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Posts Tagged ‘Social media’

Today’s college students are reputed to be well-versed in the use of social media. Do you think that heavy use of social media helps or hurts your ability to communicate in writing and face to face with important people you will encounter in the work place, such as authority figures like employers and colleagues, who are older than you?

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The helpful folks at the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) have recently provided vital information for college graduates entering the work force. This is must-have information, for knowing what employers want in new hires should be part of every graduate’s career plan.

According to NACE’s Job Outlook 2013 Survey, the number one skill/quality employers seek in job candidates is “ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization.”

Here’s the NACE top ten in order:

  1. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization.
  2. Ability to work in a team structure.
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems.
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work.
  5. Ability to obtain and process information.
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data.
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job.
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs.
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports.
  10. Ability to sell or influence others (NACE, 2012)

This information is timely and relevant for me as well. For my doctoral dissertation,  I am currently formulating research on the influence of Web 2.0 technologies on Millennial Generation students’ interpersonal communication skills and abilities. My own research echos the NACE finding — employers want new hires who can communicate effectively face to face.

In fact, Numbers 1 and 10 go hand in hand. Successful employees need excellent interpersonal communication skills in order to sell and influence others. Book after book, study after study, all proclaim that employers want effective communicators, but these works often cite “written and oral communication skill” equally. However, the NACE study is clear: the ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization is critically important.

Why is there such sudden emphasis on face-to-face communication among employers? Could it be that there really is a deleterious effect of growing up digital, of being a heavy user of Web 2.0-enabled technologies? Could it be that college grads of today are less skilled (or less predisposed) to communicate effectively face to face?

I have been curious about such questions since I began my college teaching career in 2004.

By next spring, I hope to have clear answers to such questions once my mixed methods research is completed. I intend to study the phenomenon of Millennial Generation students’ interpersonal skills and abilities in considerable depth. I am excited about what I will learn.

But in the meantime, I hope all my students will pay attention to what NACE’s study found out.

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Happy birthday, More With Les

My humble blog is now five years old.

I began my blogging journey with a post entitled, “Why this blog? Why me? Why now?” It was a rambling justification for why I joined the blogosphere. When I wrote that, I had no idea of how important this vehicle would become to me over the years.

Over the years? Yes, five years today, to be exact. Times flies.

Looking back, I believe it was a good decision to become a blogger. I try to capture why I do this in the widget, “Why is Les Potter blogging?” In keeping with that statement of purpose, I have learned  a great deal from this blog and have made many new friends I would not have otherwise. That has proven to be one of the greatest satisfactions from blogging.

Another aspect of my career for which I am eternally grateful is the many invitations I have had to speak at workshops, conferences, meetings, and seminars. I tried to calculate how many people I have spoken to as a conference presenter over the life of my career. I lost count at upwards of 15,000. My blog’s site stats say I have had 113,001 visitors. That proves that blogs can have incredible reach.

But the most important thing about a blog is what you have to say. I am not the most prolific blogger out there, nor do I wish to be. I post when I have something meaningful and heartfelt to say, not to meet some arbitrary quota. I try to concentrate on Strategic Communication/Public Relations and Integrated Marketing Communication. But, I also like to talk about personal and topical issues, so I include the category of Life in General. The human condition is quite compelling, and it deserves comment from time to time.

Thank you for reading More With Les.

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What do you think is the real importance of social media to the practice of public relations?

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Losing the computers was actually better for me. I didn’t feel like I had to be entertaining everybody.” — Reid Stowe

That observation is from solo sailor Stowe, who just set a world record by spending 1,152 consecutive days at sea in his 70-foot, gaffed-rigged schooner, Anne. Stowe regularly posted updates, photographs, and paintings on his Website until the last six months at sea when his two computers failed.

It is amazing that, via technology, a man alone at sea for over three years could stay in touch in both words and images. Stowe had a message for the world with his voyage. A sculptor, painter, and musician, Stowe tried to inspire the world with his marathon voyage, an achievement that he says was only possible through the power of love.

But when he lost his computers, and thereby his ability to show and tell the world what he was doing, he seemed to gain even more. He says he was able to write deeper essays and paint richer paintings. “I was receiving illuminations, one after the next,” he says. “It was incredible.”

But what about the rest of us? It seems like so many of us are obsessed with communicating constantly, whether or not we really have something relevant for the world to hear. For example:

  • Constantly texting or talking on cell phones
  • Obsessive tweeting
  • Multiple daily status updates on Facebook
  • Checking email minute by minute
  • Blogging, even when we have nothing really to say

 Why do we do this? Is it healthy? Just because we can does not mean we should.

What drives us to report our every move? Back when we did not have this capability, we seemed to live full enough lives. We actually hand-wrote letters and mailed them, sometimes taking weeks for a turnaround reply.

Take Twitter, for example. Experts tell  us to share useful information. Accordingly, people tweet their latest hot piece of info, a link supposedly of great value. Add it up, and thousands of people are referring thousands of people to thousands of pieces of information. Can anyone keep up?

What is the reasoning behind this? Are people really tweeting to share valuable information, or are they tweeting merely to be seen tweeting? I tweet, therefore, I am.

You’ll see similar behavior on Facebook. Some people will update their status several times a day. What motivates this constant need to tell the world what we are doing?

Reid Stowe proved that even when alone at sea for over three years, ceasing to communicate constantly via technology can be a blessing, not a curse.

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As we college professors welcome incoming  freshmen,  the class of 2014, it is nice to have the Beloit College Mindset List to guide us.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has compiled the Mindset List, which provides cultural information that shapes the lives of the year’s incoming college freshmen. According to Beloit, the Mindset List “was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation.”

Dated references? Does this assume that the typical college professor could ever be out of date? Evidently so, for there are 75 items listed by Beloit to keep us from making generational gaffs.

For example, Item # 1: few in the class know how to write in cursive. Do you mean to tell me that this group has keystroked every word it has ever written? I guess the handwritten thank you note is officially dead. Why write a note by hand  that has to be put into the “always going broke post office” (Item # 69) with a stamp when you can email a quick ” thanks”?

And just when we are universally celebrating the tech-savviness of Millennial Generation students, the Mindset List says in Item # 2 that incoming freshmen view email as just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail. Yep, the handwritten thank you note is in fact dead, perhaps replaced by the texted “thx”.

For Mass Communication professors like me, Item # 26 really hurts: Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides. Ouch! And, Item #44: the dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

Being a Vietnam Era veteran, Item # 41 really hits home: American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

And of course, music figures prominently on the list. Item # 46: Nirvana is on the classic oldies station. Say it isn’t so!!!

One last item for the gearheads out there; Item # 75 says Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.

Tempus sure does fugit.

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I attended the IABC World Conference in Toronto, June 4 through 9, in order to answer the pressing question: are we communicators still relevant?

To address that question, I attended a variety of presentations, held endless hallway conversations, chatted over coffee/tea/beer/wine/meals, and in general, poked around looking for answers.

Did I find any answers? Yes and no. Some specific things came very clear. Others are left to be answered another time, if at all.

I pose the question of relevance because conferences like this seem to devote extraordinary amounts of time and energy in justifying what we do as a profession. It seems a bit paranoid to me. If we feel compelled to question our own relevance, then something is wrong. We should know.

I know that communication is more relevant now than ever. As an example, consider the exchange I had with John from Ottawa, who works for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We were sitting together in an afternoon general session called, “Why should anyone trust you? Lessons from leading change in international organizations.” John leaned over and asked, “Is it just me, or are we talking about the same things we talked about five, ten, even fifteen years ago?”

Yes, we are still talking about many of the same things. Why? For several reasons:

  1. We have not sufficiently solved the problem, like improving employee engagement or gaining the ability to write clear and compelling copy or successfully integrating social media into our overall strategic communication plans or communicating organizational change effectively or making employees brand ambassadors.
  2. New people enter the communication field and seek answers to important questions they encounter on the job. For the neophytes, these questions, however fundamental, are new and exotic and demand answers. That’s a competitive advantage for professional development providers like IABC. It constitutes a source of recurring revenue.
  3. New answers arise to old questions. For example, three phenomena that have risen in importance over the past few decades:  strategic planning in communication; the need for high quality research on which to base strategy; and the impact of social media on society in general and communication management specifically. These phenomena all help to keep communication relevant and serve to make it even more competent.

Several presentations targeted the fundamental questions we must answer in order to practice communication management effectively. Then there were unfulfilling presentations that promised to explain what communicators must know, then didn’t.

Thankfully, I attended presentations that were insightful, practical, and immediately useful. One notable presentation was “Integrating multimedia into your social media campaign,” by Toronto-based consultant and ace podcaster Donna Papacosta. In a world consumed by what Neil Postman termed, “technological adoration”, Donna’s down-to-earth treatment of technology used to support and enhance overall communication strategy was refreshing.

Speaking of technological adoration, I blogged last year about the obsessive use of Twitter at IABC’s World Conference in San Francisco. Everything was Twitter; everywhere you looked, people weren’t talking face to face, they were tweeting — in sessions, in the hallways, at meals, and who knows where else. The obsession with technology, especially Twitter, was all-consuming. It was not so much so this year. There seemed to be a more mature approach to the use of technology, especially Twitter.

Perhaps we are evolving. Perhaps we are transforming our technological adoration into practical managerial applications. I hope so, for evolving and transforming is the only way the profession of organizational communication will truly stay relevant.

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