9 New Media/PR Lessons from the Experts at Boston University

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I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a Boston University College of Communication course titled, “New Media and Public Relations.”

Taught by the PR veteran/thought leader/dragon slayer, Todd Van Hoosear, the 300-level course aims to explore the effects of new media on the fundamental theories, models and practices of public relations. It also covers and uses the interactive tools that are currently redefining the practice of public relations.

Below, I’ve shared nine key take-aways from my audit of the course. These — along with several others — were shared during my live-Tweeting of the lecture. I think even the most seasoned professional can pick up something new, here:

  1. Filter bubbles = dangerous. Our info is being filtered by our friends as well as Google and FB. | #BUNewMedia
  2. Key elements of a successful viral video: brevity, humor and appealing subject matter. | #BUNewMedia
  3. You can’t guarantee a viral video. But, you can maximize its likelihood. | #BUNewMedia
  4. Videos are filmed with 1st, 2nd and 3rd screens in mind — TV, computer and mobile screen. | #BUNewMedia
  5. Pinterest and copyrighting – major concerns emerging as businesses incorporate service into marketing strategy. | #BUNewMedia
  6. Blog comment activity has plummeted in last two years. Convo has moved to social media platforms — where it’s owned by FB, etc. #BUNewMedia
  7. Blogs — really referred to as websites and news sites these days. “Blog” now really refers to content management systems. | #BUNewMedia
  8. Facebook “Like-gating” proven to be a negative engagement tactic. | #BUNewMedia
  9. PR is about telling stories. New official definition [from PRSA] does not get an A+. | #BUNewMedia

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Note: Some Tweets listed above were slightly altered from their original form for the purpose of this blog post.

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ATTN Gen-Y: This is NOT How You Get a Job (But Here is How You Do)

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I recently agreed to sit down for a professional discussion with the daughter of an acquaintance. A recent graduate seeking a job in professional communications, like many these days, she was having a hard time in a difficult job market. I was more than happy to help. I took a look at my calendar for the next few weeks and passed along my email address explaining I’d be happy to answer any questions she might have. The next day, I received the following email:

“Hello Nicholas,

NAME WITHHELD informed me I should contact you if I had any questions, in which I do. Just one major important one, are you able to find me a job? Haha.”

Take note, Gen-Y. This is not how you network.

I walked off my Alma mater’s commencement stage during the peak of The Great Recession – so, I know a thing or two about patience and determination as it relates to the job hunt.  It took me years to build my network, but it eventually paid off. Finding your dream position – or even a position at all – requires hard work, hours of research, and most important, respect.

The exchange  described above brought back a flood of memories revolving around the dozens of informational interviews I went on during my job-hunting days.

What’s an informational interview you ask?

An informational interview is a meeting between a job-seeker and a professional employed in your field of interest. The normal rules of a job interview apply – etiquette, proper dress and preparation are absolutely required. However, the purpose of the meeting is not to request employment, but to gather critical information that will help you better market yourself. Consider the meeting a fact-finding mission.

At a certain point, I narrowed down the questions that were most important to ask and provided the most perspective. I’ve included them below:

  • What kind of education, skills and background are necessary for a career in this field?
  • How did you start in the industry? What advice would you offer someone who is seeking employment in today’s market?
  • How do you suggest I build upon my existing resume? What entry-level jobs should I be seeking?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the industry today?
  • Are there any professional associations you recommend I join?
  • Would you be so kind as to recommend someone else who will sit down and answer some similar questions? If so, can I use your name when contacting them?

Along with a little professional courtesy (thank-you notes, etc.) the informational interview can help open doors you never knew existed.  Learn to master them and not only will your employment prospects improve, you can avoid embarrassing faux pas like the one described above.

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Social Media and Pizza: A Case Study

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I live and work in downtown Boston, MA. When it’s time for lunch, I have many options. Today, I wanted to try a new place. I wandered down Newbury Street and decided to check out Bostone Pizza.

Bostone Pizza claims that they are Boston’s “only authentic NY pizzeria, featuring thin crust Neapolitan and deep dish Sicilian pizza.”

I tend to like my pizza covered with the most outrageous toppings you can think of.  I also love it prepared in a variety of ways. For this reason, Bostone caught my attention. But when it’s my first time in a joint? I opt for a straight slice of cheese. That’s just how I roll.

Well, the slice did not disappoint. But you must remember that there are tons of lunchtime options around here. Newbury Street alone offers everything from Indian/Chinese fusion to Spanish tapas. How can a pizza parlor compete?

I think Bostone is going to be just fine.

While dining, I checked in on Foursquare. I also chose to share my location on Twitter. Within an hour, Bostone sought me out and recognized my patronage. Trust me; this sort of thing makes a difference. I think that many of Boston’s plugged-in professionals and undergraduates would agree.  

The next time I’m looking for lunch in downtown, I think I’ll try Bostone’s Mediterranean with extra feta.

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How to Use Social Media in Your Job Hunt

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I know plenty of folks who are looking for a job, yet refuse to join social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s as if they are trying to prove something. The only thing they are proving is that they don’t understand how the rules have changed. Here are a few tips on how to use social media to find the job you deserve.

Make Your Debut

Whether you are an established professional or a graduate looking to catch a break, you must take the appropriate steps to establish your online identity. Start a blog that focuses on your professional interests and then create accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to promote your endeavor. 

Employers are not going to seek you out. You must make sure your voice is heard loud and clear.

Share the Right Information

When using Twitter to aid your job-hunt, you must be somewhat strategic. What sort of information are you sharing? If you are not reading and re-tweeting articles that cover topics relevant to your field, you are not doing all you can to brand yourself online. That account executive at XYZ PR is not going to notice you if you are solely tweeting about Cheetos and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Well, that would probably catch my attention, but I’ll save that for another blog entry…

Go Against the Grain

Do you have an opinion? Do not be afraid to share it! Let’s face it, the social media landscape is filled with @-kissers who love to offer groundbreaking comments like “great post!” on all the hottest blogs. The folks who stand out are those who respectfully voice differing opinions and engage others in conversation.

Pull the Trigger

So you’ve built your online presence and traded messages with a few established professionals. Now what? Pull the trigger!

Ask your new contacts if they would be willing to sit down for an informational interview. This is an excellent way to learn more about your industry and put yourself in front of the people who matter the most.

Think you are done? Not by a long shot!  Ask your social media contacts if you can contribute to their blog as a guest. Start a Twitter-Chat or organize a Tweet-Up. Ask everyone for referrals. Above all else, stay relevant!

Do you have a success story you are willing to share?

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How the iPhone has Changed My Life

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I’m a bit late to the iPhone party.  Actually, scratch that.

I waited until I could purchase the device at a reasonable price – and that is not something I am ashamed to admit.  When an upgrade offer of $99 for the phone with a two-year contract came to my attention, how could I say no?

As an iPhone user for a little over a month now, I have difficulty remembering how I functioned without it. Today, I’m going to share with you a few apps that have changed my life.

Facebook for iPhone and Echofon

I’m going to lump these two applications together. Do they really need an introduction? Well, yes. Not everyone sits on TechCrunch all day. Elitist bloggers please take note!

Facebook for iPhone allows access to your Facebook account in ways you never imagined. The application has a grid-like menu that provides easy access to all of Facebook’s most important features and makes sharing photos incredibly easy. Push notifications  – which should have been a no-brainer from the start – only recently arrived, but who cares? It’s just an added bonus. I would have used it no matter what. Afterall, this is Facebook – we use it, we love it and we cannot live with out it!

Echofon is routinely touted as the best free Twitter app on the market.  It loads fast, offers multiple features and allows you to view profiles with ease.  Although push notification features are only available by purchasing Echofon Pro, I’m not terribly disappointed.

Pandora

Distractions – i.e. real life – have disrupted my intake of music over the years. I no longer attend local shows as often as I once did and I’ve become less willing to take risks with my discretionary income. The solution? Pandora Radio!

After entering a song or artist you enjoy, the service automatically selects music and artists that are similar. Although I was already familiar with Pandora, I was overjoyed to hear there was a Pandora app available for the iPhone. Pandora is the type of service that seems made for mobile devices. I would have to guess that users get way more mileage out of this app than they ever would just using the web-based version.

Are you familiar with the Music Genome Project? If not, take a look. It’s an incredible project and the reason why you can enjoy Pandora today!

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is a speech recognition program that translates your spoken word to text. Once translated, you can text or email instantaneously. Its accuracy is quite impressive and it also allows you to add punctuation.  The app has received some rave reviews with good reason; long texts and emails now take only seconds to create and edit before before they are ready to be sent.

However, usefulness alone has not been enough to shield Dragon Dictation and its creator Nuance from controversy.

As TechCrunch reports, some terms of the service’s End User License Agreement lit up the blogsphere late last year when word that the app collects the names in your address book became publicized.

Nuance soon issued a statement explaining that it only collects contact names so Dragon Dictation can better recognize them during the translation process. The company also issued an update to the app which gives users the opportunity to not share this information upon first use. 

Dragon Dictation is too good to be free. Hop aboard before they start charging!

Honorable Mentions:

TweetDeck

I have been toying with Tweetdeck for the past couple weeks and I find it to be incredibly useful. It has become especially handy when I participate in Twitter chats from my phone because it allows me to create streams divided by hashtags.

Can 19% of the market really be wrong?

I Am T-Pain

Okay, the I Am T-Pain app really didn’t change my life, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to play around with. Even CNN thinks so!

Use this app to sing along to your favorite auto-tuned cuts from T-Pain himself.  Once complete, simply upload them and share with friends!

Zombie Hunter (7DA)

I have not wasted this much time on a videogame since the halcyon days of Nintendo.

If you are as big a zombie fan as I am, you have to check out ZombieHunter 7DA. You will find hours of delight in cutting down hordes of the undead while completing various missions designed to help save the world from “mutation.” The graphics on this game are top notch and the replay value is through the roof! Best of all, it’s free!

What are the iPhone apps have you been using?

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Social Media and Abuse of Trust?

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Tim Otis at Daily Axiom recently spoke about what he labeled “social media @-kissers.” These are individuals who abuse social media trust by using social media in a strategic manner. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“I feel as though we’ve really abused the issue of trust in some ways, and have actually redefined the notion of it by simply kissing up to blog writers via comment, retweeting Twitter posts—and for what? Their approval? Since when is approval even remotely close to trust? Being connected is all about approval, not about trust. Somehow social media has blurred those lines and people are listening to it.”

This is certainly not a new concept. Many folks have recognized this for quite sometime and I commend Tim for speaking out on something he feels strongly about. In many ways, I agree with him.

Reading further, Tim notes what we should all know about social media. It’s about being natural:

“…I’ve found the same thing time and time again: [social media is] about being natural. The minute you’re forcing something to go through to reach your targeted audience, you will fail, because it reeks of being contrived.”

Tim’s post got me thinking about the true effectiveness of social media, especially Twitter, so I shared my thoughts on his blog. I agree with his points regarding abuse of trust issues, seeking SM celebrity approval and agenda-setting, but I do not necessarily think that it derails the effectiveness of the service. That is because in many cases, Twitter is an extension of our real life actions.

I was reminded of the “Twitter is a cocktail party,” comparison. When one goes to a cocktail party or networking event, many work the room with a purpose. Some people act natural and some come off as phony. The phony can obviously be spotted miles away, yet I’ve seen both strategies result in the same successful outcome.

Is this right? Is it wrong? Will we ever truly know?

What I do know is that at the end of the day, you will always be able to find me hanging out with the “natural” crowd.

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Generation Y and the Entry Level Job

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Mark McCrindle of McCrindle Research recently shared the following thoughts on Generation Y in an interview with Businessday.com:

“They’ve had a good run, been demanding in their jobs – “Give me a promotion” and all of that – now the rules have changed…”

With the recent economic downturn, it seems Mr. McCrindle couldn’t be any closer to the truth.

I see plenty of job dissatisfaction among recent graduates these days. These are the young professionals who are 1-3 years out of school and “stuck” in entry-level positions. Their jobs are “beneath” them and there is no end in sight to their misery.

To say that I don’t worry about the future would be a lie. After all, I am a card-carrying member of Gen Y. But Rome was not built in a day and you will not be running the company within a year.

Taking things to the next level requires more than just doing your job. One must go above and beyond in order to show those who matter what you are truly made of. This means getting out there. It means joining a professional organization and volunteering. It means pursuing an advanced degree.

It has been said many times before but networking is a necessity. You must utilize your network of friends, family and co-workers to find out about opportunities and meet established professionals in your field. Unsure of how to navigate this world? Check out this great article from the New York Times that shows you how.

A word to those feeling overwhelmed. Worrying is a good thing. It shows concern about your career and that you are thinking of the future. They key is to take that anxiety and turn it into results.

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