8.30.2010

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.

4.25.2010

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
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

4.18.2010

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.

4.12.2010

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.

4.06.2010

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!

4.01.2010

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..
VistaPrint
BizCard
123Print
Zazzle

Press Releases? How Old School.

Oh, the press release - how old fashioned, right? ;)

As we are all bombarded by more and more e-mails, messages, posts, updates, etc..,it would seem pretty obvious that the sort of mass e-mail one sheet would no longer be the best way to get people's attention.

Apparently, this has not been so obvious to PR professionals.

According to Tom Forenski, in his blog post "4 Years Since 'Die! Press Release Die!...' And STILL No Hyperlinks," even with all the advances in technology and social networking in the past several years, PR professionals are still sending out mass releases, without even going to the trouble of including useful links. This post follows his original post "Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!" in which you can imagine, he discusses the failures and limitations of the ordinary press release.

In my Social Media for PR class yesterday, we discussed some of the possible reasons PR professionals would fail to include links, such a simple task for people who are involved in the internet in any way, whether it be blogging or Facebook.

We discussed how maybe PR professionals are control freaks, and by not including links in the press release, they feel as though they have more of a control on the message. We talked about the possibility of PR professionals simply being lazy, perhaps they do not feel like taking the extra 5 or 10 minutes to retrieve the url link and include it in the release. We even thought about the possibility of PR professionals worrying about competition. Maybe by not including links they think they are limiting the amount of information the recipients have access to.

None of these makes sense in explaining why PR professionals continue to send out plain old fashion press releases, as opposed to creating press releases with useful links and multimedia components. None of the PR professionals I know seem like control freaks or lazy people. I really don't understand why any PR professional would NOT use links and other multimedia components in their press release when it is now so easy to include such information. I wonder if Forenski is just over-exaggerating about the amount of "un-linked" press releases he receives, or if there really is something going on with PR professionals out there?

Whatever the case may be, sending out a "linked" press release seems easy, especially thanks to the Social Media Press Release Template. This template provides a guideline to sending out an optimized press release, full with links and multimedia components.
Many websites allow you to create a similar release, by filing out a template, and distribute it easily, like PRWeb.

This new style of press release, full of quotes, multimedia, and bulleted information, is very exciting to me. I like to be able to send someone a full package of information. It helps reduce the amount of back and forth e-mails that may follow if someone actually does pick up the release. This way, they already have pretty much all of the content they need, and don't have to ask you after the fact for images and quotes. So again, why wouldn't PR professionals use this? Either Forenski's observation is exaggerated, or I'm just simply not able to detect some personality issue in PR professionals.

3.28.2010

Citizen Journalism in AT&T's Backflip Commercial


Emmy Award winning broadcaster, actor, and comic - Logan Crawford - portrays an omnipresent newsman "reporting the news that's important for you" in this series of TV commercials for AT&T's “Backflip”.

What a very funny commercial. I laugh every time I see one. This video exemplifies a lot of what I have been exploring this semester in my Social Media for PR class, as you can read in my previous posts. News and journalism is being transformed by the use of social media sites. Ordinary people are having much more of an influence on the delivery of our news. News sites can now receive photos, videos, and comments from people on the scene of breaking news, even before their crews are able to get to the site. Technology is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. Just the other day when I was watching the health care debate on TV, I noticed some of the news anchors actually had their laptops in front of them, on screen, while they were conversing. I never thought I would see that. I wonder if it really is only a matter of time before broadcast news anchors are sitting in front of the camera reading the news from Twitter and Facebook?

3.27.2010

For Public Relations Success, Try Consumer Participation

When you really like something, sometimes you just have to have it. We all know of people who have worked hard to obtain something they desire: children who saved pennies for that very special toy, friends who worked long hours to earn extra vacation days, or perhaps students who voiced themselves on campus to win a long-standing debate.

But, how many people do you know have worked extra hard to save a soda?

...me neither.

However, that is exactly what Eric Karkovack did when he launched SaveSurge.org, a website dedicated to getting the Coca-Cola company to re-launch their very green, very caffeinated soda product, Surge.

(On a side note, I did a science fair experiment with Surge when I was in 6th grade. I designed an experiment to test whether caffeine affects memory. The results of my test: after 3 students were given one cup of Surge each, no negative affect on memory. I know, not a very accurate study, but hey, I was in 6th grade!)

After hearing of Surge's production cessation and speaking with fellow "soda activists," Karkovack began a mission to unite Surge fans, locate the last of the Surge supply, and take action to convince the soda company that Surge was worth saving. The SaveSurge.org website was a hub of consumer interaction. Visitors could upload photos, participate in discussion forums, and even send pre-written letters to soda company officials. In fact, the website eventually became one of the top hits in the Google search results.

Although Surge has yet to make a comeback, this example of consumers taking action and voicing themselves to major companies and businesses exemplifies a point that I believe is (or will become) pivotal to the practice of public relations: consumer participation.

"...even if it is not as important as curing cancer or saving the environment. People want to feel a part of something," mentioned Karkovack.

I think most people like to feel that they have the ability to participate, to contribute something of their own, whether this is to a cause (saving Surge) or to any other product or company they have any type of relationship with. Karkovack mentions that one of the reasons his Surge website showed up in Google search results, above even Coca-Cola's main website, is because his website had more interactive components to offer.

My observation has been that companies with interactive websites or other interactive public relations efforts tend to be successful. Take for example, Starbucks – that’s a pretty successful company, right?

Starbucks not only engages with social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, but also has its own sort of social network – My Starbucks Idea.

My Starbucks Idea allows customers to share their ideas on all and anything related to Starbucks. You can see what other users have suggested, vote on others ideas, and even watch as Starbucks tracks and implements many of the proposed ideas. This site actually allows customers a small part in the decision making process of Starbucks. I cannot think of a better way to get customers feeling involved – they are actually making a contribution.

When you allow a destination where consumers are free to be involved and make a contribution, I think they generally will. Of course, only companies who feel confident in their reputation will want to do this. With the recent example of Nestle in mind, you would not want to post an open site for customer feedback during a crisis event (read more about the Nestle crisis on the Social Media for PR Class blog). Consumer participation can potentially create a good vibe among consumers, but also provides beneficial feedback for the business. It creates a place where you can see what consumers like, what they respond well to, etc..

Public relations practitioners are going to have to start being even more creative. We all receive massive amounts of e-mails a day, no doubt visit many websites throughout the week, and are bombarded with messages everywhere we go, and let’s face it – the old fashion press release is nearing extinction. I think to be effective, there needs to be more incentive. What better way to draw people in than by making them feel involved and welcoming them to participate? What kinds of interactive PR strategies do you find effective? What companies are using creative ways to build and maintain business?

3.21.2010

FTC Guidelines

I recently read over the new FTC guidelines. In this document,
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) is adopting revised Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (“the Guides”). The revised Guides include additional changes not incorporated in the proposed revisions published for public comment in November 2008.
Reading legal documents has never been a strength of mine, which made this blog - Understanding the New FTC Guidelines, very helpful to me.

I was very surprised to discover that some of the FTC guidelines had not been updated more recently. With the changing technology and use of social media, I imagined most FTC guidelines would at least need to be updated every 5 years or so, but that does not seem to be the case. In fact, it is my understanding that the FTC guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and advertising had not been updated since 1980!

The new guidelines do, however, take into consideration the new and diverse relationships forming between advertisers and bloggers (and other social commentators on the web).

Under the new guidelines, this relationship between companies or advertisers and online commentators needs to be honest and transparent. Companies that pay or give free products to online commentators in order to generate positive buzz or favorable for their products will now have to ensure that these relationships are clearly and conspicuously disclosed. Otherwise, they will face liability for deceptive advertising practices. The bloggers will also face similar liability for misleading statements and non-disclosure of material relationships.

These guidelines seem pretty fair in my opinion. If I was reading my favorite blogger’s review of the latest Blackberry phone, I would want to know if he or she had been paid by the company to write about it. There may be no way to know, but I would also be curious if the blogger had been paid to write a particular view point, or simply paid to write anything about the product.

Of course, there are no guidelines for people who want to just blog about their favorite products – those who have not been contacted by the company or their advertisers. But, how do we know who has and who has not been involved in a material relationship with the company or product they are discussing?

One aspect of these new guidelines which does not seem to be mentioned too often is responsibility. Who is responsible for monitoring the bloggers and other online commentators? Who is responsible for checking to see if a blogger has been paid? Who is responsible to make sure that the paid bloggers do in fact disclose this information? Many people suggest it is up to the bloggers to self-regulate. According to these people, bloggers who do not self-regulate and follow the guidelines will be called out by the community – and that will be punishment enough. Other people argue that marketers should be fully responsible for advising bloggers of their responsibilities. In my opinion, it is important to do both. Bloggers must self-regulate and be involved in the community enough to spot others who may not be abiding by the guidelines. I think it is also important for advertisers and marketers to fully inform bloggers and other online commentators of their responsibilities before they establish any type of relationship, monetary or otherwise.

3.08.2010

PRSSA Podcast for St. Edward's University 125th Anniversary


Last week Sara, Courtney, and myself created a Podcast designed around the 125th anniversary campaign at St. Edward’s University. We had the opportunity to interview Director of Communication, Michelle Diaz and Public Relations Associate, Marcie Lasseigne of the St. Edward’s marketing department, who are both heavily involved in the campaign. As public relations students, we were very interested in the campaign logistics, and the strategies used to promote the anniversary.

We developed questions to help our audience understand the campaign and the various ways to become involved in the year long celebration. The questions varied from a focus on the campaign’s use of social media to the incorporation of the “real life” Topper mascot.

Marcie and Michelle thoroughly answered our questions and gave us much insight into the public relations aspects of the campaign.

As Marcie mentions in the episode, “people like to get their news in a variety of ways.” We learned that social media has been very useful in facilitating communication about the anniversary and related events, and we encourage our fellow students to check out the new microsite and get involved in activities on campus.

Join the effort – we can’t wait for the year to come!

SHOW NOTES

00:06 - Introduction to Podcast show
00:19.3 - Description of episode
00:13.1 - Introduction of hosts and guests
00:48.5 - Overview of 125th campaign
01:16 - Sara asks about campaign, and why focus specifically on 125th year?
03:03 - Incorporation of social media sites in campaign
08:59 - Service challenge
11:14 - Ally asks about incorporation of “real-life Topper”
12:08 - Upcoming events on campus
13:19 - Conclusion of interview

3.07.2010

YouTube Videos: Persistence is Not Key

Every time I play bingo, I think to myself  "I've played this game so many times, I'm bound to win tonight, especially since I've lost so many times before," as if the amount of times I've lost is in any way correlated to my winning.

No, I'm not a gambling addict, and I do realize that there is absolutely no strategy or logical way to play bingo. It's a game of pure luck. I know it is not true, but I just can't help thinking that the more I play (and pay), the more likely I am to win (I must add that almost every time I play, the player who wins the $500 game is sitting within feet of my seat, won't their luck will eventually rub off?)

Apparently I am not alone in my way of thinking, in that
"it is widely believed that persistence in most endeavors is key to their success...people are willing to endure failures before achieving a desired goal."
This comes from an interesting study, A Persistence Paradox, which tests the hypothesis that persistence equals success, by evaluating YouTube videos.

In this report, Fang Wu and Bernardo Huberman studied the production histories and success dynamics of 10 million videos uploaded to YouTube, and found that
"while the average quality of submissions does increases with the number of uploads, the more frequently an individual uploads content the less likely it is that it will reach a popularity threshold."
Unlike bingo, YouTube video success is not measured by monetary value. Instead, it is measured by the amount of attention received. With my previous posts in mind, "Citizen Marketers," and "Crisis Communication," I wonder if the same concepts apply to influencers in social media.

The past several weeks I've been learning about and exploring the major impact ordinary consumers can have on major businesses and brands (see previous posts on Kevin Smith for example). If it's true that
"producers on average receive higher ratings for their later videos, while getting decreasing hit ratios with increasing number of submissions,"
It may also be true that for those persistent folks who attack large companies and corporations using social media tools like YouTube videos perhaps, but also Twitter, or Facebook - that their initial attacks are more influential than their later complaints? In this case, while it is important for organizations to respond to citizen marketer's complaints through outlets like YouTube and Twitter, they need not worry as much about repeated complaints and may be able to focus more energy on the initial ones.

In the game of bingo, although I persist (I continue to play despite my losing record), I at least enjoy the game. I enjoy playing and being with friends. For those without initial success on YouTube, who persist in uploading videos even when they receive few or no hits, I wonder if they truly enjoy the process - or are just seeking their 15 minutes? I really do wonder, especially when
"the conditional hit probability for YouTube is worse than the lottery from the second video thereafter"
...guess I have better luck winning it big in bingo than producing a top hit YouTube video.

3.06.2010

Crisis Communication: How to Handle a Crisis from a PR Perspective

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Texas Public Relations Association Leadership Day and Gala, thanks to receiving the Joe Riordan Scholarship for students.

The day consisted of many networking opportunities, keynote speakers, several breakout sessions, and an awards ceremony and gala.

One of the breakout sessions that interested me most was a "Crisis Communications Workshop for Students/Young Professionals," hosted by Jack Barnett, APR, Southern Union Company, and Keith R. Schmidt, APR, Newfield Exploration Company.

The session began with an exploration of what crisis communication entails and some practical advice for young professionals entering the public relations field. The session concluded with a hands-on activity where the session hosts outlined a crisis situation and audience teams were challenged to propose a plan of action. Below are some of the key learning points I gained from attending the session.

What is a Crisis?
A crisis is a major, unpredictable event. It is an event or situation that poses risk to a company’s or organization’s reputation.

So, if it’s just one event, why does it matter? Well, because one event can make a lasting impression on your overall reputation. Think back to the Exxon Valdez incident, many people still equate Exxon with oil spill.





How to Handle a Crisis in a Business or Organization:
The best way to handle a crisis in a business or organization is communication, of course. Ideally businesses and organizations will have a crisis plan outlined before a crisis even occurs. For every crisis there is planning that occurs before, moderation of the event during, and a debriefing and adjusting period afterwards.

Before the Crisis – Create a Plan
Every business or organization should have a crisis communication plan - universities, government organizations, and even non-profits. This plan should consist of several key features including: identifying potential or likely crisis’ that may occur (the “what ifs” - these may be obvious based on your industry); choose a company spokesperson, identify who will be the face of the company for both the media and the internal staff; create a list of tasks to be initiated by the public relations team; outline and develop talking points that can be adjusted as the situation changes. Finally, it is important to practice the plan, if not physically, then at least do a mental run-through.

The Organization’s Role during the Crisis
  • Tell the truth: reporters and community members WILL find out that you lied and things will get worse
  • Show empathy: especially if employees were injured during the crisis, you must show empathy and respect for the families and concerned community members 
  • Demonstrate leadership: be available to answer questions, but set your ground rules
  • Maintain internal communication: communication among employees and staff does not always flow easily, especially when high stress situations occur; the organization must maintain clear communication using available channels to keep employees and staff “on the same page”
Working with the Media – Do’s and Don’ts
Remember that reporters can be crucial in the way your organization’s reputation is affected by the crisis. They are an excellent source to work with in handling the issues.  As long as you’re upfront, they will work with you. The reporters will likely become upset if you’re not communicating openly.
  • Do keep talking points in your pocket to avoid speaking on the spot
  • Do talk “through” the reporters; your company should emerge as the expert in the matter
  • Do know the company’s record – have similar events happened before?
  • Do tell the truth – no matter what
  • Do NOT speculate on any facts; remember, nothing is off the record
  • Do NOT ignore the situation; this will only make things worse
The Public Relations Team Must Pay Special Attention to:
The holding statement: who will speak to the press? Do you need approval to release statements?
The facts: confirm the who, what, where, when, why throughout the event, updating as necessary
Is travel to the site necessary, and who does it?

Resolve the Crisis
Verify all the information: just how bad are the effects?
Continue to communicate and develop answers
Consider creating a "joint information center," - for employees, concerned citizens, and journalists
Finally: update, communicate, repeat

After discussing the components of a crisis communication plan, Barnett and Schmidt put us to the test. They split the audience into two groups, each representing a company that had just experienced a crisis. Each team had about 17 minutes to review the impact and effects of the crisis, choose a company spokesperson, develop a list of things that must be done from a PR standpoint, develop talking points, and adjust the talking points as the situation changed.

About 5 minutes into the exercise, we were informed that our company president (me) just had a heart attack. Now that our spokesperson was out of the picture, we had to choose a new spokesperson, update her on the talking points, and develop a way to inform the media about why our company president would not be available at the press conference.

A few minutes later, we were informed that two employees had died during the crisis. As a PR team, we had to decide how to announce the deaths of the employees, whether or not to state their names, to tell their families, etc..When our spokesperson stood up to deliver the company's statement, audience members acted as journalists, asking questions and seeking facts.

This hands-on experience gave me a real look into what it might be like to face a crisis in a company or organization, what an exciting workshop! I really learned a lot and am thankful to Schmidt and Barnett for the fun crisis communication challenge. Click here to read the full scenario, I think it could be a great exercise for a communication course or any public relations/corporate communication workshop.

A little bit more on the workshop hosts:
Jack Barnett, APR, is director of external affairs for Southern Union Company, a diversified natural gas company. He has 20 years of experience in media relations and communications for the energy industry and previously has worked as a reporter at newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas.

Keith Schmidt, APR, currently is senior communications coordinator at Newfield Exploration Company in Houston. In this position, he implemented a new employee communications program, works with the media and formalized crisis communications training at the company. He also developed a community outreach program for company expansion of operations in the Mid-Continent.

2.28.2010

A First Time Podcaster

Last week I began to prepare creating my very first Podcast (a podcast is a digital audio or video file that can be saved for playback on a portable media player or computer).

If you are unfamiliar with the technology, check out this quick video.


The thought of creating a Podcast made me a little nervous. I have a hard time recording a message for my own voicemail system, and creating a piece of audio for an even larger audience seemed intimidating. I was worried it would be difficult and technically challenging.

Actually, Podcasting is quite easy. If you have a computer and a microphone, you're pretty much set.

I have learned a few things during this experience. Some of these tips may help you first timers as well.

  • Be sure to test out your microphone before you use it, especially if you're going to be interviewing people. I'm glad I figured out ahead of time that you have to press the red button twice (on this particular recorder) to capture the audio. If I had not known this, I would have conducted an incredible interview without capturing any of it on my recording device. 
  • Find a quiet space to do your recording. We heard a few examples in class from Podcasts with significantly distracting background noise. 
  • Don't take yourself too seriously. I've listened to a few Podcasts that sound like the interviewers are literally reading off a script. I find myself much more interested in Podcasts with a conversational flow. It's alright to mess up during the Podcast, you can always go back and edit afterwards. 
  • Do prepare for interviews. It seems like a good idea to jot down some notes or example questions if you are going to be interviewing others. 
  • Use some music. Music just makes the Podcast more fun, easy to listen to, and even more memorable to me. 
  • Post Podcast show notes to your blog or website. I have found it quite difficult to search for Podcasts. The Podcasts I have found easily are those with notes posted on their blogs, something that helps me find them in a general search inquiry. 
After learning about what a Podcast is and how to create one, I was curious about what kinds of Podcasts are out there. As a PR student, I wondered how are Podcasts being used by PR pros? Well, here are a few examples.
  • Inside PR: Exploring the State of Public Relations: A weekly Canadian podcast about public relations. Agency veterans Terry Fallis and David Jones co-host the half-hour show. Each week, Terry and David will take a look under the hood of the public relations industry, explore topical and provactive issues, discuss listener comments, and even interview an interesting guest or two.
  • Marketing Over Coffee: Covers both classic and new marketing. The hosts, John Wall and Christopher Penn, record the show in a local coffee shop every week and publish the show on Thursday mornings.
  • American Copywriter: Advertising creatives John January and Tug McTighe willingly open up the cabinets inside their brains and let you peek inside. Advertising, marketing and everything about popular culture is covered, but you get a nice-sized portion of personal ramblings, tangential stories and occasionally successful attempts at actual comedy.
  • Coming Up PR: Designed by three Corporate Communications post-graduate students in Toronto, Ontario. Mary Attard, Cheryl Brean and Mike Kerr host the bi-weekly show to identify and discuss trends in communications. 
Now that I know how to Podcast and am working on my first project, I'm excited to share my work. Keep an eye out for my Podcast, I'm happy to share it once it's complete. 

2.25.2010

Social Media...and Breakfast?

One of my favorite things about Austin is how the city unites pairs of unusual partners.

Trailer parks and frozen hot chocolate. At the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery, Holy Cacao brings together a trailer park atmosphere with delicious frozen hot chocolate, cake balls, and s'mores.

Bingo and drinking. At American Bingo on Riverside, players are encouraged to bring their own alcoholic beverages to the bingo games, a partnership which makes the whole bingo experience even more exciting.

Pee Wee Herman and the Alamo Drafthouse. That's right; most of the Alamo Drafthouse locations are inviting movie-goers to attend "Pee Wee's Big Adventure - A Quote-A-Long" where audience members are invited to shout the most notorious lines from the film.

Of all the unusual combinations that "keep Austin weird," I think I've found my favorite: social media and breakfast.

The Austin Social Media Breakfast series brings together social media veterans and even newcomers for a morning of eating, meeting, sharing, and learning. The series is open to anyone interested in social media, public relations, communication, technology, or really anything.

In January, I attended my first Social Media Breakfast at Mandola's Market, an authentic Italian grocery/cafe. Although it had been years since I had woken up before 7:00AM, I was excited to meet new people, talk about social media, and of course eat breakfast (and drink lots of coffee).

Attendees at the event included: marketers, PR pros, entrepreneurs, business communicators, bloggers, podcasters, Twitterers, community managers, recruiters, online social networkers, and although I did not meet any current students, there were several recent graduates.

At the particular breakfast I went to, we heard from two executives at PetRelocation.com, a local pet relocation and transportation service, Rachel Ferris, the Director of Public Relations and New Media, and Kevin O’Brian, the co-founder and CEO.
“Be yourself and keep it simple. That’s what we’ve done. We’re being social and the media are simply our tools,”
 said O’Brian about PetRelocation.com’s success as the eleventh fastest growing company in Austin.

Ferris and O’Brian wove their discussion on social networking with their passion for pets into a presentation on how to get business, retain customers, and simply be social on social networking sites like Twitter.

Ferris emphasized the idea that
"your pet is a social media expert,"
and pointed out some lessons we can all learn from our furry friends about being social on the Internet. I have listed several here and encourage you all to check out the full presentation.
  • Assert yourself as an Alpha dog - look for a pack to lead or create one. For example, you can establish yourself as a leader of a niche interest on Twitter, or create your own group of followers
  • Be friendly at the dog park - you have to sniff and be sniffed. In order to get the most benefits from social networking, you have to not only put out good content (be sniffed), but also seek out content, people, and be responsive to followers (sniff)
  • Be loyal - by remaining active on social networking sites and responsive to followers, you will be able to retain customers and earn repeat clients
  • Don't be a cat - social networking sites are not the place to be introverted or selfish with content or followers
As a pet lover myself, I was impressed with the folks at PetRelocation.com for their ability to tie their two interests together in an outline for best practices in social media for businesses.

Many businesses today have a vast presence in the social web, with profiles on social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. These sites allow businesses to connect with their customers and provide a unique way to disseminate information to their audience. However, for businesses, social networking is about more than sending messages to an audience. It is about listening, receiving messages, and responding – if they hope to retain customers and acquire referrals.

So, my fellow students and social media people, I hope to share some cannoli, coffee, and social media tips in the near future.

2.21.2010

Citizen Journalists

Are ordinary citizens becoming more like journalists while journalists become more like ordinary citizens?

Using social media, journalists are able to gauge audience needs, get information about stories, and interact with their community in a way previously unimaginable - this makes reporting the news a more social experience. By engaging in social media, journalists seem to be behaving more like ordinary citizens.

Using social media, ordinary citizens no longer receive the news as simply an incoming message; rather, they are able to interact with their news. With social networking sites like Twitter and TwitPic - ordinary citizens now have the ability to "report" their own news or contribute their knowledge to the news stories being reported. In this way, ordinary citizens are acting much like journalists.

The way we present and receive news is changing. There's no doubt about it.

Well, really, it's been changing for a long time.

  • We used to get news after the fact, in the form of a paper delivered the morning (or several mornings) after events occurred.
  • Then we moved to listening to the news on the radio.
  • Then, we began watching the breaking news on the television. At this point, we really began receiving our news as it occurred.
  • With technological advances, many people began reading the news online. This allowed us to receive our news at a moment by moment pace with updates as they occurred.
  • Now, most of us continue to get our news online. New sites have begun allowing readers to post comments on news stories, and many journalists and newspapers have a presence on social networking sites; therefore, we now receive our news in an interaction of written story, conversation engagement, and media (photos, videos, and pictures).
To examine the roles of ordinary citizens and professional journalists in the changing news landscape, let’s take a look at the events that occurred this week in Austin, TX and how they unfolded online. For those who do not know, yesterday a man flew a plane into a Northwest office building that housed IRS offices.

Within minutes of the event, ordinary citizens were calling news stations to explain what they had seen. Additionally, people in the area started posting TwitPics to their Twitter profiles. As journalists got word of the story, they started to reach out to their audience on Twitter seeking more information. See below from the @statesman Twitter account.


As you can see in this example, the journalists were reaching out hoping to get photos and interviews from people near and around the scene of the event, and people were responding. At this point, many ordinary citizens were able to post photos and videos before the news crews even arrived at the scene.

On Twitter, journalists were engaging in social media just like many of us do - to carry on a conversation, to see what's going on around us, and to respond to those who seek information from us.

Ordinary citizens, posting pictures, videos, and updates from the scene were acting like journalists -reporting the news to the their followers.

Nearby businesses posted their news..
Austin colleges posted their news..
And citizens engaged with journalists... 
 

Before social media, I think it was probably rare for a journalist to call up a news reader on the phone and say “hey, do you know anything about what’s going on with the plane crash?” Thanks to Twitter though, journalists could see who had what information, and contact them accordingly.Also, I think before social media news readers rarely had a chance to comment back on the news stories, except for the occassional op-ed piece.

Twitter also made it easier for us to find the news we wanted to see. This is another important feature of news providers using social media - allowing selective readers to search for news they want. Instead of turning on the television and flipping through all the channels trying to find the story coverage we desired, we could simply log into our Twitter accounts and search for the key words to the stories of our interest - in yesterday's case "#atxplanecrash."

As you can see, the answer to my exploratory question: are ordinary citizens becoming more like journalists while journalists become more like ordinary citizens? - seems to be YES, at least in this example.

However, we cannot forget that journalists adhere to a strict code for reporting the news that many of us ordinary citizens do not. For example, journalists must remain unbiased, must double check their facts, must use proper AP style - most of these things we generally do not follow when sharing our news. So, while the roles seem to have some elements in common, the line between ordinary citizen and journalist is still clearly defined.

2.18.2010

And the Story Continues...

I wanted to include some updated information about the Kevin Smith & Southwest Airlines incident as more recent events have unfolded.

Smith decided to continue the story of his experience by posting a Podcast. If you are interested in listening to the Podcast, click here.


Following the Podcast, Southwest Airlines again apologized to Smith and decided to share some more information regarding their private conversation with him.

They posted the following to their blog.



 ...And yes, Smith continued to post his feelings on the matter.


The story is now winding down. Southwest Airlines continues to post updates to their blog on a variety of topics. Smith continues to Tweet and blog about his life aside from the incident. Life goes on. 

Personally, from a PR perspective, I think Southwest did a good job handling the situation. There is not much more they could do to fix what happened to Smith. Thanks to social media, they were able to respond in a timely manner and keep their audience informed as the conversation carried on. 

2.14.2010

Citizen Marketers

If you are reading this blog post, I think it's safe for me to assume that you are in some way, shape, or form - emerged in social media. Perhaps you enjoy reading blogs, or are a blogger yourself; maybe you tweet about your job or interesting books you read; or, maybe you love to share photos of your family on Facebook. Have you ever stopped to think though, about yourself as a consumer, about the potential impact your blog, tweet, or Facebook profile could have on a certain business?

....neither have I.

According to a great book I'm reading, Citizen Marketers,
"amateurs and professionals [can] comingle to assume new forms of ownership in the companies, brands, products, and people they closely follow"
As citizens, we have the ability to both positively and negatively influence the brands and businesses we associate with. For example, several years ago Fiona Apple fans were able to convince Sony to release an album they originally opted out of - read more about this instance here.

Like many people, I occasionally tweet about my frustration with AT&T or seek knowledge from bloggers about how to recycle old Dell printer cartridges. But, I never fully realized the impact a consumer could have on a business. Of course, I have heard stories of bloggers receiving free goodies after blogging about bad experiences with companies. I have even heard of the occasional written apology following an angry blog post, but I have never seen a real time instance of such an interaction between consumer and business unfold...until this weekend.

I logged into my Twitter account yesterday and saw this coming from Southwest Airlines Twitter account, @SouthwestAir

Naturally, I had to take a look at what this person was saying to get Southwest Airlines to apologetically reply several times. When I looked at his page, I discovered that Kevin Smith was not only a very unhappy SWA customer, but also a well-known individual in the film industry (worked on Dogma, Chasing Amy, Clerks, Jay & Silent Bob).

It seems as though Smith was already settled aboard the plane in his seat, when a SWA flight attendant informed him he was too large for the flight and the captain considered him a "safety risk." Smith was removed from the plane and given a $100 voucher. The voucher did not satisfy Smith and he began live-tweeting about the situation.


With 1,643,161 followers, Kevin Smith obviously reaches quite a few people. Because of his fame, it seemed like SWA probably had to do more than just apologize. Their tweets continued throughout the night.


As his followers began revealing their own complaints about SWA, the discussion on the airline company spread rapidly to tweeters and bloggers. Towards the end of the night, Kevin Smith decided to put the conversation on hold and continue it later in his own podcast.

Today, SWA tweeted a more formal apology to Kevin Smith.

His reaction to the apology:


It looks like Smith still has plenty to say to and about Southwest Airlines. I am curious to watch how this unfolds.

Individuals obviously can have quite an impact these days, thanks to social media. This means business and industry leaders really have to be on top of their social media presence. While the efforts of Southwest Airlines may not be enough for Kevin Smith, I think their quick response on Twitter shows a lot about their ability to interact in the fast-paced, constantly-changing social networking world.

On a final note, I think it is also important for us to explore the question of who really has a voice? Even the book Citizen Marketers notes that the people who are deeply engaged in social media, the ones who have a voice with the businesses and industry leaders, "don't often represent the average person, member, customer, or citizen." So, let us be reminded that there are still millions of people in the United States without internet access, no personal computer - people who are not privileged with the opportunity to be heard by large corporations.

Do you think Southwest Airlines would have made such a public response to Kevin Smith if he were just an ordinary citizen?

2.12.2010

The Socialization of Spending

Your credit card transactions are the focus point of a social networking site, blippy.com.

Blippy is
"a fun and easy way to see and discuss the things people are buying," according to their website.

Like Twitter, Blippy allows users to post updates about what they're doing, which books they are reading, and what songs they are listening to - but not by simply stating such information. Instead, Blippy users register a credit card to their account and "status updates" become "transaction updates" everytime they make a purchase.



Blippy users allow their credit card to create transaction updates not only about where they spend money, but in some cases how much they spent, and what exactly they spent it on. They also have the ability to comment on user purchases or "like" them - the social aspect of the site.

I'll admit, many of my peers and I are open to the concept that privacy on the internet is gone, but now I think...privacy is dead. Yes, of course, only those people who want to share this type of information on the internet sign up for Blippy accounts, and even those with an account can choose to limit who has access to their transaction updates, but the fact that this site has even a mediocre following worries me. What does this new networking site imply about social sharing, and more importantly, is it useful for anything?

In my opinion, this is way over sharing (although not the first example, see Facebook's Beacon). We already live in world where you can find out where somebody goes to school, who their past three employers were, and what kind of coffee they drink while writing papers - all you have to do is Google a name, look at a Twitter account, or view a Facebook profile and you have instant access to a wealth of personal information. Starting a conversation on Twitter about a great article you read is one thing. Allowing your credit card to report to the whole world that you just spent $19.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond on a Snuggie and allowing your friends to comment on your purchase - well that's just too much for me.

There are also potential hazards associated with a site like Blippy. There is the threat of hackers gaining access to users credit card information, and while Blippy has promised not to share user information with third-parties, maybe users have yet to read the fine print.

If I had to choose one thing this social networking site might be useful for (and this is hard to do), I would say: market research. For example, it might be useful for a firm to track their client's book sales - where they are purchasing from and what users have to say about this - any type of purchase patterns among users.

If our spending habits are now a component of social media, who knows? Maybe in ten years from now we will all have mobile phones which live stream updates about our body temperatures and heart rates to our Twitter accounts for our friends to comment on.

Stephen Colbert takes a satirical approach to the over sharing situation.


I'm curious to hear what you think. Would you tweet about your spending habits on Twitter?

2.05.2010

Blip.fm Makes Music Social

It seems like everybody these days has the ability to listen to music on the internet. Whether you are purchasing songs from iTunes or Amazon.com, or perhaps downloading programs like LimeWire - we all enjoy instant access to our favorite tunes.

One of the many pleasures resulting from finding, downloading or listening to good music, is being able to share the experience with a friend.

If I found a song I enjoyed on iTunes, I could send my friend an e-mail about it, maybe suggest that they purchase the same song. If I wanted to share one of my favorite songs to listen to while I cook, I could perhaps write about it on my friend's Facebook wall.

....or, I could just blip the song.

Blip.fm is a website I recently began visiting, which allows users to essentially tweet music. The website offers several neat features. Users can choose to blip music by selecting a song from the website's extensive music database. Much like the features on Twitter, when you blip a song, you can also attach a short 150 character message. By selecting a song and including a brief message, you are "blipping."



On Blip.fm you can follow updates posted by your friends or search through the public profiles to follow people who have similar music taste as you. Once you choose to follow someone, they are added to your list of "favorite DJ's." You can reply to your DJ's by inserting the "@" before their username in a blip.

For example:


Blip.fm also allows user to "give props" to DJ's. Giving props is essentially telling a DJ that you like their song selection - it's a way to give a thumbs up.

If you want to share you blips with friends or contacts outside of blip.fm, it is easy to link your account to other sites such as Twitter and Facebook, so that when you blip a song, an update appears on your other profiles.

If you don't want to share certain blips with your external accounts, it's easy - just add an "!" before the blip to prevent that particular post from publishing to your external sites.

Blipping allows users to make to listening to music a social experience. Gone are the days of mixtapes. Now users can simply create playlists of their favorite tunes for their friends or share stations.

Blip.fm has been a great site for me to explore. I like that it is easy to navigate, easy to use, and easy to link with my Twitter account. Although, I can't help but wonder - does anybody care what I'm listening to?

That was one of my initial thoughts in setting up a Twitter account - does anybody care what I'm up to? This was before I realized the potential Twitter had for me not only to share what I was doing and reading, but also for me to discover what others in my field were doing and reading. Twitter has been very beneficial to many people and businesses as well. But when you add music to the mix?

Aside from sharing my music with a few close friends or acquaintances, I am not quite sure I see great potential in blip.fm for enhancing communication in the business or public relations realms. Unless advertising teams decide to create stations to promote tunes from creative spots, I do not see much business use for this particular tool.

Although blip.fm is not the most useful business initiative, or most productive way for me to spend my time...I really do enjoy it, and if you're interested, I invite you to follow my station!

Social Bookmarking. Emphasis on the social.

“The web is vast. Far too vast for anyone to have a hope of negotiating by themselves.” 
I have been in college for almost four years. I have spent hours and hours doing research for projects on everything from genetically modified food to heteronormativity in children’s literature. My research was mainly conducted in the school and public library, by searching through the online catalogue to locate books on the shelves. I also took advantage of the online databases to search articles I could save to my computer and print if needed. And of course I often sought information on the web, searching google results and looking up news articles on sites like the New York Times.

But what was I to do, when I had done all possible searching, and still couldn’t quite find exactly what I wanted? In some of my more specific research projects, like doing a rhetorical analysis on anti-war song lyrics, I felt things would be a lot easier if I had someone to talk to about the topic – someone else who was searching for the same information. Then, maybe we could share research and each of us would find things that may have been unattainable had we not been working together.

Well, the opportunity to connect with people who are searching for similar topics as you, interested in the same specialty areas as you, and the capability to share articles and research with these people is a reality. A reality that is actually quite easy to attain. The answer: social bookmarking.

“Social bookmarking brings to the equation something that search engines can’t compete with – the human touch. Just as the internet has millions of pages, so it also has millions of users, and even if a fraction of those users share the sites they’ve found interesting, useful or just plain bizarre with each other, there is suddenly a vast resource for anyone searching the web to tap into” - Social Bookmarking Services And Tools: The Wisdom Of Crowds That Organizes The Web

I think this is very true. User generated content allows us to share information in a helpful and timely way. The ability to collaborate online with others in your field, allows you to discover and explore websites, articles, and research you may not have found otherwise. It makes research and information seeking a social process.

I have chosen to explore del.icio.us. In just a matter of seconds I can now follow people who share my similar interests. I can see what articles they have come across, and discover new research they have found.

Aside from personal or academic use, social bookmarking has some pretty impressive implications in the Public Relations field.

Press releases have certainly evolved with the changing way we share information. Many PR and Social Media professionals suggest that social bookmarking sites are important in the new format of press releases, often referred to as Social Media Press Releases.

When sending a Social Media Press Release (SMPR), it is recommended that a del.icio.us account be set up for each new release. The del.icio.us account would include links to other company sites, executive bios, or fact sheets, etc... According to PR-Sqaured, the del.icios.us site must be "purpose-built" to be most effective. The site should not only contain links, but tags and comments as well.

What a change from the print release “for more information contact Jane Doe 212 222 3333”

I can’t imagine making a press release any more efficient. Sending a SMPR with a link to a del.icio.us page, has many benefits. I assume the company sending out the release would update the account regularly to reflect any changes occurring in the business or industry. So, if someone received a SMPR but didn’t have time to get to the story until two or three weeks later, they could access the most up-to-date information about what is going on by simply checking the del.icio.us account. If a reporter received a release that she did not quite consdier relevant to her focus that week, perhaps she could find other relevant company news by exploring the del.icio.us account - thus the company still gets coverage.

Inviting recipients of the SMPR to click on links from the del.icio.us account also benefits the company sending the release – this is a great way to drive traffic to their site(s).

After getting familiar with new tools and exploring the internet in a different way, I'm left with a familiar thought "what will they think of next?"