Monday, February 25, 2008

Maggie Fox explains SMPRs, Digital Snippets

The final virtual guest lecture in my WOM class this semester featured Maggie Fox of the Social Media Group in Toronto discussing Digital Snippets, which is her agency's platform for Ford's and other companies social media press releases.

Maggie showed us the slide show her agency used to pitch Ford on the idea, so of course I'm not going to spill all their secrets. But here are some thoughts that may be useful for students and educators just learning about the SMPR.

First things first: consider the reason for adopting the platform. The purpose of an SMPR is to get content out. Blogs are good for leadership, social networks for broad engagement-- so strategy comes before tactics. Maggie said they consider the SMPR a way to help "digital influencers tell their stories, not for telling stories to digital influencers." This is a key point, illustrated by the fact that the Digital Snippets SMPRs are not comments-enabled; they don't host the conversation but provide content that others can use in their conversations.

The target audience is bloggers, podcasters, Facebook and Flickr groups, and forums, but also mainstream media. Online versions of the MSM are hungry for content, and providing video, pictures, etc. can help them get the story out, too.

Content, therefore, should be rich: lists, videos, quotes, charts, photos. Serving as a credible source will help others get your story out, increase the likelihood of others using your content.

Digital Snippets is in essence a frequently updated Web site, much like a blog; rather than issuing a new SMPR or page, the agency updates the platform, and the story evolves over time (in other words, not 10 news releases on Ford and the environment, but 10 updates to the environment SMPR). Sections (snippets) are RSS-enabled and the history is archived so people can see the evolution. Here's the template.

Maggie concluded by offering some thoughts on measurement, which can include

I wonder if my students learned as much as I did!?!

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The Week's Best, 25 February 2008

Putting a Face on Social Networks: Corporate Facebook Pages, Dan Greenfield
Now We Flacks Get Students to Astroturf for Us, Bob LeDrew (report here) via Robert French and Kelli Matthews
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Podcasting, Susan Getgood
How to Use LinkedIn to Create Authoritative Content, Michael Stelzner
Internship Application Mania, Fourdoorshack

And, what's going on with PR and social media here at the Grady College:
Ashley Beebe: UGA Safe Kids Athens Buckle Up PR Campaign, Robert French
Ready to Earn Your Stripes?, Erin Caldwell
YouTube Viral... Locally, Kaye Sweetser

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Virtual guest lecture: Donna Papacosta

Tuesday's virtual guest lecture in my Word-of-Mouth Communication class was Donna Papacosta of Trafalgar Communications in Toronto and the Trafcom News podcast. Both Donna and my students are well aware that I know next to nothing about podcasting, except that I like to listen to them. For anyone else in the same boat, here's some of what Donna had to say.

Internal communication, recruiting, training, tours, investor relations, fundraising (including using the voices of recipients), PR-marketing-sales, and conferences/symposia

Podcasts can include:
Basic steps in creating a podcast:
1. Record the audio -- in studio, over Skype, telephone remote; microphones range from $20-$3,000 and can include USB such as Snowball, a condenser mic with pre-amp or mixer, or a portable digital recorder like the Samsung Zoom H4 or Edirol R1; Hot Recorder allows you to record a Skype call
2. Edit audio -- some people record on the fly but you can also edit stumbles, redundancies with Audacity (free); use Levelator (free software) to even out the sound; can add podsafe music
3. Need a place to host your MP3 files -- such as Libsyn, GoDaddy, Dreamhost

Downloads and subscribers
Comments, trackbacks, and e-mails
Depends on your objectives

These notes don't do her discussion justice, but I'm so far behind that it's this or nothing! You can also check out all the links from her presentation.

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Safe Kids Athens Web site

Okay, for all those other Bateman Competition teams who check my blog for updates on UGA's Bateman team, here's their Web site.

Just kidding, I'm really posting it for all you potential employers. Three of the five team members are looking for jobs... but don't wait too long! Feel free to contact me for references.

Update: Now three of the five are off the market. The other two will go fast!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Bateman '08 on YouTube

Earlier this year I said I wasn't going to say much about UGA's 2008 PRSSA Bateman team, but now that this has gone public I can share it with you.

The client, Safe Kids Buckle Up (sponsored by Chevy), wants the teams to use social media, targeting especially hard-to-reach minority tweens. Therefore, one of the tactics the UGA team is using is a video contest between the sixth grade and seventh grade at Coile Middle School. Check them out!

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The Week's Best, 18 February 2008

Get Yourself Out There, Chris Butler
Five Comments No Serious Blogger Should Ever Make, Tiffany Monhollon
The Social Media Skeptic (podcast), David Strom and Paul Gillen
Does Knowledge of Social Media Make You a Better Job Candidate?, David Reich (via Judy Gombita)
Top 10 Twitter Hacks, Kevin Dugan
Blog Posts: Think Link, Richard Bailey
New Resource for Creating Your Social Media Resume, Corinne Weisgerber
How to Make Internal and External Clients Love You, Marilyn Hawkins (on PRos in Training)
Got Social Media?, Larissa Fair
Greenwashing Index, via @JarekBeem

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My class gets an Extreme Media Relations Makeover

Yesterday Kevin Dugan gave an extremely informative virtual guest lecture on media relations to my WOM class students, and he gave me permission to share his slides and notes from his talk. Follow his advice, and you'll never end up on the Bad Pitch Blog!

Kevin defines a pitch as "any form of communication with the media that's designed to get media coverage." He pointed out that, with newsroom budgets getting smaller, reporters can use good pitches to help them identify stories and sources. From a PR perspective, media channels are increasing and media are fragmenting, so there are new places to get your message out but at the same time we have to figure out how to compete. He also showed a great slide depicting how the news cycle is expanding, with blogs, Twitter and other social media often breaking news, followed by mainstream media coverage, followed by follow-up niche discussion (including discussion of MSM performance) on blogs and other social media.

The dirty little secret, Kevin explained, is that PRs have the same amount of time (or less) to do their work, while the number of media outlets is expanding -- so they often therefore rely on technology to get the news out; but technology can't take the place of groundwork and relationship building that should be the key to media (and blogger) relations. The ugly truth, he said, is that young kids new to the PR profession are the ones doing the pitching, yet they are the least prepared to do it. Ask for the big picture, he urged my students, and don't just call and ask if they got your news release -- add something new to the follow-up call.

Although the pitch should always be customized, he offered some general rules for pitching:
  1. Be a know-it-all: know yourself and develop your own style; know the news and link your story to current events when appropriate; know your story and how it fits with the larger context of the company or industry; and know the media that you're targeting.
  2. Before the pitch: for a big campaign, prepare a pitch planner with key points, targets, and what makes this story newsworthy.
  3. During the pitch: Use their preferred method of contact; when a reporter responds your work is just beginning. Find out their story angle and deadline; find out the general direction of their questions so the interviewee can start formulating their thoughts.
  4. After the pitch/the interview: prepare a briefing document including the reporter's recent or related articles; and, when necessary, conduct media training. The PR person should sit in on the interview to make sure it stays on topic.
I can't recount the entire hour of discussion, but here are some of Kevin's other pointers:
  1. The news release is background information; the pitch tells why it's important to the readers, viewers, listeners.
  2. E-mail: use more links, don't use attachments, consider the pitch the appetizer (not the buffet) -- don't make the reader scroll.
  3. Boil it down to 3 paragraphs or even 3 sentences: what's the unique element of this story; prove it with research; call to action -- what are the next steps? And don' t forget to hold one thing back for the follow-up phone call.
  4. Send the e-mail to yourself to see what it looks like before you send it to anyone else.
  5. Redefine content: creativity is your only limit. (Kevin's Connect video makes this point beautifully.)
  6. Make shorter pitches to fewer outlets... customization is the key.

In the Q&A discussion following his presentation, I mentioned a quote from Brian Solis, "Build relationships, not lists," an approach Kevin fully endorsed.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Meet the Teacher: Robert French

You may have noticed we haven't been meeting any teachers here on Teaching PR lately. To make up for the recent lack of profiles, this week I've landed the biggest fish of all, Mr. PR-and-Social-Media himself, Robert French of Auburn University.

I can personally attest to Robert's willingness to help other educators, as my Campaigns class is putting together an entire semester project by 20 people on a wiki he created and is hosting for us. (More on that project some other time.) Read on to learn 5 great reasons to use social media in the classroom.

Q. You were one of the first, if not the first, PR educator/bloggers in the U.S. How and when did you first get interested in blogging?
I'm not sure if we were the first to use blogs, but perhaps the first to so publicly use them in class activities.

Privately, my first blog of any kind started on February 28, 2001, at Blogspot and later at LiveJournal, starting on March 19th, 2003. We were experimenting with private blogs during that time in classes. Our first effort at using a CMS, of any kind, for classes actually took place on the AU servers in 2000. Students were writing features and posts about Auburn and also broad topics in public relations. That one has since been taken down and it was behind a firewall, not pinging anything.

In a public forum, we started using for class writing, blogging and other CMS class activities back on August 9, 2002. We started our first WordPress blog on the university servers Sunday, December 12, 2004. started up about August 16, 2005. That's when I registered the domain and we went live with the site just days later, thanks to James Farmer in Australia. James has hosted on his servers all this time. A very nice guy, and the premiere edublogger in the world, in my opinion.

Prior to all of that, we used Yahoo! groups in 2000 and even used Yahoo! Messenger as the default way to communicate with clients live. We also experimented with other online CMS tools for class writing, campaigns and other discussion purposes. Those often included students communicating with clients in other parts of the country. We also started experimenting with CMS from The Open Source Collective in late 2002. We have tried most all of their software platforms at one time or another.

Finally, I started my current blog on July 24. 2004: infOpinions?. I was actually blogging months before that, on PR, using other software applications like Serendipity - but, I deleted all those blogs and databases. Dummy me.

Q. What are the purposes of your blogs?
Oh, goodness. I feel the exercises serve many purposes, but here are the ones I believe are most important.

1) Writing. The practice of researching latest trends and forming opinions, then writing about it, is perhaps the most valuable aspect of blogging, in my opinion. Our students need to practice writing in many forms. I have students using blogs to write the more traditional brief conversational posts. Other times, they write features and alsodo video / audio podcasting.

2) Engaging mentors. One of my favorite blogs has always been Social media now allows us to engage our students in conversations with PR / Marcom practitioners from around the world. Never before has it been so easy to provide students with a true worldly view of PR practice. If there is one thing social media has done for education, which may be more important than any other aspect, is to open up the world via VOIP and streaming media, along with reading blogs.

3) Experiential learning. Students may now experience trends like never before. I'm referring to trends beyond just social media, too. But, the barriers to entry for social media are so minimial, students now have a window on the world along with the chance to actively participate with leaders in the field. It is easier than ever before to engage the students in real-world activities and track their progress. They see results, rather than dream about how the practicemight work out in the future.

4) Reading. Our students are required to read a wide variety ofpublications, including blogs, throughout their tenure in the program. After all, that's the best way to develop a broad understanding of PR practice around the world.

5) Social networks and VoIP. We use social networks and Skype to do interviews and conferences with people all the time. Now, with social video networks (Seesmic, uStream, ooVoo, etc.), we're looking at doing something just like an e-mail interview (Q&A), but seeing if the interview subjects will answer the questions on video and share them so the students can do a mashup of responses. Now, when could we have really done that before? Once we get them, we post them to the blogs.

Q. What other social media are you using?
We try to at least experience a little bit of all of it. We've used blogs, to be sure. We also use wikis (both MediaWiki and PmWiki, among other platforms). We've also used YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Skype and other platforms. Our classes were beta testers forEdelman's StoryCrafter and Shannon Whitley's PRXBuilder, too. We are about to embark on the use of, BlogTalkRadio and Seesmic in the Spring 2008 semester. Finally, we've also dabbled with Pligg, the open source platform that is similar to the Digg site. The "purposes of your blogs" section above actually refers to our overall philosophy, too. We've been fortunate, due to our early visibility, to have some major PR firms contact us to beta test their new tools, too. This kind of exposure, again, was never really possible before the advent of social media and social networks.

Q. Tell us a little about your school and how PR is taught there.
Auburn University's Department of Communication and Journalism is home to the public relations program. The public relations discipline is essentially a traditional program. Writing is strongly emphasized. Experiential learning is strongly encouraged and incorporated into class activities. Although only one internship is required to graduate, we encourage students to pursue two or three -- as well as many related work experiences they can find. It is not uncommon for our students to graduate with two or three internships under their belts. Finally, I believe that most PR, if not all, is local. Most public relations practice is actually done in smaller shops, or one/two people offices. In fact, my best count shows that there are far more PAs (public affairs practitioners) than their are business (agency/corporate) PR practitioners. So, we emphasize that PR offers a broad range of opportunities for future employment.

Q. In what ways do you incorporate social media into the classroom? What would you most like to do that you aren't doing already?
Well, aside from the blogging, we use wikis for collaborative writing exercises and campaign projects, Skype for interviews with various PR/Marcom professionals around the world, Pligg for experiments with ranking articles, Twitter for networking, video blogging in association with features, and more. The writing aspect of the exercises is perhaps most important. It goes further than just writing. Students are beginning to be exposed to the latest trends in PR practice, as well as the tried and true.

Q. Do you have any advice for other PR educators who are considering starting a blog or getting involved in social media?
Take it slow, at first. Whether we're talking about students or faculty ... begin by reading the numerous blogs out there already. Then comment. Then begin to write your own posts. Your posts may be short or long. Doesn't matter, really. Try to write with some frequency (at least once a week) to begin developing your audience.

Network. Visit the Teaching Social Media page at the NewPR/Wiki - That was begun by educators like Elizabeth Albrycht and Kaye Sweetser, for instance. Engage all of those educators in a discussion. Look for some new offerings from SNCR, the Society for New Communications Research, too. Their site is

Interact with all those educators and practitioners. We'll all share what we have, or at least I will. I've seen a lot of caring and sharing from many educators, PR firms and practitioners around the world. Ask for help and resources. You'll likely get it. That's the whole idea of social media, right? Collaborate & share. We, for instance, have provided blogs and wikis for many educators around the world. That was one of the reasons we started

Q. Auburn grads have a fine record of employment in social media positions. Take this opportunity to brag a bit!
We have been very fortunate to gain visibility for the program via social media class activities. Our students are now working and/or interning with many of the largest firms. But, they are also with the small boutique agencies, too. A lot of attention has been given to the high profile students, but we also have students engaging in social media practice in corporate in-house departments, government agencies (state & local), churches, nonprofits and small business. For just a sampling, here is a short list. Erin Caldwell, Ashley Imsand and Mary Metcalf are all with Edelman (DC & Chicago). Christi Eubanks is with Converseon in NYC. Lara Worsham is with Golin-Harris in Chicago. Emily Melton is with Weber-Shandwick in NYC. If they'd let me write about their clients, I'm sure everyone would be impressed. They are all heavily engaged in social media activities with a wide variety of clients. You know, we've had a lot of much appreciated attention.

But, I'll share a secret. People are watching because of the students. Reality says, if it was just me blogging - no one would care. The students have humored me and dug in when I ask them to experiment and try to come to terms with social networks and the strategies that can make them work for a client. Students. Ya' gotta' love 'em. They are great people.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Week's Best, 11 February 2008

A little Valentine's week link love:

Calling All PR Students & Educators in the South, Kaye Sweetser (Edelman Digital Bootcamp update)
Repopulating the Student PR Blog Roll, Chris Clarke
Lasting Impact: Storytelling Makes Messages Memorable, Kevin Dugan
USA Federal Court to Decide if Public Relations is Racketeering!, Toni Muzi Falconi
Small is Tall (video), via Amy Gahran
Corporate Blogs, Valeria Maltoni
How to Herd Organic Search Traffic to Your Blog, Darren Rowse
Oovoo (aka what everyone's talking about on Twitter)

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

SoCon08: Breakout session on YouTube

Amani Channel of My Urban Report is an expert at using video so he led a session about using YouTube. I went because I know nothing about it but find my students using it more and more in PR Campaigns class in particular.

Some tech-y tips from Amani:

Rules for shooting video:

Advice to the person being interviewed?

Use tags to drive content to your video

Final suggestions for vlogs and podcasts:

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SoCon08: Breakout session on Web writing

Dr. Lauren McGrath of Kennesaw State's English department led a breakout session on writing for the Web.

General principles:
Write to your audience
Keep it conversational
Chunk your content and use headings and subheadings to increase readability
Use a screen-friendly font like Verdana or Trebuchet
Write well -- clear, correct, well edited

Side discussion on SEO -- problem of overstuffing with keywords. Suggestion: add more content with keywords instead of stuffing all keywords on a few pages.

Suggested resources:
Hot Text: Web Writing that Works (Price)
The Web Writer's Guide (Maciuba-Koppel)
Writing for Multimedia and the Web (Garrand)
Writing for the Web (Jeney)

Brand "You":

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SoCon08: Josh Hallett speech

Josh Hallett spoke, but he talks so fast I couldn't blog it. Check out Robert's efforts instead.

Okay, seriously, he did say he's cut back on RSS feeds, from 1400 to 700 (making him, oh, 550 or so ahead of me). and has regained some personal life as a result.

He also reviewed some basic concepts like knowing your audience and their interests and then mocked himself by calling it a "Dr. Phil moment" (you want to lose weight? eat less and exercise more). But he makes the point that different people can use different media in different ways and that's okay.

Addition: Just found this picture Josh took of me sitting next to Twitter friend Robert Armstrong (@Ninety7) , plugging away at our laptops.

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SoCon08: Chris Heuer

Chris Heuer spoke about the work-life issues that social media can raise. "Business is personal again," he said. You can't separate emotions from work life. "I don't want to work with someone I don't like." He also tied it back to work issues. "Have you ever tried to 'manage' a relationship with a spouse or loved one? Perhaps that is why it doesn't work with customers either."

Chris had a slide that asked, "Do you friend your co-worker on Facebook?" -- in other words, where do you draw the line? "There is a limit on how much we share," an audience member said.

Another audience member expanded on this by talking about separating work-personal by using different sites for different things -- she says she won't talk about religion or politics on LinkedIn because she'll work for anyone (well, almost). She suggested that there's a different place to talk about personal beliefs (she mentioned talking politics on a classmates site where people have known her for years). This was the point I tried to make on Melanie Seasons's blog last week. (Some guy called me silly.) Chris (and the guy who called me silly) said we have to learn to talk to people who aren't like us, a worthy goal -- but I don't know if I'd stake my business on it. Luckily, I don't have to.

He also talked about transparency being not an entirely "open kimono" but just being honest. "Inentions matter," he emphasized. Building trust is the key.

Chris had a lot more to say -- check out Robert Armstrong's live blogging here.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Guest lecture: David Meerman Scott

My WOM class had a virtual visit yesterday from David Meerman Scott, whose book we're reading right now. He was kind enough to spend about 45 minutes explaining the old and new rules of marketing and PR and providing lots of examples of how to capitalize on the Internet (e-Books, Online Media Room, and Online New Releases in particular).

When one of the students asked if he was going to blog about us, he pointed out that he's already blogged about Robert French's students, so we're going to have to one-up them by producing an amazing "new rules" pr and marketing plan for our client, the East Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross (thanks to @ikepigott for helping me make that connection) in order to merit a mention.

Give us some time. I guarantee we'll be on Web Ink Now by the end of the semester. :-)

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Monday, February 04, 2008

The Week's Best, 4 February 2008

Social (Media) Anxiety Disorder (guide to social media events), Sarah Wurrey
Social Media's First True Campaign 2008 Test (Super Tuesday coverage), David Wescott
Reach Out! 5 Commenting Tips to Join the Conversation, Kelli Matthews
Social Media Trends Revisited: What's Hot and What's Not for 2008, Kami Huyse
The Show Must Go On (promoting Batman after Heath Ledger), Michele Capots
My (Philosophical) Take on "Influentials" vs. Watt, Elizabeth Albrycht
E-Mailing Everybody: Marketers Say Spam Works, Rich
Coca-Cola Launches a Corporate Blog, Dan Greenfield
Getting Hired in PR, Chris Clarke
Addition: oops, left a few out (what I get for saving links in 3 different places):
When Flacks Attack, We Bite Back, Bob LeDrew
OnMedia-KPMG Survey
Platform Magazine (new issue)

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"More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given" --Bertrand Russell

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