I had the chance to integrate the Meltwater University program in my PR and Crisis communications graduate class at the University of Louisville. Many fellow PR and social media professors, like Matt Kushin, have been implementing the program into their classes around the nation.
This course was a blend of theory and practical applications. The other difference for this class compared to others is the fact this class was open for undergraduate and graduate students. We had four graduate students and eight undergraduate students who were enrolled in the class.
I felt this would be the best class to provide students with media monitoring, analytics, and strategic insight on what was being discussed in the media for this class.
The class was going to be working on a class client and propose a PR plan at the end of the class, providing them with real-world experience in researching, discussing, and applying insights from Meltwater into their PR plan.
The class met with our client at the beginning of the semester in August and discussed the overall focus of what we wanted to accomplish for the class project and the overall focus for their PR plan. Each group had a different focus they had to work on.
A month later and the students were well into the planning and research stage for their project, the students were thrown a curve ball. A pretty big one.
Did I mention our class client was the University of Louisville?
Yes, our class client was our university. The university has been in the news a lot over the last few years, but we were able to witness one story that rocked the athletic world locally and nationally. The news broke of the investigation with former Coach Pitino and former AD Tom Jurich was everywhere for the university. Of course, it was separate from the academic side of the university, but it dominated the news locally and nationally.
The news broke on a Tuesday, and my class met Wednesday night. All of my students came into our room with wide eyes, lots of questions, and were absolutely ready to discuss this.
My answer was simply: Welcome to the PR world. You are getting a real-world learning experience here on what happens. Crises happen, but at the end of the day, we still need to do the work we promised our client to the best of our ability. We need to go to Plan B and adapt.
We opened up Meltwater, look at the data, discussed what it means, and then what ideas we can work on for the PR plan. I was extremely impressed with the professionalism and response from my students. We went to work, and each group had their eye on the final project and worked together. Lots of hours, coffee, papers, and research later, we were able to present the final PR plans for our clients last week.
With that being said, we would not have been able to do what we were able to do this semester or create a comprehensive PR plan for UofL at the end of the semester.
Here are some of the reasons why I feel Meltwater is an essential part of PR classes based on the experience I had this semester:
Showing the numbers to tell a story. I am extremely grateful we had Meltwater to analyze the media coverage and show students – here’s what the data says. They had certain views of what was going on in the media, but seeing what the data reported provided a different perspective.
This was a lesson for the class they did not anticipate learning in the class, and it was for me as their professor. With that being said, we did adapt. I also recognized by having Meltwater, I was able to show students the real-world impact of what was going on. Without Meltwater, I would not have been able to do this and we would have been in the dark for where to go next. Meltwater provided the light to guide us on where we need to go, what actions to take from the data, and serve as a springboard for new ideas and creative executions.
Getting more comfortable reporting KPIs. Some of my students were comfortable with reporting key performance indicators and metrics (they took my social media class), but there were others who were not as familiar. Carol Ann Vance, the Director of University Relations for Meltwater, spoke to my class and walked the students through with their program, key metrics, and what widgets to focus on. This was a great session for the students to feel comfortable with their work and reporting KPIs. The transformation the students had with this from the beginning of the semester to the end was huge.
Analyze current cases to discuss and apply in readings. Meltwater was a great tool to show what the media was talking about and the overall reach, sentiment, topic momentum, and media exposure for current topics. We had a lot of cases happen during this semester, and I was able to pull up and discuss where the media stands on these topics to show the students and ask them – what would you do with this information? What are the main points we should be aware of? What ideas can we get from this data? What would you recommend as the PR professional for this particular client? Meltwater served as a great way to integrate current case studies into the class and tie it back to key concepts we were learning from the readings.
Another program and skillset for the students. This was a program where the students were able to get some experience conducting media reports, analytical reports, and writing up analysis for what it means for a client. I had implemented social media management platforms (ex. Hootsuite, Sysomos, etc) in other classes for the students to get experience with, but having Meltwater for this class was instrumental to the success of these PR plans. I am very thankful they will be able to list this as a tool they have worked with and used for future internships, jobs, and professional opportunities. Without the leadership of the team at Meltwater and for Carol Ann, we would not have had this opportunity. Thank you, Carol Ann!
Exploring new opportunities. With Meltwater, students were not only able to look at the media coverage, but what influencers and others were saying on social media. For example, the students found there was a different sentiment level from the traditional media compared to social media. This insight actually helped one group, which focused on influencers and community, to integrate this data in their PR plan.
I am very proud of all of my students in this class. I had asked them to do a lot of work this semester, and they were able to work together and produce some great PR plans. I am grateful to have the chance to work with Erica and Kim on this project. I hope we were able to provide some ideas for what we can all do for the university.
If you are looking at implementing Meltwater for the upcoming semester, my recommendation is: YES! This is a great platform to integrate into your PR classes. It’s a must if you are covering crisis communications or influencer / media relations. There are a ton of assignments, activities, and opportunities you can do with Meltwater. It’s definitely a must have as part of any PR program.
Thank you Meltwater and Carol Ann for this opportunity and creating this great platform. Can’t thank you enough! Keep up the great work you are doing for educators and students!
Have a great day.