2012 Texas Tech Integrated Scholar
Associate Professor and Chair,
Department of Public Relations,
College of Media & Communication
Public relations Professor Trent Seltzer is fascinated by politics, and his passion is reflected through his teaching, research, and service projects. Seltzer's scholarship revolves around relationships management in public relations, and he examines social media and the strategic communications of political parties and campaigns to gauge their influence on the public. Seltzer notes that his research helps to inform his teaching, and correspondingly, his teaching and emphasis on service combine in his Public Relations Campaigns courses, which primarily involve partnerships with local and regional nonprofits. Since he recently took on the role of department chair, Seltzer is committed to strengthening the image of the university's public relations program. He also aims to resurrect the student public relations firm, establish a PR journal, and organize a regional conference for public relations practitioners. Seltzer was born into a politically active family. He recalls that his father was always running for office locally— and as a young man he became interested in the media side of campaigning, which led him to graduate school.
Learn more about Integrated Scholar Trent Seltzer in this question-and-answer session.
What are your research objectives and interests?
Broadly, I study public relations from a relationship management perspective. I’m interested in how organizations establish and maintain healthy relationships between themselves and their various internal and external stakeholders. Lately, I’ve focused more on relationship management within a political context and have examined how the strategic communication efforts of political parties and political campaigns influence citizen’s perceptions of these relationships, both positively and negatively, and to what effect. My secondary research area focuses on social media and how it can be used to facilitate these organization-public relationships.
How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
I think my research is useful to public relations practitioners; it tends to have a very applied bent like a lot of public relations research. My hope is that this research would encourage practitioners to adopt a long-term orientation to how they communicate with their stakeholders. However, I think the most immediate impact that my research has is that it informs my teaching; for example, my research on dialogue and social media has changed the way I discuss the appropriate use of social media with my students, which makes them more informed practitioners.
What types of service projects have you been involved with?
Primarily, I’m involved in service projects through teaching campaigns courses at the undergraduate- and graduate-level. Like most of the public relations faculty, I’ve taught the undergraduate capstone course as a service learning class; we’ve always worked with non-profits on local and regional campaigns where the goal is to improve the community in some way, shape or form. Some of our clients have included the American Red Cross, Lubbock Independent School District, Community in Schools and the United States Air Force Academy. Recently, my graduate campaigns class created a campaign for the American Cancer Society to promote their Holiday Mail for Heroes program in West Texas. I love teaching these kinds of classes because it helps our majors see that public relations can promote social good.
What are you currently working on?
I became the department chair last summer after serving the previous year as the interim chair. I’m just now starting to feel like I have some idea as to how to do this job properly. I want to grow the department by recruiting outstanding faculty and students and then provide them with the support they need to excel at their jobs. Ultimately I want our undergraduate program to be known as one of the best strategic communication programs in the region. We already have a bit of a national reputation as an “up and coming” public relations research program; I’d like to continue that trajectory. I think we’re outstanding; I just need to raise awareness of that fact within the academic community.
I was awarded tenure a few months ago, so now I have time to tackle some of the big post-tenure projects I’ve been dreaming about: starting a new public relations journal, developing a regional public relations conference and developing RaiderComm, the student public relations firm.
This summer, I'm also working on a book chapter on political relationship management for a new edition of Public Relations as Relationship Management and setting up a series of projects to collect data during the presidential election.
Where do you find your inspiration?
It depends. When it comes to research, the short answer is "everywhere." I'm constantly reading journals, magazines, blogs, news apps, etc., which helps generates new ideas. When it comes to teaching, I draw my inspiration from my students and my colleagues. I love visiting with former students who are a few years into their professional careers; I love seeing how they've grown as practitioners and how they've matured. I'd like to think that I helped contribute in some small way to that success. And I'm inspired daily by my colleagues. Our entire department – and the entire College of Media & Communication for that matter – is full of outstanding scholars who are not only productive researchers, but who are also committed to educating students. It's nice to work with a team of people who share the same values and see this job the same way that I do.
What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?
Arthur Page, one of the great public relations practitioners, suggested seven principles for public relations practice; the seventh and final principle is “remain calm, patient and good-humored.” I think this is good advice for new faculty members as well. It’s hard to do this when we’re all so passionate about what we do (and trying to make tenure), but strive to keep everything in perspective. I have to remind myself about this every day. It helps if you have a mentor or a colleague that will remind you as well. I’m fortunate in this regard because I’m surrounded by amazing, talented people. I want to fill the same role for the faculty members in my department.
I grew up in Panama City Beach, Florida, in a politically active household, so I caught the politics bug early. My professional experience includes work in political campaigning, public administration and public relations research. My research focuses on the intersection of strategic communication, political communication and the management of organization-public relationships (OPRs). This includes investigating the antecedents and outcomes of OPRs, measurement and evaluation of relationship building and communication efforts, and understanding the role of mediated, interpersonal and dialogic communication in establishing and developing relationships between organizations and their internal and external stakeholders.
BA, Political Science, University of Florida, 1995
MA, Communication, University of Central Florida, 2000
PhD, Mass Communication, University of Florida, 2007