This week we shine our spotlight on Amisha Mehta, Public Relations Area Coordinator at the QUT Business School.
What’s your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?
I’m a public relations lecturer and researcher who’s addicted to being on the verge of a good idea and not letting up until it becomes something great.
Tell us about your typical day in academia?
During the semester, I generally read up on the news and work out how to use stories in class, prepare for class, and make sure the students and I have fun as we talk through public relations decisions. Out of semester, I’m learning to transition from studying to writing academic journal articles related to my PhD.
When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?
In Grade 12, I wanted to be in public relations for Disney. I gave up on that fairy tale after I was denied the opportunity to study Disney’s consumer behaviour as part of my honours dissertation.
Who’s your communication hero/mentor?
I’m inspired by people in and out of our discipline. In public relations, Robina Xavier from QUT and Michelle Palmer from Powerlink Queensland have influenced my career. Robina was my lecturer and we continue to work together, and Michelle demonstrates the value of public relations in her role, and always provides great counsel to me and our courses at QUT.
Which tools can’t you live without?
Microsoft Outlook rules my life—hoping to reduce the power of the inbox in 2011.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
Encouraging students to be curious about the world and less focused on the ‘tell me what I need to know for my assignment’ mentality. Superficial learning is easy but the real stuff isn’t meant to be neatly packaged.
Tell us about the best public relations research project you’ve ever worked on?
Being fairly new to academic research, I’m excited about the findings of my PhD on crisis communication and change in the pharmaceutical industry. I looked at the crisis communication of multiple competitor organisations during an extended crisis. Stay tuned!
Which campaign do you most admire?
It’s an obvious choice but the communication from our Premier and Lord Mayor during the Queensland flood crisis. Not only were the messages clear but they both demonstrated exceptional leadership. Having been recently reacquainted (thanks to a documentary on ABC1) with Gandhi’s vision for India, the salt march is also a powerful reminder of the many forms of transformative leadership.
What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?
Social media tools are the label for change but it goes a little deeper for me. I think they are having an impact on the way we trust and produce trust. The balance seems to be shifting from an institutional level to an interpersonal level, which is the reverse flow of trust production during industrialisation. It’s not unusual to see media quote sources from Twitter or Facebook over experts—and that has implications for the way we produce or maintain trust in organisations and brands.
If you had to cut/keep something in your communication course, what would it be?
I’d keep the writing process. For me, the process of learning how to write as well as the analytical steps that guide our decisions about news angles are transferrable to many other tasks in public relations.
What quality do you look for in your students?
The ideal student is one who is curious, up-to-date on current affairs, self-motivated, and willing to not just ask questions but put forward answers so we can discuss options.
What’s your favourite brand?
I like to study industry dynamics and at the moment, my most-watched brand is Qantas. Their safety record places them in a very unique position, yet media reporting neglects to connect incidents with industry-wide data or context.
What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?
A typical answer, but academic articles that talk not just about what we do in public relations but give us a sense of why we do things in public relations. There are often special issues in journals like Public Relations Review and Journal of Public Relations Research that are relevant to both academia and practice. If you’re a university alumnus, you’re likely to have access to these resources.
What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?
Probably a greater insight into the diversity of careers/specialisations. If I had my time again, I would have combined public relations with accounting/finance. I’m soon starting the journey back into quantitative methods, and hoping that my preference for samurai sudoku over scrabble will give me the edge.
Finish this sentence: ‘Communication…’
…goes to the heart of change.