Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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May 20, 2014

Is Social Media turning into “Rented Media?”

For every one of my classes – both online and offline – I try to share some professionals to follow and be aware of when it comes to social media. There seems to be a lot of professionals out there who really have made a mark for themselves, and one of these individuals has been Scott Monty

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Scott was the pioneer of social media for Ford, and really set the tone for how businesses, agencies, and professionals use social media as part of their overall strategy but also be the focus of establishing a voice and relationships with audiences. However, Scott recently made his announcement known he was leaving Ford after six years. Of course, this caused a lot of people in the social media and PR community to take notice and voice their reactions to it.

Of all of the articles I read on this topic, I found the interview with Scott and AdWeek to be particularly interesting and enlightening. In particular, the role and current status of where social media is right now in society and in business. In many ways, social media has been transformed in many cases as another marketing platform where it is all about getting the message across, and the one that seems to suffer from this model is the presence of engaged dialogue and relationship management.

Another point that Scott raised in the article in AdWeek stuck me – and should also be noted by fellow professors, students, and practitioners – is the term that is being used for the major social media platforms. Instead of what we have considered to be “earned media” for social media purposes – Scott talked about how social media is sometimes being referred to as “rented media.”

Is this where social media is going? This is why it is crucial to not have your entire online presence on one of these sites – you want to make sure to connect them to an ultimate online hub that you control – like your website or blog even. Social media can be viewed as extensions of your online presence, but these communities, relationships, and discussions are all happening on someone else’s property – whether this is on Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others. We have to realize this as being the trend for the future and have to prepare strategies to address these for businesses as well as for our own personal brands.

Again – I think one thing to note here is that social media first and foremost –  is about being social – if we did the same things we do on social media in real life like promoted tweets, ads, and even sponsored content and hashtags – how would they be received? I am not sure they would be successful. However, if we come in with the purpose of being a partner in the community, listening and attentive to the content in which is being discussed on a particular topic, and provide out point of view and thoughts across, that may work. Trust, loyalty, and commitment do not happen over night or through a span of paid advertisements – they come with stories, human interaction, and relevancy that is both received and provided by the content, services, and experiences that can be shared by others.

I have found Scott to be one of the very few professionals in the social media realm who has been transparent, authentic, and engaging with all audiences online – no matter if they are high profile professionals, or even professors like me who ask questions or comment on current trends and topics. I wish him the very best and look forward to see what his next adventures lead him. Thank you for all you have done so far for the social media community. Good luck and keep us posted, Scott!

Hope you all are having a great day! :)

Best Wishes,

April 22, 2014

At the finish line for the semester: Best tips for professors to create an engaging social media campaign style class

It is that time of the semester where finals are beginning here at the University of Louisville. While I do not give a final exam for my social media class, I do have final client presentations for their social media campaign proposals.

I have had this discussion with several of my PR professor colleagues any they have asked me why I have the students to actual campaigns instead of exams? My response is – what am I going to do? Give them an exam with questions like – what is a tweet? How about the components of Instagram? Of course not.

I’ve always believed that it is essential to give students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom and give them hands on experiences. This is what makes campaign style classes really different compared to other types of classes. Lots of papers, and one project that basically began the first week of the semester.

I am extremely proud of the students and what they have done this semester in #Freberg14. In many ways, this class here at UofL shows me how you truly can see a difference among the students from the start of the semester to the end. The first day of class started with me telling the class this simple point: “This will be the hardest class you will have this semester – and possibly in college.”

So, how do you prepare the students to be part of a project working with a client on a social media campaign proposal? Here are some of my tips I’ve learned while teaching this class at UofL:

  • Set deadlines and expectations early on: Make sure your students know the impact of this project and significance of this not only for the class, but for after they graduate and enter the workplace. Connecting the dots here is crucial.
  • Highlight the benefits: Show how this proposal could be used in their portfolio and share examples of students who have used this as a document to showcase their work for internships and job interviews. Also, discussing how to upload this document to their online portfolio, website, and even sites like LinkedIn are also important to note here as well.
  • Put on your coach hat with your students: I’ve been very fortunate to have a great coach in my Dad in track – and I remember how he would encourage me, push me, and give me to tools and resources I needed to be all I could be in track. I felt that was my role in my social media class. Yes, I did tell my students that they may not like what I am telling them when comes to their drafts, but I am here to help them become better. I push them to work harder and smarter with their documents to see what they can do to make them even stronger. At the end – it’s the work of the students and they are the ones that get the rewards of their hard work, and for me – that’s why I love teaching.
  • Be an “honorary” team member: This is what I tell all of my groups – I am part of their group and am always available to brainstorm ideas and offer my point of view on things. This allows the creativity to spark within each group and they feel comfortable with their ideas and feel that they are not completely alone in the process.
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Social media can be fun, but it is extremely hard especially when you are coming up with creative strategies as well as trying to keep up with the trends all emerging right now.

Tomorrow are our client presentations – where it will not only be the clients and the students in attendance, but also a couple of professionals working in Louisville.

Best of luck to all of the students tomorrow – I know you will do great in your presentations! Will let you all know how they go tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Best Wishes,


April 13, 2014

Understanding the strategies and trends involving selfies for brands & professors

I have had this discussion in most of the classes I have taught this semester on the phenomenon we all know as “selfies.” Selfies have been of course incorporated into various events, conferences, and even recently the March Madness tournament. It was exciting to see UofL featured as one of the universities that did a trendy campaign using social media and selfies for the tournament.

However, one of the things we have to consider here when it comes to this trend is to see how this is both applied and can be explored further. We have seen many discussions on this and what selfies represent and risks associated with them. I do believe it is key to understand both the opportunities and risks associated with every trend, new platform, and issue happening in society. Another trend we are also seeing is who can top the best selfie – which was a discussion and topic of conversation on Hootsuite’s blog the other day as well.

Selfies are even in campaigns – look at this campaign that features Messi and Kobe for Turkish Airlines. This is one of the things we as social media and PR professionals have to look at and see being implemented not only in social circles, but also for businesses as well. I shared this with my classes and we talked about how brands are trying to engage and interact with audiences using initiatives such as this to be current and relatable.

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There are apps out there now that are dedicated just to selfies, including one that has garnered a lot of news and discussion (along with investment) called Shots. Compared to other apps, one of the changes and features that is integrated into this particular app addresses the issue of preventing cyber bullying, which is another key challenge and risk we are seeing not just with selfies, but all social media platforms as well.

However, I think there are some elements to it that we can note as being notable changes and strategies being implemented by both individuals as well as brands and campaigns proactively. So, how can we use selfies strategically – even for professors? Here are a few ways:

  • Showcasing the importance of time and place for selfies: Of course, there are times and places for taking selfies – and it is always good to make sure to get permission first or let someone know that a selfie is part of a branded and sponsored move like what happened with the Samsung and President Obama selfie case.
  • Sharing an experience: Whether it is at a conference, meeting guest speakers, or even showing your school spirit – there are many reasons why you may want to take a selfie to share with your respective communities and even classes.
  • Encourage engagement with students outside of the classroom: One way you can go about in using selfies to build a sense of community with your students is to lead by example and say – I’m cheering for the team in the upcoming game or here’s my picture with my coffee as we prepare for finals. It’s about sharing the experience while making it interactive and visual. Also, it may be good to showcase the experience with other students. One of my good friends and fellow colleagues, Ralph Merkel, shared a selfie on the football field at the spring game with fellow students who invited him to be honored as a mentor at the Red and Black banquet. These are the type of selfies professors can share with others so they can feel like they are part of the experience as well.
  • Making announcements: We have seen selfies being used to document points of view, showcase experiences with others, and even endorsements and major announcements like Star Wars did with the launch of their Instagram account. When I found out that I got my pair of Google Glasses, of course I had to take a selfie to share this news with everyone! :)

Will this be effective later this year or a year from now? Who knows – we will have to wait and see what comes up next. But first.. let me take a selfie. :)

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

March 16, 2014

Myths and Best Practices for Professors who teach Social Media

I have been teaching social media courses for about two years now, but I have always considered myself to be a student of the field even after I got my PhD. This is a field that continues to evolve and change over time, so you have to be present and up to date when it comes to emerging technologies and tools to use both in practice and in research.

I am going to be part of a great higher ed panel session in a few weeks at the upcoming UT Social Media Week in Knoxville. It is going to be great to be back in Knoxville and present again at the University of Tennessee.

When I was thinking about the various points I wanted to note and share during this panel session, one topic seemed to come up over and over again for me, and that was involving myths pertaining to social media. I’m not talking about myths specifically when it comes to social media, but focusing on what it means for professors who use social media in their classrooms.


Are there certain rules or expectations for professors to have when they engage and interact with their students in the classroom? What are the best practices to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment? These questions resulted in my topic I wanted to cover in my session at the upcoming UT Social Media Week.

I would love to hear from fellow professors on what are some myths they have faced while teaching social media at their respective universities, but I wanted to share with you a few myths that I have run into since I have started teaching in this area:

  • There is only one way to teach social media: There are many ways to teach social media. There’s no right way to go about it in my opinion. Social media is part of so many different disciplines so there is no universal way to teach the course. Psychology teaches it one way as well as Marketing and PR. We have to adapt and tailor the course to fit the foundation we have in our profession to apply it strategically and effectively for our students.
  • You can use the same syllabus and materials from last semester for class: If you wanted to be viewed as not credible in the field, then do this. Teaching a social media class does not only have to be updated every semester, but you have to give yourself at least a few weeks during the semester to go over what is relevant and happening at that exact moment for your class. I have a few days dedicated in my course syllabus for new emerging trends – which gives you some flexibility for what you need to add and discuss for your class and share with your students.
  • No one wants to see what you are doing in the classroom as a professor on social media: Excuse me? I actually heard this at one conference and had to take a deep breath. All I have to say is that those who are in agencies, businesses, and other aspects of the workplace who would most definitely want to see what is going on in social media classes. I have shared my hashtag for my social media class with others so they can see what we are doing so 1) they know what conversations we are having online, 2) what topics and assignments we are covering, and 3) reading about what the students are writing about on their blogs and potentially strike up a conversation about possible opportunities in terms of internship and jobs.
  • There are no opportunities for sharing content with others on social media for professors: This is the beauty part of what social media is – it’s social! It’s all about networking, sharing, and reaching out to others to talk about what you are doing in the classroom. Spending the time to do this not only for yourself as a professor, but think about the opportunities and doors that will open for your students if you do this. Wow! I can name several cases where I have done this that has benefited my students in terms of having features, internships, and even job opportunities offered to them. Social media is a wonderful and powerful networking tool to formulate these wonderful professional relationships.
  • You have to have certain assignments for a social media class: Who made up this rule? I have been told over the years that all social media classes need to have a blog or podcast component. While these are important – are they required? Maybe, but maybe not. It really all depends on how you are going to use and apply these platforms in your class. Will students just write blog posts for the sake of writing blog posts? Or will you give them an opportunity to apply what they are learning and create their own online persona in the areas they are passionate in along with social media?

In summary, my goal for my presentation is to showcase some of these myths but offer some best practices along the way that I have learned through teaching a social media class for a couple of years with others. It’s about sharing these points of information and knowledge to not only help fellow professors, but also rising young professors and students who are interested in the field. We all need to know what are the expectations of a social media professor today.

I will make sure to post my full PowerPoint deck after the conference for you all to review. I would be interested as well to see what other myths and best practices you all have when it comes to teaching social media for professors.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

March 7, 2014

University of Louisville’s “Happy” Video

One of the great things I think is great about being at the University of Louisville is the fact that we have a great group of professors, students, and staff at the university when it comes to social media. It’s been like this for years and this is lead by Jeff Rushton, who is the Director of Digital Media here at UofL. We have regular meetings and share items, ideas, and trends with each other when it comes to social media on a FB group page.

Well, you just never know when your idea may be implemented, which is one of the things that has happened! As many of my students and friends know, I am a huge fan of the franchise “Despicable Me.” In fact, I have used them to create my grading scale in my social media class.

My grading scale for my social media class at UofL

One of the popular songs from the movie was Pharrell’s “Happy” song, and it translated into this music video:

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Of course, we saw a lot of various versions of videos of this from other universities, businesses, and individuals to recreate the happiness that is displayed in the song. With this in mind, the UofL social media group came together, brainstormed some ideas, and went about in creating a fun and happy video showcasing the university with its students, staff, student-athletes, faculty, and even our university president, Dr. Ramsey. Here’s the video of UofL’s version of “Happy:”

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More background on the brainstorming process can be found here on the UofL Blog. It was a fun project to brainstorm on (and no, I did not appear in the video to be dancing :)). It’s a great way to showcase the university and the people behind the UofL logo in a way that showcases positive feelings and happiness all around. You can’t help but dance to it!

Again, major props to the leadership and direction of Jeff for this great video showcasing UofL and all of the hard work, dedication, and team work the group did to make this come alive. Go Cards!

Hope you all are having a “Happy” Friday!

Best Wishes,

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