Around Campus

Hussman course preps students for celebrity PR

Jules Dixon-Green uses roleplay to teach strategies used in entertainment public relations.

Professor Dixon-Green sits amongst students in classroom, some of which are raising hands in the foreground.
(Jessica Simmons/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The students in Jules Dixon-Green’s upper-level public relations classes at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media kept asking the professor of the practice to teach a class on celebrity and entertainment PR.

Last semester, those students finally got their wish with her special topics course MEJO 490: Entertainment/Celebrity PR.

By examining case studies and teaching strategies for how to mitigate a celebrity crisis, Dixon-Green equips students with skills they can apply as professionals working in the entertainment sphere and beyond.

“It’s not just Hollywood celebrities,” said Dixon-Green, who is also the school’s associate dean for undergraduate studies and curriculum. “I found that there was a need to expose our students to very specific information in that space.”

Dixon-Green spent decades working with international brands like McDonald’s, on press junkets for celebrities like Beyoncé, and in senior communications roles in talent recruitment. She knows no textbook or lecture alone is going to prepare a young publicist to enter this dynamic and chaotic field.

Dixon-Green created her MEJO 490 class to give students practical experience using real-world scenarios. One was developing a media training strategy to prepare Olivia Rodrigo for the Video Music Awards. Another was managing PR for the NFL related to 2023’s hottest celebrity couple, singer Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs football player Travis Kelce.

Dixon-Green devoted so much time on the last scenario that she reframed her syllabus to allow students to dive deeper into that perfect case study. “Who knew when we launched this semester that we would have such rich, amazing information to talk about?” Dixon-Green said.

In class, student groups roleplayed meeting with Kelce and shared their PR suggestions with Dixon-Green. She responded as an actual lead publicist, asking follow-up questions and pushing everyone to take part.

The teacher didn’t go easy in those mock meetings, forcing students to think differently about how to prepare for difficult scenarios.

“Someone is going to ask the uncomfortable question,” said Morgan Kumi ’25, an advertising and public relations major. “You have to have an answer for it as a publicist — not everything is going to be peaches and roses.”

In celebrity public relations, publicists work one-on-one to build a personal brand. Dixon-Green says celebrity publicists need to be quick thinking, since one person’s decisions can instantly send everything into crisis communications mode.

“The way you have to strategize and think and communicate just all depends on the person that you’re working with and what the client really wants,” said Jaden Esquivel ’25, an advertising and public relations major. ”And one thing I’ve learned so far within the class is just how important it is to make those connections.”

The skills taught in the class can be applied to other areas of public relations.

“You take the case studies class, and you take the fundamentals of Ad/PR class or any of the courses in which you learn the basics — you’re getting textbook definitions, you’re taking quizzes, you’re learning the actual lingo,” said Macy Brown ’24, an advertising and public relations major. “In this class, you’re actually executing it, you’re talking about it, and I think that’s what makes it really unique.”

Dixon-Green is teaching a second iteration of the course this spring and hopes to continue refining it in semesters to come.

“It’s unbelievable to be able to learn firsthand how to work with people and celebrities and spaces like that,” Dixon-Green said. “I feel it’s a really enthusiastic responsibility of mine to deliver that to our students who have a desire to learn more about that space.”

Read more about the celebrity PR class.