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  • Writer's pictureTan Armado

Profs of CNM #1

Presenting a new series of articles called Profs of CNM, brought to you by CNMTypes! In this new series, we will be interviewing CNM professors from the 10 different CNM clusters! Bet you didn’t know we had 10 different clusters available!

CNM modules are divided into 10 clusters, ranging from Media Production to Computational Communication. Each cluster offers specific domain knowledge and skillsets that nurture students to develop the necessary skills geared towards different professions! You might be wondering: What exactly are these clusters? What are the skills I can obtain from taking specific modules and what is it like working as a Journalist, Public Relations Specialist, etc.?

Fear not friends! With this series, we hope that existing and future CNM friends can gain greater insight into the different clusters and industries through our professors!

Our first professor featured is Professor Suwichit Chaidaroon also known as Prof Sean! Prof Sean joined CNM back in 2020 and he is currently a Senior Lecturer teaching Public Relations and Organisations! His areas of specialisation include Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia, Digital Media Relations and scholarship of teaching and learning in Strategic Communication.

Public relations (PR) is an integral part of any business and organisation. PR mainly refer to the management function of an organisation that establishes and maintains direct relations with the various stakeholders that whom the organisation interacts. As a profession, PR offers a wide range of challenges that are mentally stimulating, enriching and allow for one to learn and grow.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Prof Sean to find out more about his vast experiences in teaching and PR research. Check out this exclusive interview here:

CNMTypes: Hi Prof Sean! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! To start, would you mind sharing with us more about yourself and what you do in your free time!

Prof Sean: Thank you for having me! I have been a communications professor for almost 20 years, and I have been teaching in several countries such as Thailand, where I am originally from, America, Australia, the UK and now Singapore! Previously, I was in Singapore in 2009 and the reason why I came back is that I was deeply impressed by the students’ dedication to their studies! I believe it is what you call being “kiasu,” and it is unlike anywhere else in the world.

Recently, I gym a lot these days because administrative work does take a lot of my time and I would like to maintain my health too. I started kickboxing too, which is really fun! Other than working on my physique, I do practice Music as well, singing good old English tunes and keeping up with Thai music as I have been away for some time now.

CNMTypes: Oh I see! It’s always good to keep fit and kickboxing does sound like lots of fun albeit intense! What prompted you to become a professor, or rather enter the field of communication research?

Prof Sean: Currently in CNM, I am dedicated to teaching and curriculum development for the department. To answer your question more directly, I have a strong passion for research as well as teaching and curriculum development. Creating good and memorable experiences for students is what I am passionate about and I deeply hope to achieve this when teaching Communications at the university level.

CNMTypes: Taking your modules previously, I can say without a doubt that your passion can be felt and is greatly appreciated by us students! How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the ways that you plan out your teaching modules and interact with your students?

Prof Sean: I do my best in structuring my modules by producing more video-form supplementary materials so I can spend more time during lessons for interactive activities. Online learning is not easy, I can hardly imagine myself being your age and having to sit in front of the Zoom to learn 5 to 6 modules in a semester. I salute all students for doing this and it is only fair for me to dedicate my time to producing supplementary materials after seeing my students dedicate their time and effort to studying online.

In my lectures, I try to interact with my students in the same way that I would during a F2F lesson, trying to get to know them on a personal basis. I feel that this is even more important than delivering the right content for this new mode of educational delivery. Social interaction is of utmost importance to make students feel comfortable and learn well in the process!

CNMTypes: That’s very admirable of you Prof! Thank you for doing that! Moving on to modules, which ones do you teach, and could you describe them in 5 words?

Prof Sean: Let’s focus on two important modules in strategic communication i.e. NM2219 and NM3215 which will soon be upgraded to a 4000-level module. The first module is NM2219: Principles of Communication Management, the introductory module for Public Relations. I aim for the module to be stimulating, applied, active, insightful, and active for students.

My main aim would be to equip students with the skills in situational analysis and this is done by exposing students to different case studies. Students would also need to create a PR campaign for a student-run organisation within NUS to have a grasp on planning and organisational skills.

NM3215: Advertising Strategies is the second module, currently it is a 3000-level module but eventually it will be converted to a 4000-level module called Multi-Platform Advertising Strategies to meet the industry requirements. For this module, I want it to be creative, fun, engaging, practical and collaborative for students to produce advertising campaigns.

The ultimate goal I envision would be for students to be able to design a creative and persuasive advertising message in the campaign they develop. For this semester, I will potentially be asking students to find a local store or business and create an actual advertisement campaign for them! If students would like to help promote their favourite Char Kway Teow store, go ahead! I believe this helps us to give back to the community and they do require support during these times.

Lastly, NM4223: New Media and Organisations is the third module that I teach but it will be in its final iteration this semester (AY21/22 Semester 2). We look at organisational communication and how technology affects interactions amongst people in said organization. This module will subsequently be converted into a 3000-level module to prepare students for their internships!

CNMTypes: Those modules sound very interesting and engaging! Following up on that, which modules would you recommend for students intending to pursue a career in Public Relations?

Prof Sean: Without a doubt, NM2219 should be the foundational module that students take up to have a base level understanding of Public Relations. I would recommend NM3215 as well if students would like to have a go-to to develop their creative skills.

Other modules lean towards the realm of PR and Organisations too such as NM3219: Writing for Communication Management. In a PR role, you are required to write news releases, ad copies or sometimes even speeches for your organisation’s CEO and students should master the basics beforehand.

At the higher levels, we do have specialised modules such as NM4228: Crisis Communication where you learn how to utilise PR and communication management to aid an organisation in various methods. There is NM4230: Communication for Social Change, a module for students who would love to use communication strategies, management to evoke positive social change within the community.

Keep in mind that, when you study strategic communications, PR or communication management, whichever name you would like to give it, you do need to be versatile. It would be good to take other modules to supplement and equip yourself with other skills such as digital storytelling or take up design modules to be exposed to visual communication.

CNMTypes: I’m sure students interested in PR would appreciate your advice and take up the many suggestions provided. Moving onto questions related to your areas of research, we noticed that you’re interested in different areas of communication research. I would love to hear more about them and what they entail!

Prof Sean: Sure thing! For Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Asia, I study how organisations engage in performing initiatives for both external and internal stakeholders. I chose to focus specifically on CSR within an Asian context because we do want to offer advice and consultation to the different organisations present, to allow them to contribute positively to the community.

Previously, I ran a CSR research project together with my colleagues that specialised in Health Communication. We investigated how organisations approached their employees that were cancer patients. We learnt about the various ways organisations took to accommodate to or reintegrate these employees and the tensions felt when doing so.

Though the organisation had the patients’ best interest at heart, they unknowingly and unintentionally caused the latter to feel devalued and demoralised. Some of our interviewees mentioned how they were limited to simple tasks at work such as making coffee despite being bearing a high position within the company.

It is no doubt one of the most memorable projects that left a deep impact on me. Everything felt very real, we interacted and internalised the struggles and experiences they faced, forming an emotional bond with the participants in the process. Overall, it prompted us to want to do more to provide justice to those struggling.

Regarding Digital Media relations, traditional media relations whereby journalists and organisations interact directly, have been disrupted by the presence of technology and this trend will gradually continue. Media relations have also expanded towards the realm of social media and influencers are now being spokespersons on the organisation’s behalf.

My research mainly investigates the ethical, social, and cultural implications that both forms of organisations have on people. I have an upcoming project where we study new organisations driven by technology to provide databases to journalists and PR specialists, essentially a match-making system for individuals to connect.

Lastly, for the scholarship of teaching and learning in strategic communication, I do want to improve my teaching methods hence the accompanying research.

CNMTypes: Thank you so much for sharing that touching and heartfelt experience Prof Sean! To end off, what is one piece of advice you have for people intending to enter the area of Public Relations or Corporate Communications?

Prof Sean: Can I provide 2 pieces of advice instead? (laughs) Firstly, believe in yourself! Some people may consider the PR industry cut-throat or even competitive but the way I see it is that the industry is exciting for everyone. These opportunities will allow you to exercise your communication skills to help organisations and the community in various ways. If you don’t believe in yourself, speak out and raise your concerns, you may not be able to succeed well in the industry.

Secondly, be willing to learn. Many people may assume that anyone can be a public relations practitioner but not everyone can. You need to be versatile, flexible, and adaptable to new environments. Each campaign you run will be entirely based on a new situational context, requiring you to conduct more research, learn about new things to come up with a message to address the issues differently. To me, it is exciting because your life will not be mundane but full of colour especially when you finish one campaign and move to the next!

CNMTypes: I’m sure that your expertise and honest advice will motivate students to pursue a career in Public Relations! Thank you so much for your time, Prof Sean!

Stay tuned to more fun, engaging and insightful articles with more Profs of CNM articles as we explore the different clusters CNM has to offer!

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