An Interview with Deirdre Breakenridge: #PRStudChat and Mentoring Relationships

February 23, 2010 at 9:06 am 5 comments

By Rowena Briones

Rowena is a graduate student studying communication with an emphasis in public relations at the University of Maryland. She also works at ICF Macro, a research and consulting firm that conducts health and communications marketing for non-profits and governmental agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter and read her blog debut, PRismatic Perspectives.

On February 15th, I had the amazing opportunity to serve as a representative for UMD’s PR students and participate in a Skype call with Deirdre Breakenridge as part of winning the #PRStudChat Challenge for Universities this past October. Though I was extremely nervous right before the call, Deirdre was extremely friendly and approachable, and we delved in right away into a very engaging and informative conversation. Feel free to listen to the podcast in its entirety, but here are some of the key takeaways from our interview, which focused on #PRStudChat and mentoring relationships:

Where do you see #PRStudChat going in the future?
We definitely want it to grow, in the student, educator, and professional base. We want to take it on the road, have meet ups all around the country. Maybe have the universities who participated in the challenge hosting these events.

How, if at all, does #PRStudChat foster mentoring relationships?
Because this dynamic community is bonded around the PR profession you’ll get a lot of people who will want to help each other. That’s what its all about. There’s an overwhelming willingness to help. Relationships are being forged outside of #PRStudChat. Students contact me for help. It’s the environment and the people that make it such a great community.

What are some advantages/benefits to a mentoring relationship?
It’s a chance to give back. All of us grow up in PR. We all take, take, take, as you advance in your career. When you get to that point it’s your time to give back to the universe. Mentoring is a wonderful opportunity to learn about PR and communication through the eyes of a professional – to have them guide you, give you advice, open your eyes to challenges and exciting communication you’ve never experienced before. Though you’re all learning in your classes it’s hard to make that connection with what you’re learning in the classroom and what actually takes place in the business environment.

What makes mentoring relationships unique in the field of public relations?
We are such great, great communicators and we truly know how to build relationships, that’s our role, that’s what makes it so wonderful and better, and the learning that’s taking place is the best relationship building because you’re working with people who know how to communicate, grow and educate.

What are some advantages to using social media in your mentoring relationships?
The landscape, depending on the platform, is so rich with ideas and information… it’s easy to listen, find relevant information, and share quickly and talk about them, either through that platform or through a Skype video sharing things on your desktop. You tap into these great informational portals and bases of knowledge to help the person that you are mentoring.

Has social media changed our perceptions of mentoring?
It could in the sense that you do have quick sharing and knowledge. I don’t want it to replace…if you have the opportunity to be face to face, there’s a certain relationship building when it’s more personal. I wouldn’t want mentoring to be in 140 characters or less. For mentoring, you wouldn’t want anything to be cut short. Because that’s the opportunity to ask questions, to get in depth with stories, and anecdotes, and challenges and how we got over certain obstacles. That can’t be shortened, it shouldn’t be.

What advice would you give to mentors/mentees undertaking a mentoring relationship in PR?
It would be to really listen first, so you can understand the person, the relationship, understand their needs. Bring what is relevant and new and important to PR professionals, be proactive, bring information to them that they wouldn’t get as student or in their own organization. It all starts from the “getting to know you” phase. And that is so important. You don’t want to skip over it, you don’t want to bombard with information… you want to learn and understand and grow together.

Students are so intuitive when it comes to the technology and the platforms and being able to navigate the landscape. They could teach us a few things. And we can help them connect the technology side of PR with the business and communication end of it and how to help customers.

What advice would you give to mentors/mentees undertaking a mentoring relationship using social media?
If you’re using social media, don’t rush it, balance it with other platforms to have longer conversations. If you get the opportunity together to participate in dynamic chats, do it, so that you’re both listening and learning to bring back interesting topics and things that have happened.

All in all, I had a great experience talking with Deirdre and learning about her personal experiences with mentoring and PR, why she started #PRStudChat, and her thoughts on how social media can impact mentoring relationships.

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