Friday, December 5, 2008

My Brain on Google: Part One

According to Matthew Arnold, "Journalism is literature in a hurry." As someone studying public relations with an undergraduate degree in English literature, I certainly relate to this statement. I remember taking my first class in the introductory Journalism sequence and being shocked to discover that the style of writing that would have earned an A+ in my upper-division English classes could barely pass for a B. I didn't know AP Style, my sentences were always too long and my word choices too grandiose. I still face the challenge of achieving brevity in my writing today.

Although there is certainly an important value to communicating in concise, easy to understand language when writing for newspapers, magazines, and Web sites, it does concern me that readers are increasingly demanding that content be kept brief and to the point. People are spending more time online reading information, but the style of reading has shifted from delving into long, complex passages to scanning short passages and images.

Tufts University developmental psychologist Maryanne Wolf suggests "that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts 'eficiency' and 'immediacy' above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace." The invention of the printing press allowed us to massively distribute works of literature and the invention of the Internet has allowed us to distribute works on a much more global scale and at a lower cost. The question is -- what kind of content are we distributing and what is the thought process through which we take in this new kind of information?

A quick survey of blogs, Web sites and various Web platforms shows that content is usually brief in nature. Perhaps what is most significant is the way that online readers engage with the Web -- even when stumbling upon long prose, readers tend to scan passages, quickly jumping from link to link to access information. Unlike the experience of sitting down to read a singular novel, online readers generally do not intend to read from only one site or to engage with only one topic on the Web. Online content is designed in a manner that propels readers from one site to another, making the term Web very fitting when one thinks about how content is connected.

Easy access to the most up-to-date information has an enormous value and should not be discredited; however, there is also something to be said for the process of digging for information and taking the time to discover it line by line. The ability to concentrate on long passages of prose also seems to improve the ability to hold more in-depth discussions. Perhaps it is simply a matter of style, but I have noticed that the discourse in English literature classes tends to be more philisophical and sustained for longer periods on one topic whereas discussions in a Journalism course are more likely to be objective and rapidly-changing from one subject to another.

A tendency to explore a range of topics and take in small, disjointed pieces of information is not something to be concerned about; the inability to extend a thought-process beyond that, however, is of concern. Due to the fact that communication mediums can influence us as much as we influence them, we should consider what impact the Web has on our minds.

In my next post, I'll explore how the Web is influencing my brain and discuss the Atlantic Monthly article 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?' by Nicholas Carr. Until then, I'd love to hear -- do you think the Web has altered the way you think?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Do You Speak Twitter?

"May I offer you a Twittonary?"

"What's a 'Twittonary'?"

"A dictionary for Twitter, of course."

Since Twitter took off in 2006, thousands of users have started micro-blogging. The popularity of Twitter has encouraged its users to create unique terms for Twitter language (twitterspeak) to describe people on Twitter (tweeps, tweeple), the Twitter community (twittersphere), and updates (tweets). For a full list of Twitter Terms, check out 'Twitterspeak: 66 Twitter Terms You Don't Need to Know' or ''.

Learning the language of Twitter is helpful, especially if you are just getting started and feeling a little confused. However, what's more important is to understand the writing style of Twitter, which could be called Twitter Style.

If an AP Style guidebook existed for Twitter, I think it would include the following guidelines to help users make the most of their micro-interactions:

  1. Posts must be written in 140 characters or less. Brevity is crucial.
  2. Capitalize when appropriate. Writing in lowercase does not save characters and it makes for confusing messages.
  3. When possible, use proper punctuation. This will ensure that your message is clear.
  4. Writing in fragments is acceptable.
  5. Avoid using "text-message" language, such as OMG (Oh my God), 4U (for you), and CUL8R (see you later).
  6. Appropriate abbreviations and contractions are preferred.
  7. Symbols (&, =, @) are allowed in order to save characters.
  8. If possible, avoid misspelling words for the sake of brevity (such as nite, thru, foto). This is a personal preference, but if you have to shorten your words too much, Twitter may not be the right forum for a particular thought.
  9. Use an asterick symbol to designate italics. Such as, 'Jenny, you *must* see this movie.'
  10. If you really want to emphasize something, write is all caps, but use caps sparingly.

In addition to understanding the terminology and style of Twitter, there are also great resources for learning more about using Twitter effectively to communicate. One of my favorites is a post by Jeff Sexton called '7 Principles of Web 2.0 Copy - Twitter Style!' I recommend paying special attention to his thoughts on authenticity, sharing and speed.

To view my posts on Twitter, visit me at I don't always follow my own rules, but at least I know when I'm breaking them.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Special Event Conference

Last year, I had the great fortune of attending The Special Event 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. This conference for event planners is one of the most well-organized and informative national conferences I've ever been to. At the conference, I learned new skills for planning events for nonprofits, green events, contingency planning, and time-management skills. My two favorite sessions were 'Hot Event and Entertainment Ideas' with legendary planner Michael Cerbelli and 'How to Gain the Competitive Advantage through Business Etiquette' with Anna Post.

This year, the conference is being held at the San Diego Convention Center on January 28 - 30. Education sessions are divided into tracks such as 'Wedding Trends', 'Design', 'Sales & Marketing' and 'Professional Development'. In addition to learning valuable information from leading experts in event planning, The Special Event also features a world-class tradeshow floor, an upscale wedding luncheon and a gala and awards celebration with opportunities for networking.

Click here to download an event brochure for The Special Event 2009. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Travel Blogs

I love travel – the trip, the planning process, travel magazines, shopping for luggage and toiletries – and everything that goes along with it. Most of all, I love the experience of trading in my usual routine for something that promises adventure and excitement. If I could, I would travel back in fictional time and inhabit the world of Indiana Jones.

My love for travel causes me to devour every bit of travel information I can get my hands on. Lately, I have been paying more attention to travel blogs and following a few travelers on Twitter. There are hundreds of travel blogs out there with first-hand accounts of travel to every country and state. This is fantastic for keeping travelers well-informed and providing authentic, transparent information about what's out there.

Listed below are some of my favorites:

Almost Fearless
Europe String
Travel Q & A
The Perrin Post
The Daily Traveler
World Travelista

I'm also excited to discover so many tools on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites that allow you to share your travel photos and experiences with your friends and families. It is so exciting to get a taste for the world, even if it is vicariously through those you love and trust.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Web and Widgets

People may dislike using the term 'widget' to describe tiny Web applications for blogs and social networks, but they certainly love widget applications. According to Garrick Schmitt in The Razorfish Consumer Experience Report, "widgets are remaking the Internet" with hundreds of millions of consumer downloads occurring.

David Lenehan defines widgets on his blog ReadWriteWeb as follows:

"A Web widget can be best described as a mini application that can add functionality to your Web page, blog, social profile, etc. If you find a widget that you like, you simply copy and paste some code and add it to the HTML of your Web page. Photo galleries, news, videos, advertising, mp3 players and pregnancy countdown tickers! You name it, there is probably a widget that does it."

Internet users are interacting with widgets every day -- playing YouTube videos within another site, adding a Project Playlist song to their MySpace page, and posting video feeds on their friends' walls -- and in the process, they are freely distributing decentralized content all over the Web.

With millions of widgets used to share and consume information, advertisers and marketers should not underestimate this viral future of Web content. More than ever, consumers have the opportunity to customize the information and entertainment they take in and to share that information freely through a variety of Web services. The end result is an Internet landscape made up of highly distributed, customized and networked content. If advertisers fail to grasp the entire ripple effect of content distribution, continuing to focus on singular Web sites as a one-stop shopping place for information, they are likely to miss out on the Web as a whole.

Are you considering widgets when you discuss social media strategies with the companies you work with?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three Things I Wish I Had Learned Sooner

I'm always looking for ways to improve in life and in the workplace. I often find that self-reflection leads to new, positive directions. Recent events have made me realize that there are 3 things I wish I had learned sooner which I hope to pass along to anyone who is entering the work force:

1. Be the Master of Your Timetable
As much as possible, don't allow others to control your schedule. Choose when you will read and respond to e-mail rather than feel tied to your computer. Divert your phone calls when you need to concentrate. Also, even if you are an entry-level employee, don't be afraid to ask people to make an appointment with you or respect the boundaries of your cubicle.

2. Build a Strong Network
To most career builders, networking seems fairly obvious, but are you remembering to create strong relationships within your own organization? Remember, you don't have to, nor should you, do everything on your own. Find ways to collaborate with your peers to leverage assets and achieve your goals. If your own supervisor isn't supportive, seek out a mentor within your organization who can provide you with guidance and challenge you to grow.

3. Face Difficult Situations Head-On
When you face a challenge or conflict, it's tempting to avoid it. You need to resist this urge and learn how to find solutions to your problems. If it's the small task that you dread, do it first thing in the day and get it over with. For more complicated issues, especially those that involve conflicts with your co-workers, don't let problems build up. If you focus on making progress and finding resolutions rather than winning an argument, you may be able to find solutions that don't involve uncomfortable confrontations.

What lessons have you learned over the years that would have made you a better entry-level practitioner? I would love to hear your thoughts! For more ideas on being successful in the workplace, I suggest posting the article '25 Tips to Becoming More Productive and Happy at Work' by your monitor.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

PR Events - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As someone who is new to the field of public relations but experienced in events, I find it suprising that so many public relations students are intent on going into the field of PR events after graduation. For the past six years, I have coordinated large special events ranging from auctions that raised more than $100,000 to outdoor festivals for families with as many as 6,000 people in attendance. Although a large amount of my work has been operational, every event I have planned has been a PR vehicle and has involved a great deal of communication and media relation skills.

At the suggestion of Elana Silverman of PR Thoughts, I've decided to share the good, the bad and the ugly experiences I have had as a sample for anyone who may be considering event planning in the future.

The good:

  • Feeling an absolute sense of accomplishment when I receive positive feedback from event-goers and my supervisors at the end of a long, chaotic day. Bonus - when someone tells me that my event was the highlight of their summer.
  • Unique tasks keep every day interesting, such as carving 400 pumpkins, watching 65,000 rubber ducks float down the river, hiring a fire-juggler, stuffing 20,000 Easter eggs, and coordinating staff members I've never met before.
  • Never having to experience 9-5 cubicle fever.
  • Interactions with the media. The best experience yet was for the "Haunted Hayride" - I gave an interview while driving a reporter around on a golf cart through a dark orchard.
  • Helping to excecute events that raised thousands of dollars for local foster kids.

The bad:

  • Irregular hours. (Notice I've listed this as a good thing, too.) I often start my day at 5 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. There are no breaks except for the few moments I take to shove a protein bar in my mouth and down some water. I might make it to the restroom if I don't get called on my radio first.
  • Events are very stressful. For some reason, I always manage to stay calm but often people around me don't. Tempers flare and timelines become tight. I've learned to be prepared for anything and everything.
  • The day-of portion of the event can seem anticlimactic compared to the lead time. After spending six months preparing for every detail, a four-hour event sometimes feels like a weak payoff.

The ugly:

  • Crises. I've experienced my share and they are never easy. Children become separated from their parents, linens catch fire, bounce houses deflate while kids are still bouncing -- and most likely, things will go wrong when the most important person at the event is there to witness it.
  • I've actually been asked to remove goose "droppings" by hand from a park. Not kidding.
  • Mistakes can be very public. When you submit a late report, it's usually just your immediate supervisor that finds out. When you forget to confirm a vendor, thousands of attendees with an event map in-hand are disappointed.

Fortunately, despite all of the challenges I've encountered in my years of event planning, the one issue I have never had to face is an event that did not create positive public relations. Knowing that I've created memorable experiences for people makes me feel very good about the work that I do. Overall, I think that events are exciting, challenging and a great way for someone to strengthen their leadership capabilities and time-management skills. Perhaps I shouldn't be suprised that so many public relations students want to get their feet wet with events.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is Social Media Safe for Government Organizations?

Recently, I've been interviewing government public affairs practioners to discuss the use of social media. There are unique concerns that government agencies face regarding privacy policies, communication laws and relationships with their constituents. One of the main reasons public agencies hesitate to participate in social media is fear of the unknown - there is a lack of research addressing how communication laws apply to social media platforms.

For my presentation in Advanced PR Writing, I've been trying to uncover some of the main risks that government agencies should overcome in order to safely participate in social media. So far, I've found that there are three main communication laws that organizations should be aware of in order to safeguard themselves:

1. Copyright Infringement - Agencies should follow the same copyright laws that they would for other publications and pay special attention to crediting sources and observing copyright laws for posting photos and information from other blogs and Web sites.

2. Privacy Policy - In order to ensure that the private information of an organization's constituents is not illegally disclosed, agencies should monitor the conversation and moderate comments, posts and information when necessary.

3. Defamation of Character - Due to the nature of blogs and social media platforms that allow the posting of photos and comments, government organizations must rely upon moderation and monitoring to avoid incidents of libel and slander.

Check out my slideshare presentation below to see a visual interpretation of this information:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Social Media Research

Due to the fact that social networking is such a new phenomenon, it can be very difficult to measure its value. At Razorfish, they are finding ways to quantify the impact that individual users have on social networks. Check out this great slide presentation that explains just how influential social networking really is and how social graphing can help us to understand it.
Welcome to the Social World
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: socialproducts internet)

The "Real Me" Online

In my professional and personal life, I am used to managing many different identities. Rather than completely separate the two, I strive for different facets of my life to intersect. The way I approach my online interactions is no different.

Professors and employers alike will advise that you should very carefully manage your online identity. What you post on Facebook or Twitter has the potential of being viewed not only by your peers, but also by a potential employer. Kelli Matthews of PRos in Training sums it up with, "If you don't want people to know about some facet of your life either a) don't do it or b) don't put it online."

I think this is great advice but it leads me to wonder about the aspects of your life that you want to share with certain people and in a certain context. For instance, many people will tell you that you should not have photos of yourself with a beer in hand on your Facebook page. In my "real" or "offline" life, I certainly don't broadcast my partying habits to the world, but friends, co-workers and even my supervisors are certainly aware that I'm social and go out from time to time.

In the same context, I think that it is acceptable to show photos on Facebook that paint the picture of myself as an outgoing person who enjoys social activities with my friends. Katie Horley of
The World of PR According to Miss Horley wonders if she should delete her Facebook account altogether for the purpose of maintaining a professional identity and settles for cleaning up photos and utilizing privacy settings. These are great steps. For me, I think I will continue to keep the same approach that has been working in real life - by communicating myself through a mix of activities that show I can be professional and have a lot of fun at the same time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Social media elevator statement

Calling all entry-level love social media, right? You have had a Facebook page for years, you watch YouTube on your iPhone and even if you're just starting to get into Twitter, you understand the game. Some of you might even claim that you're a social media expert (which I would advise against).

Now the question is: can you advocate for social media use within your organization?

This is the challenge I found myself up against recently. In attempting to initiate use of social media within various organizations I work with, I've discovered that there is a big difference between using and understanding social media and knowing how to communicate it to others. When recently asked the question, "why should our organization have a Facebook page?" I found myself momentarily speechless.

Fortunately I recovered and managed to share several reasons why I think Facebook is an effective platform for communicating with young people. However, it made me realize that I need to be more prepared next time. My endorsement of social media needs an "elevator statement" - a message that I can quickly use to summarize its uses and benefits. I'll be giving this idea more thought because I want to ensure that my elevator speech opens doors rather than closes them (pun intended). In the meantime, I would love to know - how would you pitch social media to an organization in less than 30 seconds?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blogging for Advanced PR Writing

I've recently added a new title to my profile -- student -- and I will be blogging for my Advanced Public Relations Writing class at the University of Oregon. The course covers a wide range of social media and I'm looking forward to learning and sharing ideas with my classmates and professor, Tiffany Gallicano, PH.D. My posts will still be driven by my personal interests, but I'll likely have a new source of inspiration and hopefully a more frequest posting schedule.

If you're interested in checking out the blogs of my classmates, visit
The PR Post.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Up for Air

It's been about a month since my last post. I'm new to the blogosphere but I still know enough to realize that I should have included a post indicating that I would be on a blogger break.

I hope I didn't lose you.

I have to admit, I have barely managed to tread water this summer. From planning large special events and outdoor concerts to supervising operations of a community theater, I have experienced my share of challenges in the last few months. I have also been fortunate to learn many lessons about time management, media relations and internal communications which I hope to write about on this blog in the coming weeks.

For me, writing has always been like breathing and I am happy to report -- I'm ready to come up for air.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Banner Ads on Social Media Guest List

If you've ever faced opposition trying to convince a traditional media advocate to participate in social media, you know that even when you finally receive a tentative "green-light," you are often given the directive to control the conversation to the point of strangling it. Marketers, especially, seem to have trouble moving beyond the top-down, one-way communication strategies that are no longer effective in a world where people trust their peers more than advertisers and so-called experts.

As marketing begins to make the shift to social media, we have the opportunity to witness the baby steps that companies will employ to address a fundamental change in the way we understand advertising as a whole. For example, consider "AdFrames" from

"AdFramesSM is a performance-based ad offering designed specifically for brand advertisers."

AdFrames are media-rich advertisements (fully expandable videos) that are priced based on a cost-per-engagement model. The idea of charging a company only for advertisements that users engage in is designed to encourage more effective advertisements and greater accountability on the part of the advertising firm. However, the problem is that VideoEgg defines "engagement" in this context as users scrolling over a video advertisement long enough for it to expand. What is not accounted for is whether or not the user responded in some way to the ad. Was the advertisement enjoyable? Did it entertain, inform, persuade? Tracking the length of time that ads are viewed will not answer these questions.

The challenge in merging banner ads with social media is to allow users to truly "engage" with the advertisement in the same way that someone might interact with a blog -- by leaving comments, sharing it with their friends, and even, being able to change the outcome of the ad itself. VideoEgg uses real-time RSS feeds to update an ad experience, for instance, by updating an ad to reflect the top-scoring team at a basketball game. But, what if fans could control the ad through real-time comments, interactions, or votes that influenced the next display? Would you remember an advertisement that you changed?

Change is definitely on the way. Today,
Pluck and Avenue ARazorfish announced that "the two companies have signed an agreement to develop and market the industry's first offering to inject social media features like customer comments and user-generated content into mainstream digital advertisements." Instead of giving advertisers more control over the message they deliver, users will finally be given the chance to make ads meaningful to their experience.

It sure beats shooting a duck to win a prize.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How-To Internet by Wired

Dying to crash a party via Twitter? Do you want to promote your band using Myspace? Ever heard of a "Google bomb"? The latest issue of Wired has answers to these questions and much, much more. The third-annual collection of how-to wikis is chock full of both humorous and practical Internet applications that will teach you everything from filtering private information on Facebook to becoming the top Geek in your niche.

Once you've figured out how to rule the online domain, I recommend checking out this timeline from Gary Vaynerchuk, host of Wine Library TV, whose 80,000 vlog fans forces him to keep up this grueling schedule:
  • 12 hours, 12 minutes responding to email
  • 4 hours, 24 minutes sleeping
  • 3 hours, 1 minute taking meetings
  • 2 hours, 29 minutes commuting
  • 1 hour, 14 minutes connecting to fans via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Pownce, YouTube, Viddler, and forums
  • 25 minutes reading blogs
  • 24 minutes eating
  • 22 minutes producing vlog
Just a reminder - remember to come up for air (and sunlight).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Speaking the Employee Language

If any company job page could make me want to work for them based on their message alone, it would be this one from Avenue A/Razorfish:

"You dream in digital. You're fluent in the technologies that define our world and passionate about the way they're shaping our future. You're a communicator. A creator. You understand how the Web connects us, and you want to shape the conversation. You're a restless innovator. You're not only waiting for the next big idea to happen, you're making it happen. You're a unique talent, a visionary, an experimenter, and you're looking for an environment that lets you shine. In other words, you're just our type."

Finally, a company that is really speaking the prospective employee's language. This description is like stumbling upon a horoscope -- even though you know it is the product of careful crafting and advertising-style copy, it makes you feel like you're being spoken to directly. It says, "they're talking to me! I'm a restless innovator. I'm looking for a place that will let me shine!" And isn't that the truth?

I know I am.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What The F**K is Social Media?

This is a great slide presentation! I don't think that I will share it "as-is" within my agency, but I plan on discussing some of the main points to help overcome some of my co-worker's reluctance to engage in social media. I especially like the idea that "the old communication model was a monologue" and "the new communication model is a dialogue." PR professionals should keep this in mind before they decide to pitch.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Social Media - will it be made up of atoms or stories?

While reading the Young PR blog, I came across a post showing a photo of a New York Library street tile. On it, there is a quote by Muriel Rukeyser, who said, "The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

As my engagement with the online world has been increasing at a rapid pace, I have started to contemplate the impact that social media will have in my life and the way we take in information and communicate it to others. I find myself wondering, will our interaction with social media help us to create stories or will we merely consume tiny atoms of ideas?

Consider this daily routine: Open a browser. Click to Twitter. Myspace. Facebook. Track an RSS feed. Read a blog or two -- or 20.
..Get lost in the network. Sound familiar? Even talking about all of the social networking platforms sounds disjointed. As entertaining and informative as blogs and social networks can be, they can also turn into Internet channel surfing, leading to nothing more than distractions.

And then there are those blogs that inspire you and prompt you to contribute to the discourse. There are the exciting moments when you think (in the back of your mind) how amazing it is to be connected to people all across the world who want to discuss the same little threads of conversation that you do. There is a sense that the Internet has an endless potential to connect us and take communication to the next level.

Connection should be at the center of all communication. It is the motivating factor behind telling stories, sharing photos, listening to your friends' latest band-discovery, and understanding what's going on all over the world. Telling stories about who we are, what we desire, where we go, when we have new information, and why and how we are here is the reason we create social networks in the first place. Applied to social media, a mission of creating connection will make the atoms fade into the distance and the stories come to life.