Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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September 30, 2014

Mentoring future professionals in the age of social media

We hear a lot of times that research and teaching are two important duties for professors today. However, I think there is a third item that needs to be added here for all of us to consider. Mentorship is one of the key duties and responsibilities professors have today with their students. Whether they are undergraduate students or graduate students, we need to make sure to provide a good foundation to what is to be expected of them out in the workplace. However, we also have to make sure to provide them with opportunities to showcase their insights, skills, and knowledge in new opportunities.

One of the things I have tried to do while at the University of Louisville is to share what I do when I am not in the classroom. I have had students in the past who think all I do is come to class, give them a lecture on a topic associated with class, and then leave. However, I do outline my daily calendar of all of the other activities I am a part of (ex. research, dissertation meetings, consulting projects, etc). I also make sure to talk about what the benefits are for working on research projects and what that involves.

I am currently teaching a graduate crisis communications class this semester, and I gave my students the opportunity to potentially submit their research case study (their final project for the class) to two conferences. One was going to be in Orlando, and another was to be held in Greece. One of my students, Samantha, expressed an interest in pursuing this. I provided her with some recommendations on what case study to work on and then she came up with the abstract to submit. And, she received some wonderful news yesterday – her paper got accepted to present at the conference.

I think this is not only impressive, but really exceptional because you may see this from a PhD student, but it is not that common to have a Master’s student initiate a research case study to present at an international conference. When Samantha shared this exciting news to her, I let her know she is doing something not many students have done before. In fact, I was in between my first and second year in my PhD program when I presented at my first international research conference.

There are several lessons I have learned here when it comes to mentoring that I hope professors take into consideration as they advice their undergraduate and graduate students:

  • Determine what makes this student unique: This is something to think about for each student. What’s their story in getting into this major? What areas are they passionate about?  What is going to be their unique contribution to the field? What makes them different from other graduate or undergraduate students? What are their skills?
  • Ask the students where they see themselves after graduation: Along with the assessment of their skills, you want to ask the student where they see themselves after graduation. This will give you an idea of where they see themselves and if they are currently in the mindset for understanding what it will take to make it there.
  • Be generous with what you’ve learned in the process: Sharing your own experience in the field is key – whether it is professionally or in research. I’ve tried to share what I have learned over the years with fellow colleagues, students, and even doctoral students. My feeling is – what would I have wanted to know at their stage? Also, walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Show your students what you have been able to do thanks to social media. Whether it is through Twitter or even writing on LinkedIn or your own personal blog, you are able to provide a real life perspective on the topic for your students to witness.
  • Evaluate their willingness to invest and work ethic to achieve their goals: You want to have a “come to reality” chat with each of your students on this topic. In today’s society, we are all expected to work harder and more efficiently than ever before. However, if we take the time to invest in our professional future, it will pay off substantially. This is what I have done for both graduate and undergraduate students over the years – look at how much they are willing to work towards achieving their goals and what they want to do.
  • Be their coach and cheer them on. One of the best lessons I got in this was from my Dad. Dad was my coach in track, and he always said that you want to be there as a coach to support, encourage, and push the athlete to perform and be the best they can be. However, coaches are not there on the award stand getting the medal around their neck. I think this is the approach professors should take. We want to be there to help our students succeed and when they do, it’s their time in the spotlight and we will be there as their biggest cheerleaders. When they get exciting news like Samantha has done, share it! It’s not every day you get to see your students excited and motivated to take on these various tasks and challenges and succeed in them!

In summary, I am very proud of all of the students I have mentored and taught over the years. Each one has had their own unique qualities and dreams after graduation, and it has been an honor to be part of this experience. Having the opportunity to be able to make an impact and help guide future professionals in our field is one of the best things about being a professor.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

Celebrating another fabulous year!

Filed under: Public Relations — Karen @ 11:52 am

Today, I am celebrating my 32nd birthday. It seemed like yesterday I was just getting into my 30s, let alone being 22! :) It made me realize how time has flown by and a lot has happened since I was 22. I was just finishing up my bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida and planning the process of graduating with my degree and applying to graduate school. I also was taking the GRE around this time and thinking about what the future would hold for me.

Ten years later, I can say that they have really been filled with life long lessons, great experiences, time with my amazing family and friends, travels all around the world, and of course working hard. Both physically and of course mentally. During this time, I was finishing up my collegiate eligibility as a track and field athlete and transitioning into my new profession in PR. I spent the last six of the ten years in graduate school – that makes you think for sure. However, there are some lessons I have learned in these last ten years that have shaped me into this person and professional I am today.

  • Invest in experiences: We seem to focus on getting new cars, phones, etc – however, we need to be investing in ourselves. Our experiences and the lessons we learn from them are what matter. In the ten years since I was 22, I have traveled to more countries than I ever thought was possible. The stories, people, and lessons I learned from this have been invaluable.
  • Working hard: It will pay off – trust me. I learned how to work hard as an athlete, and it has transferred over to what I am doing now. I am no longer throwing the shot put, but I am still spending the same quality time researching, working on papers and projects, and investing in my profession to be the best I can be.
  • Life is too short to have drama: Taking each day as a gift is key. Spend time with those who support, encourage, and really value you as a person. I have been very fortunate to have an amazing family and have besties who are there for me at any time. Life is precious and should be celebrated!
  • Learn from your mistakes and be persistent: I was pretty dedicated and focused as an athlete, and that helped me over come challenges and obstacles over the years. Along with hard work, persistence is the other key to the equation. You have to be focused and yes, you may face obstacles that are road blocks for you. You need to evaluate the situation and figure out what to do next in Plan B. You may have to go through several plans, but keeping your eye on the prize is key.

Karla drew a really cute picture for me to celebrate my birthday – thanks Karla! She’s very talented!

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

September 25, 2014

Collaborative efforts promoting paper to practice for social media and crisis research

Over the last few months, Kristin and I have been working with the great teams at both Firestorm Solutions and Hootsuite to integrate some of the research we have been doing using both situational qsort methodology as well as value modeling. As part of this project, Kristin and I have been able to talk about how this research and insights pertaining to crisis message strategy can be included and used in social media.

There will be a series of blog posts that will be featured on Hootsuite, and the first one was one I wrote focusing on providing an overview of what we have done and what are some of the benefits to these two methodologies. This has been a great and fun collaboration to work with both of these great teams for these amazing organizations.

Kristin and I firmly believe in the concept of paper to practice – where we are taking what we have done in our research and studies and be able to apply it to various situations for businesses, organizations, and agencies. We find also working across disciplines to explore different perspectives and apply new methodologies into specialized industries and fields comes extending the current foundation of scholarly work and applied principles.

How can professors translate their research to practice? There are many ways that this can be accomplished for both professors as well as graduate students:

  • Be willing to share your perspectives online: Writing blog posts about your research opens the door to others looking at what you have done and start the conversation and brainstorming process. You will be getting a different perspective of your work compared to a conference scene.
  • Go to conferences where there are both researchers AND practitioners: I love academic conferences, but I really love ones where you are able to get both sides of the coin for the field. Submit your work to conferences like this (highly recommend the annual Reputation Institute Conference as well as the ICRC Crisis Communications Conference). It was at the ICRC Conference where this idea of this collaborative research effort came about!
  • Network, chat, and discuss your research outside of academia: There are a lot of what I call “Academese” out there. Yes, it is important to know the major components of this theory or the statistical power and value of this measure. However, are you able to communicate these concepts in a way that can be applied and a stepping point for a creative discussion? Practicing this by writing in a different voice may be helpful.

We find with this collaboration with Hootsuite and Firestorm Solutions is a wonderful professional opportunity and I am very excited to be part of this project!

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

September 23, 2014

The Rise of Viral 2.0 for Social Media Strategy Practices

If you have not read Jonah Berger’s book titled “Contagious,” you may want to do so and even include this as part of your recommended reading list for your classes (and your own social media and PR library). Here is a talk where Berger gave last year on this very topic which was featured on Talks at Google, and it really does focus on why we are sharing what we are sharing – and the overall power of word of mouth communications today.

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What I do appreciate is the fact that virality – in some cases people have referred to as being luck or entertainment purposes for brands and users – is a science. Berger does highlight the six steps in which a story, brand, or individual can become viral in nature, which includes STEPPS (Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, Stories). There are a lot of great viral case studies here to check out – great for PR professors to showcase and talk about in their classes. There are also a lot of resources here to engage with your students with this concept in your classes on Berger’s website.

It really does depend on who you talk to when it comes to having content go “viral.” There are those that are all in favor of incorporating this as part of your strategy for social media, PR, and even marketing events and campaigns. However, there are those that say there is a time and place for viral trends, and it is better to evaluate and look at all of the factors before jumping on board.

While I think these individuals may be focusing on the first version of what we consider to be viral, I think what makes it a powerful concept is when it is taken to the next level. I think the new term we may see a lot as we finish up 2014 into 2015 is Viral 2.0, another term coined by Berger in this post. This concept makes sense because we have seen this of course with the evolution of Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and of course Web 3.0. Some of the same principles apply here and the focus is about creating valuable experiences that can be shared and integrated as part of the overall strategy for a brand.

Overall, there is a lot of ways professors can incorporate these ideas and principles for classes. Pushing the envelope when it comes to viral content and ideas and determine how this could be accomplished both through creative ideas, practical tools, and research. It may take time – you may not have an overnight sensation for your brand or client you are representing, but it may be enhanced. However, with the cases we have seen for intentional newsjacking to generate buzz or do something to spark outrage online, we have to be careful and look at both the benefits, challenges, and risks/ethical considerations when exploring this niche area in the emerging field of integrated communication marketing practice and research.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,


September 20, 2014

The future of social media education and the role of PR professors

Brian Solis has written some great books (several I list for my students as part of their recommended reading list for social media) and has generously shared his expertise and insights with businesses, professionals, and even professors. I have followed Brian and his blog for many years, and when I saw he was doing a video series for Hootsuite, I wanted to definitely check them out.

One video that did capture my attention was his thoughts on social media education and what businesses need to be aware of. Solis primarily talked about what were the skills people had and what were some of the skills brands needed. This appears to be the growing issue and trend we are seeing not only in the business side of PR and other related fields, but also as professors.

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What does it take to be a social media professor? What we are seeing is definitely two groups here when teaching a social media class. We have professionals who are actively engaged in the profession still, may have their own consulting business and practice, and are focused on designing and teaching a class that is built on giving students practical and applied assignments and skills to enter the workplace. On the other side, we have professors who teach the theory and undermining principles and concepts going on behind the scenes of social media through research and theory driven exercises.

So, which one is the best approach to take? In my opinion, that’s the wrong question – it really should be – how can we bridge both of these approaches in one class? Some may say it can’t be done, and others argue for one side of the coin is better than the other. I say you can bridge both and be able to be part of these two perspectives. You can share what has been done before and tie in theory and previous work to have in-depth conversations about the growing changes we are seeing that are linked to behavior, attitude formation, and perception. Exploring and tying in principles and perspectives from related fields (ex. psychology, anthropology, marketing) are all key here. We talk about building a foundation for research before we initiate a campaign, but we first have to build a foundation for our strategic mindset.

However, I will say we also need more opportunities for our students when it comes to applying what we are discussing. Yes, it’s key to have the tactical assignments for how to create a tweet, write a blog post, etc – however, we also need to raise our expectations and demands to the next level to prepare them for what to expect. Anticipate the roles they are going to be asked to do for these businesses as Solis mentioned in his video interview with Hootsuite.

Specifically, he mentioned that these roles in some cases for brands are as he said “invented” – which puts professors in the position to be part of the equation and look from their perspective – what are some of the roles that are needed for PR firms, brands, and others in the area of social media? This question allows the professors also be part of the equation and consider what they can do in terms of assignments, projects, and roles for their students in their classes. The creative opportunity here is huge for professors in this area, and we should jump at this with both feet and run with it in our classes.

In essence, what we as professors are facing here is a reinvention of some of the traditional approaches and ways not only are we teaching our students when it comes to social media classes, but also our role as well. We as professors may need to “see things differently” as Solis has mentioned and be open to these new possibilities and opportunities. Along with how we do research and teach, our roles and what we do as professors is also evolving along with the changes we are seeing in the business and professional sector. It’s indeed an exciting time right now for our profession and a glimpse into the future of teaching and our role in it as professors. Bring it on.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,


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