Public Relations Tactics

Outstanding Educator: TCU's Amiso M. George on Collaboration, Diversity and Lifelong Learning

November 1, 2017

Dr. Amiso George [albert chau]
Dr. Amiso George [albert chau]

Amiso M. George, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Educator Award. “We must think and act as ethical leaders in the global community,” she said in her acceptance speech at the PRSA 2017 International Conference in Boston on Oct. 9.

George is an associate professor and former chair of the strategic communication graduate program in the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas. She also coaches the award-winning PRSSA Bateman team at TCU, and consults in crisis communication. George served as the Accreditation chair for PRSA’s Greater Fort Worth Chapter, where she is a member.

She developed and taught the first course in crisis communication at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she served as director of the PR program. She also taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Previously, George was a visiting professor of strategic communication at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, in 2012. George also worked as a journalist and freelance broadcaster in radio and television, and as a consultant for nonprofit organizations in the United States, including C-SPAN, and universities in Nigeria, Australia and Malaysia.

Named a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow for 2017 and a Plank Fellow, she is the co-editor of three books and has won numerous awards. George holds a doctorate in mass communications, a master’s degree in international relations and a bachelor’s degree in journalism — all from Ohio University.


What was your dream job as a child?

A diplomat working at the United Nations — I would envision myself giving a speech with a large attentive audience nodding in agreement. I would gather willing neighbors’ children, line them up and make them listen to whatever speech I would conjure up. At other times, I would speak to an imaginary audience while staring at myself in the mirror.


How did you first become interested in mass communications?

I visited my hometown television station (Nigerian Television Authority Port Harcourt) and was asked to sit in for a timekeeper on a children’s game show who did not show up. I must have impressed the manager because I was asked if I would be interested in working there. Pretty soon, I was a local TV “star” and I had not even enrolled in college.


What does receiving the Outstanding Educator Award mean to you?

While I have received accolades for my work in the past, this is the highest and most significant honor I have received in my career. This recognition by my peers at the highest level telegraphs that I am doing something right. It also acts as a tonic that would encourage me to continue to pursue excellence in PR education and advocate for public relations.


What has been a top highlight of your academic career so far?

When my students won a Fort Worth PRSA Worthy Award in internal communications for “VITALS,” a multiyear funded campaign educating their peers to recognize the symptoms of alcohol poisoning and what actions to take. We subsequently produced a user-friendly video and a color magazine (TCU VITALS) that highlighted key elements of the campaign. The funder has since used the magazine for marketing purposes.


What are the challenges of keeping up with new technology and how do you decide what to teach your students?

Given that technology is constantly evolving, it is impossible to keep up with all the changes. My five-year-old MacBook Pro is considered dated, but I am still using it, while doing most of my online transactions on my iPhone 7 Plus.

I vacillate between e-books and hard copies for my courses, but I create assignments generally using online tools. For me, the key is to use technology that works for whatever my purpose is at that time.

For instance, in a PR Campaign class, I expect students to use multimedia, so their campaign report and supporting materials are available and accessible on relevant social media platforms. All of our courses have online components. I integrate social media into online or in-person assignments, discussions and major projects, so students are familiar with, and comfortable using, these channels for their work.


Do students today have a better awareness of the PR profession than previously?

Yes! It is not just what they learn in the PR courses, but also what the PR professionals, who we invite as guest lecturers, share with them. Additionally, news and current affairs provide ample opportunities for students to see public relations at work in many arenas and situations.


What is most important for students to learn right now and what tools do they need to be fluent in to succeed?

Students need excellent writing skills, basic research skills, and familiarity with current technology that enables PR professionals to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. However, while technology is always evolving, good writing never goes out of style. A foreign language and intercultural competence are advantageous.

To attain the aforementioned skills, I encourage students to keep writing — write a blog, write an article for your organization’s website or newsletter, or write a profile of a member. Just write!

Do an internship. Study abroad for a semester or a year, and immerse yourself in a culture different from yours. Take a digital-storytelling class and produce a video for your favorite local nonprofit organization.


How can PR students make the most out of their college experience?

They should look for opportunities to be involved — through PRSSA and activities sponsored by their local PRSA Chapter. I would tell PR students to volunteer in any capacity with PRSSA and other campus organizations to bring concerts, speakers and activities to their group, or bring awareness to a cause that is important to their group or themselves.

Attend career fairs and conduct informational interviews with communication professionals to learn about opportunities in their companies. Participate in job-shadowing programs or find out about opportunities in their hometown.


What advice would you offer to communications pros who are just starting out in their careers?

Stay motivated and be passionate about learning all you can about your job and beyond. Just because you now have a degree does not mean learning is done. Stay active in your organization so you can enhance networking opportunities and learn new strategies and tactics from your peers. Stay informed of news and current events. Read! Read! Read! Ask questions, but listen a lot as well. Even for those who have been in their career longer, it is never too late to open oneself to learning new skills.


What’s top of mind in higher education right now among your peers?

Reviewing academic programs — identifying areas that need improvement and acting on them — whether they are [current] course offerings or new programs that enhance students’ experience.

Working with our Career Services office to ensure that our students have opportunities for internships, jobs and even career changes for graduates. Developing partnerships with organizations in our profession and related fields that could provide mutually beneficial opportunities in applied research, training and jobs for our students.

Collaborating across curriculum in research and pedagogy. Reemphasizing ethics and diversity issues. Diversity in all its forms — of faculty, students, ideas and more, and ethics issues — not just as a single course, but infused in all courses.


What’s your favorite part of being a teacher?

When the students get it, apply it and get results.


Getting to Know… Amiso M. George

Any three dinner guests — past or present?

Khalil Gibran, Nelson Mandela and Eleanor Roosevelt

Favorite movie?

“When Harry Met Sally”

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Look for opportunity in disappointment.”

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

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