Keith Green

Bridging the Gap between Classroom and Workplace

Public Relations executive and university professor Keith Green trains the next generation of communications professionals.

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Bruce Taub
6 Minutes


You teach Public Relations & Strategic Communications at Montclair State University, working with the next generation of communications professionals -and also overseeing Hawk Communications, a student-run PR firm. How does this fully native cohort of students approach communications differently from those in the past?

Being born during this fully immersive digital age presents amazing opportunities as well as challenges.

Students today know that stories and outreach can be personal and customizable, and that the use of data and analytics can be game-changers. It’s easier than ever to invent, run and analyze a business; create content; be prepared for an interview; and have your own voice. The smartest and most proactive students leverage multiple social media platforms and take advantage of content creation tools to help them stand out in an increasingly fragmented and crowded marketplace. Even fifteen years ago, all of this was more difficult.  

The downside is that the 24/7 news cycle and constantly being connected can mean that a crisis is just a click away. Students understand this mindset and are planning and learning how to deal with various crises, accordingly. Going back to that same 15-year timeframe - which is when I first started teaching - the pressure students are under today seems more palpable. Part of a sound communications approach today for students to combat that tension should include a return to the basics such as unplugging from our phones, reading books, meditating, and sending a hand-written thank you note after an interview.


Teaching seems to have always been a central part of your career in communications. Why is this something you’ve prioritized, and do you think more communications professionals should be considering a side career in academia?

For me, it’s about giving back because I had professors who believed in me and provided opportunities. Ten years after I received my master’s degree and was working as the Director of Public Relations at Richmond Raceway - which hosts events like the NASCARCup Series, the organization’s top racing series - I got a call from one of my mentors. Dr. Michael Jackson was one of my professors from my graduate program at Temple University and he had an idea - that I should call Dr. Leon Bey at Virginia State University about creating a NASCAR marketing course. NASCAR had recently launched its “Drive for Diversity” initiative and because VSU is an HBCU, Dr. Jackson thought it would be a great partnership.

He was right; in fact, there is still a partnership between the track and the university, and each has received a diversity award from NASCAR because of their efforts. I had no idea that the adjunct class I created and taught while working a full-time job would provide so many amazing opportunities. To this day, it remains one of my most rewarding professional experiences.

I’ve learned that teaching is a great way for communications professionals to bridge the gap between the classroom and workplace. Most professionals have great things to offer students and although teaching isn’t for everyone, I recommend it as a way to “pay it forward.”


What compelled you to found your own firm, Emerald Owl Communications?

I’m an “idea” person and storyteller at heart. I love figuring out ways to solve business problems through creative communications, whether that is through a holistic marketing campaign or something more tactical like an experiential event, PR stunt, story idea or other promotional concept.  

I’m fortunate to have worked for many high-profile organizations and had dozens of others as clients during my time in the racing field, at Synergy Events and Guinness World Records. Those experiences helped me gain what I think is a unique perspective and understanding of how many different industries and companies operate and tell stories, and that opening my own consultancy would help most businesses or agencies grow. So far, so good.


You’ve joined the editorial board of The Principal Post, a new advisory and publishing firm for self-authored press. What do you think we bring to the communications world that may have been lacking?

The Principal Post is an interesting and unique intersection for people who don’t know where to turn to for storytelling. LinkedIn might not be the right destination, an earned media pitch might fall on deaf ears, and some people might think “owned” or “shared” media isn’t as credible.

This platform allows you to tell a story about yourself, a client, or a business with the benefit of fact-checking, verification, and objectivity. What also makes it compelling is that we work with individuals who want to write their own story, others who want us tell it for them, or agency clients who want to highlight a person or cause. I’m excited to be part of a distinguished team with expertise in dozens of industries.


One last question: In addition to an impressive agency career, you spent four years working at Guinness World Records, a company with which most people are familiar but perhaps don’t think of as having actual employees. What’s one particularly amusing or outlandish situation you encountered there that involves some kind of a lesson for the communications industry?

With the right idea, you never know when or how something will go viral. My favorite record is Tallest House of Cards Built in 12 Hours, which perhaps doesn’t sound exciting or interesting until you realize one of the wild ways Bryan Berg - who is, yes, a professional cardstacker - perfected his craft. LG introduced a new washing machine in 2016 that had this cool feature - it didn’t vibrate. Do you know anyone who at some point in their lives wasn’t driven nuts by a vibrating washing machine? To highlight that key product attribute, the brand hired Berg to try and break that record, which he did…on top of the washing machine, while it was running. It was a brilliant marriage between a unique consumer product and someone who has incredible skill, and what started out as a small campaign overseas became part of a larger marketing effort by the brand. Those ways for brands to get involved in storytelling and artistry while leveraging creativity are inspiring to me.

On Content

With the right idea, you never know when or how something will go viral.

SEOUL, Apr. 7, 2016 — LG Electronics (LG) and professional card stacker Bryan Berg set a new world record for the tallest house of cards built in 12 hours. More incredible is that the record-breaking 3.3 meter tall structure was built atop an LG Centum washing machine while it was spinning at 1,000 RPM. Bryan Berg, a Harvard-educated architect who began stacking cards at the age of eight, partnered with LG on his record-breaking attempt, a 48-story house constructed of only normal playing cards.