Be Someone Others Can Trust

In this post on the Comms Women platform, Celine Le Blanc, a student at the University of Alabama, College of Communication and Information Sciences, speaks with Nilanjana R. Bardhan, a PR educator and researcher from Southern Illinois University

After interviewing Dr. Nilanjana R. Bardhan a professor and researcher at Southern Illinois University I found what she had to say interesting, particularly respective to culture in PR. She was born in India where she spent the first 22 years of her life. She has been with SIU since 1998. Dr. Bardhan’s teaching and research interests include intercultural/international communication, public relations, and critical cultural communication. She particularly focuses on identity/difference/culture, diversity, equity and inclusion, globalization, and postcolonial theory. Her latest research project is a co-edited book on leadership communication, and she is particularly focusing on how leaders can learn to be better intercultural communicators in a global world. Dr. Bardhan has published several books including Public Relations in Global Cultural Contexts (Routledge) and Identity Research and Communication (Lexington Press), and is the co-author of Cultivating Cosmopolitanism for Intercultural Communication (Routledge). Two of those books have won best book awards from NCA’s International and Intercultural Communication Division.

                                     Photo: Southern Illinois University

Dr Bardhan started getting interested in PR during her last year as an undergraduate when she was working as an intern at an Ad/PR agency in India. She decided to study in the U.S. and came here in 1992 to get her masters in PR. She started out working part-time at the Ohio University College of Medicine as a PR assistant and writer to keep the practice going. After falling in love with teaching her plan quickly changed and she decided to take the academic path instead. She is now an academic educator, and no two days are the same. She focuses on teaching two days a week and the rest of the time she is very involved around campus. She does administrative work, serves on various committees, and advises graduate students working on their MAs and PhDs alongside doing her research which she also works on over the weekends.

After discussing thoughts about AI and how this will impact the future of our students and industries, Dr. Bardhan had some interesting this to say. She said she feels that Al is a double-edged sword like most new technologies. It is definitely a game changer in many ways and they can only see the tip of the iceberg right now in terms of implications for the PR industry. She feels it is important that students be careful to not use AI in a way that could hurt them such as thinking that AI can do all the thinking and writing for them. This will cause many people to never learn the skills needed to succeed in the industry if they take those shortcuts. A good way of using it is as an aid to generate creative ideas. And she believed faculty should help students in this aspect. AI is definitely helpful and a way to speed things up with gathering information that previously took longer but it is important to not let it do the thinking for us. She said they recently had a speaker on their campus that said the word “intelligence” in AI is misleading. There is no “intelligence” there – we still need to use human intelligence and remember what we are calling “intelligence” is, after all, “artificial” and not the real thing. Which is a very interesting thought to think about.

After talking about the future of the PR industry and what it means for PR professionals, she said she believes many exciting opportunities are opening with technology and increasing globalization, but there are downsides too. We need stronger and more ethical leadership in the industry and more professionals who are better trained to communicate across cultural differences. It is important for PR professionals to be critical thinkers, culturally sensitive, and aware of what’s going on not just in their country but also in the world. She believes our industry will keep getting more diverse, more globally connected, and tech-savvy, and PR, marketing, and advertising will blend into each other for seamless communication.

Dr. Bandhan’s best piece of advice for college students is to get as many internships as possible under their belt, volunteer whenever they can, and understand the importance of intercultural competence in our diverse society. She also stressed the importance of learning how to be a good leader and team player. “Be someone others can trust and remember that to have a fulfilling career one must know how to give back.”

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