Archive for June, 2009

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Social media, health care and PR’s future

June 17, 2009

Image courtesy of tumblr.comMy family is  trudging through the painstaking process of preparing my grandma’s house to put on the market.

Grandma’s been gone for more than a year now, and as I spend countless hours contemplating coffee beige vs. maple beige and tile vs. vintage hardwood floors, I can’t help but think about how pleased she’d be with the way her house is turning out.

I like to think of how proud she’d be of me, too.  Hey, someone has to be there to talk my mom out of putting a hideous wallpaper border on the bathroom wall!

I can recall spending hours on grandma’s living room floor as a child.  I wrote elaborate stories about horses, which were my obsession up until 5th grade.  Once my parents finally broke down and purchased a computer, I’d spend hours surfing the Internet and making basic HTML Web sites to show my friends.

And as I stared at the computer screen while typing at 90 WPM, I can still hear grandma say:

“When you grow up, you need to find a job where you can write and be on that computer.”

So here I am: a senior at Kent State, pursuing a career in public relations.  When I chose to major in PR, I never imagined that social media would play such a large role in my future career.  Today, I’m excited to see how social media is changing the way organizations communicate with their publics.

As an intern at Children’s, I had an awesome opportunity to put my social media skills to the test this week.  One of our patients headed to D.C. to advocate for children’s health care on behalf of the hospital.  The PR Department, which already uses many social media tools to communicate with employees and the public, decided to ask the patient to tweet on his trip.

I was able to teach the patiGrandma and Rebecca, 2006ent how to tweet and set up his Twitter account.  The story ran in the Akron Beacon Journal, and my picture was included on the front-page story.  Not many interns can say they pitched to a paper and made the front page!

With patients using tweets to advocate for their hospitals, what windows of opportunity will social media open next?

I’m thrilled to be a soon-to-be PR professional in such a pivotal era for the profession.  And heck: I think grandma would be thrilled, too.  However, I’m sure she’d make a comment about how my hair was in my face for the ABJ photo, and she’d probably ask me why any person would want to tweet, anyway.

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Social media policies for PR professionals: yay or nay?

June 11, 2009

I realize I’m positioning myself as a minority when I say this, but it’s true: I absolutely love Mondays.  There’s something about its fresh beginnings and new opportunities that make me excited to see what the new week brings.

Thursdays, however, get the award for my least favorite day of the week.  By the time Thursday rolls around, the week has been too long and the weekend is still too far away.

So when I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to the Akron Beacon Journal’s Web site this Thursday morning, I was shocked to see the IT Department blocked me from viewing all news and media sites.  What a great way to start my favorite day of the week, right?

I stared at my computer for a good two minutes before I picked up the phone and called the Service Desk.  My day-to-day job includes trips to media and news Web sites to research public demographics, search for new magazines and blogs to pitch and monitor media coverage.  How is a poor, innocent public relations intern supposed to do her job without being granted access to the vehicle she uses to disseminate information?

Needless to say, IT and I are still debating the issue.  But the situation reminded me of a great story I read by PRSAY titled, “Why PR Pros Need Access to Social Media at Work.

Come on, think about it.  How can a computer programmer do his job if the computer he’s fixing doesn’t have a monitor?  How can an accountant complete a spreadsheet if he is only granted access to half the numbers?  How can a designer create a brochure if his supervisor removes the software off of his computer?  How can a truck driver drive without a wheel?

I know a “one-size-fits-all” IT policy might be appealing, but it’s not practical.  Monitoring social media is just a part of our job.

What is your opinion about social media policies for PR professionals at work?

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Social media: can’t ignore it, can’t rely on it

June 8, 2009

I love using Facebook and Twitter to connect with my friends, network with public relations professionals and learn about trends in the industry.  However, I’ll admit: I’m a little paranoid about using social media.

Every time I send a tweet, update my Facebook status or comment on a friend’s photo, I’m reminded that I’m not just representing Rebecca. I’m also representing my family, my employer, my university and my church.  And although my views and actions may not line up perfectly with the values and beliefs of these groups, I’m still connected to them through my digital footprints.

I read a rockin’ post from Mashable today about how social media is changing the newsroom.  Journalists not only have to be careful about how they represent themselves on the Web, they also have to be careful about using social media as a resource to write stories and create content.

Here are some of the tips I picked up from the post:

  • Social Media: Can’t ignore it, can’t rely on it.

For example: If Kent News Net read a tweet about a house fire on S. Lincoln St., that’s a great news tip.  However, you shouldn’t consider the tweet as a reliable source until it’s confirmed.  I can’t imagine how embarassed I’d be if I went to print and later found out the tweet was a hoax.

  • You always represent your organization(s).

Social media is a platform to express youself, but you’re also representing organizations you’re affiliated with.  Watch what you say, and don’t be afraid to monitor your friends’ comments, too.  I love the inside jokes I share between my friends, but I’ve had to filter many of the comments written on my Facebook wall to avoid drama.  If I couldn’t explain it to my mom, it shouldn’t be on my Facebook wall!

  • Your tweets go farther than you think.

I decided to search for my name on Google the other day, and my Twitter account was in the top four search results.  This means anyone- a coworker, an old friend or a potential employer- can read my tweets, even if they aren’t following me.

WWJD Bracelet

  • Let your followers, friends keep you accountable.

Remember the slogan WWJD?  (That’s “What Would Jesus Do?” for those who aren’t sure.)  When using social media, I like to refer to “WWMT?” (What would mom think?) and “WWMBT?” (What would my boss think?)  Go ahead, let your boss follow you on Twitter.  It’ll hold you accountable and make you more cautious about what you choose to tweet.

Now that I’ve told you what I learned, what are your own social media rules?  Have you run into any sticky situations with social media?

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Playing PR offense in a defensive economy

June 1, 2009

2005 Saturn Ion: Photo courtesy of lotpro.comI’ve happily owned my 2005 Storm Grey Saturn Ion 3 since 2006.  Her name is Gisele (named after her sleek, model-like looks), and as cheesy as it sounds: We’ve been through a lot together.

Gisele was there for me when I had the genius (sarcasm intended) idea to commute 50 miles to and from Kent every day of my sophomore year, and she was with me when I spent two years attempting to make a long distance relationship work.  She’s been there through shopping trips to Pittsburgh and Cleveland and random road trips to visit one of my best friends near Columbus.  Together, we’ve steered clear of numerous deer, squirrel and vermin that attempted suicide via pavement.

So when I read about GM filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today, my first concern was for workers at GM’s Lordstown plant, which is one of the most prominent employers in the Mahoning Valley.  Once I knew GM Lordstown was not included in the organization’s cuts, my second concern was GM’s choice to kick Saturn to the curb.

Like any irrational, passionate consumer, I immediately tweeted about my concerns and voiced my opinion about GM’s decision to give Saturn the boot.  To my surprise, @GMBlogs and @GCAGreg responded to my concerns via Twitter.

From a public relations standpoint, I was incredibly impressed with GM’s quick, tactful response.  I can’t imagine how swarmed GM’s PR Department is today as it works to disseminate information to journalists across the globe.  Yet the company still values its customers enough to respond through social media efforts.

Kudos to GM’s social media efforts, and the best of luck to the organization as it restructures itself with the federal government’s assistance.