At first, Heidi Carr thought it seemed a bit ironic that she would be teaching public relations classes at the School of Communication.
But then it occurred to her that no one knows how to attract media attention better than a writer and editor who spent more than 20 years listening to public relations professionals try to persuade her to cover their client or event.
Sometimes, it’s good to have an outsider’s perspective. So it could be said the Department of Strategic Communications made a strategic move this fall by hiring Carr away from The Miami Herald to be a lecturer in public relations.
“I know what works,” said Carr, who is teaching her students how to pitch stories to the media. “I would get 200 emails a day from people who wanted me to write about their client.”
Leaving her job at the Herald was hard, Carr said. But she had been teaching at the School of Communication as an adjunct, and when a full-time teaching job became available, it was an offer she couldn’t resist.
“There were so many times leaving work at the Herald and driving home that I would think, ‘what we do is really awesome,’” explained Carr. “But teaching was so fun.”
Because she worked in South Florida for so many years, Carr has countless connections who come speak to her classes throughout the semester. Recent visitors have been Ron Magill, spokesperson for Zoo Miami and
Jorge Martinez, a partner in the Conroy Martinez PR firm.
“I only invite the cream of the crop,” said Carr about her guest speakers. “I know these people will inspire students and give them insight about the world beyond the classroom.”
Carr has a practical approach to how she runs her classroom and wants her students to leave feeling prepared for the next steps towards their career. Students in her class work for real clients in the community, creating press kits that they present to them at the end of the semester.
“Last year, eight of the clients showed up for the final presentation,” Carr said. “At the end, many of the clients acknowledged that the students found errors in their materials and suggested things that they had never thought of before.”
Clearly Carr’s students are creating impressive work for her class, but she said she is amazed by how much she learns from her students, as well. While teaching the students how to create a social media campaign, she said, they taught her about current social media trends and how they would improve the campaign. Carr values their input and encourages students to apply what they learn in other classes.
“I don’t want to lose sight that students are in so many other classes,” said Carr. “I look for any way to incorporate things they are doing in their other classes.”
Story by Emily Young