MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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Embrace the Internet but don’t leave some employees behind

To gauge the importance of the Internet for the field of public relations we need not look any further than our classes this week. Without new technologies made possible through the internet, such as Skype and Twitter, we would never have been able to speak with Harold Simons in such a personal and effective manner and we would not have gotten the real world, real time experience of Ben and Kimberly’s Twitter experiment. 

The reading for this week by Paul Christ discusses the need for public relations professionals to embrace Internet technologies or be left in the dust, so to speak. I think, thanks to this social media class we are being taught very important and applicable lessons for our future careers that will certainly give us an edge as we search for employment in the future.

Rogers Plus internal communications strategy embraces the Internet in the way that Christ’s article suggests. One of the primary reasons offered by Christ as to why PR practitioners need to embrace Internet communication is because it is now one of the main ways people receive information. As an organization one must examine where their stakeholders get information and provide it through that portal. Simons did a great job with that. As most of Rogers Plus employees fit the 18-24 demographic they would most likely get their information via the Internet. By providing employee information via the ning site, he has made the information available in a way that they will most likely use.

Further, the Christ article, though it doesn’t speak to internal communications specifically, suggests that using the Internet helps to “develop stronger relationships with stakeholders [as] they can tailor their services to meet stakeholders’ needs.” This is evident through the initial success of the Rogers Plus employee site.  They found out what the employees needed from them and provided it through a custom site made especially for employees.

With all this in mind I still wonder: what does Rogers Plus do if a new employee doesn’t have access to the Internet? We (especially those of us who embrace social media like us) like to think that everyone we are trying to reach with our messaging has access to the Internet; but in reality that is not quite the case. As mentioned in a previous class, upwards of 80 per cent of Nova Scotians are without high-speed access. Is it really reasonable to expect that everyone will have the ability to do this training from home? This got me thinking about my own experience. When I started work at the NSLC, I had to do online training modules similar to the Rogers model. The option wasn’t even provided for me to do them at the work place. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but thinking back I now realize the importance of providing another option to new employees so that messaging gets across clearly and so that the organization doesn’t make anyone feel left out. More than that, employee training isn’t an optional message. If the message isn’t getting to those who absolutely need it to do their job then as a PR professional you have not done yours.

Any suggestions as to how to bridge the technological divide between new employees? Perhaps a shared employee computer at the work place providing access to the site?

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June 5, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Champions & Cheerleaders

Gooo Harold!

Gooo Harold!

First of all, I want to send a shout out and a thank you to Rogers Communications Director Harold Simons, who woke up at 5 a.m. Vancouver time to Skype with our Social Media class at MSVU. If anyone would like to continue to mooch off of Harold’s expertise, fear not: I’ve already done some preliminary internet creeping for you. Check out Harold’s Twitter and Harold’s Facebook. Sometimes social media just makes me feel like a big stalker.

So I was thinking about Matt’s question/suggestion for Harold via Skype today. Matt asked if Rogers had assigned employees to champion Rogers’ ning employee site. From what I understood, these employees would act as gatekeepers, encouraging less vocal members to speak up and cheerleading for increased involvement in the website.

What would be the best way to implement this cheerleading role? Would other employees be aware that the cheerleaders were encouraging them because it’s their job? Or would they be secret cheerleaders, sort of like social networking moles who posed as regular (but eager!) Rogers employees? I think both options would present some problems:

Give me a B! . . .

Give me a B! . . .

Identified Cheerleaders: Employees would know that their input was being encouraged by someone whos job it is to encourage input–rather than someone who is genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Undercover Cheerleaders: Employees would get duped. Concealing one’s identity and motives is not a transparent or honest practice.

Another concern that arrises from planting cheerleaders is the fact that they have been planted, or perhaps scripted in the first place.

Harold mentioned that Rogers’ Toronto office recently implemented a Social Media Specialist position. (Hey Steph, its exactly what we were chatting about yesterday!)

My worry here is that when people engage in social media with corporate motives, or as a job function, it takes some of the power away from “the people”, meaning, Regular Joes who blog from their basement apartment about their political philosophies which, before social media, would not otherwise have been heard. Regular Joes finally have a cost-free platform to share, debate, complain, promote and question aspects of everyday life, without the influence of power structures silencing or overpowering their voices.

Furthermore, Regular Joe social media users expect their communications to be real. This means unscripted, unbiased and free from hidden (corporate) motives.

As a communications practitioner, I’m well aware that regardless of whether you’re a 100K Social Media Specialist, or a Regular Joe, your online input is rarely un-biased or free from hidden agendas. My point here is that the Social Media Specialists are less likely to be percieved as such by the Regular Joes.

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment