Will Return Soon

I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, but will be back soon to share thoughts and inspiration.


The Direction of Our Attention

In June, I attended a Social Media Breakfast to hear from Maura Thomas, founder of RegainYourTime.com. She brought up a lot of interesting points about controlling our attention in this digital age, and inspired me to exploring some questions of my own about human attention.

For me, it's easy to clean the kitchen while listening to music. I'm quite comfortable talking on the phone while walking. And I enjoy running on the treadmill while watching television. However, are these abilities of benefit to me? Or, am I hindering my performance by thinking I can handle multiple tasks at once? Am I really getting more done by doing two activities at once?

Have you ever noticed that when you are stuck in really bad traffic, you reach to turn down the volume of the radio? Have you ever caught yourself talking on the phone while walking, when suddenly it starts to rain and you instantly blurt out "uh, let me call you right back?" In these situations, it seems a basic human instinct to limit distractions and focus on the important task at hand. Just one task at a time. Why then, do we not observe this type of behavior in all situations requiring focus and concentration?

Are you the type of person to have your laptop open, your cell phone in hand, and your television on in the background? Or perhaps you are the type person to just have their laptop open, but with a million different windows running all at the same time. Regardless of your habits, many of us participate in the oh so challenging act of multi-tasking. I wonder, are we really getting more done? Or is this just an illusion? Are we missing key information when we multi-task? Watch the following video for a unique perspective.

We live in a society where everything coming at us is designed to take our attention away. For example, have you ever noticed that television advertisements are louder than the actual show? Just in the time that I write this blog post, my phone is likely to ring, or buzz from a text message, I am distracted by the noise of a lawnmower outside, and my computer is alerting me of new emails messages. In an age where focus is hard to come by, taking personal control of our attention is going to be key.

"The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook" - William James

We can control our attention through various tactics - turning our phones off while we drive, limiting the amount of time we spend on social networking sites, only checking our email every 3 hours (instead of having it come automatically to us), and so forth.

It will be interesting to read new research on the effects of multi-tasking on our performance and ability to stay focused. For now, I think the more control we take of our attention, the more productive and focused we will be.


A Look at Student Internships

Following the New York Times article "The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not," there has been a lot of talk about student internships.
Are internships necessary? Should they be required? How long should they last? These are just some of the questions being asked by students, professors, employers and companies’ across the country. However, one of the more heated questions being discussed lately is - should they be paid?

As in any debate, there are two (if not more) sides to the argument. There are folks who argue that internships should always be paid, and folks who argue that payment is not necessary when valuable work experience is being attained.

In 2008, 50 percent of graduating students had held internships, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. That's a lot of students - thousands of students. Many experts estimate that up to one half of these interns are unpaid.

This means thousands of college students in the United States are working for free. In fact, if students decide to take internships in other states, away from their college, they actually und up paying to work. Plane tickets, food, housing - all of this money spent for an opportunity to work...for free.

Luke Sullivan, author of "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This" (a book I read a few semesters ago in an Advertising course - I highly recommend it), argues that "Interns should be paid. With money." In response to the argument no payment necessary if valuable work experience is gained, Sullivan responds,
Oh, bite me. If you really believe that, how about you and me, we’ll go out to the street right now, flag down a cab, and see if he’ll take us to the airport in exchange for some valuable on-the-job training.
There are, however, those who indeed believe that the experience, the skills learned, and the opportunity to network are enough of a payment for student interns.

In the case of unpaid internships, according to federal legal criteria, there are six requirements which must be met in order for an internship to be unpaid.

Students, do your internships meet these requirements?

As a student who has completed several internships and plans to complete several more, I will remain neutral in this debate for now.

What do you think, should all internships be paid?

A post about a heated debate would not be complete without a Colbert clip.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Unpaid Internship Crackdown
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News


A Game of Roulette

I did it. I finally tried ChatRoulette.

There is nothing new about anonymous online chatting, but with added webcams, no required username or any other type of identifying information, this site did seem a bit different.

I must admit, I was too afraid to enter the website alone, especially after hearing so many horror stories of interactions with very unusual people. Not to mention, a website dedicated to video chatting with random strangers has little appeal to me in the first place. So, I had a friend join me in the conversation. We set up the video camera on his computer, and logged in.

I was surprised by the simplicity of the website layout. There are two video areas - one where you can see yourself, and one where you can see who you are chatting with. There is a chat box for text dialogue and there is a button where you click "next" when you want to start a chat with someone new.

The website was simple. My emotional response was not.

Who knew there could be so many different feelings associated with video chatting?

Even after we logged in, I was a bit camera shy. I actually insisted that my face not be seen on the screen, and tilted the camera towards my friend the whole time. Unfortunately, we did come across some of the people using the site for inappropriate reasons, but I suppose that is a hazard when you create a site like this - allowing users so much freedom. When we came across somebody being inappropriate we “F9’d” them (we clicked next to connect to the next user). I did not think much of this action, until it happened to us. On several occasions, we were F9’d by other users, and sometimes after only a few seconds of chatting. In two or three incidents we were F9’d before we even began chatting, just based on our appearance alone.

My feelings were actually hurt by these strangers! I found myself angry at times, when users would end the conversation mid sentence, as if I had nothing interesting to say. At one point, we ended the conversation with someone who was typing too slowly. About 10 minutes later, we entered a chat with that very same person (what are the chances!) and decided to give him another try. However, that time, he F9’d us! I guess that’s karma?

Scared. Angry. Mad. Sad. Ultimately, what did I walk away with from my ChatRoulette experience? Nothing.

This type of website makes me worry for the future of interpersonal relationships. I appreciate very much the opportunities social media provides me to stay connected with friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, and so forth. However, I find this use of technology lacking. In my opinion, there is something very different about chatting with someone who displays information about themselves, like a name or location as you would find talking to someone on Twitter, as opposed to talking to someone with absolutely no identifying information. It is difficult for me to understand why anybody would spend time chatting with total strangers - people you may have nothing in common with, and may never see again. Why not instead, spend time focusing on building connections with the real people you can form relationships with – people you may have met, may meet someday, have something in common with, can get in touch with on a regular basis, etc..

As technology enters our lives and becomes a part of our existing relationships, is it driving us apart?

I am glad I finally got to see what ChatRoulette is all about, but I think I will stick to my usual round of social media sites for now.


Social Media Basics

When I talk about social media, I tend to assume everyone has a basic understanding of what social media entails. However, as I have learned throughout the past week, many people do not have a basic understanding of social media, and some people are shy to speak up and ask questions.

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard professionals calling themselves “social media experts,” “social media gurus,” and perhaps even “social networking masters.” With such a rapid increase in social networking sites and the potential for profitability, it seems only natural that some people would explore these sites in-depth and hone their skills to create a marketable characteristic for themselves or their companies. While it is possible to “practice” social media, through engaging in social networking sites and staying up-to-date with the latest trends, professionals generally question the idea that one can become an “expert” in the field. Regardless of if you plan to be extremely experienced with social media, or just want to take advantage of a few of the many sites available, it’s important to immerse yourself in social media. No matter who you are, or what you do, social media can benefit you. What better way to immerse yourself in social media, then by beginning with a basic understanding of the tools available to you. After all, if you plan on becoming a “social media guru,” you need to at least know the basics. These basics are easy to set-up and free to all Web users.

The word blog, is actually short for “web log.” Blogs are used for a variety of things these days – a blog can be a diary, a company newsletter, a place for you to voice your opinion, a political soapbox, or a site for information about breaking news. A blog can be anything you want it to be, there aren’t really any rules. However, most successful blogs are well organized and updated frequently. In its most basic form, a blog is a website where you write stuff or post updates on a regular basis. Two of the most popular blog hosting sites are Blogger and Wordpress. Blogger is a free blogging service supported by Google. It offers a variety of blog templates and designs, an easy way to upload photos and embed videos, and makes it easy to search for other blogs. Wordpress is also a free blogging service. Wordpress has more variety in terms of templates and theme designs, it allows you to track stats on your blog (who is visiting, how often) right on the blog dashboard, and provides the option of upgrading your blog for more storage space or additional plug-ins. Individuals benefit from creating blogs for personal branding and marketing. Businesses benefit from creating blogs in a variety of ways. Whole Foods, for example, has a very successful blog. They post information related not only to their brand, but to all things food related as well

Facebook is a social networking site that acts as a real community of sharing. When it was first launched, Facebook was used mainly to connect with friends and family by sharing photos, commenting on each others profile pages, and creating event invitations. Now, Facebook has become utilized more by businesses, through creating Facebook fan pages. For individuals on Facebook, you create a Facebook profile page. Your profile contains your photo, a little information about yourself – where you are from, what you interests and activities are, where you work, and a wall, where your friends can post comments or links directly to your profile page. For business on Facebook, you can create a Facebook fan page. The fan page allows Facebook users to join your fan page community, post comments and links to your wall, and be kept up-to-date with business news, events, and leaders.

The basic premise of Twitter is answering the question, “what are you doing?” After taking just a few minutes to set up an account, Twitter users can easily answer this question by posting a status update to their profile, known as a “tweet.” As Twitter has grown, people now tweet all sorts of things, beyond the “Just woke up, about to head to the grocery store.” People tweet links to interesting articles they are reading online and people tweet their innovative thoughts and ideas. Businesses are even becoming involved with Twitter, tweeting new research, specials and coupons on products, and announcing new service launches. Twitter also makes it easy for users to search for information by entering keywords in the search bar, Twitter pulls up all tweet mentioning the keyword or linking to relevant articles. Most interaction on Twitter occurs directly on your profile page. In the bar where you post your status updates, you can use the “@” before a user name to indicate a response to that user. You can also use the “#” before a keyword to make it appear when people search that particular word. Following users is just as important as posting updates to your profile. By following people in your field of interest, you can stay up-to-date on industry news, leaders, and events in your area.

These basic tools are a great way for you to start exploring social media. Create accounts; engage with your friends and followers; provide valuable content – you’ll be on your way in no time. Once you feel comfortable with the basic tools, consider expanding your knowledge and experimenting with some of the more intermediate tools, like RSS feeds and Social Bookmarking. We’ll talk about these soon.


Topper Takes a Tour

“Topper Takes a Tour” was created by Courtney Medford, Sara Roberts, and me. Our video highlights the history of St. Edward’s University, while allowing Topper the goat to make his film debut.

Topper, the St. Edward's University mascot, found his identity through a campus-wide vote in 2002. Topper is the loveable campus goat, not to be confused with the neighbor’s mascot, the Longhorn at the University of Texas. Topper's mission is to work in conjunction with the Cheerleaders, the Sapphires dance team and the spirit group, the HillRaisers, in promoting school spirit.

This year, Topper the mascot came to life, when Lt. Dan Beck purchased Pax, a two-year-old domestic Angora goat to play the role of Topper, with the hopes of encouraging school spirit. Beck and his wife are St. Edward’s alumni, and they said the goat is an alumni gift to the student body.

Even before Beck purchased Pax the goat, I had been told several times that, “sometimes you can find Topper roaming around campus greeting the community.” Now I must admit, in my four years at St. Edward’s University, I have never seen Topper simply roaming around campus; however, the thought of this inspired Courtney, Sara, and me to develop a creative project around Topper.

As this year marks the 125th anniversary of St. Edward’s University, we thought it would be fun to create a video to highlight the University’s history. We also thought this would be a great way to get our mascot involved, and ultimately increase school spirit. Topper is already involved in some of the anniversary campaign, with the Topper Maker on the anniversary microsite, and his attendance at some of the homecoming events, but we wanted to get Topper involved more specifically with the historical aspect of the 125th anniversary celebration.

After we decided that we wanted to focus our project on the University’s history and involve Topper, we had to brainstorm different ways to combine these two concepts – historical facts and a live goat. Well, it suddenly came to us – a walking tour of the campus! Thanks to the newly released Historical Walking Tour of St. Edward’s University Campus, we were filled with ideas about which facts to focus on, what would be of interest to students, and which locations were easy to get to with a live goat.

Topper Takes a Tour” is meant to highlight the history of St. Edward’s University over the last 125 years and to celebrate the anniversary by showcasing our mascot and increasing school spirit. This video has the ability to be successful with the proper social media utilization. By uploading this video to YouTube, sharing the link to the video on Facebook, Tweeting about the video, bookmarking the video on Delicious, e-mailing the video to friends, and blogging about it, we hope the video gets views, gets shared, and stirs up conversation among students about the 125th anniversary of our University, all of which we will use to determine the success of this video.

Please enjoy "Topper Takes a Tour," share with your friends, and feel free to ask questions!


Business Cards for PR/Social Media Students: Is Social Media the New Email Address?

PR and social media students: you need to have a business card.

Whether you are a freshman in college, not sure about what you want to do, or, are about to graduate and currently looking for a job - business cards are essential. They help you establish yourself and your personal brand.

Business cards allow you to
  • Share your contact information: a business card allows you to put all of your contact information in one place, making it easy for people to get in touch with you
  • Look professional: you certainly do not want to be the student at the networking event who is continually asking for a pen and paper to jot down your e-mail address. Not only does this look unprofessional, but the napkin or scrap paper is likely to later get thrown away
  • Network: having a business card to share, means you are likely to receive business cards in return, which creates opportunities to further conversation with professionals
So, what kind of information should PR students put on their business cards? When I started college, I was told all I needed was my name, my area of study, and my e-mail address or phone number. In just the few years that have passed, I think this has changed greatly. Of course, those items are the essentials, but for PR students, I think we need to go above and beyond. Ultimately, what goes on your business card is up to you. It can also vary depending on the specific field you are interested in.

For PR students, a few things may help you stand out. For starters, put your Twitter handle on your business card.

According to a blog post on The Next Web about using your Twitter handle on your business cards, putting your Twitter handle on your business card not only shows that you have knowledge of social media, and that you are emerged with the technology, but also allows you another way to get in contact with the people you exchange cards with.
My email inbox is overflowing with email. A lot of it comes from people I know but the largest part is from people and companies that I have never met. Every email goes straight into my inbox where it becomes my responsibility.

Now imagine if I would only give out my Twitter name. Someone would get my card and would like to tell me something. He or she would send our a public tweet starting with “@username”. If I would choose to talk to that person I could start following him or her and we could exchange a few direct messages. Once we are done I would unfollow that person again.

Communication would be a bit more like meeting people in real life. At a conference people approach me, in public, and ask me a question. Then, if we want to continue talking, we make an appointment to talk in private
Some people argue, that eventually, all you will need to put on your business card is your Twitter handle. I'm not too sure of this considering many people still have not discovered this website, especially small companies, so let's think of a few more items that might be beneficial to put on your card.
  • If you have a job or internship, you may want to list your company name on your card, so people remember what field you are in.
  • If you do not have a job or internship, consider listing your school name and major, or perhaps your area of interest.  
  • If you are a leader in a student organization, like PRSSA, consider putting this on your card as well
  • Along with your Twitter handle, of course put your name, phone number, and e-mail address (you want to make it easy for people to get in touch with you).
  • If you have a blog or a LinkedIn profile, consider putting that information on as well.
After attending a student conference several weeks ago, I saw quite a variety of business cards. Some students put miniature versions of their resume on the backs of their cards, some put a blank line for the card recipient to take notes in, and some event put a photo. I leave these decisions up to you.

Whatever you decide to put on your card, having one is important. Make one as soon as you can and carry a few on you at all times - you never know when you might meet that future employer!

Here are just two examples. The first is very basic, pretty professional looking. The second is more specialized towards a certain field. As mentioned before, it's not so much the design or color of your business card, but more about showcasing what you know - by including your social media involvement or PR experience.

A few places on the web to get business cards..