Being Social with Social Media

The “social” part of “social media” has been rocking my world lately: I’ve been able to meet TONS of awesome new people through Twitter and the blogosphere.

Every new person I connect with opens my eyes to something exciting and new: I learn about new places, new blogs, new ideas, new opportunities and most importantly, new people.

One of the best examples of connecting with new people came early last week. I was looking for recent college grads to tell me about their job search process. To my happy surprise, I received a lot of response on Twitter and three extremely detailed, thought-out responses via e-mail from young professionals Kaylee Hakwins, Case Ernsting and Kira E. Young. It was refreshing to make a connection via social media that lasted longer than 140 characters. Sometimes I’m so focused on upping my follower count or getting a lot of @replies that I forget how much I can learn from those people if I dug a little deeper.

I think there’s another awesome, if more superficial, side to awesome social media connections. Hopefully I’m not the only one who has a “Twitter crush”: someone whose tweets you love to follow, find humorous or teach you something interesting. Last fall, I was elated when Grammar Girl tweeted me and commented on my blog after I mentioned her book in a post. Not really earth-shattering, but cool at the time.

For the last few days, I’ve wondered what people consider their “best” social media connection(s).  Did a blogger you idolize re-tweet your post? Did your blog or your tweets help you get the job or internship you currently hold? In what other ways have your social media relationships benefited you? As I start concentrating more on building connections and adding value to conversations, I want to hear from (and connect with!) others who might be doing the same thing.

*Brief self-promotion: If you’re looking for some kick-butt job search advice, check out the post I wrote for my journalism class – a post I could not have written without the help of social media connections.

The Social Media Flip Side

If there is one thing I’ve learned as a public relations student, it is that social media is a very valuable tool for public relations practitioners and their clients. People gain followings, get noticed and can even launch their careers through sites like Twitter. But there is a flip side.

I used to think of PR in terms of how many Twitter followers I had, how many people viewed my blog, how many cool PR people I could find on Twitter…you get the idea.

Now I understand that there is another necessary, if slightly less glamorous side to it all. PR veterans probably already understand that, but I would not have learned that lesson had it not been for Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency at the University of Oregon journalism school.

Named for the building that houses the journalism school, Allen Hall PR provides us with real-world experience: clients, team members, meetings, plans, research and business casual. The experience is invaluable, exciting and fun.

I’m an Account Executive on a four-woman team that does PR for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA), the art museum located on the UO campus.  It’s always bringing in new exhibits and showcasing different art forms, artists and cultures.

Being a social media lover, I couldn’t wait to help run the museum’s Facebook page and send out tweets about new exhibits.

Not so fast, my friend!

Our work has instead been very research-heavy. We’ve spent lots of time compiling media lists and “affinity lists,” compilations of info for on-campus and community groups that might be interested in each upcoming exhibit. Now, we are preparing to conduct observational assessments of museum visitors: Tracking their visit, what pieces they admire and what they pass over, asking them questions about their experience at the museum. Glamorous? Not exactly. Necessary? Absolutely.

Working at Allen Hall PR has allowed me to understand that there is so much more to PR than Twitter and Facebook. It’s also about researching, understanding your client and its audiences and gathering feedback. One day, you can tweet about all the cool stuff you’re doing, but first, you have to know what people actually care.

What College Football Taught Me About PR

This season, I grew to truly love college football.  Now that it’s over, I present some of the lessons college football taught me about public relations.

1) You’ll have to make unpopular choices…but you can still come out on top.

Several students, myself included, were upset when the University of Oregon Athletic Department pulled the “I Love My Ducks” video from YouTube (it’s since been re-posted) and refused to support it because of its unauthorized inclusion of our Duck mascot, which is licensed by Disney and used by the department with Disney’s special permission.

But during an Allen Hall Public Relations meeting, we discussed the video and began seeing things from the department’s point of view.  As future PR professionals, we’ll face similar decisions: make the unpopular choice or break the rules.  The athletic department made the unpopular choice, but still made it up to their fans.

An edited version of the video (which showed past game highlights instead of the Duck) was shown during the Oregon v. Oregon State game.  It may not have been the original, but it served its purpose: The entire student section was ecstatic when it was played.

The original video:

The Civil War version:

2) It’s important to know whom you’re working with.

In order for efficient, quality work to be produced, it’s important to understand a client’s wants and needs.  Not doing so reflects poorly on you and any agency or company you represent.  ESPN College GameDay analyst Lee Corso probably wishes he had remembered that lesson when he attempted to shake hands with a blind boy.  The boy, Jake Olson, had been an inspirational figure for the USC football team: he was a huge USC fan and they embraced him as he battled cancer that forced him to lose his eyesight.  Corso probably shakes dozens of hands a day, but he forgot that this one was different.  Without knowing your clients and fully understanding the work you’re expected to do, you risk embarrassing gaffes.

3) Social media makes anything possible.

The aforementioned ESPN College GameDay is known for the creative posters fans wave behind the set during its broadcasts.  In November, I replied to a tweet sent via the show’s Twitter account, which asked what signs they’d see during their broadcast from the Florida v. Florida State game.  My idea was a sign reading, “Tim Tebow, will you marry me?”  Several minutes later, I saw this reply:

“Now THAT would be original” -Des (Desmond Howard, a GameDay analyst and former Heisman trophy winner)

That interaction is not really a big deal, but it reminded me that Twitter remains a valuable resource for public relations practitioners who can use it to communicate with prospective clients or their clients’ customers.  With Twitter, the possibilities are endless, as long as you can come up with a creative approach to using it effectively.

Those are my three big lessons.  What did you learned from college football this season?

Thank-You Notes, 2009 Style

As 2009 draws to a close, I’d like to copy Jimmy Fallon, my favorite late-night TV host, who does a segment every Friday night in which he writes “thank-you notes” to different people, events, objects, places, etc.  They’re irreverent, sarcastic and hilarious.

Jimmy writing a thank-you note to Simon Cowell.

Since I can’t get a full video embedded into this post, here’s a sample of the thank-yous:

Thank you, Oprah – for hosting a Christmas special at the White House this Sunday.  Not everyone gets to sit down with the undisputed leader of the free world…so I’m sure Obama’s really, really excited.”

“Thank you, screensaver that popped up while I thought I was doing work – for reminding me that, not only have I made zero progress, but I haven’t made a single keystroke or gently nudged my mouse for the past fifteen minutes.”

Now, a la Jimmy Fallon, I’d like to write my own thank-you cards for 2009:

Thank you, Liz Lemon – for being my new source of inspiration.  Since I started watching 30 Rock this summer, you have helped me embrace my inner nerd and not feel guilty about eating five donuts in one day, dressing up in a Princess Leia outfit to avoid jury duty and calling people “apple-faced goons.”  None of which I have actually done, but might be more inclined to do because Liz Lemon did it first.

Thank you, Oregon Ducks – for winning the Civil War and going to the Rose Bowl.  I can’t think of anything more wonderful than screaming my lungs out at one of your home games.  You’ve turned me into a huge college football fan and I can’t wait for next season.

Thank you, Twitter – for more or less changing my life – or at least the way I live it.  Now, when something cool happens, my first thought is how to condense awesome occurrences into 140 characters.  You’ve allowed me to connect with people all over the country and have forced me to come up with an explanation for why I use “tweet” in my daily vocabulary.

Thank you, skinny vanilla lattes – for always putting me in a good mood.  Also, thanks for giving me a good way to rationalize spending money; buying all these lattes, I have to be boosting the economy, right?

And last, but certainly not least, Thank you, my family – for giving me life advice, an education and for taking me on cool trips to places like New York City and Disneyland.  I mean, there’s more, of course, like food and a roof over my head, but I don’t want to get too sappy.

What thank-you notes will you be writing as 2009 comes to its end?  There are many more I could write, but I had to keep it relatively short.  I have to go finish my Christmas shopping.

Learning from the Pros

If you’re a PR student, having the opportunity to dialogue with recruiters from one of the world’s largest independent public relations firms is invaluable and exciting.  Yesterday, Waggener Edstrom, one such firm, invited several UO PR students into their Portland offices.  We had the opportunity to learn more about Waggener Edstrom and hear recruiters’ perspectives on resumes, personal branding and more.

Six members of WE’s Talent Acquisition Team talked with us about what they look for in a job candidate and offered tips for job seekers in the PR industry.  My own job search won’t happen for a couple years, but I learned a lot from the tips they shared.  Some of the “gems”:

  • It’s important to demonstrate your digital fluency to a prospective employer.  This was a new phrase for me, which I understood to mean your ability to demonstrate proficiency in a number of different digital media.  It’s not just about being able to use a Flip Cam, though; it’s also about being able to demonstrate how you use digital platforms like social media.
  • Four C’s: Though it wasn’t specifically communicated as “the Four C’s”, the team discussed the importance of knowing the company, its competition, its clients when you come into an interview, and the necessity of coming to an interview with questions.  It seems obvious, but I know that I can spend so much time anticipating questions that I forget to do extensive background research.  Doing background research will inevitably lead to questions you want to ask the interviewers.
  • You can share anecdotes during an interview that aren’t necessarily related to a public relations internship or experience.  In my case, I didn’t gain PR experience while working as a nanny this summer, but I still learned a lot about solving problems on the fly, working with a team and dealing with long-term challenges.  In an interview, I can share those experiences and what I learned from them.  It’s not a replacement for a PR internship, but non-PR endeavors can still prove valuable in the job application process.
  • Be prepared to accept an intern role post-graduation that has high potential to lead to a full-time position.  Even though I’ve always pictured accepting a full-time job after graduation, the Waggener Edstrom workshop helped me understand how a post-grad internship could fit in nicely with a long-term career plan.  It may seem counterintuitive, but it could also help get your career off the ground.

While I’m far from a PR pro, that’s what I gained from the Waggener Edstrom workshop.  The Talent Acquisition Team shared several other tips, but I can’t post them all here without writing a small novel.  Aside from implementing what I learned yesterday, I’m looking forward to learning from the Waggener Edstrom Career Blog, which posts WE employee profiles, shares interview tips and more.  Waggener Edstrom Careers also tweets: @WE_Careers

I Love My Ducks: SPREAD THE WORD!

If you’re not familiar with the Oregon Ducks and their fans, you will be after watching this.

Earlier this week, a brilliant group of Oregon students created a video called “I Love My Ducks,” in which they proclaim their love for the Oregon Ducks football team. (Watch the video here; I’m working on embedding it into the post, but there seem to be some problems with Yahoo! Videos on WordPress blogs.)

“I smell roses,” they say, referring to the Ducks’ chances of making it to the Rose Bowl.

Things are not so rosy, however, when it comes to dealing with the Oregon Athletic Department.

The video features our school’s mascot, Puddles the Duck. Puddles is licensed by Disney, and while I’ll admit that I don’t know every detail of the copyright restrictions, the AD pulled the video from YouTube because they were afraid of a call from Disney. They were worried that Disney would be upset that this unassuming group of students would get them in trouble, simply for using the Duck in the video.

What better publicity for your school than to have three typical college guys creating original raps about their intense love of the team. They’re showing off the Oregon logo throughout the video, they’re in front of Autzen Stadium…basically everything about this video screams free publicity.

But all because of Puddles, this video is deemed unworthy by the Athletic Department. It’s too bad they’re keeping the video from attracting fans to their games, bringing traffic to their website and putting more money in their wallets.

Here’s how you can spread the word about this great video:

• Post the video on your Facebook page.
Tweet the link. (Even better, tell ESPN College GameDay to play the video on Saturday, when they feature the Oregon v. Arizona game.)
• Comment on blogs that posted about the video, like Deadspin, The UO Sports Dude, Communication Rhodes, and this blog.
• Become a fan of Supwitchugirl on Facebook; that’s the group that created the video.

Feel free to comment on this post if you love the Ducks and/or this video and if you know of another way to efficiently spread the word about it.

A Brand New Bias?

Poniewozik.

Imagine yourself as a third-grader trying to learn to write that name in cursive.

I actually have no idea if James Poniewozik had to suffer through elementary-school writing lessons, but someone taught him.  Taught him well.

In the two-ish years that I have subscribed to Time Magazine, his column is the one I have read most consistently and his ideas and viewpoints are the ones that teach me the most.  Plus, his Twitter profile picture shows him with a gigantic mug of coffee.  How can that not be great?

Poniewozik writes TIME’s “Tuned In” column.  Every week he contributes an essay to the magazine that highlights current events and/or issues in media and journalism.  Occasionally, he’ll write a bigger feature or the cover story.

His most recent column for TIME was especially intriguing.  In the column (from the November 16, 2009), he discussed how media bias is not limited to left-wing and right-wing; it’s not just Fox News and MSNBC that are perceived to lean in one direction or another.

It’s also the center.  Poniewozik’s column, “Moderation in Excess,” was all about moderate bias.  Moderate bias.  Oxymoron?  He doesn’t think so.

He describes this bias as being evident “whenever an organization decides that ‘balance’ requires equal weight for an opposing position, however specious.”

“There isn’t one, and there never was,” he says of the “neutral center.”

Honestly, I’m still tossing around my own ideas of what this means, but I think he raises a very interesting point.  Does someone considered to be politically moderate just objectively assess both the far-left and far-right positions?  Sure, but you can’t vote in the middle.  There has to be some middle ground to stand on.  The devil’s advocate always has an opinion.

Poniewozik brings it back to the journalists, talking about how journalists won’t be able to cover from that “neutral center.”  As a journalism student, that’s what I’ve always understood: be unbiased.  If I understand his position correctly, he sees a difference between moderate bias and fair treatment of positions.  But regardless, he gave me a lot to think about.  His columns usually do.

As if his interesting journalism propositions weren’t enough, he tweets, as all great journalists do (general statement, but you get the idea).

A few recent gems from @poniewozik:

Young woman on the N train deeply absorbed in a volume of Conrad. Lauren Conrad.

Drafted my Mad Men review; going to sleep on it, then polish and probably post early in the morning. Yay, four hours of sleep!

Never seen Mad Men, but I love that four hours of sleep part.

Read James Poniewozik’s  “Tuned In” blog here and follow him on Twitter here.