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. 


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.


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.


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. 


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?


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?


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?"