Monthly Archives: April 2010

What’s your social media poison?

As college students, we throw around the word “addiction” when we’re referring to our BlackBerrys, iPhones, iPods, Facebook and Twitter pages, YouTube and other media; we’re social media “junkies,” and we fall apart when our crops die on Farmville. But, is social media addiction a real sickness? Studies show social media addiction is very real, and students at the University of Maryland, College Park have made the first step to recovery: admitting they’re addicted.

Two hundred students at the university participated in an International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA) study accessing the level of media addiction among college students. After 24 hours of media abstinence, students blogged about their experience, their emotions and their failures. Together, the students wrote more than 110,000 words describing their day without media.

The results? We’re addicted. Students described the same emotions that patients addicted to drugs or alcohol use when speaking with a specialist: disconnected, anxious, worried, alone, secluded, cravings and more. Many couldn’t go the full 24 hours without experiencing some type of media.

One student in the study said he or she was “frantically craving” technology upon returning home from class. The student “cheated a little” and eventually succumbed to the lure of media.

“At that moment, I couldn’t take it anymore being in my room … alone … with nothing to occupy my mind so I gave up shortly after 5 p.m.,” said the student. “I think I had a good run for about 19 hours and even that was torture.”

In the age of new media, we use social media to stay connected. We use it for news, and we often use it instead of a text message or phone call. It’s one more medium that brings us together — who wants to be a social media outcast?

This study isn’t the first of its kind. When Retreveo sent out a survey to gauge social media use, it found that 61 percent of people under the age of 25 have to check Facebook at least once a day, and 48 percent of people check or update their Facebook or Twitter account right before going to sleep.

Who’s to blame for this constant craving of social media? For many, it’s the iPhone. In a Stanford University survey, as reported on TechNewsDaily, only 6 percent of 200 iPhone-owning students said they were not addicted to their iPhones. Fifteen percent said the iPhone was turning them into a media addict, and 30 percent called it a “doorway into the world.”

I relate to the iPhone addiction; my iPhone is my social media dealer of choice. First thing in the morning, I check e-mail and Twitter before getting out of bed; right before I go to sleep, I check e-mail and Twitter one last time for that one last fix. I check Twitter constantly throughout the day on my iPhone or on a Twitter application on my Mac’s desktop. A day without Twitter may as well be a day without water; if I’m too busy to check my Twitter, I’m thirsty for it the second I’m free.

Is there a place for us social media addicts? Absolutely. The Social Media Addicts Association, founded by “Jerry,” aims to help recovering social media junkies by offering opportunities to recognize their problems and confess on the anything-but-serious Web site. He sells T-shirts warning friends to “Stop writing on my wall,” or defriend him and encourages visitors to sign a petition banning social media.

Although a judge may never sentence someone to 28 days in social media rehab, the addiction is very real. Think about the last time you went an entire day without checking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace or whatever you consider your poison. How did you feel?

If you’re an addict, and you’re ready to admit it, what’s the next step in recovery? Should we quit cold-turkey or slap on a social media nicotene patch? Should we even quit at all?

In this day and age, social media use is a must for PR people. The key to keeping an addiction from taking control: tweet, Facebook and connect in moderation.

by Allison Cook

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Filed under Trends

Tiger Silenced, Nike Tees Off

Nike released an advertisement with Tiger Woods that continues to receive a lot of hype. In the ad, Tiger’s late father speaks to him on current issues that erupted in the past couple of months.

Because many sponsors no longer want to be associated with Tiger, they dropped him from their advertisements; however, Nike is letting the public know it is staying with the golf pro. If this video is an apology from Tiger, is it too late?

As a PR student, we learn to address problems as soon as they arise, and this particular ad is coming out a little late and from the wrong people. There is no response from Tiger, and it can leave the viewer more confused than sympathetic. However, I don’t think this ad has much to do with Tiger. So, you might think to yourself: Why would Nike spend so much money not selling anything?

Well, I think I know where Nike was going with this one.

Nike’s message seems to be reprimanding Tiger through his father. No, Nike is not dropping Tiger from advertisements, but it is letting the public know it doesn’t agree with his previous actions.

This was wise PR in my opinion because, yes, Tiger is not very popular right now, but this scandal is sure to blow over sooner or later. The name Tiger Woods sold products in the past, and it is sure to sell products in the future as well.

By telling the public it will continue the sponsorship with Tiger, Nike can use him in upcoming ads and help rebuild his image as an athlete instead of a celebrity scandal. Nike is tackling the issue head-on, and instead of dropping him, it can use his persona for years to come when his personal life is no longer an issue. People forget Tiger Woods is a respected athlete, and fans will want what Tiger is wearing or using on the golf course.

Other brands don’t seem to realize that when things get tough you can’t just bail out. As a PR professional, one of the many jobs you will have is damage control. If a product were recalled, a company would be on top of it, making sure to send out press releases and commercials about how it plans to improve and to make things better. The same goes for the Nike ad; Nike told the public Tiger learned something, and he is back and ready for a new start.

By not bailing out on Tiger like other brands, Nike looks heroic for standing by someone they have sponsored for years. Why end a long relationship over something that is only tabloid-worthy?

Bravo to the PR pros at Nike. They know how to take a situation and deal with it.

By John Paul Bruno

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Filed under Leadership, The Industry

Connect with QVC

If I’m bored with nothing to do, I will more than likely turn on my favorite home-shopping network, QVC. If I bought an item every time I watched QVC, I would be in debt up to my eyeballs.

Yes, it’s one of my weaknesses.

In case you don’t know, QVC stands for quality, value and convenience. QVC uses hosts to sell the products of different brands, and it offers special values and incentives for its customers. There are several times where customers have the opportunity to buy in bulk and save a lot of money. Although its main goal seems to be to sell products, there’s no denying that the company uses PR to develop relationships and establish trust with customers.

The hosts are always inviting, and I feel like I know them. But, isn’t that the point? QVC wants its customers to connect with the hosts. If they establish a connection with customers, aren’t they more likely to buy?

I think so.

I have my favorite products, and I associate certain hosts with those products. I trust them, because I know they believe in the products they are selling.

For example, take a look at host Lisa Robertson (one of my favorite hosts). She makes it known that she wears the Bare Escentuals makeup brand. So when there is a segment about BE, Lisa usually hosts the show. I also know for a fact that she is good friends with the CEO for BE, Leslie Blodgett (I’m friends with Leslie on Facebook).

Celebrities have even jumped on the QVC bandwagon to help sell their products. Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson both sell their products on QVC. I think customers are especially interested when celebrities make appearances on the show, because the celebrities seem like ordinary people.

I think the demonstrations are a huge part of persuading customers to make a purchase. Whether it’s clothes or electronics, the demonstrations are given over and over again. If customers have a question about any of the products, they can call in and speak to the host on the live show. By the end of the segment, they are fully informed about the products and convinced to purchase from QVC.

QVC not only establishes relationships with customers on TV. Through the company’s presence on Facebook and Twitter, customers can interact with each other and give feedback on products. The customer feedback lets QVC know which products are most popular.

Social media gives customers the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening. It also announces product reviews and special giveaways on Twitter and Facebook. Facebook and Twitter are convenient for customers, because they don’t have to check QVC’s Web site or the TV show to find out what will air next.

My obsession with the show has made me realize how essential PR is to establish a bond with the QVC audience. Although the task is difficult, QVC successfully utilizes PR to create relationships and maintain its fan base.

I’m hooked.

by Haley Barr

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Up-to-date in PR? There’s an App for that (or several)

Apple dominates the Smartphone market today because of its 100,000 plus applications, but other Smartphones are catching up. With all the available apps, why not take advantage of the great resources held in your hand? There are apps available for your Smartphone of choice featuring everything from making a to-do list to translating languages, and there are several tools that can specifically help public relations students or professionals. Mobile devices drive much of the value we receive from social media. Being away from the computer doesn’t limit students and professionals who use Smartphones to stay productive.

What are PR professionals using to stay informed, send information and stay on the media’s radar? Of course you have all your social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others, but there are more ways to utilize social media with apps like Asap – Social Media. Asap – Social Media contains predefined news feeds such as Mashable, Soshable and socialmediatoday.com.

There are several apps for recording. Apps such as VR+ are convenient when recording interviews or leaving yourself a reminder on the go. VR+ for BlackBerry and iPhone/iPod Touch can send voice e-mails and share your voice to social networks for play-back on any Mac, PC or mobile device. YouNote makes it easy to take notes with covered–audio, text, and image notes and adds the ability to draw notes and bookmark Web pages with notes. Timewerks features data export and multiple active stopwatches.

A Personal Assistant app allows you to access and manage all online accounts in one place for free. After adding your accounts (such as bank accounts, social networks and online shopping accounts), the app allows users to manage them password-free.

The AP style app features searchable listings for the main, sports, business and punctuation sections. This app is obviously helpful for public relations writers when communicating with the news media because a solid grasp of AP style not only adds credibility to your work but also prevents excessive editing.

Public relations students and professionals should use apps that keep them informed. A good blog and RSS feed reader are great for PR people. Viigo for BlackBerry tweets articles, shares them with contacts, stays connected and receives real-time alerts when keywords you’ve selected appear in your channels. Ping.fm lets you post updates from your mobile device to more than 40 social networking sites. Plenty of mobile apps exist for Web tools, including WordPress for blogging, YouTube for video and Flickr for photos. You can access, create and share content from anywhere, anytime.

The apps mentioned are just a handful of the great resources for a PR person. Browse through the app store and you can find several apps that can make your life easier and keep you on top of the PR industry. Before installing an app, read users’ comments; they can be very helpful and save time if an app isn’t working correctly or isn’t what it claims to be.

What apps improve your PR knowledge?

by Autumn Winsett

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Filed under The Industry, Trends

Student-Run PR Firms Can Benefit Everyone Involved

As students prepare for their transition into the workforce, they are expected to have experience in developing campaigns for clients whether in the classroom or in the field. One thing’s for sure: real-world experience is always better than working with an imaginary client.

As a senior at The University of Alabama, I have had the privilege of working with a real client during campaigns class. Our client is The Alabama Choir School. The school began operating as an all-boys choir in 1985 and developed into a full-service, afterschool choir program designed for students of all ages. The school will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in May at the Moody Music Hall at The University of Alabama. Our campaigns class has been working with The Alabama Choir School to help promote awareness of the celebration as well as the financial condition of the school. Since the school is an afterschool nonprofit program, it has faced many financial challenges throughout the years.

Can organizations actually benefit from the services of student-run PR firms? Why not? We may not have a great deal of experience, but we offer a low-cost alternative to professional PR fees. Most student-run firms charge a fraction of the cost normally charged by professional firms and some only ask to be reimbursed for their expenses. The experience gained can be valuable to both the student and the organization.

Working with nonprofits can be very challenging, mostly because of the lack of available funds. Most of them are struggling just to exist in a slow economy. Founder Karen B. Nicolosi has worked directly with our class to help provide each group with the necessary information to implement our campaigns. With limited funding, our class was able to work hard to develop very creative campaign tactics that will benefit The Alabama Choir School.

We had the chance to work with staff members, students and alumni of the school. The local media accepted our work just as if we were a professional firm, and we gained experience with news media interviews. The Alabama Choir School may celebrate its anniversary with more people than ever due to the efforts of our class. The school also hopes to gain financial support for one student who might otherwise not be able to attend the program. Our goal as a group of senior PR students is to find local businesses interested in helping nonprofits such as The Alabama Choir School.

More organizations should offer PR students these same opportunities so we might gain necessary experience not available in the classroom. When working with real clients, students are forced to provide more accurate data. The hands-on experience provides students with greater opportunities in creating real tactics and the opportunity to evaluate the outcomes of these tactics. The students develop relationships in the community and with local media, an important part of PR development and one of the fundamental experiences PR firms want in a job candidate.

Should organizations use student-run PR firms? They really have nothing to lose. Good publicity is great, but if it costs less than the same publicity received from professional PR firms — that’s even better!

What do you think about student-run PR firms?

by Scott Young

3 Comments

Filed under The Industry

iPad: Game-changer?

Whether you’re a die-hard Apple fan or a PC-loving naysayer, chances are you’ve heard about the iPad by now. Apple’s latest gadget hit stores April 3, with droves of early-adopters waiting hours in line to buy one.

Personally, I was sleeping that morning. I haven’t rushed out to grab an iPad yet for several reasons: first, I’m a poor college student; second, I like to wait until Apple releases the second generation of a product so I get the version with fewer inherent kinks; third, I simply cannot see where this new product would fit into my life — at this point.

Yes, the iPad has a sleeker design and prettier graphics than the other readers available on the market now, like Amazon’s Kindle. Yes, it can e-mail. And, like the iPhone, it will have an app for just about everything, although many iPad applications are still in development. For me, the gap between cell phone and computer is not a large enough void that I feel as though I need this tool. Yet.

I could change my mind, though. I think the big issue is not what the iPad is or does now but what it will become in the future. Bloggers and communications professionals are already pondering the implications of this new technology. Some critics have said this tool is a step back in technological development; in an age where everything is becoming increasingly hands-on, the iPad offers little opportunity for production of content or interaction among users.

In its current state, the iPad is less about creation and more about consumption; people now have the opportunity to virtually subscribe to magazines and publications that traditionally appeared in print. Some are calling the iPad a revolution and a savior for dying print media, while others focus on the iPad’s potential effects on advertising within these print media.

After examining the opinions of the host of critics chiming in about the iPad, I’ve concluded that there’s nothing conclusive at this point. As Brian Morrissey said in a blog for AdWeek, we “would be advised to channel [our] inner Donald Rumsfeld,” who infamously said, “There are known unknowns. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.”

My point is that we’re not entirely sure what the iPad means for media and public relations as of yet. And we’re not sure what it will evolve into over the coming months and years. It could be a fleeting fad that fizzles out as quickly as it came, or it could be the next big technological revolution.

As PR professionals, we can’t automatically assume either end will come to fruition. But we shouldn’t simply ignore the iPad while we wait to see what will become of it. Instead, we must watch cautiously, observe and learn as much as we can about the development and uses for this new tool and be ready for any outcome.

If the iPad is a game-changer, it won’t be changing the game overnight. But if the game does change after all, will you be prepared?

by Caroline Beard

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The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn

As a soon-to-be college graduate, I am excited and ready to begin my career in public relations. However, I have several uncertainties and questions about my future field. The most prevalent and recurring of these uncertainties is when and how to ‘toot my own horn.’

Someone once told me, “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will.” I have found this to be great advice and mostly true; however, my attempt to understand the boundaries and to practice the art of properly tooting my own horn has come to no avail.

Personally, I get uncomfortable when talking about my talents and accomplishments. Not only do I not want to come off as bragging, but I also do not want to be labeled as overconfident or arrogant. After all, humility is a respected virtue.

In hindsight of my college education, I never actually learned how to sell myself as a talented professional with ease and sincerity. This leads me to ask: since most people rarely acquire the skills to promote and talk about themselves in a graceful and tactful manner, are we supposed to rely on others to sing praises on our behalf? Or if we are to take matters into our own hands, where is the line drawn between appropriate self-promotion and bragging at its finest?

This predicament also pertains to big business in PR. Every day in our field, something significant happens that others should know about: a firm creates an outstanding campaign, lands a new client, demonstrates expertise on an important topic, provides noteworthy service to existing clients or wins an award. Yet more often than not, these major events go unnoticed by the people to whom it should matter the most.

How do we, personally and professionally, achieve value through self-promotion, without making it too much of a good thing? Or how do we know that through our humility, we’re not missing out on a golden opportunity to sell ourselves and our companies?

It’s all about balance.

Just as we’re not going to walk into an interview and declare how wonderful and talented we are, we know that positive regard and appraisal for our work isn’t going to just happen on its own.

So my take on this dilemma is to take everything in stride. We don’t need to be in a constant state of tug-of-war between practicing modesty and publicizing accomplishments. We should minimize the boasting and maximize the value of what we’re saying. A company should space out the number of press releases it distributes and announcements it makes, if only for the sake of avoiding information overload.

Tooting our own horns should be properly planned. We shouldn’t just let it occur by happenstance. It is important that we learn how to reconcile our efforts to be humble with the need to promote our talents. We should take advantage of our opportunities and use them as leverage for successful, unadorned self-promotion.

by Madeline Reeves

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