Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Global Warming Awareness Campaign features Suicidal Wildlife

I just saw this video and had to share it. It's a powerful new global warming awareness campaign for a Portuguese environmental organization named Quercus. The PSA was created by McCann Erickson Portugal.

The tag line at the end of the video reads "Global Warming - If you give up, they give up."

The history of public relations practice - A student project

My intro to PR class just finished its PR history project and since I've been trying out a brand-new assignment this semester, I thought I'd share the end product here. The assignment required each student to research a particular time period and to upload the findings into a digital timeline created on Dipity. Students had to write a short narrative to summarize each event and locate multimedia files (pictures, links, videos) that would illustrate those events. Each student was responsible for identifying at least 5 events within a given time period. 
The result is a pretty neat (okay, so I'm biased...) little timeline of the history of the PR profession which we will hopefully build on in future classes. We found out the hard way that Dipity doesn't allow for B.C. dates, so you'll need to excuse the ancient Greeks and Cicero showing up on the wrong date. Take a look, and if you like it, let them know - they've done a lot of work on this.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gov. Perry launches YouTube Channel to spread Hurricane Relief Message

Looks like the governor's office created a YouTube channel today to appeal to people to donate to the Texas disaster relief fund - a fund intended to help communities affected by disasters such as Hurricane Ike. Gov. Perry's YouTube channel currently contains a single video - an emotional PSA developed by Idea City. The 30-second spot is also expected to air on cable and broadcast stations across Texas.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Social Bookmarking Assignment

Now that we have discussed what social bookmarks are and how they could be used as a PR tool, it's time to start bookmarking. For next class (09/23), please set up an account in Blackboard Scholar and add a bookmark (related to PR and/or social media) to the Scholar Course Home. See the slideshow below for instructions on how to set up Scholar:
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: scholar socialbookmarking)
Social bookmarks do not only carry important PR applications, but they also constitute a powerful pedagogical tool. For that reason, we will be using them as a way to get everyone to actively contribute course resources and to share them with the class.

Social Bookmarking Assignment:
You will be expected to contribute 10 high quality resources on the topic of social media and PR to Blackboard Scholar by November 18th. These can be links to blog posts, videos, podcasts, slideshows, etc. The important thing is that they provide quality information for your peers as well as others interested in the study of social media and its PR applications. We will occasionally review these bookmarks in class. During those reviews, you will be expected to tell your classmates about the resource and why you decided to include it in our course resources repository.

We will spend some time in class learning how to add resources to Blackboard Scholar. If you are absent that day, or if you need further instruction, you will need to make arrangements with me to learn how to post your content to it. If you encounter technical difficulties adding your resources, you need to let me know before the due date. There will be no extensions given for content added late. Also be sure not to duplicate resources that have already been added by your classmates or me.

For each resource you add to Blackboard Scholar, you need to fill out the following fields:
  • Bookmark Name: Give your bookmark a name if it doesn’t already have one
  • URL: The URL should be added automatically. If it isn’t be sure to add it
  • Description: Summarize the resource and explain why it is a good source to include
  • Tags: Include a number of tags that describe the resource you’ve added (the same way you would tag your blog posts)
  • Discipline Tag(s): Select “Communication studies” as the discipline tag
  • Course Tag(s): Select the Course Tag for our class 
  • Status: Select “public”
Grading criteria:
  1. Included 10 resources by the deadline (to make sure you don’t add all 10 at once, you can only add 2 links on any given day)
  2. Resources contain all necessary fields
  3. Tags appropriately describe resources
  4. Summary is comprehensive and clear
  5. Rationale for inclusion of the resource is sound
Extra-credit opportunity: (this is optional)
Pick any topic you are personally interested in. This can be anything: a hobby, an issue you are researching for a paper, a concept you’d like to explore, etc. Using Scholar or a different social bookmarking service (i.e. del.icio.us, Diigo, etc.), locate someone who shares that interest.

To do that:
  1. Bookmark a resource on your topic of interest. Pick a good one here. The more specific the resource, the easier the rest of the assignment will be
  2. In your list of social bookmarks, look to see who else has bookmarked that resource and what else they tend to tag. Examining their tag cloud will give you a good idea of what their interests are.
  3. Keep looking until you identify someone who really fits your interests (i.e. who tags resources you would tag). This person should have bookmarked lots of pages on the topic of interest to you, and not just one or two. You may have to repeat steps 1-3 a few times to find that “perfect match” ☺
  4. Write a one page profile of that person. What are their other tags? What interest categories does the tag cloud reveal? What do these tags suggest that person does for a living? Can you tell what field or profession they might be in? 

Friday, September 19, 2008

Timeline of Memes

Since we just talked about memes, take a look at this Internet meme timeline:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Listening - the new consumer research method?

In class yesterday we discussed Paul Gillin's idea that enthusiasts can be seen as a "global online focus group that works for free" and that businesses stand to learn a lot by simply listening to their online conversations (from Gillin's book The New Influencers). It seems like Procter & Gamble and Unilever have taken Gillin's advice to heart. In an Advertising Age article published Monday, Kim Dedeker, VP of external capability leadership, global consumer and market knowledge at P&G, is calling for the end of consumer research as we know it. The article, appropriately titled The End of Consumer Surveys? questions the viability of "boring and antiquated" survey research and argues that it is time for companies to get serious about mining consumer feedback online. Definitely a lot of food for thought here. Also check out the Advertising Research Foundation page which has partnered with P&G and Unilever in their quest to devise new ways to harvest online chatter.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Houston media relies on social media technologies in the wake of Ike

As a former Houstonian I have been following the news coverage of hurricane Ike with great interest. Looking back on my media consumption over the last couple of days, I've come to realize that I switched from TV to online media pretty much as soon as Ike came onshore. Yes, I watched the hurricane make landfall on CNN but since then I've been relying mostly on the online version of the Houston Chronicle and on KHOU for my information needs. What I've noticed is something a number of other crisis situations before this one have brought to our attention - namely the power of social media as a crisis communication tool. 
I've used Twitter search to see how my old neighbourhood fared, scanned Facebook for updates from friends in the Houston area, and caught a glimpse of the devastation from citizen journalists reporting their stories, uploading videos and sharing pictures. 

There is a lot of talk these days about the impending death of newspapers, but I think the type of reporting the Houston Chronicle pulled off this week in the wake of hurricane Ike shows that there is a lot of potential for media outlets who learn to harness the power of social media. Today, the Chronicle released a note to its readers, which lays out their approach to online journalism: 
If you’re visiting us because of Hurricane Ike, we hope you’ll stay awhile. We’re proud of our rich Web site with all kinds of nooks and crannies. You’ll find a formidable list of bloggers, including experts in science and technology, interesting databases, interactive features, photo galleries, lots of fun video and the best darn reporting of events in this part of Texas.
The Web has created a space where reporting is a partnership (emphasis added) between a news organization and its readers. Thank you for contributing to our coverage - whether it’s commenting on a story, uploading an image or sending us a tip. Your participation is much appreciated.
Thus far the Chronicle's hurricane reporting has made ample use of social media technologies. Below are just a few that I am aware of:
  • Houston electricity map - allows Houstonians to report which neighbourhoods have power and which don't. Mapped on a Yahoo map.
  • Damage report database - allows users to locate spots where flooding and damage has been reported. 
  • Houston gas station database - allows users to "find which gas stations are open and supplying fuel, based on accounts from eyewitnesses, Houston Chronicle staff, official accounts and reports in other news media." (I remember that 3 years ago, during the hurricane Rita evacuation, people called into radio stations to share this info)
  • Open businesses database - lists businesses that have reopened and allows users to submit additional openings.
  • Ike Answers blog - allows users to post a hurricane related question in the comments section and wait for Houston Chronicle staff or other users to answer it.
  • Free access to the electronic edition of the Chronicle - because of problems distributing the paper copy of the newspaper, the Chronicle has made its e-version available for free (user name & password=ike)
I think all of these examples show that the Houston Chronicle definitely "gets it" when it comes to social media. Their reporting and use of social media in this time of crisis has given us a glimpse of what the future of online journalism could look like.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spotting Spin now easier than ever

Just saw this on ReadWriteWeb: a Firefox plugin that allows users to spot media bias and mark it as spin.

SpinSpotter is also expected to add a feature that will let readers know if a story uses language that resembles that of a press release.

Indeed, Google has a long memory

We ended today's class on blogging and personal brand management discussing the idea that Google has a really good memory. When I came back to my office and opened my RSS reader, I thought what better example to illustrate this point than the United Airlines Bankruptcy story. Granted, this story doesn't pertain to a personal brand, but it definitely shows that information on the Internet lives on long after it isn't news any longer. Here's a timeline of what happened (as I understand it):
2002: The Chicago Tribune publishes an article announcing that United Airlines will be filing for bankruptcy.

Sept. 06, 2008: 
  1. The 2002 story reappears on the Florida's Sun-Sentinel's website. According to Gawker, the page also contained a map of hurricane Ike giving the impression that this was a new story
  2. According to Google's blog: Google crawler discovered a new link on the Florida Sun-Sentinel website in a section of the most viewed stories labeled "Popular Stories: Business" and followed it to an article on United Airlines filing for bankruptcy. It concluded that the article date was Sept. 7th, 2008, indexed the page and made it available through Google News search
Sept. 8, 2008:
  1. A reporter googling bankruptcies on Google's News search picks up the story from the Florida Sun Sentinel and supplies it to the Bloomberg news service
  2. Bloomberg sends out the story
  3. Within minutes United Airlines' shares sink 75% 
  4. Oops!
This should go to show that even 6-year-old information can still come to hurt you...

Ps: Steve Rubel just published an interesting post discussing the role of news aggregators in this debacle.

Monday, September 8, 2008

As social media adoption increases, do ethics get left at the doorstep?

I've been fascinated with social media for a while now and for a number of reasons. What has fascinated me the most about these technologies with regards to public relations practice is the promise they hold to topple old one-way models of communication and to increase transparency. I figured these changes would be good for the PR profession - I figured they would help the profession regain some of its credibility. That's one of the reasons I wanted to teach a class on this topic and support the push for the corporate adoption of social media. However, my optimism about the power of social media to change our field took a little hit last week when I was reminded not once, but twice, that there are an increasing number of people out there who "don't play by the rules".

Earlier last week one of my former students contacted me to tell me about her (and I quote) "horrible internship experience". I won't identify who she worked for here, but in essence she was asked to violate basic rules of social media transparency in order to publicize companies and events. Fortunately, she decided to stand by her ethics and quit her internship!

Just a few days later, my husband received a package of nutritional supplements he had ordered online along with an interesting offer: "Want a $10 rebate in this order? Write about your Vitabase experience on your website, blog or somewhere else on the Internet." In order to receive the rebate, a customer has to complete the following steps:
  1. Write a short testimonial about Vitabase or our products and put it on your personal website or blog or any public place on the web. Include a link to any page on www.vitabase.com. 
  2. Send an email to story@vitabase.com telling us the page that you posted your information
Vitabase does offer some blogging tips, such as "avoid sounding like a commercial or like you are biased toward Vitabase", but nowhere does the company even suggest mentioning that the blogger is receiving financial compensation for his/her "unbiased" Vitabase review. Adding insult to injury is the requirement that bloggers link back to the company website - in essence paying people to add inbound links to their site and thereby increase the site's Google ranking. 

I know we are only talking about $10 here, but to me such initiatives seem to be violating basic ethics guidelines, such as the Social Media Guidelines set forth by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR):
Members' use of social media must be transparent, and they must make extra effort to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. They should, if writing or contributing to a blog which recommends a service supplier, make clear any financial interest they or their client might have in doing so.
or the PRSA Member Code of Ethics which calls for the disclosure of information and conflicts of interest in its code provisions and reminds its members that "avoiding real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest builds the trust of clients, employers, and the publics." 

Also worth mentioning in this regard is the PRSA Professional standards advisory PS-6 (April 2005) on disclosure by expert commentators and professional spokespersons of payment or financial interests. Although that advisory was mostly geared towards media commentators, it nonetheless provides important guidelines for disclosing financial interest when promoting a product or cause that could be easily applied to bloggers - especially when considering that social media empowers us all to become a sort of media commentator.

What really bothered me about both these examples is that I believe that there are many more of these out there. Is it possible that paying customers to write positive reviews is becoming the norm? Are companies leaving their ethics at the doorstep as they are embarking on their social media endeavors?

We just covered the findings from Edelman's Trust Barometer survey in my campaigns class the other day. I wonder how long peers will remain the number one trusted source of information with ethically questionable promotions such as these on the rise...