Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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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,


September 18, 2014

What PR professors teaching social media can learn from Gary Vaynerchuk

I first heard about Gary a couple of years ago when I was starting out teaching my social media class. I have read both of his books (if you haven’t checked them out, you should!) – I recommend both “The Thank You Economy” and “Jab, Jab, Right Hook.” These are both good to not only include as part of your own social media library, but two you may want to add as readings for your social media classes.

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I think Gary is probably one of the most memorable (and energetic) social media professionals I have seen. He does a pretty good job in capturing the attention of the audience with his personality, energy, and insights. The one presentation I felt he really captured some of main trends that are happening right now in the field. His presentation showcases some of the challenges and opportunities pertaining to storytelling.

Plus, Gary emphasized the main asset of time, and how we have to be aware of this personally as well as for our audience and how this influences their behavior in terms of your audience. Understanding the analytics and data is also key – but what Gary does emphasize that I think it key is to have a strong understanding that each platform is different – different features, functions, and audiences at times. Some brands and professionals forget about this, so it was very refreshing to hear this.

What can professors learn from Gary? Lots of great tips – here are a few:

  • Adapting presenting skills for practitioners and academics: Gary’s presentation style is energetic, outgoing, and memorable. Plus, you don’t see him relying too much on PowerPoint slides or reading from the screen – he makes eye contact with the audience and is able to read and understand his audience from the stage. Watching a few of his presentations would provide a good insight and tool to study in how to do an effective keynote presentation.
  • Integrating personal brand across platforms: Gary writes books, does keynote presentations, hosts his own YouTube shows, and is actively engaged on social media. The way he presents himself online is a clear example of how to integrate your persona strategically across all platforms so they are aligned together.
  • Being an explorer with all platforms, but understanding their place with audiences: Gary is everywhere and on so many different platforms. You can see he has his hand on the pulse of what is trending and what is going on in the field – professors can take this into consideration and see if they can adapt these practices to see how they can stay on top of trends and test/explore them out as well. As professors, we sometimes stay on maybe one or two platforms without exploring others. Platforms change, and if we are teaching social media, we have to understand the main platforms that are emerging.

In addition, I think Gary is doing something where most social media professionals are not doing – and that’s hosting a video show where he answers questions from his followers and fellow members of his community through tweets, comments, and even questions raised in videos posted on YouTube.

If you haven’t checked out #AskGaryVee, you may want to check out. His latest episode actually addressed a question pertaining to professors and how to convince them about the power of social media and why it’s important to use it. Here’s how Gary addressed this on his show during episode 20:

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I am glad this question was raised – and I would like to share the fact that there are professors who are embracing social media in the classroom, and they are doing really well with this. I wrote a blog post and LinkedIn post on five professors who really are excelling in preparing their students and are embracing this to the fullest degree.  I do think there is a growing shift in academia when it comes to social media – more professors and programs are embracing social media not only for classes, but they are embracing it themselves as professionals as well.

So, if I were to pose a question to Gary for #AskGaryVee, I would ask the following: What can professors who are embracing social media and emerging technologies to create a stronger bridge with professionals like yourself? How can we go from talking to the talk to walking the walk when it comes to really working together so we are all getting the most out of social media education and strategy? We are willing to not only start this conversation, but take actions to make these ideas come to life. All we have to do is start the conversation and let the story play out.

Overall, I do appreciate the information, insights, and perspectives Gary shares with the online community. He’s one I would recommend introducing students and colleagues to in social media classes. His blog and video series will be some recommended readings for my social media class this upcoming spring.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

September 13, 2014

The role social media plays to create a thriving classroom: A professor’s perspective

It’s been interesting to see how professors over the years have engaged not only in the classroom with their classes, but also be creative and how they engage their students and others using social media. There have been many ways professors have used social media in the classroom, especially Twitter. More universities are offering services to professors and others who may be interested in how they could use these platforms for their classes.

However, there are some who may feel by having social media as part of the classroom, it is “killing” our classrooms. Well, there are of course some challenges we as professors have to be aware of when it comes to introducing a new form of technology to class. Yet, I am on the other side of this stance when it comes to the classroom. If implemented professionally and appropriately, I think classrooms thrive with the opportunities with social media. I discussed some of these opportunities as well as a few myths when it comes to social media for professors a few months ago at the UT Social Media Week event. Here’s the video:

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So, the question arises regarding this current stance we are seeing in higher education when it comes to social media: how do you create a real engaged classroom when it comes to social media for professors?

  • Be part of the class community with your students: Assigning students to tweet, post pictures, or write blog posts is one thing. However, as a professor, you need to do this as well. Lead by example and show students what you are doing and learn with them.
  • Invest in your online persona as a professor: If you are asking your students to create an online persona, you as the professor need to establish one yourself. Share what you are doing in terms of research projects. Do interviews with leading professionals on their podcasts. Create content on your blog to share with others. Reach out to fellow professionals and share relevant content that may be of interest.
  • Bring networking and guest speakers to your class through virtual networking practices: Help introduce students with professionals on Twitter to practice virtual networking.  Make sure to encourage to reach out to fellow professionals, brands, and others in industries they are interested in. Also, discuss the practice for curating and creating practices as well to help contribute to their online personal brand.
  • Be an explorer and test our new ideas: It appears that every professor now has their own hashtag for a class, set up a Twitter schedule, etc. However, how are you as a professor really going to make a memorable impression? Combining content and be innovative with how you communicate this material for the class to ignite a conversation will separate you from others. Whether it is Vine or even Instagram, there are a lot of possibilities here.

Overall, as a professor, you have to determine what will work best for you for not only your students, but also consider what are the goals and expectations you think they should have after they leave your class. Being a resource and engaged in the technology to help mentor and support them is also important for their success after graduation. Social media is constantly evolving, and as professors, we have to be aware of this as well as adapt to these changes as well.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

September 8, 2014

Getting back an industry’s moral compass: Analysis and reflections on recent sports crises involving NFL & NCAA

The sports field has definitely had quite the Monday when it comes to dealing with crisis situations. Both raise the eyebrows to both the overseeing governing bodies involved and lots of questions are being asked. The two situations I am referring to is the case involving Ray Rice (formerly of the Baltimore Ravens) and Penn State football.

Ray Rice was cut by the Ravens and was indefinitely suspended by the NFL today after a video from TMZ emerged that showed Rice hitting his fiancee (now wife) in an elevator in an act of domestic violence. Many involved in the professional football industry along with other football players shared their perspectives and reactions both on social media as well as in the traditional news outlets. Mashable has more information and detail about the case in this latest opinion post. Plus, one of the things that is of course being discussed in this case is the role social media has played in this case. Many users and others are going back through all of the social media updates and tweets by the Baltimore Ravens (including this one that has been circulating from May) and reshared again to spark more conversations about this situation. It was finally reported that the Baltimore Ravens did delete this particular tweet – which raises the issue about the digital footprint of not only users and others online, but brands and organizations as well. The domino effect has also emerged with others distancing themselves from Rice – and I would imagine this is just the beginning.

The other case involves one of the biggest scandals and crises that happened in collegiate athletics – the Penn State scandal involving Jerry Sandusky back in 2012. The NCAA, the governing body of collegiate sports, dropped the postseason ban against Penn State – where they are able to get their scholarships back for their football team and are now bowl eligible. However, they still have to pay the $60 million dollar fine, but they do not have to continue on with the rest of their ban that would have gone on for two more years.  What message does this say not only to fellow players and universities – but to youth players? There have been several blogs and posts about this decision and how others feel about the NCAA regarding this decision. As a USC alum and former track and field athlete  for the Trojans (and still their school record holder in the shot put)- I was a bit shocked and disappointed with this decision since USC had to fulfill their ban involving Reggie Bush. You can see some of the USC fan’s reactions to this ruling here in this Facebook group – they are not too happy here.

Both of these cases in the sports industry not only focus on a rising crisis for both the NCAA and the NFL – but both integrate different acts of crime. In crisis communications, we always seem to talk about the importance of message strategies and getting the main spokesperson out to the right channels at the right time. In many ways, it’s almost like a game of chess. However, these two situations are ones where messages are not the focus here – actions are. How both entities handled each of these situations was based on power, not necessarily what was right. The timing spent by the NFL in handling the situation was reactive and not proactive, and the NCAA made a decision that was not consistent or aligned with the moral compass a governing body should have as an overseer for the industry.

In addition, it is time for both entities to act to address both of these situations, but understand their role and responsibility as well. Accountability is one term that is getting a lot of attention when it comes to both of these cases. It’s one thing to talk the talk – but both the NCAA and NFL need to walk the walk and own up to their role to make things right. They need to go back by practicing ethicals and having a moral compass to do what is right and stand up for what is right for all of their audiences – internal and external. There needs to be a culture change within both of these organizations to make sure both of these situations don’t happen again. At this point, statements and press conferences will not do the trick. Nor will tweetable statements that can be shared on Twitter. There doesn’t need to be more talking – but more actions that are sustainable and focus on the moral behavior and professional ethical behavior we are all expected to see and be treated with.

In summary, I believe in the next few days we will see some posts and blogs about what we can learn from both of these cases. Understanding best practices and what we can learn from these situations is one thing – but we as crisis communicators, professionals, and professors need to start acting and addressing these situations also head on. We need to not only talk about we can do for the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We need to take actions. We need to bring the conversation to the table with everyone to start acting on these best practices and lessons learned. It will not be easy, but we need to do something to address this growing crisis and reputation trend that is eating away and becoming part of a virus infesting within the athletic community.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,

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