Undoubtedly, one of the most hyped phrases in our language is the concept of “giving back.” This notion has been used so many times in so many places that it has become almost cliché.

Even after acknowledging this point we still need to ask: Does the present generation of senior communicators owe it to our profession and society to pass along our knowledge and insights to the next generation of communicators?

Writing checks is nice, but is it even more valuable to impart as mentors hands-on knowledge based upon our years of experience in strategic communications?

As I contemplate this question of “giving back,” I reflect back to one of the responsibilities that did not fit into the position description of a gubernatorial press secretary: Meeting and answering questions from visiting university, community college, high school, middle school and even elementary school students.

During my three years as the Press Secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian in Sacramento http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Deukmejian, I was repeatedly asked to serve as the face of the administration to delegations of visiting students. I would encourage these students to pursue public service or at least to harbor a profound interest in government and politics. Sometimes the questions were tough, many were unfair or completely off-base, but the students nonetheless demonstrated their desire to learn and even to challenge authority.

As I moved from the public sector into roles with two major industry trade associations, a publicly traded high technology company and to a senior position in an international public relations firm, I was periodically asked to lecture classes on effective communications. Some of these schools included: UC Berkeley, Oregon State, San Francisco State and just recently Santa Clara University.

At Santa Clara, I lectured both MBA and undergraduate students about how to communicate to Wall Street and investors. I realized in making these presentations and seeing the enthusiasm that they generated that these students were clearly appreciating that the world of financial communications was changing at a breakneck pace.

This rate of change is not just limited to the financial sphere as digital technology, the ubiquitous ones and zeroes, are making instantaneous communication and lightning-fast responses a never-changing fact of life. We now have the ability to self publish and to share with the world our deepest thoughts.

Social media or conversational marketing via digital key strokes is something that Johannes Guttenberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg could not even fathom when he invented the printing press in Mainz, Germany. But one thing has been constant since then; technology has made communication faster, more efficient and global.

Many cannot stop talking about and tweeting on Twitter, amassing their connections on LinkedIn.com, watching videos on YouTube or counting friends on Facebook. They are commenting on breaking global events via their blogs or reading, listening and viewing what others are saying via cyberspace, bypassing the “traditional media,” particularly the dying pencil “press.”

The hot social media tools of today most likely will not be the hot social media tools of tomorrow. New techniques are being written today (e.g. Google’s “Buzz” http://www.google.com/buzz) not on parchment paper, but rather in the form of software code.

Will students and society as a whole be prepared for these new techniques and their implications? What are the responsibilities of self publishing in the wake of fewer and fewer conventional media outlets? Will bloggers become the reporters of the 21st century, thus setting new standards for journalism?

Most importantly, what can we do to help these students in facing these brand new challenges? We all have our unique stories and experiences. Is it our duty to serve as mentors and to pass this knowledge on to those who can use it for their respective careers?

Looking back, I have been extremely fortunate to have many different experiences in my career. But I still keeping going back in mind replaying the scene in the Governor’s bill signing room filled with students and their teachers with a particular gleam in their eyes and engaging questions flowing off their tongues.

They wanted to learn.

They wanted to explore.

They wanted to challenge convention.

I was more than happy to help them in their quests.

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