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Posts Tagged ‘social media’

I recently posted an article for my students entitled “The skills employers desire in today’s PR pro.” (http://linkd.in/rFp1fz)

Written by Arik Hanson for Ragan’s PR Daily (Nov. 17), the article is actually a series of short interviews, asking working professionals what skills and attitudes are most valuable to them when they hire new practitioners.  Good writing and storytelling came up frequently, as we would expect; so did a driving curiosity.  Strategic thinking, conceptual thinking, the ability to use metrics and analysis – these all come up as well.  One person mentioned creativity and resourcefulness, and several mentioned the ability to combine the effects of social media and traditional media; I think any of us who have been in the field for any length of time would agree with those thoughts as well.

But in today’s marketplace – and particularly for those looking for a job – I want to add a couple of things: dogged determination and a willingness to go back to Square 1.  I was an entrepreneur for over 25 years, and still work independently for various clients in addition to my teaching duties.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to remind myself of my brother’s very good advice:  “Turn over every stone.”  The willingness to look everywhere and anywhere for the next job or the next client is critical in a down market; the ability to keep going without giving up is both exhausting and necessary.

Couple with that determination has to be a willingness to go back to Square 1, and by that I mean a willingness to start at the beginning – again.  The salary or hourly rate may be lower; the benefits may not be there; you may have to build from scratch all over again, or – if this is your first time out in the work world – you may need to lower your expectations and be willing to accept a less-than-ideal job.  In this market, a job is a job.  Being open and flexible to something that is not what you have hoped for – or indeed, even worked for – will take you farther in the log run than waiting until that perfect job or high-rolling client comes along. I’ve often told my students that if they can’t find an entry-level PR job they should consider something in media sales – selling advertising space and time.  Learning the other side of media and learning to sell are two extremely valuable sets of skills to have for anyone in public communication.  You learn to deal with people; you learn what makes people tick.  You learn the differences between advertising, promotion, marketing and media relations from the inside out.  You’ll never forget any of that training.

Remember that looking for a job while you’re employed – at all!  – is the best way to look for a job.  Your relationships are still there, and you still have the opportunity to build new relationships; you’re not holed up somewhere just wishing.

Last spring I asked a couple of students what they planned to do after graduation.  One said, “Oh, I don’t know.  I haven’t planned, really.  I’m sure something good will come along.”  I cringed.  Good things don’t just happen to us; we have to go out and make them happen.  As I used to say when running my public relations firm in Montana, “No one pays me just for showing up.  Somehow or another, I always have to produce results.”

That’s how it is now for anyone changing careers or just starting out in the work force: no one’s going to pay you for being a great, competent person who is simply out there looking.  You have to turn over every stone; you have to persevere; you have to remain open and flexible; you have to lower your expectations or be willing to start again at Square 1.  You may be really lucky and land something fairly quickly that proves to be a great fit for both you and your employer or client.   But more than likely, you’ll find you need patience, resourcefulness, and a dogged belief in yourself and your future.  The future isn’t what it used to be; but it’s there.

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I’m about to start teaching my two seminars in social media and public relations again for Marylhurst University, and although I’m always really excited about these classes, they also take the most amount of research and preparation for just about any class that I teach.  The social media world changes so quickly that I’m generally in a small panic just before the first day of class, hoping that what I present is both timely and relevant.  Then I remember that in these particular seminars, we’ll all be teaching each other; my job is simply to present the road map for how to get where we’re going.

Nevertheless, here I am on New Year’s Day researching again, and grateful to fall back on some of the best social media minds out there.  For example, just before Christmas Deidre Breakenridge posted some tips on engaging with Twitter and Facebook: http://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/2010/12/how-to-engage-on-facebook-and-twitter/.

And Brian Solis, who is not just brilliant but a lot of fun in his presentations, has written a post titled “Once More, with Feeling: Making Sense of Social Media:

http://www.briansolis.com/2010/07/once-more-with-feeling-making-sense-of-social-media/

I start to relax a little when I realize how many sources are out there, and how many more sources my students will no doubt contribute to the class.  Online learning becomes a team effort, and we all move forward together: that’s one of the best things about it.  Rather than serve as some kind of authoritarian instructor, which puts almost unbearable pressure on me, I can simply open a few doors for my students and encourage them to walk through; they get it almost immediately.  Empowered, they go beyond what I realized what possible in any given class.

I’m also re-doing a client’s web site, have plans to re-do my own web sites – one for my private consulting, one for my particular service to our troops and veterans – and I swear, this year, I’ll be more consistent about blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo.  I do find, as some of my colleagues do, that after and eight- or 10-hour stint on the computer each day, I’m not always amenable to chat time or computer games.

Meantime, I’m preparing to teach another Marylhurst seminar on the law and ethics of public relations and a class in public relations writing for the University of Montana.  My students range from traditional college-aged students (up to their early 30s or so) in Montana to mostly older working adults at Marylhurst, with a few younger exceptions.  Without fail, these students really want to learn – but they also have vastly different learning styles across the generations.   One of my over-arching goals is to help equip all of my students with some of the skills they’ll need to compete in today’s difficult economic climate.  That’s not an easy task, for any of us; I research and write, they read and write, we talk and discuss and collaborate and dig in.   But by the end of each term, there are those students whom you know are going to zoom for the stars.

And that keeps people like me chugging right along… so here’s to 2011 and the adventures that I know lie ahead!

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I was casually watching the People’s Choice Awards last night and reading at the same time; so I glanced up at the screen occasionally, but wasn’t watching continuously.  That’s why I took note of something: just about every other time I looked up, some star or another – either a presenter or an award recipient – was standing up on stage taking a photo or video of the proceedings in order to upload it immediately to the Internet.

First I was confused.  What is this?  Why are they doing that when they have a national (probably international) television audience?

Then I was perturbed.  How rude, I thought.  The fact that they have this room full of stars and fans in a ceremony that is being broadcast everywhere is just not enough for them.  They have to interrupt things to upload more of the evening’s sights and sounds to the Web, just in case some one person somewhere can’t wait and needs it right this minute.

It reminded me of the story earlier this year about the groom who sent Tweets throughout his wedding ceremony, leading one newscaster to wonder, “Aren’t all the important people in their lives right there at the wedding?”

Then today I heard about some big stars cancelling their Twitter accounts.  Uh-huh.  Bound to happen sooner or later.

All of these social media outlets are great when they’re used in the right ways and for the right reasons.  But you have to wonder how long it’s going to be before some people realize that 1), not everyone is fascinated with everything they do all day long, no matter how famous they are, and 2), you only have time to nurture just so many relationships in your life, no matter how you do it.  You only have time for just so many business relationships, no matter how well paid you might be; and you only have time for just so many personal relationships, no matter how much you care.  We can’t be all things to all people, nor should we even try.

There’s one more thing.  Publicity ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.  Those of us who have spent years working in and around the media – advertising, marketing, public relations – often tend to become camera-shy over time.  We’ve seen, felt, and sometimes been the recipients of too much media exposure.  It doesn’t fool us; we don’t equate it with credibility, friendship or love.  We don’t need it to validate our identities.  We know who we are away from the camera, and often we prefer it that way. 

Social media tools are just that – tools of communication.  They are an enormous help to a business in many ways; they help us keep up with friends and relatives at a distance.  But they are just tools; just methods of communicating.  They can’t, and won’t, change human nature; they can’t, and won’t, put more than 24 hours in a day; they can’t, and won’t, substitute for face-to-face relationships.

It’ll be interesting to see whether any of the stars who delayed some of the proceedings during the People’s Chose Awards ever decide that they were actually quite rude to the audience in front of them in their quest to extend their 15 minutes of fame.  The only person who was even halfway validated in what he did was Ashton Kutcher, who was receiving and award as “Web Celeb,” and who, in that role, raised money for many thousands of mosquito nets to be sent to Africa to help halt the spread of disease while people slept.  He did a good thing, was being rewarded for it, and was justified in feeding the whole thing live over the Internet.

The rest?  Only concerned with themselves, even to the point of rudeness to their fans and colleagues.  Sad.

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I have a question: are we so involved in the minutia of our lives and others’ lives through the massive amounts of updating we’re doing on social media sites, that we’re losing sight of the big picture?  Do we even have the ability to stand back and look at the big picture anymore?  Isn’t there a massive disconnect going on here?

I ask because I’ve been privileged to spend the last 20 months serving on the national board for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and one of our favorite sayings as board members is “Don’t get down into the weeds.”  By that, we mean our role is to provide vision and leadership for the larger picture of the organization; we’re to be some of the thought leaders our profession needs.  Being on the board definitely takes  a commitment of time; but the real commitment is that of being willing and able to think through the issues and problems set before us.  What does this decision or this wording mean to our members?  What are the consequences if we do this?  What are the consequences if we don’t?  Who will be affected, and how?  What does this mean for the future of the organization?  How do we communicate this issue to our members?

Then I come home from New York – or from whatever city we’re in – and suddenly I’m immersed into details of lives and careers, into multiple conversations, and into the need to update my own information as I “join the conversation” too, and there are times when I, as with most people I know. feel overwhelmed with the need to have my voice count, to be able to contribute.

Then I have to step back and ask, “At what price?  When do I carve out time for more contemplative thinking?  When do I carve out time for genuine strategic analysis and for stepping back and seeing an issue, a client, or a cause through a much larger framework?”

I’m of the Baby Boom generation, so I like to think I still know how to do this, even though my time seems filled up these days. But the younger generations – the Xs, Ys, and the Millenianals – are immersed in this “talk all the time in multiple venues” mode.  A report that came out today said that when these folks are multi-tasking, they’re really not doing any one thing that well, because they have trouble managing their time and sorting out their priorities; and it takes them a long time to change tasks.  It’s no wonder.  How do we emphasize the need for quiet thought?  How do we help them learn how to prioritize?  How do we teach them time management under these circumstances?

Sounds likewe need to bring back the corporate retreat but on a number of different levels; and that we should demand that people be unplugged. No cell phone, no BlackBerry, no laptops, no ipods, etc. etc.  My kids are going to laugh when they read this, because I’m the worst BlackBerry addict they know.  But I am perfectly capable of walking for long hours in the woods or on the beach, in blissful solitude and quiet; and it’s amazing how, when I do, all the chattering inside my head quiets down and certain things float to the top.  Those things which surface often surface with suggested solutions, too. 

Contemplative thought is good for a lot more than problem solving, though.  It’s also great for those of us working in creative professions.  If you need the great tag line for a business; the best ad, a great radio or TV commerical, or something witty to say online – then get up and walk away from your desk and out of the building if need be.  Let your brain go into other areas.  You’ve already programmed it for the  task at hand; now let your subconscous work for you. It will.

A lot of people know this principle, and understand it’s why great ideas can come in the shower, in your sleep, on a walk – your brain has been working for you the whole time.  

But if you’re always plugged in; if, even when you wake briefly in the middle if the night, your BlackBerry is blinking next to you, and so is your clock radio, then you’re not really getting a break.  Your brain isn’t being allowed to relax into its best, most creative, most strategic state.

And if this is all you know, and you’ve never learned to manage your time or set your priorities – you’re going to have nothing but trouble going to school or focusing on the job.  Maybe we need to create two new professional positions – one for the person who knows how to “get down into the weeds” and handle it; and the other for the person who’s going to arrange the quiet, contemplative retreat for everyone else!

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I found myself, earlier this week, in a bit of a funk.  Certainly not the kind of funk that’s gripped people who have lost homes and jobs; I’ve lost neither and consider myself incredibly lucky.  But I was in a bit of a funk about ever-tightening finances: worried about clash flow, about the incredibly shrinking nest egg, about the bills; worried about things I’ve promised to others, promises I don’t know if I can still fulfill. 

It took me a few days to get a grip.  There is so much news out there that continues to be so grim.  Finally, slowly, I seemed to be able to lift my head out of the muck and remind myself of my own strengths: I’ve always, forever, been an entrepreneur, and a recession is the best time to continue being (or to start being) an entrepreur.  There are generally projects available even if there aren’t full-time jobs available; and I’ve always wanted to combine projects and private consulting with teaching anyway.  There are lots of companies which would love personalized, customized training in crisis, or community relations, or social media.  So what’s my problem?  Probably just inertia.  Probably just a big sigh about starting yet again… but that’s how life is when you hang out your own shingle.  You always start again.  You can’t look at how tiring that might be; you have to view it as discovering opportunities out there.  You have to visualize the people who need you, and what it might take to get in touch with them so you can be of genuine service. 

I have a flyer about attitude here on my desk.  The last sentence reads, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”  Yeah.  Why should any of us hide our light under a bushel?

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The AP story appeared in our local Oregonian this morning, April 9, and it caught my eye immediately. The headline on page A5 reads, “Moldovans Twitter, foil news blackout.”  Moldova is a Communist country, sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine, and apparently about 10,000 people turned out to protest what they said were rigged elections.  The country had already banned some foreign journalists, and now it instituted a press blackout on the ensuing riots which left more than 90 injured. 

“So,” the story goes on, “the pro-Euopean protesters turned to Twitter and the Internet to keep in touch. ‘We sent messages on Twitter but didn’t expect 15,00o people to join in. At the most we expected 1,000,’ said Oleg Breg, who heads the nongovernmental pro-democracy group Hyde Park.   . . .The Communists appear to have realized the news blackout did not stop information traveling freely.  On Wednesday, state television sporadically broadcast images from a protest of 3,000.”

Three cheers, Moldova; three cheers, everyone who joined in the Twitter communications.   As much as I deplore losing our daily newspapers; as much as one of my greatest comfort zones in life is sitting in an easy chair on many a Sunday morning with a cup of tea, browsing through the Sunday paper; as much as I will forever say that good journalists are as critical to democracy as the vote is — still, if the social media in which we now engage means greater freedom of information and freedom of the press, then I stand up and cheer.

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One of the classes I’m teaching this term is about social media and public relations. It’s been quite a journey through cyberspace for all of us, and every so often I come across an article that really helps explain things well. I’ve posted one of those below. I think there’s a very short, brief answer you can give just about anyone wondering why they should get invovled in social media as part of a public relations program, and it’s this: Those conversations out there are taking place regardless of whether you’re present. Do you want others to tell your story, or do you want to tell it yourself? — I usually pose that question when I’m training people in crisis communications, but in this day and age of transparency and rapid-fire conversations online, I think the question is more relevant than ever.
Here’s the link, and happy reading!
Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond

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I had a lot of fun this past week working with reporter Lee van der Voo from the local Lake Oswego Review (just outside Portland, OR) for an article about social media, public affairs and eduction. Here’s the link: http://www.lakeoswegoreview.com/news/story.php?story_id=123621175674053800

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Oh man, oh man.  This link was sent to me by a former professor at Syracuse, and it certainly puts in stark relief the conflicts going on today between traditional media and social media.  My take on it is that some traditional reporters are not used to this “brave new world” yet, in which reporters are not always calling the shots.  Either that, or the guy was just having a very bad day.  In any event, this is how not to use Twitter – a caution about strong language:  http://www.mediastyle.ca/2009/02/national-post-reporter-has-total-twitter-melt-down/

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