Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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November 22, 2014

Embracing opportunities and gaining inspiration at NCA 2014

I have been in Chicago these past few days for a communications conference – this has been one I have attended a few times over the years. The first one I did was back in 2010 when I was still a doctoral student.

However, the other times I have attended this conference I had presented research, but that was not the case this time. I did not present research at NCA this year. However, I had the opportunity to be a respondent for the social media and PR panel on Thursday in Chicago. The research that was presented in this section cut across all aspects of PR – from restaurants to NGOs to emergency management to stakeholder engagement measurement.


The level of research that is being conducted now in the field is both relevant and inspiring. It was great to be able to read these papers and respond with some initial comments to the audience. It was a full house!

The social media presence was felt as well at the conference. The PRD for NCA was active on Twitter sharing updates, insights, and comments from the presentations. Sarah VanSlette was in charge of the engagement we saw at the conference and did a tremendous job! As someone who has live tweeted, managed multiple accounts, and covered various panel sessions on social media for conferences like AEJMC, I know the amount of energy it takes to do this and Sarah has done this extremely well. The NCA PRD is super fortunate to have an engaging, hard working, and innovative professor and professional managing social media for the PRD. Well done, Sarah!

Another great thing about conferences is you get a chance to see fellow professors, mentors, and friends at the conference as well. It was great not only catching up on what everyone was doing – but checking in to see how they were doing outside of work. Some of these professors I have known for almost ten years, and then there are others I got to finally meet in person after years of corresponding on social media.

It was also fun to see graduate students who are now professors and being referred to as “Dr. So and So.” This last part made me realize it has been three years (going on four) since I was in their position. Time has certainly flown by when you’ve been busy!

Overall, even though it has been a short trip to Chicago for me, it was well worth it. I feel energized, excited, and inspired by the conversations and research I have heard these past few days. I also feel the field is in good hands with the graduate students who are entering the workplace and the professors who are mentoring them.

If you are interested in finding out more about the NCA PR Division, make sure to follow them on Twitter at @PRprofs and save the date for the conference next year in Las Vegas.

Safe travels everyone from Chicago and I wish you all a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving. :)

Best Wishes,

November 21, 2014

Uber & Disruptive Technologies: A PR case study at a crossroad

One of the things we have to do both as PR and crisis communication professionals is to explore how not only the field is changing, but specific industries. We are living in an exciting time where we are seeing technologies advance as well as industries, which is one reason why I am actually going to have a section for each of my classes focusing on disruption technologies and industries and how it is connected to PR.

This came about actually after heading a great professional give a talk a month ago. I had the chance to hear Kyle Lacy speak at the LDA Digital Media Summit last month (was great to finally meet him after following via Twitter and Instagram for a while!). What struck me about Kyle’s presentation was the role disruption technologies have changed traditional business practices, but also have positioned the customer in the control seat with some of these features.

One of the things we are seeing right now is one of the companies that really has brought this up to the forefront in PR, social media, and news circles. This of course is Uber.

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Uber has been in the news for a lot of different reasons – some of them are reflected in this post from Digiday and PR Daily. However, they have been a successful case of a start up that has disrupted the taxi industry and put the control of how people travel via car. And it has been of course reported recently how much revenue they have received and how much their drivers receive as well, according to Business Week.

Is Uber experiencing a crisis as a brand? You can say as a young emerging brand, they are at a point where they are at a crossroads type of situation and it really does come down to how they act and how this is consistent with the messages they are saying. Several of the incidents they have been involved with (listed here) do raise some concern.

So, what can Uber do? There are several things at the moment they can address. First, they have to consider sustainable measures and what they can do to take control of the narrative as well as making sure their actions reflect how they are perceived. Second, there are a lot of voices out there that are being associated with the company (Ashton Kutcher and Uber Executive Emil Michael). Both are financially connected and aligned with the brand – their comments and actions are tied to the Uber brand.

I think this is going to be an ongoing case and brand we are going to see come up both in classes as well as professional circles. We are seeing pushback from industries that see brands like Uber as a threat because they are disrupting the dynamics within the industry. In addition, we are seeing various entities and industries come together to formulate their own views and opinions about the situation both in person, but especially on social media. We will indeed have to see what happens here.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

November 17, 2014

Is social media losing the “social” component to it?: Not necessarily

There are a lot of benefits for Twitter for students, professionals, and even professors. It provides a virtual community where people are able to share perspectives, brainstorm ideas, and network with others sharing the same interests and perspectives. I have found Twitter as my go-to platform nowadays – more so than Facebook. Was it like this for me a year or two ago? The answer would be no.

I have used Twitter only for my social media classes as a form to engage and interact with my students and professionals outside of the classroom. I’ve been able to connect with many great professionals all around the world and formulate very good professional relationships. Twitter has been a very prominent tool for me as a social media professor.

However, weekend discussions with some fellow professionals got me thinking about where Twitter is going as a conversation platform on social media. Is Twitter turning into the anti-social media platform for 2014 and 2015? We have seen other platforms arise this year that claim to be the anti-Facebook, like Ello has done. However, is this a bigger issue and topic to cover than just focusing on one platform? Is social media turning into an anti-social media platform?

A PR professional I had the chance to meet and talk to this summer is Stephen Waddington, who wrote a great blog post about how we don’t talk on Twitter anymore. Instead of focusing on the conversation, it’s about the promoted content by brands based on certain demographics and psychographic information collected on you by social media analytics companies.

Essentially, we are actively engaged in promoting ads, content, and updates from brands and individuals who want to present a certain image of themselves online. On the other side, we are seeing how users are taking to getting their opinions out to the masses – some positive and some negative. Kelly Mosier (Director of Digital Media for Nebraska Athletics) shared this link yesterday on Twitter which also sparked a lot of discussion online pertaining to the role Twitter is playing in the social media sphere.

Social media has allowed us the opportunity to connect and engage users – but it is easy to comment and state certain feelings and reactions in the comfort of your home behind your smartphone screen. Cyber bullying, antagonism, and extremely negative reactions targeted to both brands and individuals are just some of the things we are seeing right now on social media.

While providing a strong and positive reputation online is key – we have to ask the question – is this really what is going on? Are brands and individuals being authentic and transparent about their updates?

These behaviors we are seeing on Twitter primarily may have been there (ex. sports reactions, etc) – however, what we are seeing now is that not only are they open to everyone to see, but are shared, reposted, and even cited in news articles now for everyone to be aware of.  With social media – people are able to reach, talk, and say whatever they want to you at any time, any place, and at any format.

As social media professionals – and professors – we have to continue to teach and discuss how social media is a platform for great opportunities and conversation, but we also have to be aware of how others are using it that may impact our respective communities and industries. Education is more important than ever – we talk about how the tool shouldn’t necessarily be the rule – but this is a bigger issue than social media.

I think we are at a crossroads here when it comes to social media.Yes, I do believe there is a social aspect still to social media, but we have to look at what that exactly means. We are seeing people still coming together and engaging with each other, but there are some conversations or actions we may or may not want to see, and we are able to due to the content being shared and discussed from our networks and communities. We have to be more active – and protective – of ourselves and what we want to be exposed to. Filters, lists, unfriending, unfollowing, and even taking digital sabbaticals to some degree are just some things to think about. However, don’t feel you have to abandon a platform completely due to a few people making noise.

With this being said, I personally feel there are more positives about social media than negatives. If you have a balanced perspective of the tools out there and what to expect, you will not be as blindsided with some of the comments and incidents you see.  However, all we can do is lead by example and treat others like how we would like to be treated. Sometimes this works, but there are times where this does not work.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,

November 8, 2014

A must have social media book for #prprofs: Trendology by Chris Kerns

I am always looking for new books, articles, and resources to bring into my social media classes. I have used a range of different books for class, and I have found one that is not only going to be included in my class for the spring, but it should be on the list for all professors teaching social media classes. The book is called “Trendology” by Chris Kerns.

I have to be honest, there have only been a handful of books where I went and sat down and read it all in one sitting. The first one was Michael Brito’s book [another great social media strategy book I am using for my social media class again next year] and this one. What I really like about this book by Chris is the bridge he is able to connect between data analytics to strategic applications – some books have done this, but not as effectively. It was very refreshing to review this book and I realized very quickly that this is a must have book for professors teaching social media classes.

There are so many different elements of Chris’s book that are not only relevant for professors and practitioners to consider, but for students as well. There are a lot of relevant RTM case studies in Trendology, so that is very helpful for professors to talk about these in class but also showcase how students can take these lessons from examples of B2C RTM [Business-to-Consumer Real Time Marketing] and B2B RTM [Brand-to-Brand Real Time Marketing].

  • Accepting rather than setting the narrative. This is one point Chris highlights in his book which is very good to focus on and address. This point does provide us with a way of looking at RTM in a different light rather than just a current trend we are seeing. Instead, it’s about the strategic mindset we have to be aware of here. I am really glad Chris has pointed this out for all of us.
  • Having great visuals and case studies: I LOVE the amount of case studies, current examples, and frameworks Chris has in this book. The visual illustrating the RTM framework is concise and to the point – but it also can serve as a guide for others when implementing their social media strategies. We all know about Oreo of course, but Chris talks about DiGornio’s, Tide, Charmin, KitKat, and many other cases which is very refreshing to see and be able to talk about with the students. Plus, having the list of brands Spreadfast has followed on RTM specifically on Twitter = fabulous!
  • Best explanation of measurements on Twitter: This was a big factor for me here – and Chris nailed it and really created some great definitions that are concise and very clear. This is PERFECT to have for a reading for the students in a social media class. Chapter 2 is essential to look at – one of the best overall presentations of this platform from a strategic/measurement perspective I’ve read.
  • Breaking down to the metrics effectively: Chris does an excellent job in walking the reader through the strategic analysis process of looking at the data – what are some trends we are seeing, how do we calculate and evaluate the results, and how do we apply this. Really excellent to see this presented in this book. Chapter 3 focuses on the application of RTM for known events while also highlighting the importance of data analysis and implementation to help guide these strategies.
  • Having a blueprint for a dynamic social media team for RTM: Chris has this down for Chapter 5 and continues on this path for Chapters 6 & 7, so if you have a social media class that is focusing on a group project or proposal for a client, this would be good to note and have your class read. Very good strategies and ideas here. These three chapters will help guide students into the strategic mindset process – figuring out what they need to do in terms of the planning stages for their social media efforts so they are able to capture and execute creative messages that are effective on social media.

Overall, I was very pleased and impressed with this book by Chris Kerns. Trendology is not only a book for fellow practitioners, but it is a necessary book to include as part of the required readings for social media classes, especially those who are working with clients and have students propose a campaign proposal.

I am very excited to have Chris speak to my class virtually in the spring for #Freberg15, and I am sure my students will really enjoy reading Trendology for class. Make sure to follow Chris on Twitter as well as use the hashtag for the book as well #Trendology on Twitter.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

November 7, 2014

Engagement + information + relationship management = effective combination for a social media professor in the classroom

Juntae Delune just posted a really good quote from Gary Vaynerchuk about Twitter, which states “I’m not using Twitter to consume information, I’m using it to consume engagement.” What exactly does it mean to be engaged on social media?

Jason Falls had a good quote about what engagement stands for overall on social media for professionals – but why shouldn’t this be included in the classroom as well?

As professors, what we need to do is instead of just passing along information and relevant articles to our students on social media, we have to consider how to inspire them to be engaged.

How do we go about in doing this exactly?

  • First, you have to be there for the conversation [Engagement]: Take on a role as a lead discussant for the class online and be prepared for some ice breakers. For me, I have shared various items like articles and such, but I follow up with saying – what do you all think about this?
  • Apply and personalize ideas for classroom content from practitioners and brands [Information]: As professors, we have several brands we are a part of. We are part of our respective universities, departments, profession – as well as managing our own professional brand and our class brand. There are many ways to brainstorm ideas for how to create visual, personalized, and memorable content for our classes for social media. We see this done for brands and our students create ideas for how to do this for their campaigns class – so why can’t we do it for our classes and our professional brand as professors? The answer is – of course we can!
  • Being open and available for the conversations that emerge [Return On Relationships]: This is the thing when it comes to social media – you are not only engaging in conversations with your students on social media for your classes, but you are allowing a window and virtual seat open for others to join and be part of the conversation. Practitioners, fellow colleagues, and other students even can see what you are sharing.
  • Walk the walk, tweet the tweet: In order for getting engagement from your students – you as the professor have to set the standard. Be part of the class, do the same activities, and show students the potential and amazing opportunities that can arise from being active on social media. The conversations, networking connections, and updates are all public for them to see and be an eye witness to. Once they are able to see what you are able to do, students may be more likely to follow your lead. You first have to show them the way on how to do this with fellow social media professionals, brands, and agencies. Take on the role as a coach and mentor in this area rather than just passing along information.

In summary, there are a lot of benefits for being an engaged part of the social media community as a professor. There is a combination for everything to work out – you do have to be engaged not only with providing relevant content for class, but be there as well. Answer questions, have conversations that showcase your personality, and be open to comment on items your students share. The mixture of all of these updates is what creates a dynamic, energetic, and vibrate learning environment that will last not only in the class, but also create a community that can be sustained even after the students graduate from your university.

You never know who may be observing your conversations online with your fellow students. All of the conversations I’ve had with students have been professional and related to class, and I had one of my Twitter friends and fellow social media colleagues comment on this last night.

Russell is the director of digital media for the University of Oklahoma Athletics Department, and he shared this with his followers based on a conversation I had with one of my #FrebergGrads graduate crisis students. This comment really made my evening – it was very humbling to hear this from a well respected professional like Russell about my teaching and how I am using social media as a professor. Thanks so much, Russell!

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

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