related to higher education. I was captivated by an interview with him, and quickly felt a sense of "this is exactly what I need, and now." I'll elaborate.

I often feel I'm spread pretty thin professionally, not to mention intellectually. I'm one of those people who easily can get lost chasing a variety of topics on the internet. Fortunately, I've curbed this behavior of late although focus and a broader purpose continues to be a challenge in my daily work.

Second, I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information I come across during my own browsing (not to mention what people are sharing in my social network feeds). I tend to ignore, rather than attempt to make sense of, this information. I'm hopeful that the course will help me to tackle this challenge head on, and in turn broaden my knowledge base and hone my insight into key challenges I face as an educator. 

Third, while I've developed some relationships born out of professional interests via social media, I continue to feel like I'm floundering around in an echo chamber. I'm inspired by what I've been reading/listening to regarding sharing knowledge and building community in terms of an "outcome" of PKM. 

Finally, I simply love learning about how people get and stay organized. I've read a bunch of "here's how I used PKM" pieces on the Internet and I found each fascinating, informative, and (here I go again with the word) inspiring. You can check some of these out here, here, here, and here

Our first activity is to visualize our network. I'll share the fruits of my labor on this assignment here in the coming days.

Friday, March 26, 2021

March 26, 2021 Paper Presentation: What about the Client in the Public Relations Campaigns Course? A Look at What the Literature Tells Us

This morning, at the International Academy of Business Disciplines (IABD) Annual Conference, I presented a paper entitled "What About the Client in the Public Relations Campaigns Course? A Look at What the Literature Tells Us." It's based on my review of scholarship on the public relations campaigns course, which I've been teaching most recently for University of San Francisco's MA in Professional Communication program. An abstract of the paper follows. I intend to submit it for publication in the near future. 

The public relations campaigns course serves as the “capstone,” or culminating, experience in undergraduate degree programs. It bears the weight of expectations in terms of preparing students for professional practice by providing them with opportunities to complete projects for real organizations (“clients”) (Aldoory & Wrigley, 2000; Benigni & Cameron, 1999). The needs of educators and students dominate the extensive literature on the course (see for example Farmer, Perry, & Ha, 2016; Harrison & Bak, 2017; McCollough, 2018; Muturi, An, & Mwangi, 2013). What is far less developed is the profile and motivation of clients, which are often community-based nonprofit organizations as the campaigns course has become a model for incorporating service learning into the public relations curriculum (Allison, 2008).  

Rogers and Andrews (2016) argue that the relationship between faculty, students, and clients calls for further analysis. To that end, they explore nonprofit organization communication needs and expectations of working with public relations students.  Elsewhere, Rogers and Andrews (2013) consider organization recruitment, selection, and retention, subjects also addressed in more broadly framed research on the public relations campaigns class (see for example Benigni, Cheng, & Cameron, 2004; Benigni, Wood, & Cameron, 2007/2008). This paper will review what the literature tells us about the client in the public relations campaigns class, and in the process will suggest issues and/or variables that might merit further inquiry in support of the work of faculty teaching the class. 


Aldoory, L., & Wrigley, B. (2000). Exploring the use of real clients in the PR campaigns course. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 54(4), 47-58.

Allison, A. W. (2008). A Best Practices Service Learning Framework for the Public Relations Campaigns Course. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(3), 50-60.

Benigni, V. L., & Cameron, G. T. (1999). Teaching PR campaigns: The current state of the art. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 54(2), 50-60. 

Benigni, V., Cheng, I. H., & Cameron, G. T. (2004). The role of clients in the public relations campaigns course. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 59(3), 259-277.

Benigni, V.L., Wood, J.C. & Cameron, G.T. (2007/8). A sense of agency: Utilising firms in the public relations campaigns course. Prism, 5 (1&2):

Farmer, B. A., Perry, L. G., & Ha, I.S. (2016). University-Community Engagement and Public Relations Education: A Replication and Extension of Service-Learning Assessment in the Public Relations Campaigns Course. The International Journal of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, 4(1), 235-254.

Harrison, G. B., & Bak, E. N. (2017). Service-Learning in a Public Relations Campaign Class: How Contingency Management Supports Positive Outcomes. Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, 8(2), 79-91.

McCollough, C. J. (2018). Competition and public relations campaigns: Assessing the impact of competition on quality of projects, partners, and students. Journal of Public Relations Education, 4(1), 25-48.

Muturi, N., An, S., & Mwangi, S. (2013). Students’ expectations and motivation for service-learning in public relations. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 68(4), 387-408.

Rogers, C., & Andrews, V. (2013). Coorientation theory and assessment of the RFP solution to client/service learner matchmaking. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 68(3), 242-254.

Rogers, C., & Andrews, V. (2016). Nonprofits’ expectations in PR service–learning partnerships. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 71(1), 95-106.

March 26, 2021 Panel Presentation: Public Relations Professionals and Graduate Standards in the Ever-Shifting Pandemic Landscape

This morning I participated in a panel discussion on "Public Relations Professionals and Graduate Standards in the Ever-Shifting Pandemic Landscape." The panel took place at the International Academy of Business Disciplines (IABD) Annual Conference, and was moderated by Tricia Hansen-Horn. Other panelists were Dani LaGree; Ashleigh Horn; Kylee Julian; and Adam Horn. Special thanks to Bonita Dostal-Neff for making this panel possible, as well as her ongoing support and mentorship.

I raised six points during our discussion. They were as follows:

  1. We've lost a year of each other's lives as a result of our physical separation during the pandemic. That meant a major disconnect with our students and colleagues. What will reconnection look like?
  2. Life has become harder, and more complicated, time consuming, and stressful for public relations practitioners and academics alike over the last year. Major shifts in lifestyle, work habits, and career selection are beginning to play out and no doubt will take some time to manifest completely.
  3. There are two kinds of online learners: those that choose it willingly, and the second, who were forced into online education because of the pandemic. Some of the latter group struggled, and from their perspective are better served by face-to-face education. As we increasingly move to an online education model, how do we continue to serve this latter group of individuals?
  4. Technology is essential in teaching and learning online, and often appears to drive conversations about those topics. Yet the burdens of this ever-changing technology are significant. How do we keep pace? 
  5. Communicators will be much needed as new issues come to dominate the landscape in the coming years. These include heightened concern about public health issues; the repurposing of readily available retail and commercial space; the evolution of urban areas in the wake of shifting uses of space; and the pursuit of strategies to address global warming.
  6. The availability of remote work, whether in the form of a full-time jobs or short-term contracts, will grow in public relations. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Two Presentations I'm Delivering on March 26, 2021: Public Relations Teaching During COVID, Teaching the PR Campaigns Class

I'm delivering two talks at the upcoming International Academy of Business Disciplines (IABD) Annual Conference, which will take place virtually later this month (March 26-27, 2021). Their titles and some relevant details are as follows:


Public Relations Standards During the Pandemic: Understanding Excellence Within Context and Function. As a panelist, I've been asked to address standards of excellence in public relations and graduate teaching as they have been impacted by the COVID pandemic.

Tricia Hansen-Horn (University of Central Missouri) will chair this panel. Other panelists (with their affiliations in parentheses) include Adam Horn (University of Central Missouri); Kylee Julian (Innovative Public Relations); Kyle Chura (Kyle Chura Associates); and Danielle LaGree (Kansas State University).


What about the Client in the Public Relations Campaigns Course? A Look at What the Literature Tells Us. This paper will review what previous research tells us about the client in the public relations campaigns course, and in the process will suggest issues and/or variables that might merit further inquiry in support of the work of faculty teaching the class (which I have done since 2002).

I'll share materials I produce for these presentations after they're delivered. In the meantime, please let me know if you have questions. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Talk on "Get Prepared to Speak Impromptu" at National Association of Government Communicators Event on 5/27/21

I'm delighted to announce that I've been selected as a speaker at the National Association of Government Communicators 2021 Communications School, to take place on May 27, 2021. My topic: "Get Prepared to Speak Impromptu," which I first became curious about as a long-time member of Toastmaster International, and now cover in my courses on communication for leaders for students enrolled in the MBA, MS in Program Management, and MS in Contract Management degree programs at the Naval Postgraduate School

More details to follow. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Best Teaching Evaluation I've Ever Received

I'm still speechless after reading this comment from a student on a course evaluation form I received in 2020. It's inspired me to think about new ways to share how I do what I do with current and aspiring educators. If you're interested in learning more contact me directly; otherwise, stay tuned for details.

"I really, really enjoyed Mitchell as a professor. . . The professionalism that Mitchell displays sets the tone for the course. He is both personable and realistic – which made the class a pleasure. The lack of pressure was so inviting that it made me wish the course was longer, or that Mitchell could lead all the other courses. Something I really appreciated was the constant collaboration Mitchell engaged in: always asking the class for feedback and input, requesting personal stories and dialogue. I learned more about the subject than I thought I would have."

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Persistence, Chance, and Luck Can Make a Career in Public Relations


“You shouldn’t have started your consulting practice so early in your career,” said one public relations professional while interviewing me for a job. 

“We couldn’t figure out your professional narrative,” proclaimed another practitioner, who was chair of a committee considering my application for membership in a public relations honorary organization. 

These comments stung. Yet once I put aside my bruised feelings, I could discern the underlying issue: my career had evolved in a non-traditional fashion that to some defied logic if not common sense. 

I never intended to work in public relations. Even after I landed my first job at a public relations agency, my path was anything but straight and narrow. I ended up where I am today through persistence, chance, and luck, not as the result of a detailed plan executed over time.

I originally intended to become a history professor. After earning my BA, I moved to Northern California to attend Stanford University’s PhD program in Modern European History.

I left school after earning a master’s degree, realizing that I was ill-suited for work as a professional historian. I turned my energies towards finding a full-time job.

A non-profit organization hired me as a Fundraising Assistant. I never raised funds, although I assumed other responsibilities. 

My roommate at the time talked about Toastmasters, a nonprofit organization that teaches public speaking and leadership.  It sounded like something I would enjoy. I checked out a local club. I liked it. I joined. Little did I realize that I had stumbled onto something that would transform my career.

I threw myself into Toastmasters. It turned out to be a place where I could channel energies that I had not yet had the opportunity to apply in my job. I prepared and delivered a lot of speeches. I assumed volunteer leadership positions throughout the organization. 

I began to promote the benefits of Toastmasters. I devoured its materials on publicity and applied what I learned; still, I felt more could be done. I turned to local community newspapers (the Internet wasn’t available yet). I started to learn as much as I could about them. I noted types of news they covered, and how I should submit information.  I had no one to teach me. I learned by doing. 

My efforts yielded many stories about Toastmasters clubs in local media. My fellow members were impressed. 

Meanwhile, I had concluded that I needed to leave my non-profit job. I hoped to apply my new media relations skills in a new job. A member of my Toastmasters club, who worked at a public relations agency, knew about my interests.  He invited me to come in for an informational interview. I did. Two months later, the agency offered me a job. I soon discovered I was the only person at the agency who didn’t have an undergraduate degree in either public relations or journalism. 

I started as a junior account executive, and in that role I pitched countless stories to reporters.  I did reasonably well in this work. What I understood less well was writing. I had no clue how to write using an inverted pyramid structure. I learned quickly, by writing countless drafts of press releases, pitch letters, and other documents. 

I look back fondly on this agency experience as I forged many relationships I’ve maintained over the years. Yet that agency’s harried pace and relentless pressure to perform wore me down. I looked for a public relations position inside an organization, and soon found one. 

After a year and a half in that position, I thought: “I can do this on my own. I don’t need anyone to direct me. I can be my own boss.” Voila, Mitchell Friedman Communications was born. It was 1992, when few public relations professionals were independent consultants. 

I didn’t have a business plan. I simply reached out to former agency colleagues. Several hired me to help with their media relations efforts. 

Soon, my Toastmasters experience beckoned me to expand my services. I realized I wanted to speak, train, and teach. I reached out to my former agency colleagues, who hired me to lead training programs. They also referred me to others. 

I craved opportunities to build longer-term relationships with individuals who sought professional development, above and beyond short-term training programs. Teaching seemed to hold some promise. Again, chance provided an opportunity. As a board member of a local public relations group, I got to know the academic coordinator at a school that offered master’s degrees in public relations. During one conversation she commented that “we’re always looking for people to teach.” I responded immediately: “I’ve always wanted to teach.” Five months later, in January 1998, I was teaching a new course about public relations on the Internet.

That teaching opportunity led to others at universities located throughout the U.S. and included the public relations campaigns course I continue to teach today. Still, as a part-time instructor, there didn’t appear to be a long-term career path for me at any university.  

I decided to return to school to earn a doctorate to increase my chances of landing a full-time teaching position. I studied organizational behavior and leadership, which I felt nicely complimented my public relations experience. After graduating in 2011, I worked in administrative roles at local universities while continuing to teach courses on public relations campaigns, crisis management, leadership, and other topics. 

In late 2016, I started a new part-time teaching position. It was unlike others as there was a legitimate path to a full-time role. I worked hard to get it.  In 2018 I landed that full-time teaching position—20 years after my first university teaching position.  

As I teach, consult, and coach clients today, I can share the details of my path with a confidence I had long felt was beyond my grasp. Indeed, there is no one, right career trajectory in the public relations field. I’m living proof of that.

(This piece was originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Public Relations Strategies and Tactics, a publication for members of the Public Relations Society of America)