Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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October 27, 2014

Establishing personal branded hashtags is essential for #prprofs

Hashtags have been around for years – we see them all over the place when it comes to campaigns, events, newsworthy events, and even there is a hashtag video that features an entire conversation with hashtags. Here’s the classic skit from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.

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I think there are many benefits for professors to establish their own hashtags not only for their classes to extend the conversation and dialogue with students, but also for their own personal brand.

  • Content or branding hashtags: If you are having a speaker come into your class that focuses on a particular product, event, or concept, this may be something to consider here as well. Or, this also an opportunity to share relevant content that you feel others in the field or even in academia may be interested in. For example, if you are sharing a video interview for media training in crisis communications, you may want to share this with #mediatraining and #crisispr.
  • Promoting an idea or concept within the field: Professors can communicate this the same way practitioners do. Ted Rubin has created his concept with return on relationships with #RonR, so why can’t we integrate an idea like this? I have been experimenting around with the concept #smprof [Social Media Professor] to share insights, perspectives, and ideas for how to integrate a sustainable, engaging, and memorable culture within the classroom with social media.
  • Inviting people to be part of your classroom: This is the most traditional form we are seeing when it comes to social media engagement for professors online. Professors create or designate a hashtag for their class to follow on Twitter, FB, and/or Instagram. Some have their  class name and others use their last name and the year. Lots of great things can be done with this class hashtag. Branded visual content, blog posts, shared articles, live tweeting events and guest speakers, hosting a Q&A or virtual office hour for students, and even updates announcements for class to name a few.
  • Engaging in Q&A with the professor: How cool would it be to answer questions from others who may be interested in hearing what you have to say about a range of different topics. Again, we can look at practitioners to lead the way in this area like Gary Vaynerchuck with his show #AskGaryV or Brian Kramer with #H2H (Human to Human). This could extend the conversation from social to potentially video and then back to your blog for a round-up from the questions. In other words, it’s an opportunity to be integrated with your social media channels together in managing the dialogue and your personal brand presence.
  • Showcasing your personality: Yes, hashtags can showcase your personality in many ways. I’ve noticed this personally when it comes to my enthusiasm and love for coffee. Whenever I post something about coffee, I use the hashtag #ThisProfRunsOnCoffee – which is true in many ways, but again shows a little bit of my personality and interests in a single hashtag. You can also use this to showcase emotion and enthusiasm for others. For my students, I use #ProudProf a lot because I am proud of the hard work, dedication, and excellent job they do in and outside of the classroom.

Overall, I think there are a lot of opportunities for professors not to only create branded hashtags for their classes, conferences, and universities, but also for themselves. I think if you were able to create 1) to communicate directly with others about your research, 2) create one to embody your personality/hobby/interests and 3) conduct a virtual Q&A where you can engage your online community and see what they would be interested in learning about are just a few starting steps to consider taking.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to branded hashtags – that’s the beauty about social media. The first step is to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t – and learn and grow from the experience.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

October 24, 2014

Lessons from assigning a mock crisis simulation for #FrebergGrads

One of the things I have tried to do in each of my classes has been to integrate both practice and theory together. This was one of my goals for my graduate crisis communications class this semester at UofL [or otherwise known as #FrebergGrads on Twitter].

I have eight master’s students in class this semester here at UofL and it’s been a lot of fun. Their main project is going to be a research case study where it ties in with the theories and practice in crisis communications. However, I wanted to make sure to give them an applied exercise as well for their midterm, which led me to create a crisis simulation exercise.

I did not use a computer simulation program [there are a lot of them out there to incorporate into your classes] – so I did the traditional mock simulation exercise that I have done in the past. However, I put my own twists to it to make it more personalized for the students.

This was going to take place during class time and I did let the students bring forth materials they feel they would need to be prepared. I also made sure to bring forth key snacks for them [and coffee] so they feel as comfortable as possible to do their best work.

The crisis simulation was broken down into three compartments: the first step was individual – the crisis planning stage. I asked the students to work on this individually (they brought their laptops to class) and were able to upload this to Safe Assign on Blackboard.

A few minutes later, I disclosed that there was a development in the situation and I broke the class into two groups – one was representing the university in question and the other served as the group of bloggers and journalists/social media representatives of the media. They had 30 minutes to brainstorm ideas for how to handle the mock press meeting (not necessarily a press conference, more of an exclusive media meeting), and the third step was the actual role playing for this mock crisis situation.

I was able to debrief the students after this exercise, and there were several things that came up that makes this a valuable exercise not only for crisis communications students, but practitioners as well:

  • Getting hands on application of handling a crisis: Most of the students had not done a simulation before, so they were not sure what to expect. However, everyone afterwords felt more confident on what to expect as well as how they personally reacted to the situation.
  • Timing was very apparent as the main challenge in the crisis: I set forth these tough time limits to show the students 1) how they work under pressure and 2) how preparation is absolutely essential so you don’t have to reinvent all of these ideas, documents, templates, and message strategies at the moment. Being proactive is better than being reactive.
  • Allowing the students to apply what they have learned creatively: I was very impressed with how the students were able to apply what they learned in class and integrate this into their responses and strategies. There were additional factors they brought forth that I did not provide to them , but these were important to note.
  • Evaluating team members and others who were involved in the process: I asked both teams to evaluate how they feel they did individually as well as their own team, but I also asked them to grade the other representative team. It was great to see how each group had their strong moments, and there were a few points where the other team brought forth a suggestion on what they can work on for next time. Peer collaborative team work and feedback is another evaluation method to consider for this particular exercise to get a comprehensive view of the results of this exercise.

In summary, would I do this assignment again? Absolutely! Lots of great lessons learned and it was an opportunity to see the students work on a project individually as well as in a group.

Plus, what struck me as a winning moment as a professor was to see the students have an “Ah Ha!” moment after the simulation and were able to see the connection of what we were covering in class and how it is applied. These are the moments that make what I do as a professor so rewarding.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

October 21, 2014

How coffee contributed my personal brand as a #prprof

What makes us all human is our unique qualities and characteristics. Whether we are enthusiastic about technology or have a passion for cooking amazing feasts and bake for others – these are part of who we are and our identity as human beings.

However, when it comes to social media professionals, how do we showcase our unique qualities besides our knowledge, experiences, and insights? The answer is simple, and it has to do with socks.

No, I am not saying you have to go out and buy all the socks you can – what I mean is embracing an item, accessory, or even a drink that can be tied to your reputation.

I consider Ted Rubin to be one of the great leaders in the digital sphere and profession – we are Facebook friends, follow each other on Twitter and Instagram, and I have been really impressed with how he engages on a real and authentic level. He updates not only on relevant content on social media, but he also showcases his personality quite a bit. And, he takes pictures of his socks, which he calls “sockies.”

What Ted has done as he explains in his post is how socks helped establish his brand on social media and formulate these relationships. I couldn’t agree more! You have to figure out what makes you different and use this as a way to engage in dialogue and formulate these relationships?

So, while my sock collection totally needs to be addressed, I have used another item to help establish my personal brand with fellow colleagues, students, professionals, and even fellow professors. My item is coffee.

Coffee is probably one of my biggest weaknesses – I joke with my students and colleagues about the fact that it is a major food group for me as well as my blood type. :) All you have to do is look at my Instagram page and see all of the reference associated with my enthusiasm for coffee. I even use the hashtag #ThisProfRunsOnCoffee a lot to communicate this!

However, this was not always the case. I started really sharing my love for coffee a few years ago while I was still at the University of Tennessee with my friends. I would occasionally share this online on Facebook, and then it started picking up among my friends. While at UofL, I noticed right away that it became quite apparent with even my students where they would bring me items to my office related to coffee. In addition, if students or colleagues wanted to meet – it was never in my office – but rather a coffee shop. I guess you can say they know me pretty well!

Another factor to note here is that with social media, there is of course a way to share the love and joy of coffee with others! This is where I have used TweetACoffee from Starbucks to do just this. You can send a coffee voucher virtually on Twitter to a friend and they are able to redeem this on their end.

I have done this for students, fellow professionals working in social media, and even colleagues celebrating their birthday. I have gotten tweets, tags on Instagram, and pictures shared on Facebook of my fellow friends and colleagues who have used their gift and and thanked me online. This was awesome to see! :) I have found that this has not only been an extension of my personal brand on social media, but also has contributed to the relationship management I have had with fellow colleagues, or #RonR like Ted Rubin says.

In summary – the answer is not to jump on board the sock or coffee bandwagon [however, these are both fabulous and always in need for more enthusiasts!]  – but find out what makes YOU memorable as a professional/person in your field. What other elements make you memorable and others can associate with your personal brand and give you the ability to share this with others. There are many other professionals who have done exactly this for other items like Lee Odden (another coffee enthusiast!), Jason Falls (bourbon), and Alex Houg (doughnuts).

So – what will be your item to help extend your personal brand and formulate sustainable #RonR with your community? Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

October 18, 2014

Reflections from 2014 LDA Digital Media Summit

I had the chance and wonderful opportunity to attend as well as present at this year’s Digital Media Summit, sponsored by the Louisville Digital Association. This was a fun conference to go to and had an amazing time presenting as well as listening to all of the great talks at the event.

Plus, I was able to see some amazing professionals in attendance at the conference like Dennis Yu, Alex Houg, Melody Murphy, Hailey Heishman, Christy Belden, Todd Krise, and Sam Douglass. Great to see you all in attendance!

We had so many great speakers at the event and I felt I walked away with a ton of new knowledge not only to guide me for what to cover for my social media class this upcoming spring at UofL, but also within my own research. As soon as I left the conference, I reviewed and edited my syllabus for my class to include some of the tips, best practices, and lessons learned from the event.

We are seeing great number of changes in the field where the expectations for operating, communicating, and engaging in new disruptive techniques and technologies to advocate for change and rethinking of traditional principles and industries. I was able to take in a great deal from all of the fellow speakers. It was also great to finally meet some of these amazing professionals in person like Rick Murray and Kyle Lacy – I have been following them on social media for a while and it was wonderful to speak to them at the conference. Also, I had the chance to meet Erik Deckers, who is an outstanding writer and an author of one of the books I recommend my students to read for my social media class. Very cool!

What did I talk about at the LDA Digital Media Summit? I was able to talk a little bit about crisis communications – what I am seeing emerging from the field and what I am currently working on as part of an extension of research I have been doing over the last few years. I was very honored to be asked to speak by Jason Falls and I was actually able to share the story where Jason saved the day while we were traveling back from the Integrate Conference.

If you are interested in what the speakers talked about, Jason Falls and the great team at LDA created a page where they have all of the presentations uploaded so you can see them on Slideshare. You also may want to check out the great key takeaways post Todd Krise has written about the event as well over on LinkedIn – great insights and summaries!

So, I would like to take this time to thank Jason Falls, Nick Huhn, and the rest of the great and amazing team at LDA for allowing me to be part of this amazing event. This was the largest one yet and it is a must go to conference for students, professionals, and professors who are actively engaged in new emerging media and technologies.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

October 17, 2014

Disruption technologies integrated within crisis message strategies arising during Ebola crisis

We have seen a lot of local, national, and global coverage of the Ebola crisis over the last few weeks. This particular crisis has been of course discussed and highlighted as blog posts and other forms of content by some of the leading experts in the field.

My good friend and fellow crisis communications colleague Melissa Agnes had the chance to speak to my graduate crisis class this week and talk about her thoughts about the crisis and what are some key lessons to take away from this case. Melissa has written a blog post on how the CDC has addressed this crisis and their crisis message strategies.

However, we have seen some new ways in communicating and even reaching audiences using new platforms and even establishing new sites. One in particular I find interesting is how the BBC has launched their Ebola channel on WhatsApp. What this app is going to do is provide audio, visuals, and additional information directly to an individual’s phone through the app to individuals in West Africa. The information will be presented in both English and French.

Why is this an important point to note? We have seen of course a lot of discussion about the fast adoption of mobile compared to other forms of technology in West Africa, and this does present a new way for the popular global app to be used in communicating information regarding the Ebola outbreak.

Another trend we are seeing is the establishment of how stories are presented during a crisis, and this came from a start up. We have seen of course many start ups disrupt and change how certain businesses operate and engage with their audiences, but this is one that is impacting possibly how we consume news and get information during a crisis. News Deeply has established Ebola Deeply by providing more detailed analysis and combination of multiple forms of media in a single location. There are lists of articles updated in real time, a case map, videos, Twitter and news updates along with much more that is specifically focused on the particular subject.

These are two trends we as crisis communicators need to pay attention to for a couple of reasons. First, we are seeing organizations and others be creative with how they are approaching coverage of a particular crisis and adopting these practices into mobile communications. Second, we are seeing start ups like News Deeply taking the time and investment to look at what is happening in a particular field (ex. journalism, crisis communications, etc) and figuring out what they can do to offer a new perspective and disrupt the traditional framework of the field by offering a new service. We will continue to see this since this has been happening for years in traditional marketing, public relations, and strategic communication circles.

As a field and profession, we need to be aware of these so we can forecast other emerging trends as well as adapt our own practices [ex. crisis coverage, message strategies, brainstorming sessions, etc] to fit these new growing global expectations.

Let me know what you think about this. Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,

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