MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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“Live the change you wish to see”

This week on PR 2.O, Brian Solis posted a paper he wrote about the impact of social media on PR practise as we know it: The State of PR, Marketing and Communications: You are the Future.

Though lengthy, this is a paper that is more than worth reading – its relevance to our futures in public relations can’t be argued.

The paper examines public relations in its current state,  including all of its shortcomings, malpractices and all of the stereotypes it has inherited over the years. Solis sums this up when he says (and please note I’ve bolded certain parts for impact):

Just ask any executive what comes to mind when you say “PR” and note the common misperception shared by many decision makers. The brutally honest responses, whether you agree or not, will represent more than we’d care to know or acknowledge. The assessments and responses will most likely span from “publicist” to “networker” to “press release” to some fallaciously degrading and sexist stereotypes of what PR people are, how they act, and what they look like. You’ll also summon war stories and bad experiences with PR people and agencies that unfortunately continue to reinforce the current state of PR crisis for the PR industry in general.

Social media offers our profession an opportunity to move away from malpractise and misconception, and a move toward transparency and genuine two-way communication… but this is easier said than done. To quote Solis again, “As long as PR agencies and consultants are profitable as is, why would they reinvent themselves?”

I witnessed this firsthand at my last work term at Harbinger, a successful PR/integrated marketing agency that handles clients such as Unilever (Dove, AXE, Hellmann’s, Breyers, Ben & Jerry’s) and Corby (Absolut, Malibu, Havana Club, Beefeater). During my term, the company did an offsite to a social media presentation. During the question period that followed the presentation, it was apparent that my colleagues were not entirely convinced – about whether or not companies would adopt this new vision, how we, as agencies, could quantify our results without traditional media impressions, etc, and why we should make the switch in the first place when most of our tranditional campaigns were perceived as “successful.” For many of my colleagues, who have made very successful careers (and large paycheques) from becoming “experts” at traditional PR, the resistance was especially noticeable.

We, as aspiring PR practitioners on the cusp of graduation with previous field-related experience, find ourselves in an interesting situation – a kind of crossroads, if you will, between the old and the new. In Solis’ paper, he discusses the idea that PR is a dying profession… and perhaps it is. Perhaps the “traditional” PR (which according to Solis has meant, “relying on hyperbole and jargon filled press releases for coverage, spamming targets with irrelevant information, maintaining a superficial and shallow knowledge of the products and industries we represent, and maintaining distant and removed relations with those we wish to cover our stories“) will die as our predecessors retire. This means we are faced with a choice: between ahering to traditional practices, or embracing the unknown and starting to make the shift now.This course has made me feel as though, already, I’m behind when it comes to social media, and in fact has been a bit of a wake up call. It has forced me to think critically about what my career in public relations will hold, and has made me personally accountable to my role in my own development as a professional.

 I think through social media, we are being given a chance to renew the face of public relations. I feel as though we will be able to put so many of the “best practises” that we learn in school to use (ie: ethics, two-way communication, transparency) with the transfer of power that is occuring as more of the public’s voice is being heard through new channels. I feel like it’s beginning to sound cliche, but perhaps we will see the “public” put back in “public relations.”

I find this invigorating, and maybe it’s just because I’m in the bubble that is this class, but I truly feel motivated to be part of this change in our profession. It may be challenging, but I think ultimately it will be worthwhile and rewarding – for any of you that were in Wade Kenney’s Ethics class, I feel like this shift to transparency, honesty and genuine communication will make the pursuit of “eudaimon” that much more attainable.


June 9, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | Leave a comment


I came across a piece today on IMR titled The Latest Experiment in Online Journalism. The article talked about a new website called True/Slant that has been receiving a lot of buzz in the journalism world. The website has already been covered in newspapers like The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

True/Slant describes itself as “original content news network tailored to both the entrepreneurial journalist and marketers who want a more effective way to engage with digital audiences.” Basically, it is a place where contributors, consumers and marketers all share an equal voice.

I thought that this was a great example of how social media is opening the gate for open two way communication in all aspects of our lives.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | | Leave a comment

Your Secret’s Safe With the Internet

A recent post on SXSW made me really think about how the internet has developed into something much more than a place where people can get information from, add information to, or be entertained.

I’m aware that the internet has recently become a medium for people to share their thoughts, feelings, ideas and sometimes very personal stories, but I’m only just coming to the realization of the many different ways that people are able to do it.  Post Secret is a site that I love to check every Sunday, it’s a place where people anonomously send their secrets to on homemade postcards and they are then posted on the site.  It’s amazing what people will share.  The internet has almost become something that some people can trust even more than their closest friends.

Another type of “secret sharing” website was recently featured on SXSW. The 2009 Web Award winner in the category of Art- from traditional photography to untraditional resources was a site called Things I Have Learned in my Life, So Far.  It is a user generated content site, like PostSecret, where people were asked to upload their life stories whether it was typographically, in the form of a photo or a video. Essentially, it’s like an online diary, that people from across the world can contribute to. The site is amazing, full of great quotes, uplifting videos, photos and writing entries.  Here’s a cool video that was posted to the site:

Obviously people have embraced this form of revealing secrets, telling life stories or simply telling people what’s on their mind. The internet has made it possible for people to reach out and say things that they would normally keep to themselves. I believe this is a great thing for many people who are looking for a way to express themselves, but would not necessarily say it out loud.

On that note, I stole a styrofoam bowl from the cafeteria yesterday…


June 9, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , | Leave a comment

iTube, WeTube, we all scream for YouTube

Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University has yet to update their blog, so I went back in time, to my birth month and found another YouTube related blog post from one of Prof. Wesch’s students, Becky.

Becky posted a blog titled “The Internet has a Face”. The blog post discussed her interest in vlogging as “meaningful interaction (with others) beyond the limits of text”. She produced a video compiled of some vlog videos that were posted to YouTube. She says her video was “created to explore the content and purpose of vlogs, as well as the networking and interconnectivity as users respond and reach out to each other within and beyond the YouTube website.”

Once upon a time people wrote in a diary, kept a journal, wrote a letter or phoned a friend. Today people are text messaging, video calling, blogging, tweeting , poking, writing on walls, nudging and emoticoning.

 Oh, and vlogging.

People are vlogging about very personal and private things and posting it to the Internet for the world to see. This at first might seem odd, but it’s working for them.

In class we regularly discuss the pros and cons of social media vs. face to face communication; a very worthy discussion. Becky takes our conversation a bit further; beyond the boardroom and rows of cubicles we will all eventually come to despise and focuses on the “YouTubers” themselves. She argues that the Internet is “no longer just text to text, the Internet has a face. The Internet has a heart. The internet has humanity. …with YouTube.”

The video is actually quite moving. I think that YouTube allows people to connect more than any other social media tool. It allows people to be real and express whatever it is they want, whether it’s humility, honesty, humor, compassion or love. And people are connecting. People are just being themselves, telling a story and other people are coming to support them and share with them. It’s actually quite powerful.

Becky says “if there was a fear that the internet was making society antisocial, vlogging would seek to prove otherwise.”

And I think she’s right.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kids These Days…

Yesterday’s class was very informative and interesting, both guest speakers were very intelligent and knowledgeable  and it made me really appreciate my decision to take this Social Media Seminar as my elective!

Rob MacCormick brought up a really good point that stuck with me. He said that  kids today are not even questioning technology, they are just going along with it.  They seem to be unphased with the amazing advances in technologies and have almost come to expect it. I never thought of it before, but HOW true is that!? It’s kind of scary to think about.

Growing up, I only really started using a computer when I was in grade 7. I can still remember thinking how cool MSN was, and good ol’ ICQ. E-mailing my friends when they were away was the only way to stay in touch (for free), and I took advantage of that. I guess I wouldn’t say that I questioned these technologies, but I definitely thought they were amazing and felt very privledged to be able to use them.

Now I look at my 12 year old sister who has had facebook since she was in grade 5, used MSN all through elementary school and who got an iTouch AND a digital camera last Christmas (don’t get me started on how jealous I was…) now, she’s on the verge of getting a cell phone, and she’s not even in GRADE 8!

I feel that because she started using these technologies at such a young age, that’s the reason she is so unphased by them. When she got facebook in grade 5, she was too young to be able to even think critically about it, or to realize the amazing amount of intelligence that goes into creating each and every one of these technologies.

The same goes for children in Western Civilization today. These technologies are being introduced to them at such a young age that they don’t know to question what they are doing. They just go with the flow!

The question I’ve been struggling with is if in fact this is a good thing, or a bad thing? For me, it’s hard to say! I think technology today is amazing, and it’s great to teach our kids to embrace it and learn to use it at a young age. But I also think that we need to do a better job in letting our kids know the dangers involved, and how they shouldn’t be taking things like this for granted.

The generation of kids today are going to be some of the most technologically savvy people we’ve seen. I think this is a great and exciting thing! Is the development of children now going to include “computer skills training”? Which would come in right after potty training, and just before walking?

Think about it,


June 9, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | , | 1 Comment