Back in the Saddle with the First Herd of Winter Term Linky Loves

Winter term is always my favorite in the academic universe. Students seem more focused, I seem more focused and productive. We could probably blame the dreary weather — after all, what else do we have to do in Oregon in January and February in Oregon? It lacks the distractions of Spring and is more settled in than Fall.

This term, I’m teaching Strategic Public Relations Writing (J452) for the first time in two years. In this class, students blog twice a week for the duration of the term.

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Ducklings Take Flight! My Favorite Posts from Winter Term Students

My Strategic PR Communications students were immersed in blogging this term. In fact, they wrote a minimum of fifteen posts over the course of about eight weeks. And they did a great job. Keeping up that kind of schedule is demanding, as you bloggers know. I want to showcase some of my favorite posts from the term. I have at least one favorite from each student.

Best of the Best

These six students really took flight with their blogs. The posts I’ve selected here stand out as the very best.

Daniel McCrone had two great posts. Daniel’s a really good writer, so I encourage you to hang out on his blog and check out some of his other posts, but these were my two favorites:

In Twitter Symptoms May Vary, Daniel explores the five stages of twitter from an older post by Rohit Bhargava. And in Behind Every Success There are Hundreds of Failures, Daniel philosophizes a bit on the psychology of “dead week” and how the spectre of failure ultimately drives so many students to demand the best they have from themselves.

Rachel Koppes‘ post Recipe for Twitter Success is an insightful look at how to make the most of Twitter and be someone worth connecting with. Rachel strives to make each tweet “epic” (which I love!), but also finds ways to share her personality and make meaningful connections with people. Whether you’re brand new to Twitter or just want to refresh your thinking, this is a great post.

I love Mackenzie Davids‘ blog. I know from having her in class a couple of times that her love-hate relationship with social media has not kept her from jumping in and trying things out. So her post Social Networking Relationship Status: It’s Complicated was a perfect description of how Mackenzie, and many young professionals, struggle with how much to reveal and how to use these tools effectively.

Mackenzie had a second great post recapping her experience in the portfolio review process – Practice Makes Perfect. She gives some great advice by sharing what she learned. I can tell you from looking at the evaluations from her reviewers, that whatever she did, worked.

Caitlin Jarvis has a passion for nonprofits and helping them communicate more effectively. Her blog was a terrific platform for exploring this passion and digging into how nonprofits are using social media. It’s for students like Caitlin that this assignment really “clicks.” It was clear that she has a knack for blogging and she had some outstanding posts. I encourage you to read more from her blog, but my favorite of the bunch was her recap on the Red Cross’ “rogue tweet” – Going Rogue: Mistweets Happen. Caitlin went out of her way to connect with someone at the Red Cross on Twitter to provide an added perspective to her post.

I’m not much into sports – especially professional sports – but Nicole Hyslop knows her stuff and did an outstanding job of bringing PR into her discussions. One post I particularly liked was @ProfessionalAthletes: #PleaseRead. As you might guess from the clever headline (love it!), this is a post with some Twitter tips for the pros. She has four easy tips ostensibly for pros, but are really useful for even us mere mortals.

Andy Jenness, one of the grad students in the course this term, brings such a unique perspective to his blog. As an active member of the Grande Ronde tribe, Andy took his blog as the opportunity to apply the principles we talked about in class and explore other stuff on his mind. His post Tribal Ethics was an outstanding one to me. Andy ponders how, if at all, social media changes the way the Tribe needs to think about how its ethics standards (passed pre-social media) might need to change to include online behavior. Interesting food for thought.

Also Awesome

Every one of my students this term had stand out posts. Here are some more of my faves.

Like many seniors, Stephanie Sahaigan is excited and nervous about the job search. Her post, The Real World is Approaching, takes the advice from The Hiring Hub and applies it to what she’s thinking and feeling about post-graduation.

Heather Lee loves event planning and her blog focuses on that as a career aspiration. Her post Top Keys to Success in a Hard Market has some great advice whether you are a small business owner or, like Heather, are planning a career providing services to them.

Katie Brennan, the other grad student in the course, has a diversity of interests and used her blog to share them. I really liked this post about creativity in business – What Do You Know about Mr. W? (watch the video Katie links to, it’s great!).

If you review the students’ blogs, you’ll find lots of them talk about the dreaded job search. Crystal Barce does a good job recapping and applying six tips in her post Interview Tips Every PR Rookie Should Know. A tip post is good if the tips are applicable. Crystal show how to do just that.

Ayan Jama uses her blog to demonstrate her interest in integrated campaigns. Her post Pistachios Get Celebs Crackin was useful and insightful, showing how the PR team complements advertising and branding. The particular celebs on this campaign are pretty risky, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Ayan has some great insights.

I love music. My favorite parts of Julia Neff’s blog were her links to and video embeds of the music she loves – which ranges from Bluegrass to Dubstep. Julia also has some great PR and communications advice for musicians, too. In her post The Seven Deadly Sins of Playing a Live Gig, she riffs on another blog of a similar title and adds her own take. The advice isn’t necessarily intuitive, which makes Julia’s insights that much more valuable. You should also see her recommendations for Bluegrass tunes to turn your frown upside down.

Reality shows about PR make me cringe. A lot. Isabelle Morse-Dias shares her guilty pleasure and ponders Kell On Earth: Beneficial to the Industry?. Isabelle raises some good questions and while she may not have an answer, it’s clear that these shows are popular as much for the PR as for the glam industries they service (like high fashion). I have to say that Kell on Earth is not nearly as bad as PoweR Girls, that show was horrid.

In You Can Pay for School, But You Can’t Buy Class, Alaina Revoir talks about George Clooney, the celebrity statesman. She has an interesting perspective and ends by saying that she hopes her future will include work for an individual or company with a vision outside themselves.

Photo by Dave Briccetti

Ducklings in the Water! We Have New Student Bloggers

It’s that time again! My class of Strategic PR Communication students take to the water and launch their blogs. For many of them this term they’ve blogged before – although not on a topic of their choice, more of a multimedia journalism endeavor. So this is new territory!

If you have a moment, take some time to read a few and say hello (what blogger doesn’t like comments?).

Crystal Barce

Katie Brennan

Mackenzie Davids

Nicole Hyslop

Ayan Jama

Caitlin Jarvis

Andy Jenness

Rachel Koppes

Heather Lee

Daniel McCrone

Isabelle Morse-Dias

Julia Neff

Alaina Revoir

Stephanie Sahagian

As a bonus shout-out for last spring’s class & hopefully some inspiration for this term’s ducklings, here are my picks for “best of” from Spring 2011.

Seven Ways Student Journalists Can Use Social Media

digital media

I had the opportunity to chat with the staff of the Oregon Daily Emerald about how they can use social media for themselves and the publication.I borrowed liberally from a recent Mashable article, adjusted, modified and expanded it to provide a handful of tips for student journalists.

I would preface all of these with the recommendation to sit down and spend a little time setting some personal and professional goals for yourself. Think about what you want to be known for and what you want people to remember about you. Knowing your goals will help you make intentional decisions about where to spend your time and energy when it comes to social media activities. Consider it a personal mission statement.

  1. Promote your content
    Use your social media network to promote your content. Post your articles/blogs on twitter, your links to YouTube videos on your Facebook page. As long as you’re using social media for more than just promoting your work, then sharing what you’re doing will be welcome by your network.
  2. Newsgathering and research
    This is probably the most obvious. Using  social media to learn more about the issue of the day, your sources, etc. can all be done with social media. I use social media for this purpose everyday and I even have a client who “facebook stalks” her clients to learn more about them (in a good way, I promise).
  3. Crowdsourcing and building source list
    You’ll meet lots of interesting people hanging out on social media, but even cooler? All those people know more people. Use your network to ask questions, find sources and generally do your job better.
  4. Publish more content
    If you’re a student journalist and you don’t have your own blog, your own YouTube channel and your own Flickr profile, you’re missing out on an opportunity to share more of your work than will ever fit in the print edition of your publication.
  5. Integrate blogs & other social content
    Look for ways to integrate your blogs and other social content on your organization’s home page. Different people connect in different ways, let them know where you hang out.
  6. Build a community & share rich content
    Join online groups and networks that make sense for your personal goals and while you’re there, ensure you’re providing rich content. For example, “I’m eating a sandwich” via Twitter is lame. But “Wow! This BLT from Marche Cafe has the most amazing locally-gown heirloom tomatoes” is interesting. This tweet shows you understand your local community and local business (which may be important for your network). But really, the specifics aren’t the point, the point is to think about providing content that says something, not total fluff. Although some fluff is ok sometimes, too.
  7. Personal branding
    Social media can really help you develop a personal brand. Find your niche and show what you know and who you are. Just remember your personal mission statement and goals. What do you want to be known for. And really a solid personal brand comes from having the work to back it up, not just a shiny image. There’s lots to say about this, and I won’t go into too much depth, but you can check out some posts I’ve tagged on the subject or just google it. It’s a hot topic these days.

Some bonus tips:

  • Always be mindful that you represent more than yourself. As a journalist, the stakes are higher.
  • Always be aware of what you put online – it will go further than you think.
  • Experiment!! Try stuff out!

image by the tartanpodcast

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #2 Create a Process

mind map drawing

The cost of social media isn’t in the hard costs, it’s in the time costs. Creating a process for yourself will help save time and also make social media activities a part of your routine. If you missed Tip #1, check out my advice on setting up an RSS Feedreader here.

I find it challenging to share my personal process because I’ve developed it over more than four years. So take what you think will work and modify the rest to work for you. The point is to have a process, not replicate my process.

My process basically breaks down into three categories – making time to track, time to write and time to play.

Time to Track

You’re doing all this great monitoring with your feedreader, but you  have to give yourself time to track – time to read and browse your feeds, your Twitter stream, your Facebook news feed. Input is crucial for good output (see the next section).

Your process may mean scanning as you have time during the day or in the evenings or maybe between tasks. Or it may mean setting aside a specific block of time during the day. I do recommend finding time every day so you can create a habit of using social media to track news and trends. I tend to scan a little here and a little there, using Twitter as my most common “input.” Through Twitter lists and columns on Tweetdeck, I can filter out some of the noise.

Time to Write

Creating content means spending at least some time being thoughtful and some degree of focus. I find the best times to blog for me are either a) on Sundays or b) when the spirit moves me. Sundays have just turned into my “surf the Internet, mentally prepare for the week but don’t work too hard” days. Blog writing me fits into that bucket. I enjoy writing. I enjoy blogging.

But your time to write may be different. Figure it out for yourself – and it may take some stops and starts. You may have to try a few different things. That’s ok!

Even if you’re not blogging, you’re still updating, tweeting (or whatever) and that means you’re creating content. Give yourself time to do it well.

Time to Play

If you’re not doing some fun stuff with social media, it’ll quickly become a chore. Fashion, gossip, design, sports… whatever you enjoy for fun, find a way to incorporate that into your social media “process.”

What’s worked for you? Do you have a process? Share it with us here.

mindmap photo by sirwiseowl

Not Covered? Find Other Ways to Be Part of the Discussion

The day comes in every PRo’s life when you open the paper to an article, read the magazine story, or catch a talk show episode that would’ve been the perfect fit for your company or client. They should’ve been part of that story! You know it… and they know it.

So if you’ve missed a big opportunity, what do you do?

Clients/managers will often ask you to pitch a follow-up. Not super effective. In a recent Bad Pitch Blog post, Kevin explains why pitching the journalist to extend the article in and of itself is not terribly useful – chances are they aren’t going to write about the same topic. But you can use it as an opportunity to contact the journalist.

Clay, a commentor on the BPB post offers some additional suggestions that I’d like to expand on.

It’s still possible to participate in the discussion and use social media channels to your advantage.

  • If the story is available online, chances are you can comment on it. Be respectful, keep out the sales pitch and add value to the conversation. Go back to your key talking points. In most cases, the comment should come from company executives. After all, the PRo wouldn’t have been the source for the story in the first place. Let the CEO or Executive Director make the comment under his or her name. Transparency, people.
  • Use your own social media channels to discuss. Blog about it. And not, “we totally should’ve been part of this piece! wah!” Add value, bring a new perspective to the story. Tweet, Facebook or post on forums (wherever your community is talking) and link back to your blog. If the your traffic points to the story through your blog, you can share your perspective with
  • Tap into your champions and fans. By sharing your organization’s perspective, you can ensure your champions have the “ammunition” that they need to help tell your story, too. Do not, however, encourage them to swarm the site with positive comments about your company, however. It’ll look staged and potentially backfire. (And it should go without saying that employees, public relations team members, random family should not comment as genuine “fans” on a post.)

Outside of the social media activities, it’s always a best practice to make sure that your media list and contacts are up-to-date and targeted appropriately. The media landscape changes quickly. And while you can’t be in-the-know on every trend piece or industry round-up, a well-targeted media list and time spent building relationships with those on it will help you earn great coverage on an ongoing basis.

What advice would you add? What do you do when you miss “the” story?

New Paddle of Ducklings Take to Blogging

A new bunch of students from J452: Strategic PR Communication is taking off on a blogging adventure. Students in this class post twice per week: one on a topic of their choice & one based on prompts that I post under the title of “linky love” each week (my best-of for the week). I’m sure my students would love it if you dropped by and read a post or two or even leave a comment.

In no particular order… my spring term paddle of ducklings:

Ana Strgar

Lance Heisler

Lauren Switzer

Joani Jones

Alison Klapper

Colette Bryant

Sara Hamler-Dupras

Brandon Watt

Kate Malinoski

Kathleen Sumagit-Rivera

Allison Moran

Jenna Starkey

Amy Shelton

Nicole Perkins

Samantha Luthra

Creating Compelling Blog Posts: A Checklist

Creating a blog post is really more than just writing good content. The following checklist can help you ensure that your post is readable, findable and shareable.

  • Do you have a compelling headline? There’s some dos and don’ts.
  • Does your post have good structure & provide useful information? Plenty of folks have written posts on how to write posts. Take a look around.
  • Does your post invite feedback or ideas?
  • Did you provide at least one in-text hyperlink? Don’t include links as text, hyperlink them using the “link” button.
  • Did you include an image? (or other multimedia) 
 Some blog templates require an image, but even if it’s not required, an image helps to make your post more visually attractive. 
Try istockphoto.comsxc.hu, or flickr (creative commons licensed) for images. Or check out some of these sites for free or cheap images.
  • Did you assign a category or categories? Categories help to organize your content. When your blog has a lot of posts, categories can help you visitor find what he or she is looking for.
  • Did you include tags based on keywords in the post?

What did I forget? What’s on your checklist?

Blogging: Creating a Window to Your World

From My Apartment Window in Tuscany by Foto Iervolino
From My Apartment Window in Tuscany by Foto Iervolino

When you’re ready to launch a blog, rather personal or professional, it’s important to think beyond just “what am I going to blog about?” Your blog is a window into your professional life and what people see and how they see it is up to you.

Have a strategy: Even if you’re creating a personal blog, have a sense of what you want to accomplish with it. Do you want your blog to be informational, to help you to define and explore your thoughts & ideas about working in public relations or maybe show your interest and expertise around a topic or issue?

Think about functionality: Think about what you want the experience to be for your readers. Making your blog easy on the eyes and simple to navigate is the first step. But remember that window analogy – what do you want your readers to see? Do you want to share photos? How about a Flickr widget. Also think about including things like a Twitter widget, recent comments, videos, etc. The possibilities are vast. It may seem like simply window dressing, but think about what a blog tell you about its author. And then, in turn, what you want people to know about you.

Create a schedule: Know how often you want to blog and stick to a schedule. Most blogging software will let you blog whenever and then schedule your posts, so you don’t have to necessarily blog on a schedule – hey! life comes up. I usually blog on the weekend and schedule posts to update during the week.

Develop a ethics & comment policy: This may seem silly, but it’s important that you think through what your policies are and how you will handle tough issues when they come up (not if, but when). You can check out my policies for this blog and feel free to borrow.

Include an “about me” section with a picture & bio. People connect with people and being the real and authentic you is an important part of blogging. You don’t need a boring headshot and overly-scripted bio. Be yourself!

Include a blogroll: I love the way WordPress lets you organize links. Being able to categorize them allows me to think through what topics I want to discuss and frame my blog appropriately. Regardless of your platform, however, don’t take your blogroll lightly. It’s important to think about what your choices reveal about what you want to say.

Just spend some time thinking about your blog and what role you want it to play in your professional life. By doing so, you’ll be able to design the best window into your world that you can before you invite people over.

I’d love to hear other tips. What lessons have you learned as a blogger along these lines?

Beautiful Blog Posts Have Great Bone Structure

Saturated colour spectrumImage by Kounelli via Flickr

Creating a beautiful blog post isn’t difficult. Following a basic structure formula that gives your posts great bone structure will give you more room to drape with creative style, solid information and desirable resources.

  1. Craft a Great Headline. Include an active verb and try to squeeze some of your key topic words in as well. The search engines love the headlines and a strong headline will not only attract Google, but will also compel your visitors and regular readers to read on.
  2. Write a Compelling Lede. Provided your readers hang around to see what the headline is all about, a compelling lede will keep them reading. Establish what the post will cover, of course, but also flex your best writing muscle and write something people want to read.
  3. Start with Bullet Points. Use bullets to outline your ideas in an outline form. If you’re writing a list post, keep your bullets as your core structure. If you’re not, use your bullets to…
  4. Develop Sub-Headlines. Sub-heads help create a scanable page and make it easier for people to read on a computer screen and digest the information. (pssst… Google loves sub-heads, too).***Now is also a great time to ask your friends on Twitter what they think. Chances are you’ll get some great feedback that will mean a strong post in the end.***
  5. Fill in the Detail. Flesh out your bullet points and/or sub-heads to really bring the point home. Keep yourself on track (rambling is way too easy to do, especially if you feel passionately about something) and keep your readers in mind.
  6. Find a Great Image. I recommend Flickr. Under the “advanced search” link, check the creative commons button and make sure you credit the photographer. If you want to go with stock photography, istockphoto.com is low cost and has the best selection. Stock Xchange is free and you can usually find something decent.
  7. Double-Check Your Headline. Now that the post is complete, make sure your headline still reflects what your post is about and gets a reader’s attention. Can you refine it to be even stronger and more effective?
  8. Edit, Proof, Correct, Polish and Revise. Errors in grammar can kill a blogger’s credibility and traffic. Take time to make sure you’re putting out your best work. There’s a certain immediacy to blogging, and a stray comma or run on sentence doesn’t typically have dramatic consequences. But avoid the five grammar errors that make you look dumb.

Resources:
10 Tips for Writing a Blog Post

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