For August, we talked with the Chapter member Dr. David Marshall, Professor and Chair of Strategic Communication at Morgan State University. Dr. Marshall speaks about his love for Public Relations and his students at Morgan State.
Where did you grow up?
I’m Baltimore raised and bred. I went to public schools here. Then I went to a private high school and then to Morgan. I’m also a Morgan grad, so that makes my job much more fantastic because I feel that I am coming back to the institution that gave me so many opportunities.
In fact, almost every success I can trace in my professional career, I can tie to some professor, some influence at Morgan who has helped me along the way. So, it’s really quite refreshing to be there.
How long have you been a member of PRSA and what made you decide to join?
I have been a member since March of 2018 when I took my job as professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Communication at Morgan State. The dean wanted us to have a very close and strong relationship with our professional organizations. So, I reached out to the good people there and I got hooked up right away. Claudia Ciolfi, who was PRSA Maryland chapter president last year, was just awesome and got me connected and introduced us around. And the other part of the dean’s initiative at Morgan at our School of Global Journalism and Communication is a need to not only have academic credentials for people who are teaching students aspiring to be in public relations and strategic communications, but also substantial experience. He has indicated that he also wants them to have a very strong relationship with PRSA and particularly finds great value in the APR.
Can you talk a little bit about how journalism has impacted your PR career and what it’s done for you?
It’s amazing because I think we see this trend of people being in media and then moving to PR. I think these are the people who do really well in PR because they understand the role of the media. They can put together media releases in such a way that captures the attention of the assignment desk. Having been in the media, we all know that sometimes what gets talked about in the morning story meeting at the reporters’ table is based on the relationship the reporter has within the community. A news station has values. It has a mission statement. It has metrics. And, so I think people who’ve been on the other side of journalism who are now in PR understand they have to know the values of the media organizations. So, I’m very grateful for my experience in media because I think it helps me understand these two bodies are not at odds with each other, that they’re doing separate things.
What do you love most about the PR field in general? What drives you the most?
I think it’s the opportunity to inform and to provide information in such a way to help audiences really understand the vision, mission, values of an organization. I think the educational arm is really key in helping organizations and businesses build very strong relationships with their publics and then given the outcomes that an individual company or organization wants. Building on those relationships, they can help move people to act in a way that’s beneficial to everyone. I think that’s very fascinating.
What is one thing industry-related or not that you have learned in the last month?
I just went to a workshop sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund at Western Kentucky University. We got our hands on a lot of technical tools to use for storytelling and how you can use that to also influence people. I learned how to fly a drone and I’m thinking about getting a license. It’s a tool that’s been used a lot in journalism, but I don’t know that we’ve used it in such a powerful way to sort of help tell organizational individual stories. And that power of using different types of visual elements to tell a story…it’s beyond what I ever thought was possible.
Credit: Western Kentucky University
What inspires you the most?
I think what really inspires me is that I am teaching students at Morgan, many of whom are coming from circumstances that are very challenging. And every day, they get out of bed and they come to school and they’re ready to engage and they see this as an investment and what’s going to happen to them that they know they have an opportunity. That is the thing that really does inspire me, especially in a media sort of frenzy that paints students and particularly students of color as being crime-engaged or not really participating fully in society. That’s the thing that really inspires me because I am seeing every day that this is not the typical young person in the city of Baltimore. They really do have hopes and dreams and aspirations that go far beyond where they are and that they’re willing to give it a try.
How would you define success?
For me, success is defined as a student who has come through our program at Morgan. And as the president is shaking their hand on one end of the stage and an employer in public relations is on the other hand saying, welcome to our firm or to our company. That is really the biggest measure of success for us at the university level because it lets us know that whatever it is that we’re doing in the classroom does have some salience or relevance to people in the industry.
Where would you like to retire?
I don’t know where I’m going to be, but I know one thing is for sure, wherever I am there’s got to be a direct route for wherever I am to BWI..
Connect with Dr. Marshall on LinkedIn.