Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

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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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Economy slows, PR grows

April 4, 2009

It’s been a trying week for General Motors employees who once relied on their stable GM jobs to support their families.

Let me rephrase that.  It’s been a trying few months.

GM Lordstown Plant

I grew up approximately 25 minutes away from the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and a large percentage of my high school classmates had one or more parents working at the plant.  So when GM began announcing layoffs and shift cuts over the past few months, my heart broke for those families facing uncertain futures.  The situation became stickier this week as President Obama announced plans to restructure GM and Chrysler, leading to the resignation of Richard Wagoner, GM chairman and chief executive.

I always imagined I’d move home after college and pursue a career in corporate public relations, but as the major corporations in the Mahoning Valley face uncertain economic futures, my dreams are facing an adaptation process.

However, hope is never lost!  I picked a recession-proof career when I chose to major in public relations.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects PR jobs to grow 18 percent between 2006-2016, which is faster than the national average.  Here’s some reasons why PR won’t fade away in a lagging economy:

The Growth of Social Media

Coca-ColaPublic relations professionals have recognized the importance of social media communications for quite some time, but upper management and the general public are finally catching on.  Coca-Cola announced the launch of its office of digital and social media this week in hopes of connecting individuals to the company and its brands.  Large corporations are starting to recognize the importance of social media to reach their audiences in an effective manner.  Kudos to Coca-Cola for taking this initiative; I hope other corporations will follow.

Birmingham City University announced it will offer a master’s degree to teach students how to use Facebook, Twitter and Bebo.  Many critics say the degree is a waste of university resources, as many social media tools can be self-taught.  However, I respect the university’s efforts to train students to grasp social media’s potential.

Crisis Communications

Unfortunately, someone has to be the bearer of bad news.  As America’s economy navigates through a recession, it seems as though the pool of bad news has been much deeper than the pool of good news.  Executives need the expertise of public relations practitioners to guide communications through the tough times of layoffs, job cuts, administrative changes  and bankruptcies.

On the brighter side: Businesses will also need PR to announce the good news when the economy strengthens.

A Global Marketplace

Global communications has been a hot topic among several guest speakers at recent PRSSA Kent meetings.  We live in a global marketplace, and many companies are expanding their global efforts to remain viable in a shaky American economy.  These companies need solid global communications to adapt to each culture and society they reach.  PR practitioners willing to travel regularly and/or move overseas will see many career opportunities in their futures.

What other factors do you think will contribute to the growth of public relations in the present and future?  Which changes and paths are you willing to take to ensure a lasting career in PR?

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Facebook and social media positives, negatives

March 17, 2009

I’m on a Facebook fast.

My decision to refrain from typing my e-mail and password into that chunky blue box led to an uproar of confusion filling my wall and text message inbox Sunday night.  Fellow bloggers Amanda and Shantae don’t believe I have the self-restraint necessary to make it a few days without my favorite social network.  It’s okay: I doubt myself, too.

No Facebook

So why did I decide to give up Facebook, anyway?  It all started as an innocent choice to log in and view what my 12-year-old cousin posted on my wall.  I justified my decision as a means to take a quick break while studying for a midterm.  That “break” quickly turned into a 45-minute affair of reminiscing over my 2006 senior high school prom pictures while watching two of my friends host a wall-to-wall discussion over where to eat dinner Monday night.  Before I knew it, my brain was circling in tangents over how classy my prom dress was when it should have been focusing on the difference between SEO and SEM.

In simpler terms: Facebook wastes time.  And like many college students, I’ve learned time is a precious commodity.

Although Facebook has proven to waste time in my day-to-day life, I like what PRKent graduate Alexia Harris said in a tweet:

You definitely must be an expert at multitasking when participating in the s-media community. It’s easy to lose track of time.

She’s right.  Social media can serve its purpose if you’re willing to manage your time effectively.  And according to Shel Holtz, social media can be a blessing for PR professionals who are crunched for time by allowing quick monitoring, a means to bypass and/or reach the press and access to research through blog polls and RSS feeds.

However, I think Jason Falls brings up a great point each PR student and professional must remember: Social media isn’t everything.  In his post, Falls reminds PR professionals that the type of social networking that opens doors is face-to-face communication.  We’ve all heard examples of people getting jobs through Twitter or Linked In, but it’s usually those budding relationships within social networks that lead to worthwhile F2F moments.Prom Picture

What’s the lesson in all of this? Social media plays a hip, “happening” role in public relations, but PR students and professionals can’t afford to lose sight of the most important relationships: face-to-face.

And for those of you who have been thinking about my classy prom dress ever since I mentioned it in the third graf, here’s a snapshot!

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Making your digital footprints worthwhile

March 5, 2009

Facebook.com Screen Shot

Facebook’s Terms of Service sparked several heated conversations throughout the blogosphere and social media networks over the past week.  The Consumerist translated the lengthy ToS as Facebook’s way of saying it has the right to do as it pleases with each user’s data, even after he or she deletes the profile.

The law and ethics involved in Facebook’s ToS is another discussion for another day.  However, the controversy reminded me that each picture, wall comment, link, status, etc we post leaves a “digital footprint” in the sands of the World Wide Web.  The only difference is that digital footprints are far more permanent than the ones you leave at the beach.

As Brian Solis says, Facebook profiles are yet another way for public relations students and professionals to brand themselves.  I know many of my fellow PRKent students are gearing up for the summer internship search, and many PRKent seniors are preparing to transition into entry-level positions.

As employers and internship coordinators scope social media sites for juicy gossip on the perfect (or not-so-perfect) candidates, don’t you want to ensure your profile reflects an accurate “snapshot” of who you are?

We all know the first step to Facebook purity is to untag and/or remove unflattering pictures from drunken escapades, but what else can you do to protect your Web brand and identity?  I’ve mixed my ideas with the advice of pros to offer the following tips:

  • Follow the “Seven Seconds” rule.

My human communication professor and high school speech teacher both preached the seven second rule, which states that a person solidifies his or her overall impression of an individual within the first seven seconds of face-to-face contact.

Although Facebook isn’t a F2F medium, it does tell a story.  How do you want to tell yours?  Your profile should reflect your personal and professional personality.

  • Consistency is key.

I wouldn’t expect a profile to accurately reflect each rule of the AP Stylebook, but basic grammar rules should not be ignored.  Be consistent in format, and watch your grammar.  Try to use it’s/its, to/too/two and their/there/they’re in proper form throughout your profile and wall posts.

  • Untag quickly and wisely.

Believe me: Your best friend will eventually forgive you for the inappropriate pictures you untagged from her 21st birthday bash.  Tagged photos can show up in other’s news feeds hours after you untag them.  It’s hard to completely erase your photo footprints, but untagging is the first step.

  • Watch your language.

Alright, alright… so maybe this is just a personal pet peeve.  The “f” bomb doesn’t look flattering in print.  Please save the bombs for personal conversations.

  • Make your statuses worthwhile.

Try to mix up your Facebook statuses on occasion.  Consistent statuses that complain about your classes, your hectic work schedule and your boyfriend’s lack of judgment may not reflect positively on your reputation.

  • Edit your privacy settings.

Although your digital footprints cannot be completely protected, Facebook does offer some ways to keep your content from landing in everyone’s hands.  Check out this guide to privacy settings.

What advice do you have for protecting your “brand” on the Web?  Better yet, do you have any horror stories of people who let their Facebook profiles reflect negatively on their image?

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A “twang” to my “tweeps”: Why PR professionals should develop a Twitter presence

February 13, 2009

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I was initially skeptical of Twitter.

Twitter Screen Shot

I feel guilty when I update my Facebook status more than two times a day, so the thought of sending consistent updates to the world was overwhelming.  I wondered what I could “tweet” to reach out to friends, classmates, acquaintances and strangers in a meaningful way.

It didn’t take long to realize Twitter is about so much more than 140 characters.  It’s more than what you’re having for breakfast, who you’re meeting for an afternoon cup of coffee or why you’re upset with the service you received at the car dealership.

As public relations practitioners turn to social media strategies to reach client objectives, it is important to recognize Twitter as an effective way for individuals to brand themselves.  As a student or professional, developing a presence on Twitter can open windows of opportunities both personally and professionally.

I’m nowhere near “Twitter guru” status, but I am slowly learning to appreciate the doors it can open.

Here’s my list of the reasons why any aspiring public relations professional should join Twitter:

  • Twitter allows you to network with friends, family, faculty, coworkers and sources you may never connect with otherwise.

Twitter gives you the ability to expand your social network  by following individuals and organizations with similar interests.  Be sure to fill out the “bio” section of your Twitter home page to ensure that users can find you through key terms.  The Public Relations Matters blog shares strategy on choosing whom to follow.

  • Twitter serves as a resource.

Sure, Twitter gives you the ability to share information with the masses through your tweets.  Why not learn a thing or two yourself while you’re at it?  I never knew I’d get breaking news about the Southwest Flight 273 emergency landing from the Zappos.com CEO, but I did.  You’ll be surprised by what you can learn.Zappos

  • You have the ability to promote your passion.

Twitter allows you to “brand” yourself by letting your personality shine through your posts.  You’d be surprised how much you can learn about a person in 140 characters!  It’s also a great way to promote student groups, professional development organizations or other groups you may be affiliated with.  The Public Relations Student Society of America Kent Chapter is on Twitter, and many of the executive board members promote meetings and the blog through their pages.

  • It teaches you to write “tight.”

Each of my professors in Kent State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication teaches students to write concisely.  If you can make your point in one sentence, don’t try to drag it on for three sentences.  Twitter doesn’t give you a choice; you only have 140 characters to get your point across.  Practice makes perfect, right?

  • Twitter allows you to “cross pollinate” your social media elements.

We’re all about convergence at Kent State, and Twitter is a great way to “cross pollinate” your messages.  You can link your Twitter page to your blog or Facebook page, or you can even use your Twitter account as a tool to direct audiences to your social networking sites.

  • Twitter gives you an excuse to incorporate cheesy slang into your daily vocabulary.

If I didn’t have a Twitter account, I wouldn’t be able to use words such as “twang,” (a tweet from someone in the South) or “tweep” (a Twitter friend.)  My vocabulary would obviously be bland if I didn’t log on to Twitter every day.

So what are you waiting for?  If you don’t have a Twitter account, create one now.  If you have an account, muster up every ounce of bravery and write a tweet.  If you need some direction on what to write, I’d recommend Angela’s 70:20:10 formula.

Don’t forget to become my tweep while you’re at it!