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Archive for March, 2007

I’d love for the More with Les learning community to give me your wise counsel on teaching social media at Towson. As we’ve said before, this blog is constructivist in theory and practice.  That is, it is a participatory learning environment. We co-construct the learning from our own collective experiences with me as coach and helper. So, give me your thoughts. There is no letter grade attached to it.

But first, here is what we are doing in my classes. In my MCOM 671 Special Topics in Mass Communication graduate class, we begin each Monday night class with “Reports from the Blogosphere”. Each of the 11 grad students in this class reports on a particular blog entry that he or she has found interesting and instructive since the last class. This is a simple way to weave in cutting edge Blog Thought into the classroom. It pleases me to see and hear my beloved students quoting my revered friends like Robert Holland, Shel Holtz, Steve Crescenzo, Allan Jenkins, Bill Sledzik (see posting below), the IABC Cafe, et al., a veritable pantheon of communication/PR/IMC/tech luminaries. These students frequently start with my Blogroll and work their way into many others’ Blogrolls. Soon, they are reading and reporting on blogs from all over the communication/PR/IMC world. So cool.

The MCOM 671 students always relate their reports to a valuable lesson that is shared with the class. We find this so stimulating that we spend almost half the class on these reports. The discussions are deep, rich, lively, and varied, just as learning should be. Socrates would love it.

In my MCOM 453 class, a strategic public relations planning and management course, we weave social media into everything we do. I teach this class, always refered to as the “Campaigns” class, by Case-Based Reasoning. In this specific class it is really Case-Based Learning, for students are assigned one major case study to work with all semester. That case study contains a healthy dose of social media that has an impact on the case study company being treated. Students develop a strategic communication/PR plan based on this challenging case study, and in so doing, work with the impact of social media on a contemporary organization. Classroom discussions in the “Campaigns”class always include social media as well. We share information, and the learning magnifies for us all.

Your thoughts?

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One of the joys of More With Les is the collaboration with so many good thinkers out there. One of the best is my friend Bill Sledzik, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University. Bill’s insightful blog, ToughSledding, carries a recent post, “Bringing Market Realities to the PR Classroom”, on how his department is weaving social media into traditional studies. As Bill points out, social media changes by the second, so how can anyone keep up enough to teach this stuff? Yet, we must. Here’s how Bill states the challenge we face:

“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.”

I couldn’t agree more. I suggest you check out the rest of Bill’s posting in his blog. It’s a good overview of a workable approach to teaching and learning social media. Lead on, Bill.

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Woke up this morning,

To face another day.

Gotta get to work.

Gotta lotta bills to pay.

Powered up my Toshiba.

Got some internet to explore.

Work assignments keep buildin’.

Life demands more and more.

But after a few short minutes,

I’m right back in my blog.

The whole world wants so much,

And it picks on me to flog.

Reprise 

Got those bloggin’ blues.

I’m hooked on social media.

Got so much I wanna say,

I could write my own wikipedia.

Gotta keep on writin’.

Keep checking on those comments.

Keep checking my blogging colleagues,

Whose skills are more intense.

I gotta blog, gotta blog.

Can stand doin’ nothing else.

Don’t want to eat or sleep until I

Get this post off my chest.

Reprise 

Got those bloggin’ blues.

I’m hooked on social media.

Got so much I wanna say,

I could write my own wikipedia.

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…it is mid-term exam week here at Towson University. There is way too much happening, and it is cutting into my blogging time this week. And next week is Spring Break, so all the hard work I have done for the last seven weeks in my four classes will be erased by a week of sun-soaked, beer-stained beach activity and a general devotion to short-term hedonism.

Me? Cancun? Miami? Acapulco? Bahamas? Puberty Rock, Idaho? No way. I’ll be grading papers and doing doctoral stuff.

No rest for the weary.

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Poke Me!

I was just poking some friends in Facebook and adding some song lyrics to MySpace.

Just kidding!  My sense of propriety dictates that there is only so far this 59-year-old grandfather should push this social media thing. No fool like an old fool, they say.

But it makes me wonder. I’d love to hear what the members of the More With Les learning community think. Please share your thoughts with me on the reasons why people use Facebook and MySpace. What is their real value? In the grand scheme of communication, what purpose do they serve? How dramatic (or not) is their impact in terms of the social media revolution? Are these legitimate tools in the professional communicator/PR practitioner’s tool bag?

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PROLOGUE

Two professionals, both alike in dignity,

In urban Verona, Indiana, where lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break a new mutiny,

Where lack of crisis planning makes leadership hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of this corporate sphere,

A pair of star-crossed lovers take their corporate life;

While misadventure piteous overthrows

Do with their career death bury this age-old strife.

The fearful passage of their death-marked love,

And the continuance of their corporate parent’s rage,

Which, but their employees’ end, naught could remove,

Is now the three-act traffic of our stage;

The which if you with patient eyes attend,

What here went amiss, our toil strives to mend.

SCENE ONE:

The office of A. Fiasco, CEO of Shake & Spears, Inc., a large Midwest-based manufacturing company. Enter the head of corporate communication, Emailya.

EMAILYA: Fiasco, what’s jumping? Why so glum?

FIASCO: Look at these headlines. You’d think all companies come to ruin and doom. Shredded reputations, bankruptcies, careers broken. Scares hell out of me.

EMAILYA: Chill, Fiasco. Those corporate chieftains, they brought it on themselves. Not one of them had an effective crisis communication plan. You-know-what hits the fan, and the company’s reputation takes a huge hit. I’ve been trying to tell you for months to let me develop and implement a crisis communication plan.

FIASCO: Got bigger fish to fry. Teeing off at 3 p.m.

SCENE TWO:

Fiasco’s office the next day.

FIASCO: Bad news, Emailya. Old Cap Montegue over at Mantua, Inc., missed golf yesterday. Seems he got canned after that toxic waste incident. Damn media! Hounded him to death. Just cause the spill killed some songbirds in a nine-county area and wiped out that dang chihuahua farm, oh, and the school and the mayor and his staff. Hey, stuff happens.

EMAILYA: My colleague was his PR chief. She tried to tell him. Are you going that route?

FIASCO: I hope not. Okay, what’s involved? Is this going to take much time? What the heck kind of crises could affect us anyway?

EMAILYA: All kinds. A crisis can be any situation that threatens to damage our reputation. One that draws negative media attention. It could be weather-related, an accident at one of our plants, financial scandals, you name it. The first thing we must do is assess what might potentially constitute a crisis. Where are we vulnerable? Then, we designate a crisis management team, a cross-functional group of leaders who train in advance and know what to do if a crisis occurs. We prepare these people, have them on standby, ready to convene quickly, if a crisis occurs.

FIASCO: What about the media?

EMAILYA: From the team, we name a primary and a secondary spokesperson. You are the primary, being the highest ranking officer. I’ll support you behind the scenes. The media wants the senior leader to stand and deliver. Our publics do, too; they want to hear directly from you. Earn your money, Fiasco! We’ll have a detailed crisis management plan from which to work. We’ll need to designate a place to serve as mission control in the event of a crisis. Needs to be a working space for us and the media as well. We’ll have to hold regular press conferences. We’ll need to formulate messages and prepare to respond to the media. We’ll keep detailed call logs and prepare talking points for you and any other designated spokesperson. I’ll supervise the overall crisis communication management function — facts-gathering, collecting questions and media inquiries, message formulation, media liaison, follow-up, all logistics for the team, and so on.

FIASCO: Next steps?

EMAILYA: Make this happen! I’ll manage the process day to day. You just need to lead — get your people together and form the crisis management team. Work with the board of directors. Get busy now!

SCENE THREE:

The empty boardroom of Shake & Spears, Inc. It is weeks after Emailya urged Fiasco to initiate crisis communication planning. He did not, and now the firm is dealing with a terrible crisis. The firm’s reputation is devastated. Fiasco is discredited and despondent. Emailya is shocked and saddened and terribly overworked trying to salvage what she can of the company’s reputation.

FIASCO: All is ruin! It’s over. I’m toast. The media has made me the bad guy. The board is listening to stockholders who want me gone. If only I’d done what precious Emailya suggested. Now, it’s too late. She stays on the phone or with the media and key stakeholders. I never see her anymore. If there was just  a way…I know! I’ll fake my own demise, then they will take pity on me and forgive me, and I can retire with a generous severance and play golf all the time. Emailya will join me, and we will live happily ever after. Let’s see. I’ll pour out these pills and lay here on the board room table. They’ll think I ended it out of shame. Shame, ha! I’ll have the last laugh when Emailya finds me, revives me and we escape to my condo in Florida.

EMAILYA: Fiasco! Fiasco? Where the hell is that little weasel? Wait, is that him, taking a nap on the board room table? Sounds just like him. I’ll sneak up on him and make him think I give a rat’s pa-toot about him.  Oh, poor Fiasco, no! You poor man. Did you end your life out of shame? Then, I must go, too. I’ll stab myself with this letter opener and join you in the corporate afterlife.

FIASCO: (Smiles to himself) Oh, Emailya, dear, I knew you’d support me in the end.

EMAILYA:  Support you, you weak, self-absorbed little twit! I going to check Ned’s Job of The Week, then take my crisis plan over to Mantua as a consultant. Then I’m off to the shoe sale at Nordstrom. Anyway, I’m outta here, dweeb!

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;

The sun, for sorrow, will not show its head:

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;

Some shall be pardoned, some shall be punished,

For never was there a story of such woe,

Than this of competent Emailya and her Fiasco.

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