Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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July 28, 2014

Presenting in collaborative crisis strategy webinar w/ Firestorm Solutions & Hootsuite

In just a few days, I will be participating in a great collaborative partnered webinar on social media and crisis communication strategy. This partnership will involves both Firestorm Solutions and Hootsuite – which is very cool. Kristin and I are very honored and excited to be part of this new research/practice collaboration with these two great brands.

Our webinar is going to be focusing on speaking and listening in a crisis. This really is an important issue and topic both practitioners and researchers have to address when in a crisis situation. Kristin and I will be starting the webinar with some of the work we have done in this area (particularly when it comes to certain metrics that could help with crisis messaging and strategy) and then we are going to hear the expert insights from Shawn Bouchard of Hootsuite on what they are doing with their simulations and crisis strategy implementation for their clients on social media.

What I think is really great about this collaborative experience is the fact Kristin and I are able to apply the research we are doing for real agencies, businesses, and situations. It is still key to contribute to the body of knowledge and scholarly literature in the area – which we are continuing to do – but, when the opportunity comes to use what you have found in your research and apply it to real situations that could help others in the field and in your area of practice, you should embrace that.

It should be a great webinar and if you are interested in joining us, you can go to this link off of the Firestorm Solutions’ website. Again, we are very excited to be part of this great webinar series and hope to see you all on July 30th at 2pm EST!

Have a great day!

Best Wishes,

July 27, 2014

5 Lessons for Doctoral Students from a Third-Year Assistant Professor

It’s that time of year almost – not necessarily back to school, but we are just about a week away from the AEJMC Conference. Of the communication and PR academic conferences I go, AEJMC is one of my favorites. Plus, this year it’s in Montreal, so that is very fabulous!

I have two presentations to do in Montreal – one is a paper and another is a panel session. Along with these two presentations, I will be working with a great social media team to keep everyone updated on what is happening in Montreal. However, one of the other tasks I will be doing as well is spending some time mentoring some colleagues of mine at the conference. I have been mentoring a few doctoral students virtually over the years on a variety of topics ranging from research ideas to perspective strategies on how to do well on the job market circuit.

It is amazing to know it was only four years ago I was also in this same position applying for my first tenure track job and imagining what it would be like not only to have those nice three little letters after my name (not ABD) and think about how life would be different as an assistant professor versus just a doctoral student.

I just finished my third year at the University of Louisville as an assistant professor and will be entering my fourth year at UofL in just a few weeks. As I was preparing for my presentations in Montreal, I was thinking to myself – what would be some lessons or things I would want doctoral students to know after having a PhD for three years? Here are five lessons I would want to share with PhD students on the job market to know what to expect as they enter into the academic area as assistant professors:

  • What you did in your doctoral studies is good, but you have to be your own boss now: It’s good you had a chance to be on all of these research teams and projects as a graduate student, but as an assistant professor – you are now tasked for these responsibilities. You have to take on more of a leadership position and ownership of the work. Universities are going to expect you not to be tagged on projects but produce single authored research pieces.
  • You can’t hide in the shadow of your advisor as a professor: Yes, you will always be associated with your advisor when you come into a conference – more along the traditions of “academic families.” Working with your advisor or mentor on research projects is good – but they can be all of the projects you have. You have to establish research agenda teams for various subjects or areas of interest. For example, you may have a research team for PR and one for teaching PR, and another one in crisis for example. You want to be able to collaborate with other professionals to generate new ideas, projects, and learning experiences to help grow your own knowledge bank.
  • You can learn a lot about academia climate from Game of Thrones: No, I am not saying that professors get at each other like the characters in the Red Wedding, but you do have to be on your guard with your research, ideas, and points of view. In some cases, it can be pretty intense. Ideas will get stolen from you and in some cases at conferences – it may not always be about what you know, but who you know. You have to recognize the fact that there will be some researchers and fellow colleagues who will rave about what you are doing in research and teaching, but there will be others on the other side who will do whatever it takes to make sure your work is not presented or published. What do you do then? Change the rules and do the unexpected – which leads to my next point. But first, make sure you build yourself some armor and protection by being aware of this before entering the field.
  • Branch out your professor wings: The landscape and expectations for a professor are vastly different from where they were a decade ago, or even five years ago. Professors can’t just do theory research and academic conferences anymore. They have to be engaged and collaborative with the practitioner community. They have do branch out and engage with others to generate ideas and form new professional relationships. Look at outside conferences to present at and invest in your future with international conferences. Don’t limit yourself to only two or three straight Communication or PR conferences – go to others that would enhance your research perspective whether it is for methods or even subject topics. You can learn some interesting things and have the opportunity to apply them in your work.
  • Being a “different” professor is okay: As I mentioned in my last point, it’s key to separate yourself from others to be memorable and make an impact. Many times, PhD programs have a set cookie cutter shape they want all of their doctoral students to follow. Same goes to how professors should conduct themselves and what they need to do in terms of research, publications, and presentations. Why be like everyone else? That’s not what brings in the interest from other audiences. Think about what makes you different from others – is it your experience? Personality? Or is it the work you have done? Consider doing guest lectures via Skype. Add on some consulting projects. Blog and contribute to social media sites. Explore these outside possibilities – because you never know what opportunities are out there for you to grasp and engage in.

In summary, I don’t want to come off and scare any doctoral students on what to expect when entering academia. It’s a wonderful field and I feel like based on the experience and time I had as a doctoral student, my transition actually was very smooth and I’ve been both very productive and very happy with where I am at professionally.

However, what helped me get into this mindset was to take my last year in the PhD program at Tennessee as my first year as an assistant professor. Not only work and finish your dissertation, but teach a couple classes, be part of a service based community like AEJMC, and continue working on research projects. Yes, this sounds like a lot of work – but with the right time management skills and frame of mind – this alone will be invaluable for you as you enter your first year as an assistant professor. Trust me, it does make a difference.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

July 21, 2014

The benefits of taking a digital break from a social media professor

There are times where even the social media and PR professional (or in this case professor) needs to take a “digital break” from things. I had a chance this week to visit my fabulous sister Kristin and my brother-in-law Scott in Hawaii. Kristin and Scott have been out in Hawaii for a year now and having some time before fall classes start up again made it the perfect opportunity for a visit. :)

Did I completely cut off all digital ties while I was in Hawaii? No – but I did limit the time I did spend online to thoroughly enjoy my time with family, play tourist in Hawaii, and explore new activities and events I had not done before.

However, there were a few things I noticed when I was technically on vacation and visiting family out in Hawaii that inspired me to write this particular blog post about the pros and cons of taking a digital break as a social media and PR professional. Here were a few observations I had:

  • People do ask if everything is okay when they don’t see you online as much: I noticed this right away when I had a few people tell me that I was posting a lot of personal updates (especially on Twitter) instead of my traditional blog posts and news articles. I had to tell them I was taking a break and on vacation. I was still sharing items, but not as much as I usually do.
  • Even if you are taking a digital break, you really are not: While I am still playing tourist and on vacation technically, I am still working. There are conference calls, consulting projects, research papers, and preparing for conferences I am still working on. It’s really all about doing a little bit of this each day and it will eventually get done.
  • There are many ways to still reach you even if you are taking a digital break: We are in an age where we are connected EVERYWHERE. Not just social media. Even taking a mini break from digital – you still get the text messages, phone calls, and other forms of email directed to you on your break. It’s all fine and good – but it does make you realize how connected and accessible you are to things.
  • Your reputation as a hard worker still proceeds you, even on your digital media break and vacation: I think I may be in the minority on this one, but I am a professor that never has set an “out-of-office” message to their emails when they are on break. I feel like I am always on call – which today is pretty much normal. However, if you are known as a hard worker, you will always be on call. I don’t mind this because I know I can get to the correspondence when I can.
  • Digital breaks are essential: This was the first trip in a LONG time where I did not have a slide deck to prep or a business suit to pack. Digital breaks and vacations are necessary in order to feel refreshed for the next opportunities and events scheduled.  It gives you the time to brainstorm more ideas, be inspired outside of the computer room or viewing your smartphone, and allows you to appreciate all aspects of life and what it can offer you personally. I recommend doing this definitely once in a while.

Overall, I have had an amazing break and time with my family out here in Hawaii. It’s been relaxing and I have had a chance to not only participate and do some things for the first time (like paddle boarding or going to a Hawaiian Luau), but it has served as a nice digital media break for me. Thanks again to Kristin and Scott for being amazing hosts!!!

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

July 17, 2014

The rise of emojis & potential uses for them in social media classes

We have all seen the use of emojis of course floating around on social media. Whether they are on Twitter, Facebook, or even Instagram and Snapchat, there are pretty much everywhere. They are symbols that are used to communicate how we feel, what we are currently doing (ex. exercise, traveling, etc) but also represent the stories we share with our communities online. In fact, Rosanna Pansino even made a video showcasing how to make emoji cookies (which I may have to do next time I am at a social media gathering).

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Are emojis the next big trend in social media? I’d say that it is certainly a component of social media to pay attention to, but also consider the various uses and strategies they can be incorporated into your various message strategies. Do you need a separate social media platform just for emojis? No. However, they could be integrated as a tool within a network like Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, or Twitter to get the point across. They are not for everyone – but if you want to create fun and visual messages with them, then these are right up your alley.

Personally, I am guilty of using emojis of course when I communicate on social media, especially the happy face one. :) I even got the nickname of “Dr. Smiley” by my good friend and PR colleague Geah because I use it in pretty much every form of conversation I have on social media.I also have used them extensively when I have been teaching my social media class at the University of Louisville.

There are several ways professors – who are teaching social media and use various platforms for their classes – to incorporate emojis into their classroom correspondence and conversations. Here are some ways I have been using them in my classes:

  • Providing engaging feedback to students: It’s important to show your appreciation and feedback on class related conversations and activities. High fives, stars, and happy faces are simple to share and communicate with – but mean so much to the other person behind the screen.
  • A new way to introduce yourself visually to your students: Emojis are visual, and it is an interesting way for people to use these to introduce themselves with each other. One thing I am going to be doing this fall for one of my classes is have my students not only introduce themselves to the class in person as well as online – but one of the tasks will be to use emojis to introduce yourself. It does make you think about how you would use symbols to introduce yourself with others. A fun exercise that could be different to incorporate into a classroom setting.
  • Adding these to the social media etiquette document assignment: I think it is good for the students to discuss tools they use and what are the do’s and don’ts for emojis – especially when we are looking at businesses and brands. It is also good to discuss whether or not they are even appropriate at the workplace or come from your own personal account. Having this discussion and application of an assignment like this could be very beneficial for the students.
  • Live tweeting events: Have students who are interns in athletics or working in various events for industries? Along with the messages and images with hashtags, there are possibilities for students and professors even to use emojis to add to these messages to be shared.
  • Showcasing personality: I have to admit I’m a bit of a coffee fan. Just a little bit. :) However, when I share visuals and images related to coffee, of course I have to use the coffee emoji! Since we are not communicating face-to-face on social media, we have to go towards the extra effort to show our enthusiasm about various subjects, so emojis help with this.

In summary, emojis may not be for everyone, but they are a fun tool that can be incorporated into message strategies on social media. They can also entertaining, clever, and help showcase the personality and point of view of the user. Again, there is a time and place for emoji use and of course proper forms of etiquette when it comes to them. We also have to realize that they do not replace thoughts or images necessarily, but they add an additional element to them.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

July 14, 2014

Social media trends from Summer 2014: A work-in-progress

One of the things I love about researching, teaching, and consulting in social media is the fact it is constantly changing and evolving. I remember when I first was starting out in the field in terms of research and being amazed with some of the advancements and changes we were seeing even then. Now, it’s a whole other ball game for everyone online.

This appears to be the summer of trends,  new best practices, and case studies in the area of social media. We are seeing brands, individuals, and others breaking some of the established rules and paving their way towards a new set of established practices and strategies.

Here are some major social media takeaways we are seeing based on what has happened so far this summer:

  • Sports and social media are becoming one: We have seen this all along in sports, but the level of engagement with fans and others is becoming more and more apparent. Social media allows individuals to be their own media outlet to share their stories from perspectives and point of views that are unique and exclusive to that person. It’s not about who has it first, but who has the right angle and POV – and we saw it this past weekend with the World Cup.
  • Traditional media outlets are breaking down silos to get exclusives: Lebron James proved this when he announced he was going to be heading home to Cleveland from the Miami Heat in this letter in Sports Illustrated. The impact? This of course went viral on social media and made Lebron the most popular writer for SI. The integration and connection that social media has with the traditional media is quite apparent, and the lines are definitely blurring together. In case you haven’t seen the letter, you may want to also check out this video Erik Qualman made based on the video:

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  • Storytelling is integrated into everything and has to be based on strategy: It’s all about not only the content and stories you are sharing, but how you are sharing it. We are seeing brands this summer have the strategic focus on what they are sharing and how they are sharing this on social media for their audiences. Whether it is connecting with real time events from a brands’ perspective or going to where the audience is having the conversation (like Mercedes has done with Instagram).
  • Authenticity and the rise of Communication Marketing: This was a trend we saw at the Edelman Academic Summit last month with Richard Edelman’s keynote. I believe this is a window into the future of not only PR, but it’s relationship with social media. We have to formulate strategies of course for our campaigns and brands, but we first have to make sure we are transparent and authentic with our vision and audiences. This is not just a trend, but becoming the expectation for everyone in the field to follow.

Of course, there is still some time left in the summer, but it is interesting to see how these trends have come up at the forefront for both practitioners, and even academics. I am looking forward to sharing these trends and case studies with my students in my fall classes.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

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