NEMO research sets world example, says Tim Coombs

Timothy Coombs has returned to sunny Florida after spending four months as NEMO visiting professor at the Department of Strategic Communication (ISK) at Campus Helsingborg. We asked Tim to reflect on his stay…

“When people ask me about ISK and Campus Helsingborg, I tell them something special is happening.”

TC NEMO snap
I had an amazing time visiting ISK and Sweden. The only thing that would have made it better would have been Sherry and Mugsy being there with me.

I will miss the community you all have created at ISK. What struck me is how you were more than just a department that is a collection people. I would call what you have a community where people are engaged with one another and academics. That creates a very positive atmosphere of cooperation and a sense of a people working together to build something special.

When people ask me about ISK and Campus Helsingborg, I tell them something special is happening. It is a combination of the people and ideas. NEMO is the most visible aspect of the ideas though a lot of other very interesting research is going on at ISK. It was a pleasure reading various research projects and research outcomes while I was there.

NEMO is on the cutting edge of the intersection of the Internet and society. I see job descriptions in the U.S. at major universities that reflect the themes being pursued by NEMO. The anthology of the NEMO research will help to show the world the innovative thinking and research being generated by ISK. NEMO is creating a distinct voice that articulates the various ways the digital world is impacting society.

“I would say ISK has established itself as one of the best programs in Europe and globally”

I am a strong believer in forward thinking research and NEMO captures that brilliantly. Too often public relations research, especially in the U.S., is simply more of the same thing, a seemingly endless parade of movie sequels. In the NEMO research I see new ideas, new directions, and innovation. The danger is that the thinking is ahead of its time for reviewers. I would say is better to be too far ahead than following behind. NEMO is trailblazing in many ways and appreciation for it in the field will grow over time.

ISK has a growing reputation in Europe as one of the up-and-coming programs in strategic communication. From what I have observed during my time here, I would agree with that assessment and go one step further. I would say ISK has established itself as one of the best, programs in Europe and globally.

Visiting professors are useful in building and developing that global vision. ISK is becoming not just a Swedish, Scandinavian, or European but a global brand. Visiting scholars can help contribute ideas to the mix and also report to others of the great developments occurring at ISK. Building a new program has many challenges often requiring long and difficult meetings. Everyone at ISK should be proud of where the department is and the direction in which it is going.

“ISK gave me a greater appreciation of how public relations connects with society”

I learned a lot during my visit about research and culture. It is important to be exposed to new ideas and research traditions. Consistently I did experience new concepts and perspectives when reading through the research here and listening to research presentations and discussions. Overall, it gave me a greater appreciation of how public relations connects with society.

I have always been interested in how public relations affects society. The new research traditions I encountered and cultural context of Sweden gave me more ways to think about how public relations and society intersect. This is the point I probably thought the most about when I was in Helsingborg. On a more specific, research level, I have used ideas from gamification into some CSR work. Moreover, I used the time and presentations in Sweden to refine my conceptualization of the effects of social media on crisis communication, especially the mitigation of crises. My work in refining social media and crisis communication was heavily influenced by my time at Campus Helsingborg.

On a personal level, I gained an appreciation for an engaged department. My current school is not nearly as engaged; we are more a collection of individuals than a group. That is due in part to the many disciplines that have been forced together. It was great to see such engagement and energy among the people at ISK. I will miss the people and that sense of community.

Besides the people, I will miss the research colloquiums the most. It is energizing to listen to new ideas and to hear people discuss the ideas. The discussions raise new ideas and help the research to develop more fully. This is an amazing resource for ISK that I hope is maintained. The mix of presentations by ISK and outside scholars is perfect for stimulating research ideas and spreading the ISK brand.

I hope to return to ISK and Campus Helsingborg regularly but I need to plan more trips that are not during the winter. The cold, snow, and darkness are not something I will miss. But, the people and ideas make visiting ISK worth it regardless of the weather.

Watch Tim Coombs tell the 2013 NEMO Conference about Crisis, Social Media and Zombies

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