Sunday, October 19, 2008

Social Marketing (Blog 5)

"My mom thinks I am cool" has officially been replaced by "I know I'm cool I have over 500 friends on Facebook". Virtual popularity is but one of many facets that social networking websites have to offer. But how do these applications apply to organizations and the PR practitioner? The answer is simple; like most new social media tools it can be beneficial, harmful, or in some situations - both.

Social networking websites, such as Facebook or Myspace, have become an Internet phenomenon over the last four years. Their uses have expanded and organizations are starting to realize that it is possible to use them in order to contact , maintain, and target potential or existing customers. In fact, professionals have even begun to understand the virutal social networking possibilities and new websites such as Linkedin have been created for more specific purposes such as "professional networking".

These websites allow PR practitioners to establish and maintain better relationships with their organization's public(s). However, there are certain precautions that must be taken. It is important that organizations don't solely rely on social networking websites as a main form of communication. Not all members of their public(s) may use social networking websites, and those that do may not check them frequently. They do, however, allow an organization access to a more "personal" side both of their own image and of their customer's likes and dislikes. Subsequently, it is possible for PR professionals to identify with the public(s) of the organizations they represent more accurately and efficiently.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

RSS (Blog 4)

This week we discussed RSS, or "really simple syndication" as a new form of social media. This tool, part of the new frontier of "web 2.0", enables organizations to deliver information directly to their public(s). Typically, this information consists of text updates from blogs, current news, and other facets of information directly sent as a "feed" to users. Conveniently, individuals are able to pick and choose from their favorite websites to recieve this feed. This new tool opens numerous doors for PR practitioners to walk through.

First, upon searching different websites I noticed that although many do, not all contained a RSS feed. It is important that PR professionals encourage their organizations to embrace this new form of social media as a way to better communicate with their public(s). Granted, this may not be a direct form of communication that allows instantaneous feedback, it does allow feedback in different ways. For example, if an individual recieves information about an updated blog, they may read it and then go immediately post in response.

Second, much like YouTube or blogs, RSS allows organizations to shape and mold the information that they choose to be released to their public(s). PR professionals no longer need to wait to be reactive, instead, it enables the ability to be more proactive with communication which can enhance the organization's image.

Finally, RSS can help organizations "cut out the middle man". Although it is important to keep the press in the know, no longer must press releases be filtered through the media. Now, PR practitioners can send information instantly to their public(s) rather than waiting for a gatekeeper to read it, decide if they want to even release it, and if they even choose to release it then make adaptations to it.

All-in-all, RSS is perhaps one of the most important new tools that a PR practitioner can learn to utilize. They can help organizations dissiminate information instantly to their public(s), in the form that they choose, focusing on their own message. Also, it is possible to recieve feedback that can better enhance two-way communication, even if it isn't instantaneous.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Blogs or 'Blah'gs? (Blog 3)

This week in class we discussed the importance of not only monitoring but also publishing blogs for our organization. I find this topic to be extremely fascinating for several reasons; mainly, because I graduated with a Bachelors in Public Relations in May of 2007. Yet in all of my PR courses not once did we discuss the importance of blogging. In fact, online PR itself was rarely covered. I don't attribute this to a lack of experience or planning on behalf of our professors, rather it is because at that time - online PR and blogs just weren't prevelant yet. So in less than two years, what I learned in my PR undergrad has changed drastically. This is a testament to the changing world of public relations - especially online social media. As our professor has been saying all semester, as soon as we learn these types of social media there will be completely new ones for us to master as well. However, this doesn't diminish the fact that blogs are extremely important to an organization's image and relationship with their pubic(s).

Blogs are a powerful tool for online PR; a tool which can either greatly enhance an organization if done correctly, or greatly hinder it if done incorrectly. Monitoring what an organization's public(s) are saying about them, their product, or even their employees is prudent in reactive PR. A practitioner must constantly monitor blogs as a means of not only evaluating current views of their organization, but also as a way of opening up indirect communication in response. This is an important facet of online PR. Not only is monitoring what these blogs say critical, but posting and giving feedback is as well. Ethically, a PR practitioner must remember to say that they represent or at least belong to the organization. This increases both the credibility of the practitioner as well as the image of the organization.

Blogs are also a tool for proactive PR. We looked at numerous blogs by PR professionals who post information about their companies, about products and services, or even about themselves that seem very effective. Posting blogs with new information is a great way for an organization to be able to control and shape messages to their public(s) about their organizations, but also makes it easier to monitor responses and provide feedback.

Blogs, however, are considered expensive, time consuming, and potentially harmful by some. It takes dedication and time for a PR practitioner to constantly post, update, and monitor blogs across the Internet. There are different tools that have been developed to help aid in this cause, but despite them it is still a full-time job. This means that an organization would need a PR professional dedicated directly for this purpose, which could become expensive. Having a single employee in your organization in charge of all the PR means that if they spend a lot of time with blogs then other areas will lack, or vice versa and the proper time won't be spent on blogs and other forms of online social media.

Then again, whoever said that building and maintaining a positive image of an organization would be cheap?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

YouTube: The New Frontier in Social Media? (Blog 2)

Last Monday in my Online Public Relations course we watched a fascinating video about how YouTube is (as my professor put it) 'changing the social landscape of communication'. At first, I was skeptical. Usually, I use YouTube for a variety of reasons; like to watch commercials that I heard are funny, to watch skits from stand-up comedy, or to see clips of presidential candidate debates that I may have missed. Never before did I really consider the impact of an online social media such as YouTube on communication until this course, or even more so specifically the video. I wish I had a link to it, and as soon as I find one I will edit it in, but it is worth the watch believe me.

For this weeks blog, my professor has asked us to elaborate on how we believe that a public relations practitioner could use YouTube to promote an organization and how it could potentially affect their image.

Before I can directly confront this question, it is important to briefly discuss YouTube's intended public(s) - or as many think of it, YouTube's audience. The video I watched said that the majority of YouTube's videos are not of professional quality, rather, that they were done on home video cameras and uploaded by people like you and I. Who then would the intended public be for such a video? Perhaps someone uploads a video with the intention to send out a link of it with their Christmas cards to family so that they can see how much older their children have become, or maybe it was a complaint about the new Facebook format, or maybe even a personal date ad. Many of the videos posted on YouTube may not even have a specific audience in mind - perhaps they were simply uploaded in hopes of fame, fortune, or their 20 seconds in the spotlight.

For a PR professional, however, having an intended public is imperative. Now, there are the examples of how sometimes not having an intended audience may actually be successful still; like the gentleman who did the experiments with mentos and diet coke. At first, Coca-Cola was against their videos, but once they evolved into an online phenomenon they quickly realized that there was a potential gold mine to be discovered and quickly hopped on board. Soon, Coca-Cola's marketing and PR team was signing and promoting the video's creators. The majority of videos posted on YouTube aren't going to gain this type of popularity.

That doesn't mean YouTube isn't a valuabe communication tool to connect with the public(s) though. For example, it could be used in a crisis situation. Perhaps one of the many banks that are failing in our economy right now want to 'reassure' their stockholders or potential investors they could develop a video and have it posted on YouTube. Another example of how a PR practitioner may use YouTube is as a form of feedback. On one hand you may be able to upload videos to send out information, it is also just as easy to watch videos to gather information. What are people posting about your organization? What types of videos are out there? Are they good or bad? Who is posting them? YouTube is an indirect way for organizations to communicate with their public(s).

By creating this indirect channel of communication, an organization can have a very proactive approach to assessing and renegotiating their image. By uploading videos and releasing information before the press does, they can help shape and control the way that their public(s) might view a particular person, event, or the organization in general. Retroactively they can evaluate other videos, or user feedback about their videos, and determine what they are doing correct or incorrect. YouTube has the ability to greatly enhance or hinder the image of an organization, and it is very important that PR professionals utilize it for the betterment of their company and increased communication with their public(s).

From the Depths of Dreams (Blog 1)

At this very moment I feel like a hypocrite. I had told myself for the last three or four years that I would never post a blog. Yes, I may have a Facebook account and a Myspace account but a blog is much more than that. It reaches deeper into your personal privacy, into the very fabric of who you are, much more than saying what your favorite bands, television shows, or movies are. However, in one of my Masters courses (Online Public Relations) we have been assignend to post at least one blog a week. The current trend in PR has evolved and social networking websites have become an effective tool to communicate with the public(s). This assignment is designed to familiarize us with these tools - and it makes perfect sense. So here I am, making my first blog post that I told myself I never would.

My professor has asked that this week we post about our dreams, our goals, and our aspirations over the next five years. Fortunately, for me, this is a easy post.

Last night I was out with my friends enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation. A couple of my buddies, who are a little older than me were discussing how they are facing a "mid-20s crisis". Basically, they didn't know where they were going with their lives and it scared them. I listened quietly (which is surprising if you know me, because usually I'm not quiet) and thought to myself about how lucky I was that I know exactly where I am going and am on the road to achieving it. Hell, I have accomplished part of that goal, and now I'm in the final home stretch. By this time next year, I plan to have completed my Masters in Communication at Missouri State University and have landed a full-time salary position at a "local" college or university. I have come to the conclusion that I rather teach somewhere that focuses on teaching, rather than research. I want to do this for four or five years, and gain some great experience, and make some money so that I can pay off my student loans. After that, I plan on going back to recieve my PhD. Just the thought of being "Dr. James Ackerman" sounds amazing. It is a ton of work, though. Most importantly, however, after four or five years I hope to be married and thinking about (at the very least) having children. I'm not in a rush, per say, but it's the most important dream I have.

On a side note, I also hope to still have a full head of hair, chiseled features, and devilishly handsome good looks.