We all know the business is changing by the hour. No, make that by the second. And I’m sure it’s true. I learned it from Twitter. Twitter’s been all the rage for maybe two weeks now — center stage in the Web 2.0 world until the next new toy comes along.
If you don’t know about Twitter, not to worry. You probably were focused on 5 or 50 other phenomena affecting audiences in the online world. And if you’re feeling a a little out of breath, join the club. No one can really keep up these days. You simply run faster today than you did yesterday, then you do the same tomorrow.
Here at Kent State, we’re studying the morphing business of public relations, and we’re looking closely at PR’s intersection with social media. We’re NOT rewriting the curriculum, mind you. But we’re constantly rethinking and adjusting it to fit market realities.
To serve our students and the profession, educators in PR can no longer assume a traditional role of “observer/researcher.” There isn’t time. We need to bring the changes to our classrooms almost as they unfold. As a result, we sometimes find ourselves learning and teaching simultaneously. There’s no “comfort zone” in our little niche of academe anymore — not if you’re doing your job.
A while back, in a comment to Les Potter’s blog, I said that our PR faculty were “working overtime” to incorporate social media into the classroom. Here’s how Web 2.0 affected us in just the past week.
In the PR Online Tactics class, every student is blogging about PR-related topics. It’s an attempt to immerse students in the medium and to help them demonstrate critical thinking to peers and to prospective employers. The “conversation” will come with time.
I’m only sitting in on this class, but students are tapping my vast, 6-month history as a blogger. Yep, when it comes to social media, we’re all relative newbies and all unsure of what Web 2.0 really means or where it’s going. Faculty and students find themselves exploring it together. So far, so good.
In the PR Case Studies class we learned how Cleveland ad/pr leader Liggett Stashower is using social media and viral video to promote products as disparate as glue, faucets and detergent. VP and Partner Chris Baldwin showed some outta-the-box approaches to break through the clutter. He told us how social media have turned the ad biz upside down in the past five years.
Smart guy that Chris. Kent grad, too.
Update: To see what they’re up to at Liggett, check this viral video for Loctite, this social-media site for Moen, and this crazy sweepstakes for 20 Mule Team Borax. Oh, yeah. If you remember Borax, you’re clearly as old as the dirt it once removed from your grandpa’s coveralls! But it’s a new day — for you and for Borax.
In our Ethics & Issues classes, YouTube clips trigger many a discussion. Only a year ago not a single student in my class had seen YouTube or even heard of Lonely Girl 15. Today, a good many of those students are hooked on the site and gems like this one from SNL that went largely unnoticed until it hit social media.
What’s next on the ethics front? When our students return from break on April 2, expect a lot of discussion about the“Hillary/1984”and the “I Feel Pretty” clips. Once we learn who’s responsible for these productions (that should take a day or two, max) discussion will shift to transparency — or the lack of it. Our law class is also having a field day with copyright issues tied to social media.
On the research front this week, I met with colleagues to discuss a project that’ll focus on the interconnectedness and the credibility of blogs. In the end, we hope to better understand how citizen journalists influence the MSM and public opinion as a whole. Where I’ll find time to keep up with that project is the $64,ooo question, and my wife is the one asking it!
So yeah, I’m having a devil of a time staying in this race. We all are.
But if we don’t, we’re dead meat. That’s the message I got from Chris Baldwin’s presentation the other day. He didn’t actually say it. But he didn’t have to.