MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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Helpful or Opressing?

As the communications world grows more comfortable with social media and its various uses, it is inevitable that we are going to shift away from our traditional methods of communication in most all ways.  This includes media releases.  We have moved into a time where it is not uncommon to see what is now called a “Social Media Release” whereby an organization utilizes their various social media tools to get their message out there via a media release in the social media realm.  While this is an exciting  time, IABC has recognized that the marriage of this traditional tool with an untraditional one is a complicated relationships that must be carefully crafted.  On the Hobson and Holtz Report this week, they talked about the conference where members of IABC came together to discuss standards and formats for this new(ish) form of communication.

The Wiki that is maintained by IABC explaining these standards explains the purpose of setting a standard and format for these new media releases, “hRelease is an open, social media news release standard that encourages the electronic distribution of news across the Internet. hRelease will allow news authors to create a single copy of their online release and share it electronically with wire services, members of the press, and the public. The goal of the hRelease format is to enable a simple way to markup news, allowing authors to share news through blogs, personal and corporate websites, web feeds, and any other online repository.”

What are your thoughts? Do we really need someone telling us how to write our releases? Or will it be super helpful?


June 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s get a tan instead of hiding in the dark because we’re afraid of the sun!

I remember sitting in Amy Thurlow’s Intro to PR class several years ago and being really excited to hear the definition of PR because, to be honest, I really had no idea what PR was.  Three years and about a million comm plans later I could spout off that definition in my sleep…actually my husband told me I actually have before (scary). Amy taught us about mutually beneficial relationships that are achieved through two way symmetric communication. I remember being so pumped about two way symmetric communication.  Obviously there was no other way to practice PR.  Over the years though, after actually stepping out into the work world and seeing how people practice PR for real, I think I became a little bit jaded.  In Amy’s last class, Advanced PR Management, we read articles about how Grunig’s model was outdated and idealistic, about how two way symmetric communication was an impossible pipe dream and practitioners needed to just grow up and realize the truth, we were destined for one way asymmetric communication.  I think I believed the author.

What does this have to do with social media, you may be asking.  I have come to realize over the course of this class, that not only is the world changing and evolving but so is our ability and techniques to communicate.  That author obviously never participated in a wiki or followed and commented on a blog.  The truth is, social media is not only changing the way people connect with each other, it’s changing the way we communicate. As we enter the field in a couple of weeks or months or years or whatever it may be, we are entering a new and exciting era of PR.  No longer will one way asymmetric communication be acceptable. People realize that they have something to say and that they have the right to be heard.  This means that organizations are not going to be able to get away with pushing messages without finishing the feedback loop. Everyone has feedback. And everyone will push to finish the loop on their own.  Without this two way symmetric communication, organizations are going to ultimately fail in favor of other organizations who do practice effective communications.  And social media is a massive stepping stone to this future.  That future isn’t so far off either, it’s not like we’re talking about robots and higher level technology here. We’re talking about people learning and utilizing tools that are already available to them to communicate with us, to have their voices heard.  The revoluation has already begun. And I’m psyched about it! Finally my first year enthusiasm is creeping back into my already jaded mind and I’m getting geared up to establish an effective model of communication in my work place. I recognize the importance of following this model, my publics recognize the importance of following this model and sooner or later my organization is going to have to recognize this importance as well.  Social media provides us with an opportunity to transition into this model.  Even if it’s only one step at a time.  From leaving comments to wall posting to blogging to collaborative wikis, these mediums of communication are all about leaving it open for feedback and response.  They are all about giving people the oppportunity to have their voices heard.

While we have been pushing collectively for a huge shift like this within the profession for, at least as long as I can remember, some are terrified of social media and its implications for the future. I think that’s because we’re not explaining it well enough, we’re not putting it into words that they’ll understand.  We’re not saying things like “two way symmetric communication” we’re saying “let’s start a blog and let people comment on it so that everyone can see both the negative and positive.”  That scares people, putting control in someone elses’ hand and having faith in their organizations.  It’s now our job as more informed social media users (thanks DeNel for helping us in that regard) to educate not only our peers but our superiors and our students as well that we are on the dawn of this new horizon and we need to embrace it. Let’s get a tan instead of hiding in the dark because we’re afraid of the sun!

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

And I’ll Get Expelled for Plagiarism?

Alright, so here’s the thing, journalists are flat out admitting that not only did they not check their facts in regards to this Wikipedia quote by Shane Fitzgerald but they flat out lifted it from the site. So there are professionals, who went through what can only be assumed as four years of rigorous university training, at least, to become the truth breeders of the world, directly copying fake quotes, and I’m going to get kicked out of school if I forget to put a quotation mark around three words that were directly from a book even though “if the” are the first three words. Really?

Don’t get me wrong, I never have nor ever will in my life take someone else’s’ work and call it my own. Not to sound arrogant, but I believe I’m above that. To be blatantly honest I think expulsion is a great consequence for plagiarizers. What I want to know is what the media is going to do about their slack reporters who pull an obviously “too good to be true”, as Fitzgerald puts it, quote off of a communal encyclopedia and call it a conclusion. I’m sorry, but if I’m going to spend the majority of my university years worrying about where to put the right comma to ensure I’m not a word thief, then a simple Britney Spears style “Oops, we did it again,” doesn’t do it for me.

I guess it all really comes back to what we talked about in class, questioning everything we read. I have a friend who graduated from King’s College with a degree in English. When I commented on the unbelievable amount of reading for some of her classes and asked her if she really had to read it all to follow along in class she told me this, “Probably not. But I do the reading because I realized that if I didn’t then I would simply be accepting someone else’s point of view on the material without discovering if it was actually my own or not.” She’s a brilliant girl to begin with, but after that I made sure to do all my class readings. The point is, she taught me that despite the fact that her professor is supposed to be an “authority” she wanted to make sure that she knew for herself that the source knew what they were talking about. Perhaps our journalists could take a lesson from Heather Thomson.

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Questioning the Source

Alright, so if I’m being brutally honest, is an incredibly lame name for a website.  Despite my 100% confidence in Dr. Rehberg-Sedo’s social media brilliance, I was totally not looking forward to wading through countless media releases sent by every Jane, Henry and Joe who thinks they know how to practice effective PR on a weekly basis to try to find someone that had a notable thought and expanding upon said thought to create brilliance of my own, which, by the way, is obviously abundant. Today, I’m officially repenting of my assumptive sins. To my surprise, and extreme delight if I may add, this site is actually a well put together and incredibly interesting setting for a bi-weekly podcast by Neville Hobson (ABC) and Shel Holtz (ABC) called The Hobson & Holtz Report. Catchy eh?

Throughout class this week though I started to think, sure, the topics they choose are definitely interesting and I could comment on any one or multiple podcasts. But before I do that, I’d have to listen to them, and after our discussion on questioning everything, I started to wonder, why should I listen to them? So I did some research. Tonight I’d like to present you with, what I hope will be a brief analysis of these men and their lives works…as far as I can tell from google anyway. That way you can make an informed decision about whether you’ll stay tuned to hear my take on their take or whether you’ll choose to politely pass by my posts concerning Hobson and Holtz for the next four weeks.

Let’s begin with Hobson shall we?

Neville Hobson

I think it’s worthy of note that when I typed in Neville Hobson google informed me that there were 143,000 applicable web page. Wow. I put my name into google and found, well a porn star from the 1980’s. In addition to his impressive google profile, he’s got 4,145 twitterers tweeting after his every word and 2,584 confirmed, dedicated bloggers to boot. If we’re talking sheer quantity (over quality of course), I’m definitely impressed. Obviously someone thinks this guy has something to say, but should that really count for something?

According to his website,, Hobson has been a communicator for the past 25 year and is still holding strong. In addition to being an accredited IABC member he has worked in numerous aspects of the field including the all intimidating investor and financial relations. He’s a company founder, a volunteer, a consultant, an author, an early adopter, a blogger, a podcaster, a tweeter, and a guy with an opinion. Currently residing in the UK, Hobson has worked all over Europe and the US.

Shel Holtz

Alright, so Holtz falls short of Hobson on the google article finder at a mere 91,700 articles, but hey, Deidra Hopkins is still a porn star so I guess he’s at least more impressive than I am at any rate. While his google numbers are low he does beat out Hobson on the twitter meter with a whopping 4,537 followers and is perhaps more humble as he lacks a friend counter on his blog. He wants us to be able to reach him though because you can find him on a variety of social media sites including: Digg, Flickr, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube,, Skype, Gmail, Technorati, MyBlogLog and Utterz.

Holtz has been working in communications for close to 30 years and is the current principal at Holtz Communication + Technology. Before that Holtz worked in various communications environments where he had the opportunity to master the art of organizational communications on varying levels including financial relations and even marketing communications. His work is both corporate and consultant based and he has always tried to be at the forefront of technology so that he could infuse that newness into each organization’s culture. An IABC Fellow, the highest honor bestowed upon IABC members, Holtz is a trusted member of the global communications world.

So what do you think?
Are they worth listening to?

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Did I break up with the love of my life for the cheap thrill of a fling?


So this week on The Hobson and Holtz Report they covered a study done by Harvard University about the usage of Twitter.  This seemed relevant given last weeks class and the seemingly consented opinion that no one knew what to think of Twitter and whether to jump on that band wagon like it was the new facebook or not.  Apparently though, we’re not the only ones having a hard time deciding about our romantic feelings toward this relatively new social media sensation.  According to the study Twitter’s major content is generated by a small and loyal user base.  Okay, so perhaps that’s an understatement, the reality of it is that 90% of Twitter’s content is generated by…guess…are you ready for this? Only 10% of their users.  That means that if there were 100 people signed up for Twitter and 100 tweets, 10 people would have generated 90 of them while the other 90 people split the other 10 between them. Alright, so I’m not trying to insult your intelligence with that grade 1 math lesson, but when I finally realized that and the implications that holds for Twitter, especially if they do start charging for use as we discussed in class, it absolutely blew my mind. I mean, after our Kermit Card Twitter experiment I was absolutely positive that this was a boat I was missing and I should try to catch up.  But after hearing about this study, I realized that maybe it’s not as effective a tool as I’d originally thought. Maybe more people have only luke warm feelings towards Twitter like we do than I realized.

On the report they questioned whether Twitter was actually about engagement or if it was really just a broadcasting platform that could be used as a marketing/communications tool.  My thoughts: how could it really be an effective marketing/communications tool if everyone is signing up but no one is using it? Honestly though, if you think you’re reaching a million people but really you’re only reaching 100,000, that may seem like a lot but you’re also missing out on ways to engage the 900,000 you’re not actually communicating with. How effective is that really?  Not that I’m ready to break up with Twitter and lie that I just want to be friends instead of a passionately engaged companion, but this report really added to my confusion. Maybe I should have just stuck with my first long term relationship with Facebook before abandoning it for a younger lover.

What do you think?  Did I break up with the love of my life for the cheap thrill of a fling?

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evaluation in an Era of Apathy

I was particularly interested in what Martin Delaney had to offer to us this week in class. Evaluation to me, while I understand its importance, has always been one of those things we throw in at the end of the comm plan with no real hope of being able to accomplish it effectively. Now, before you toss my butt out of CPRS and IABC for blasphemy, gimme a chance to explain.  The issue I have with evaluation is that it depends, a lot anyway, on the willingness of people to give their time, with no real offer of anything in return, to participate in the process.  This is why I asked Martin about alternative evaluation methods that don’t rely on surveying people about their attitudes and feelings.  We’ve all, or at least a large part of us, taken research methods and know how difficult it is to create a truly valid and reliable survey that can be generalized to a larger population. It requires a lot of work and a lot of people willing to give up their time.  Now, I may be a pessimist but as the world grows further desensitized not only to advertising but to communications efforts in general, especially surveys I find, I just find it difficult to believe that a survey could really be an effective means to evaluation.  I mean, how many times have you just tossed out the satisfaction survey in a new electronic you’ve bought?  People talk all the time about how we are an apathetic generation.  Agencies such as Extreme have to use incredible shock methods to make us lift our heads up to notice. And we only give them one glance anyway.  Seriously though, what are the chances after we’ve already taken our precious time to participate in some sort of communication initiative, such as attending a fundraiser or an open house, that we’ll actually give up more time after the fact to tell them how we felt about it? Slim to none I think.  But again, I may be a pessimist.

Anyways, this was not the point of my blog.  What I was thinking was that I really appreciated Martin’s presentation in that he showed us some awesome, free evaluation tools available to us that I never knew existed. I mean, google analytics, I’m fairly confident that while I’m a bit sketched out that google is officially taking over the world, that’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard of.  Plus, it was totally cool to see that our blog is making a mark on cyber space, it really made me feel like we’re truly learning something. We’re officially leaving a cyber footprint…maybe all of this stuff really does make a difference.  Not that I was an unbeliever to begin with, but to see it in action, how cool! Anyways, I just wanted to say that I’m totally psyched about writing up the evaluation section of our plan now. We’ve officially got some incredible tools at our finger tips that we had no idea about. So I guess I’m sending out a big thank you to Martin and DeNel.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Pepsi Seeks Serious Journalists and Students Alike

Check this out. This week on The Hobson and Holtz report I was turned on to the newest workings at PepsiCo. They’re hiring, which could be news in and of itself give the “current economic times” as the catch phrase goes.  But what’s more interesting really is what they’re hiring for.  They want nine social media gurus on board to help make Internet Week synonamous with social media. They’re going to do this by handing out, essentially, journalistic assignments, everything to “panels to parties” as Holtz puts it, and sending out their gurus to get the story.  They’re to come back with pictures, videos, blog posts, and carefully crafted, witty Twitter Tweets to describe what’s happening in New York.  All the content will be uploaded on the PepsiCo network and targeted towards making Internet Week the hippest spot for the social media inclined New Yorker. Cool right?

Holtz questions whether this is going to be beneficial and interesting or create more paid for drivel in the social media world. Utlimately, though, he concludes that the jury is out and that we’ll have to keep our eyes open to  see how it goes.

What do I think? I think it’s a cool idea. Of course I do though, I’m not a journalist who feels like my integrity is being squashed by a recession that has my balls in a vice grip while I grit my teeth and blog (said as a dirty 4 letter word) about the party the big corporation is “forcing” (and paying) me to go to.  I’m a communicator that is thrilled to see corporations reaching out to my generation in a way that is so totally appropriate.  Of course I care about the integrity of the information. Is it possible that this could all turn out to be a sham and Pepsi hires 9 monkeys to write exactly what they want? Absolutely. But I hope not, because that would defeat the whole purpose of wanting to become aligned with social media. The point is honesty that gives the audience the opportunity to weigh in (a fancy way of saying transparent two way communication I suppose).

Anyways, what are your thoughts? Great potential or potential drivel?

June 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

First Life versus Second Life

It seems that the general concensus about second life is that people prefer their first life.  I have to question whether this is because it’s a new world and sometimes we’re hesitant to “new” or if it’s because they genuinely value face-to-face communication.  Personally, I can see how Second Life could become so addicting it actually because your First Life.  I spent so much time worrying about whether the tint of my skin was right or the tilt of my eye that I completely lost myself in the “game” for lack of a better word.  I wanted to shop, I wanted to sit in front of night clubs and make money for it, I wanted to meet on the beach and grab a tan while we discussed how we were going to help the MSVU Grad program through social media.  And then I realized that I wasn’t real.  It was a very strange sort of epiphany. It made me realize that just as my world can sometimes revolve around facebook, my world could very easily begin to revolve around Second Life and how well my avatar is living.  And I don’t necessarily thing that’s a bad thing, to a certain extent of course.

I have friends who are really huge World of Warcraft players.  Quite literally their worlds revolve around. She is a registered nurse who worked at the QEII, he was in school to become an actuary.  They were married, living in Clayton Park West, had a great car and thriving.  She called out of work and no long has a job, he failed 8 out of 10 classes and they spent their entire day and night on WoW.  It sounds made up but I swear to you, it’s 100% real.  They spent so much time living in the virtual world, worrying about their avatars’ world that they forgot to worry about the real world and how their own life was going.

But then I started to think about it from an organizational point of view.  I’m preparing to help launch a new pyromusical competition in the USA and as I thought about what Second Life could do for us I started to get excited. I don’t know a lot about the logistics of it yet but I’m fairly certain it’s possible to open your own business. And I’m fairly certain that I would be able to reach an entirely different audience on Second Life that I may never have been able to tap into other wise, people like my friends who rarely leave their computer rooms let alone have the ambition to venture out and experience the real world. If I  could hook them on the idea of pyromusical fireworks via Second Life, how could they refuse the real thing?  That’s if I can figure the game out long enough to actually succeed though.

I guess all in all I’m on the fence. I absolutely see the addiction, both for personal reasons and professional.  But I have not only imagined the draw backs but seen them. Ultimately I suppose the old addage is correct, “everything in moderation.”

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Finding Middle Ground

This week on the Hobson and Holtz report our friends Neville and Shel addressed the age old issue of attorneys versus communicators.  It always seemed to me that this hate we have on for attorneys just plays into the cliche of the rest of the world hating them as well. But after tuning into the podcast it started me thinking what a conundrum it must actually be to be sitting in a room with a CEO, a team of lawyers and you trying to tell everyone to fess up when they mess up.   I always tried to have an empathetic point of view when we had discussions about the evils of lawyers.  I mean, it’s their job to make sure the company isn’t screwing itself legally by saying “I’m sorry you felt that way”  while it’s our job to make everyone understand that there are much further reaching organizational image implications beyond the verdict of a trial.

I guess their podcast really got me thinking.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone needs to learn how to compromise.  We always think we’re right. They always think they’re right.  The reality is the that “right” is probably somewhere in the middle.  Yes, we understand the importance of taking responsiblity when things don’t got as smoothly as planned.  This was clearly illustrated when Exxon wasn’t upfront about their oil spill years ago. To this day my mother, and I’m sure countless others, won’t buy gas from any station that is associated with Exxon.  However, the lawyers probably have a point when they say “If you apologize because someone got their feelings hurt, you’re going to look guilty and pay out millions.”

Now really, I don’t personally have any experience in attorney/communicator debates, but it’s something to think about.

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment