Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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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 18, 2014

Presenting at the YAP Social Media & Digital Panel in Louisville: Reflections from a social media professor

I had the chance to be part of a great social media and digital media panel session yesterday evening at Power Creative, one of the main advertising agencies in Louisville that was sponsored by the Young Advertising Professionals (YAP) group of AdFedLouisville.

It was great to hear insights from professionals working in the field and from different industries. Ali Turner comes from Yum! Brands and David Jacobs has worked with some great brands like McDonalds with The Tombras Group in Knoxville. UofL had two representatives on the panel with Nick Stover from UofL Athletics and me – where I was able to share some insights on what I am doing with my research and social media class at UofL. It was cool to hear the stories, insights, and best practices from everyone and how we all came from different points in our careers and industries.

What I think is cool about being part of the panel was not only the overall focus on the range of topics associated with social media, but also how this panel and speaking opportunity came about. Of course, I have to thank social media for that! Got to give a shout out to Christy and Sean for reaching out to me and allowing me to be part of this panel yesterday. Had a wonderful time!

I had several students ask me how this panel went, and there are a few things I felt were key for me to note based on my experience to reflect on. Here were a couple of things I noted:

  • Having a digital presence and way for people to reach out to you is key: This was not only a time to present and talk about the field and area of interest, but it was also focused on a great networking opportunity. Sharing business cards is of course traditional – but the main question I had yesterday was – what’s your Twitter handle so we can connect?
  • Even professors can serve as students in the classroom and at events: What I liked about being part of this panel session was the fact that I was learning along with the panelists on these topics as well. I found it interesting to see what were some of the items and topics that were key for agency professionals to know and be skilled in, but also what are some future trends they see coming up as well. As a professor, I want to make sure I am preparing my students for the growing expectations that are coming from the field, so this was very useful and helpful for me.
  • Serving as a connector for introductions: I had several friends at the panel yesterday and I realized that they had similar connections or interests with others I knew at the event, so I felt that it was key to make sure they were introduced. This is an industry where it is not only what you know, but who you know that is also important. Also, I had the chance to see several former students I have had in the class at the event, so I wanted to make sure they had the chance to network as well.
  • Continue the conversation after the event: Sending out notes to people you saw at the event, sharing pictures from the session so others can see what the event looked like, and reach out to those that were in attendance on social media. This event was not only about sharing knowledge and experiences for one time, but it really has opened the door to a community with professionals that have similar interests, views, and insights in the profession.

Overall, it was a great event and I would like to thank AdFedLou for having a great event for young professionals and for Power Creative for being our hosts. Looking forward to seeing what future events you all have and continue this great discussion and network!

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

April 16, 2014

Snapchat in the Classroom: 7 ways professors can use visual mobile platform for social media classes

One of the things I have tried to do as a professor is to explore not only new topics in my classes, but also new platforms. One that seems to come up a lot right now is Snapchat.

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While I do have an account, this is one platform I have not used as much as others. However, it appears that we are seeing more brands, agencies, and people using the platform more strategically to engage their audiences in new and innovative ways. It is a platform where you can share visual sharing app with friends and colleagues and have them deleted in a certain amount of time.

So, what are some ways that professors possibly could use Snapchat for personal and even professional uses? Here are some ideas we can look at possibly implementing both in and outside of the classroom:

  • Creating entertaining experiences from every day tasks: Whether it is grading or creating lectures – showcasing a little creativity and fun to share with others creates an interactive and entertaining experience. It is about showcasing your personality as well as your point of view in a visual and creative manner.
  • Case studies and share examples of campaigns that used Snapchat: It is always good to look at cases and campaigns that have used Snapchat and learn what were the message strategies, audiences considered in this campaign, and main takeaways from the experience. Here are a few that came up as good ones to look at along with these from AdWeek.
  • Meeting your students in their new space to spark conversations: First, we saw professors use Facebook and then Twitter for engaging their students in and out of the classroom. There have only been a few professors who have utilized Instagram for their classes, and I would imagine even fewer who are on Snapchat. As professors, we need to be adaptive and test out these new platforms to see if they work and to communicate and build a community on these sites. More businesses are learning this as well when it comes to Snapchat.
  • Behind the scenes and exclusive announcements for class: Whether it is announcing clients, guest speakers, or even assignments for class – professors could use Snapchat potentially for these actions. For behind the scenes – looking at presentations and networking events as opportunities to share this experience with students would also be beneficial as well.
  • Discussing the opportunities and challenges with the new platform: Like all social media platforms, Snapchat does have their risks and challenges to them as a social media outlet. This is a perfect opportunity to build this discussion for classes on these various topics as well as for businesses. Creating a strategic brief for a business in a social media class to provide resources on how to use Snapchat professionally or even incorporate this platform into the managing online reputation reflection paper for social media would be good to share with your students as well.
  • Creating films of experiences: While brands like Taco Bell have been innovative with Snapchat by creating films, professors could potentially create films of presentations, guest speakers, and other lectures to share with others.
  • Sharing fun experiences with friends: There are times where you do want to use Snapchat for fun with colleagues and friends. This is one of the main characteristics of social media.

In summary, while there are a lot of possibilities here for Snapchat and brands, we as professors have to discuss the benefits and challenges of this platform and determine if this is one that we could potentially use both in and outside of the classroom. I think there is a lot of potential here – especially when connecting with students. However, it may not always work in every classroom – so this has to be evaluated case by case, or class by class.

Personally, I think any new platform opens the window to new opportunities to create engaging and interactive dialogue and conversations with students to help build a dynamic learning community. I would be interested in hearing what you all think about this as well.

Hope you all are having 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,

April 10, 2014

Building and sustaining a successful social media classroom

One of the things that I have tried to do as a professor is to initiate certain best practices I have seen in the classroom and tailor them for my own classes. There have been several professors I have over the years in all of my degree programs at Florida, USC, and Tennessee that I can draw on for inspiration for my teaching practices.

I have heard feedback from fellow colleagues, professors, and students over the years about my classes. When I first started teaching at Tennessee, I was trying to figure out all that worked for me as a professor. I tried to be professional and serious to follow what was expected of me as a PhD student and what a “professor” was supposed to be in the classroom. After the first year, I realized that I can still do this – but in my own way.

There are times where people have said – I found myself as a person in this location or at this time period. I have to say that I believe I have found myself as a professor at the University of Louisville. I am able to teach the students all about strategic communications and social media – but also put in my own references and personality to the mix. So yes, there is a lot of discussions on coffee and Angry Birds.

I think it also comes down to the classroom culture you build and sustain as well. So, how do you create a successful classroom culture? Here are some of my tips I have learned over the years that has worked for me as a professor, especially in my social media classes:

  • Provide students a place to ask questions: When I talk about place, I don’t mean office hours. This can be a Google+ Hangout session for virtual office hours or updates on social media. It’s about approaching and interacting with them in their own space.
  • Give them the skills that they need to be successful in and out of the classroom: A role of a professor is one of a teacher, but also a colleague after they leave your classroom and graduate. I tell my students I am a tweet, email, or phone call away – but I also remind them my office door is always open for them to come back and visit.
  • Take on the role of a coach: I tell my students all the time, especially in my social media class, that this will probably be the hardest class you will take in the semester or in college. Some believe me, but others realize near the end of the semester that this is true. However, it’s about inspiring and reinforcing the idea of doing a little bit of work each day – like athletes do when they are training in their sports. As a professor, your role is to make sure you provide the best opportunities for your students to succeed.
  • Share stories and messages from others: This is why I have so many guest speakers in my class – it’s about providing opportunities to share stories, best practices, and insights on the field for the students from a different light. Teaching is like parenting in so many ways – it’s one thing if you say it, but another if someone else does and reinforces what you have said. It’s key to have this balance. First and foremost – especially when it comes to social media – it’s about the social aspect.
  • Protect and encourage the classroom culture: Like businesses, classrooms have a certain culture and personality to them. Treat your classroom like this and think about what would be the type of class that you feel would produce the best work and ideas from the students. I always try to keep things upbeat, encouraging, and fun for the class. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done, but if you have the right attitude and mindset, then it doesn’t appear to be work.
  • Create memorable experiences: Not only with the content you are sharing, but what are the lectures, speakers, and overall atmosphere you have created in the class that lends itself to be a memorable experience?  Is it to make a networking connection with a speaker that leads to an internship? What about a job? This is what I am trying to do as we finish up the semester in my social media class. The final presentations will be one of these experiences – more like a celebration for a semester of hard work and dedication. These are experiences that as a student, I would have loved to have experienced.

Overall, I feel that teaching has been such a rewarding part of what I do as a professor. I am very fortunate to have current and past students who have entered my classroom and have left with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in their careers. For me, that is what really matters. :)

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

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