At the beginning of the semester in our Writing for PR class, we talked about the power of words. Consider the effect of "Thou shalt not kill," "Let it be," "An apple a day..," "I do," "It was the best of times...," "I have a dream," and, of course, "I'm sorry."
Perhaps, however, the most underused but overwhelmingly powerful words are "Thank you."
I know because today those two little words said so much more.
We are taught to say "please" and "thank you" as a child and many children apply the terms quite liberally. My grandson even says thank you in two languages. And, it usually feels pretty good to say these polite phrases.
It feels even better to receive them.
As a college professor, I don't expect to hear nor see "thank you" from students but I have a special folder where I tuck those missives away because they are truly meaningful.
So, let me say thank you back to these same students. Thank you for working as a cohort to help each other in this class. Thank you for your patience with rewrites. (Yes, that is plural.) Thank you for trying, really trying to move the needle toward solid, competent writing. Thank you for agreeing to make strong writing a lifelong quest.
Thank you for today's "thank you." You showed me that you know the power of words.
I have a love-hate relationship with my PR & Social Media course. I love it because students and I journey through the latest trends and tech developments together, while mastering the mission of strategic messaging on social media. It is just so darn interesting, every day, to review what's new.
To competently teach this course, however, requires significant upkeep. Any professor of a social media class has to stay abreast of social media in every aspect and has to have his or her hands in deep -- that means being online and engaged regularly, or as some call it feeding the beast. It also means that the syllabus has to be completely overhauled in order to stay current.
I like students to walk out of my classroom with something tangible that will demonstrate to potential employers skills that say I can do this. This fall, students will be able to take a social media platform management course free of charge and take an exam to become Hootsuite Certified. It was only fair that I sample the course and take the exam too, which I've completed and fortunately passed.
I don't go to Mason's commencement ceremonies. Or, at least I have not yet attended any since my own MA graduation (and at my age that decision was pretty much touch and go until the last moment.) It's not that I don't like the pomp and circumstance. I really like the music, the processionals, the faculty in full academic regalia and I really, really like the screams and applause from families in the bleachers. I enjoy the address, the decorated mortarboards, the handshakes on stage. What I don't like, quite honestly, is saying goodbye.
I'm a sappy, sentimental and proud professor. I give my "final words" lecture with a huge lump in my throat as I exhort these hopefuls to take charge of their destiny and in times of trouble, to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm not sad to see them graduate; I'm ecstatic. I am brimming with excitement to see the first email that comes back about an interview or even better, the "I got the job" message. It is just so rewarding.
I'm tempted to attend because I know I would like their moms and dads and sisters or brothers. I'd have so much fun telling the parents about their child as a student. My tail would be wagging the whole darn day. Maybe next time, maybe next time.
For 15 weeks, students in Writing for PR have been working with a client. They began with research into the basic parameters of the client's business and the environment within which he operates. This meant learning more about how soy candles are made, safe tattoo practices, electrical fires, product wrapping and shipping, frozen beer, dental prostheses, ballet instruction...and more. After careful analysis, a message strategy was crafted that guided the development of four pieces to create a family of materials for the client. Then students were asked to create a not-to-exceed four minute speech, seeking to build a relationship with a key partner organization.
Four minutes? To explain who the client is, what he does and how we might work together -- that's a challenge. To accomplish this, students packed their sentences tightly, used Cialdini's rules of influence, followed Steve Jobs' "rule of three," and closed with a specific call for action. They delivered speeches that were on message, strategic and completed in 240 seconds or less.
I grew up in Fairlawn, a suburb of Akron, Ohio. It is, without a doubt, a great place to be from. It was the kind of place where kids walked to school, teens mowed lawns and babysat and parents played golf and bridge. My friends lived in houses near the country club or in an older area of spacious homes and more spacious yards; my neighborhood was quite modest by comparison. We ate dinner every night at 5:30 p.m. Many dads worked for the rubber companies, for whom the high schools were named. I went to Firestone High School, which was shiny and new and boasted not only a natatorium but a planetarium. We had a hip, young advisor for our student newspaper who stood up for us when we drizzled four-letter words in an article on gun control -- our first foray into protesting. We won changes to the dress code after a sit-in or two. That was in 1970 and Kent State was only 40 minutes away but quite near to our sensibilities. With only a few exceptions, everyone went on to college.
One thing that our high school did not have was any diversity whatsoever. I recall only one person of color and no one for whom English was a second language or who had immigrated from lands far away. Our diversity was relegated to various religions, but only Jewish, Catholic, Protestant -- not Muslim nor Buddhist. I learned about dradels and bagels and lox and heard about Kennebunkport and the Hamptons and always ate corn that was only hours off the husk.
Even at college, also in Ohio, my exposure to foreign countries and the people who lived there was limited to lectures and text books.
Consider now the contrast with one of my fall classes at George Mason University. Thirty students spent the semester studying social media engagement and public relations. Andy was from The Netherlands, spoke four languages and was a GoPro-sponsored kite boarder. Mina was on the tennis team and would spend the Christmas holiday at home with her family in Turkey before returning for training. Sadly one student would spend the winter break in the dorm instead of with her family in South Korea. Tracy was applying for jobs at home in Beijing; Nik had already secured a summer job back home in Malaysia. One young woman was looking forward to continuing work with the youth foundation she started in Saudi Arabia. The American-born students were diverse as well, in race and geography, with students from the local area and New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and southern Virginia.
Imagine just how rich, varied and deep were our discussions on Trump's call to ban Muslims, on the shootings in San Bernandino, Black Lives Matter and the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. With our diverse backgrounds come diverse analyses. There were so many moments when we paused because someone had said something that just made us think and re-think. As a diversity university, Mason delivers a broad world view to its students. And, to its professors.
It all starts with...having something to say.
Students in Mason's PR & Social Media class (@mimsPR COMM 388) have spent the semester studying social media engagement. They read a book about what makes things catch on, "Contagious" by Wharton Professor Jonah Berger. They analyzed an exemplar digital campaign, like "Dove Real Beauty: Sketches." They reviewed 30 "snapshots" of digital campaigns, like the Honda "Cheerance Event" and GoPro's "Hero" campaign.
Then, students were asked to "start a conversation" about a social issue they cared about.
The result? Five short videos produced using simple digital cameras or cell phone cameras. The focus of the assignment was on the clarity of the message and using traits to help it "catch on."
Friends Don't Let Friends Do Stupid Things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5i8eKrWxsPo
Voting Matters. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd13PmL1v18
#IAmMason, #WeAreMason. Celebrating Diversity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd13PmL1v18
Let's Talk About the Elephant on Campus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ae_eiyTiCk&feature=youtu.be
Think Beyond Pink. Rainbow of Ribbons. https://youtu.be/Kh4RWqeOwOg
Check back December 8 for results on their social media relations tactics and how well their videos were able to start a conversation.
Nicole Arbour’s “Dear Fat People” video has sparked a conversation, a massive people-to-blogger-to-Facebook-to-comment-to-news media type of shouting match. On Sept. 9, the video had 18 million views between YouTube and Facebook; two days later, the number has risen to 25 million. A Google search for “fat shaming” generates over 4 million results. No, the video has not reached the level of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” (2 billion+) nor Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” (1 billion+) but so far it beats out Justin Timberlake & Jimmy Fallon’s new “History of Rap.”
“Dear Fat People” has done what marketers and content messengers try to do every day in our intensely cluttered digital world: to break through, to get attention. My students studying social media looked at this video and analyzed what makes it “sticky,” “spreadable,” and “contagious.” They say this video is viral because the content:
· is visually compelling -- Arbour’s eye to the camera, blond/lipstick contrast
· is engaging through her physicality – her movements
· has keen production value -- jump cuts accentuate
· makes use of tone – her intensity, some self mockery
· is honest, and several other traits
The characteristic no one mentioned? Humor.
The comedian’s video isn’t funny. Most (and possibly every one in the room) found it cruel and mean-spirited. It has succeeded, however, in starting a conversation. Elle magazine is one of many media newsjacking this issue – appropriately so – to blast Arbour for shamelessly trolling for attention and video views. Her video does NOT inspire behavior change. Elle’s Sarah Marshall writes
“Fat-shaming like Arbour's can never help anyone to lose weight
because it urges people to see themselves with hatred and disgust,
rather than the care, attention, and respect that change—of any
Now, that’s a conversation worth having.
August 19, 2015
Blogs and the art of blogging are evolving rapidly. Hundreds of millions of blogs can be found on platforms such as Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr, Medium, Quora, Ghost and more. On Tumblr alone, the number of blog accounts rose to 226 million in July 2015, up 15 percent from 2011. By August 2015, however, that number had swollen to 250.6 million blogs. The focus and variety of blogs are growing as well, from journalism news to corporate messaging to content marketing as well as personal diary-style blogs.
Q. What makes a good blog?
A. A good blog is one that people actually read.
The real question about how to write a blog is to ask why people read blogs in the first place. Think about the last article you read online and ask yourself how you arrived at that site, what you had searched for and why you were searching. In most cases, you were seeking information to help you do something, whether it was how to write a resume or where to find a great tapas eatery. Successful blogs – the ones that people actually read – offer news you can use or provide value in some practical way. What is “practical” is defined by the reader so the first rule in writing a blog is to understand your audience.
Understand your audience: Define the reader by age range, geography, social characteristics (like young urban professional or active but retired baby boomer) and most important, by shared interests (like aspiring PR professional, vegan cooking, triathlete, etc.) As you begin to write, write to that person and what he might find valuable.
Define your message: The length of blogs varies but whether you choose to write a 250 word or a 1,000-word blog, make every word count. Decide precisely what message – what practical value – you want to convey and don’t stray from that central message.
Provide substance: Use credible, authoritative sources and share or link to relevant material by credible sources. Don’t be vague but offer substantive, actionable information. That’s the difference between a) Washington Dulles Airport is a busy airport, and b) Washington Dulles Airport ranks as the nation’s 22nd busiest with more than 20 million passengers in 2014.
Be pithy, give context, be concise: Don’t make your reader muddle through a long introduction of your topic: get to the point quickly. Do provide context, like the introductory paragraph to this guide. Studies indicate that people don’t read blogs in full but somewhere less than 30 percent of the content. Edit rigorously to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases and keep your blog concise.
Use visuals: People absorb visual content some 60,000 times faster than text. Choose visuals that both attract attention and help you tell your story, but verify licensing of the image and following instructions for attribution.
Adopt professional standards: Blogs often adopt a style far more informal than the academic writing you master in college. A blog that meets professional standards doesn’t have to be stuffy and formal but should be free of errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar, use fairly short sentences, be unequivocally accurate and be clear and unambiguous. Conversational style is not only acceptable but is easier to read.
Match the title and conclusion: Wrap up the blog by emphasizing your key takeaway. Did you deliver what you promised in the title?