The Next Chapter

College. Seven letters that hold so much meaning, and so many different meanings depending on who you ask. For me, it means a new beginning. Growing up. Doing what you never thought you could do.

This fall, I am beginning graduate school to earn my master’s in mass communications, and¬†that is something I never thought I could do. For many people, graduate school may be a small feat, no big deal; but for me, it’s huge. There have been times when I thought I may never finish my undergraduate degree, let alone pursue further education. There have been times when I questioned if college was the right path for me. And there have been times when I felt like I would never find something to be passionate about.

 

GS

My acceptance email! Don’t worry, I received a real letter, too ūüôā¬†

To those of you going into college, or those of you already in college, here is my advice. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Do the things you never thought you could. It is okay to not know what your passion is. It’s okay if your passion changes. New experiences teach you to grow. Sometimes you have to make tough choices or change your mind a million times, but learning to have faith in yourself is of one of the most important lessons you can learn.

In a few short months, I will graduate with my bachelor’s in public relations and begin graduate school – the next chapter of my life. To say I am excited would be an understatement. Learning to become passionate about school has been a long journey for me, but I’m ready to take all that my life has to offer.

Good luck to all my fellow peeps graduating in May and starting their next chapters!

Until next time, on PR Talk. ‚̧

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Calling All College Students

College students, high school students or even those looking for a professional job: hold up a minute. I am about to tell you something that could potentially change your life for the better.

There is a book for one of my college courses that is actually helpful. It is easy to read for those who despise words. It has useful advice for resumes, interviews and other job-related materials. For anyone who has complained that they don’t teach life in high school or college, this is for you.

The novel is called “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something’s Guide to the Business World,”¬†by Alexandra Levit. CorporateFor all the college seniors I know looking for post-graduation jobs, I am confident this book will help you.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

“We’re comfortable with the concept of school. We know how the story goes: if you work hard, you get good grades and everyone is happy. The business world, however, is another animal entirely. Politically motivated and fraught with nonsensical change, the professional world is not a natural fit for graduates who leave school expecting results from a logical combination of education and effort…getting ahead in the business world has nothing to do with intelligence or exceeding a set of defined expectations.”

-Levit

Maybe that assertion seems a bit harsh, or hit a little too close to home for those who know it’s true but still want to deny it until they no longer can. I’m definitely in that category, but slowly easing my way out. It has tips and advice on any business subject you can think of: how to dress, how to interact with the opposite gender, even how to leave a proper voicemail greeting!

A huge thanks to Professor Grant-Langston for introducing me to this book. Has anyone else read it or something similar? As I work through the book throughout the semester, the best tips and advice will make it onto the blog, but I highly recommend purchasing it for anyone who needs help with their professional world dilemmas.

You can find it here for 13 bucks. Definitely one of the best $13 I ever spent.

Until next time, on PR Talk.

 

Measuring Your Impact

If I’ve learned anything in college about public relations and social media, it’s that the digital world is not simple. It is not straightforward, it is not always predictable, and certainly not easy. That’s why strategy is so important for public relations pros, and other areas of mass communications as well. It’s one thing to get likes or follows, but what does that mean? Just because someone liked your Facebook post, doesn’t mean your brand is out there. This is where digital measurement comes in.

IMG_7983An easy way to measure how you or your company is doing in the digital world is with an application called Klout. This application measures your impact online, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites. Klout doesn’t just measure likes or follows; it measure how often people are engaging with what you post online. This means how often people share your content or respond with comments. This is different than likes or follows because it gives solid responses and feedback to your content which helps you improve future posts based on public opinion. Cool, huh? For example, my Klout score is 44, or 44 percent of the time, people engage with the content I post.

Now, why is this important? As mentioned before, integrating the public’s response to your content will help improve future postings based on what they want to see. Your audience decides if your content is good, not you. It is also important because it helps you stay in line with your campaign or PR goals. Does the content you are posting support the goals? Is it relevant? If not, you may need to do some rearranging.

This article has some cool points about digital measurement to check out. Part of PR is always striving to be better, always striving to improve or come up with new ideas.

Seeing as this is my last blog post for class, I would like to say peace out #TechPR3315. It’s been real…real strategic. I plan on continuing to blog about my PR endeavors and experience, but for now, I only have one final and two papers that stand between me and some sand and sun! Stay tuned for more media adventures!

Until next time, on PR Talk.

What in the world is a wearable??

1421835866wf5usThought your smartphone was the only way to take your technology with you? Guess again. We’ve gone from giant desktops to pagers to smartphones and tablets, and the next thing on the list are wearables.

A wearable is pretty close to what it sounds like: an accessory that you wear on your physical body and incorporates computer and electronic technology. Wearables can be used as fashion accessories or lifestyle products. They are capable of all sorts of tasks; basic things like a watch that can send text messages to the more advanced such as a baby anklets that tracks your baby’s heart rate, temperature, sleeping position and oxygen levels, as well as many other vital signs.

To be honest, I have looked at the Apple Watch. They are a pricey piece of technology. You can pre-order the watch exclusively online but many are not available to ship until at least June, despite their release date later this month. Here are my thoughts on the wearable, broken down into convenience and cool factor.

Cool Factor

6/10

IMG_7939Apple products are sleek, modern and pretty to look at; the watch is no exception. According to Apple, the watch is a whole new experience, and “more personal than ever.” I remember in high school when iPhones were¬†the¬†phone. Even in college, I see iPhones everywhere I look. Apple’s popularity does a lot for the watch and their other products for that matter. Apple releases a new product and everyone has to have it. It’s new, it’s scarce, and it has the Apple logo, which makes you cooler than your Android counterparts, right?

My family tends to sway PC in the technology area, at least for computers. My mom, sister and I have iPhones and we love them. I do tend to think Apple (or iPhones at least) are “cooler” than Android, but I’m also not super tech savvy. I don’t have to have the latest gadgets and I only care that my phone supports my social media addiction and takes pictures. Apple does these things without being super complicated.

Convenience

5/10

So….despite the fact that the watch looks and exudes the cool that is Apple products, at face value, it’s still a watch. Not a new concept. Yes, the watch has texting capabilities, Siri, workout tracking and many more useful features, but your smartphone already does all these things. Probably more. I’d also be willing to bet that your smartphone was cheaper, too. The cheapest model starts at $350 and goes up to $17,000. Yes, you read that right. $17,000 for a touch screen watch.

IMG_7940

You cannot use an Apple watch unless you have an iPhone, and a more recent model at that, which makes sense, but also limits their target sales to current Apple customers for the most part. I think the biggest thing the watch has going for it is the wearability. Perhaps it does allow you to quickly take care of every day tasks like texting or answering a call, but is it really so difficult to take out your phone to send that text?

After some research, those are the conclusions I’ve made. I do think they have a certain coolness factor to them, but not worth the money for me. Maybe it’s because I’m not tech savvy that I don’t see the huge deal about them, or I could be totally misinformed. What do you think? Apple Watch: Yay or nay?

Until next time, on PR Talk.

Back that app up!

We live in a digital age. Everyone has smartphones, tablets and fancy computers. I see elementary-aged kids carrying iPhones or parents handing tablets to their toddler to entertain them for a while. It seems all of society is in on the technology train, including businesses. For the record, when I was in elementary school, I rode my bike to the park or read Harry Potter for hours. I didn’t get a smart phone until a month before I went to college. Just saying.

Starbucks mobile application

Starbucks mobile application

Anyways, the point is that more often than not, the public is plugged into some sort of screen. Businesses can’t always reach their target audience through paper or even television. In order to overcome this challenge, companies are turning to websites, web advertising, social media, and phone applications to get their messages across. Web design versus mobile applications is a more recent challenge that businesses face, which is our topic of our discussion today.

Quick overview of the basics:

Responsive web design is the process of building a website that is viewer-friendly on all virtual platforms: smartphones, tablets, desktops, you name it.

Native mobile applications are completely separate from the website. They are created by the same company (example: Starbucks has both a website and a separate application for smartphones) but are developed and downloaded through an application platform like the Apple app store or Google Play.

IMG_7853

Starbucks mobile-friendly website

The question is: which approach is more effective? I believe there are different advantages to each. Having a website that is easily accessible in all formats is a good way to reach different types of audiences. The majority of people use smartphones on-the-go for research, shopping and communication. Effective content marketing means you go to the audience. Don’t make them come to you. In this way, responsive design may be more successful. An application only reaches the people who have downloaded it. This could be 100 people or 10,000 people; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to choose the better number.

On the other hand, phone applications offer the option to have different content than a website. It allows the public to integrate everyday tasks (like paying for Starbucks) into their phones. Convenient, right? Apps can keep track of purchases, allow you to shop easily and offer games or information the is specific to the application but not the website.

In my PR professional opinion, the ideal situation would be to have both a responsive design website and application, but there is one pretty big downside – cost.

If your business’ bank account isn’t doing so hot, responsive web design may be the better option. Designing and developing a separate application can be quite expensive, and take lots of time to fine-tune. The same thing could be said for a responsive design website, however. Tweaking the site to format correctly on multiple platforms also takes a bit of time and money, not to mention upgrading and maintaining the different formats as technology progresses.

With the virtual world we live in, possibilities are endless, which is pretty sweet. What applications do you use? Do you prefer using an app to a company’s website? Which approach do you think is more effective?

Until next time, on PR Talk.

(Maybe I should stop using Starbucks examples…but their PR is just too good!!)

Gamification: Does it belong in the business world?

Okay, I admit it. I was a video game child. My father is a very tech-savvy kind of guy so I grew up playing computer games, Nintendo, Game boy, you name it. I still pick up a handheld game or download a game application on my phone now and then. Video games are a great way to kill boredom and have some fun; but did you know they can be used for business? For educating yourself? It’s time to turn on your smart phone or Nintendo 3DS¬†because today, we’re looking into¬†gamification.

My schnauzer says it's game time!

It’s game time!

Gamification totally sounds like a made-up word, but it is a real concept that has picked up speed due to technological innovations and strategic planning in the world of business and communications. Essentially, gamification is the idea of integrating game-like elements (such as winning points, unlocking new levels, etc) to tasks that are not game-oriented. The main goal of gamification is to help engage the audience with a brand. I’ll go over some examples, but this website has a more in-depth definition of the concept that may help you.

One of the most common tasks to apply gamification to is school. Assignments and homework generally are not all that fun. Kids often learn at a young age to procrastinate and by the time we reach college, self-motivation to do homework or study is sometimes¬†nonexistent. I remember a website I discovered¬†in elementary school that has online games to help learn academic concepts. Some of you may know it. It’s called Funbrain. The idea behind this website is the games you play on the site help you learn basic academic concepts like math or vocabulary. Obviously, college students would not use this particular tool but it is a clear example of applying gaming to real-world tasks.

I have quite a few stars left until my next reward

I have a few stars left until my next reward

Another not so obvious example of gamification is the Starbucks app. I’ll use any excuse I can get to talk about Starbucks, but this is the real deal. Starbucks has a member rewards program where you register a gift card to the application. When you pay with the gift card, you earn stars that fill up the cup in the application. After earning so many stars, you can receive discounts,free drinks, things like that. The only gamification element of this is the earning rewards. However, it is engaging people with the Starbucks brand¬†and making money for the company.As if Starbucks needs help making money. Although, their recent #racetogether scandal may have cost them some loyal customers.

I think the idea of gamification is cool. Really cool. However, I do see downsides. If you use an application¬†that is¬†too game-oriented and not enough task-oriented, is your audience going to remember the brand or the game? Can you have a clear call to action with this kind of tactic? Maybe, maybe not. Targeting a specific audience is really important here. What about people who aren’t into gaming or earning reward type media? This tactic is likely¬†ineffective for that demographic, as well as people who are not plugged into social media.

Check out these links for more information and perspectives on gamification!

https://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification

http://www.punchtabinsights.com/top-8-mobile-apps-using-gamification/#sthash.B0Rv1XgL.dpbs

http://techcrunch.com/2014/10/05/gamification-is-dead-long-live-games-for-learning/

http://www.knewton.com/gamification-education/

Until next time, on PR Talk.

P.S. Yes, that is one of my dogs. He is a miniature schnauzer named Binkley, very sweet, and a total spaz.

Move over, advertising!

I don’t know about you, but I despise television commercials. I hate the advertisements that pop up between songs on Pandora Radio or Spotify. I especially dislike browsing the Internet on my phone or laptop and being bombarded with pop-ups that take ten clicks to get rid of. This type of advertising simply does not work as well as it used to. We click past the messages or change the channel to block out the unwanted noise so easily that we may not even¬†process the message before shutting it out. So…what’s a company to do?

Brush off the dust and jump in with content marketing.

Social media and digital strategies are becoming more and more popular in the PR world and therefore, the business world. One of the big advantages about using social media in your business is that it gives you the option to use content marketing. In my opinion, content marketing is actually pretty similar to advertising with a few subtle, but effective differences. This process is more strategic and considers the long-term goals as well as the short-term. It markets to a very specific audience. It can potentially be cost-free if you use social media strategies. Arguably, the most important aspect of content marketing is that it is relevant.

"Why is it so hard to see black and blue?"

“Why is it so hard to see black and blue?”

It is important that your content is¬†original and interesting of course, but strategically planning when to post certain types of content, which platform to post on, and reacting quickly to social media trends are what separates good from great. For example, the big controversy about what color #thedress is was a trending topic recently. The Salvation Army used this as a chance to create a PSA about domestic violence towards women. Normally, this would probably get a decent amount of publicity but relating the message back to something the public is raving about gets you that extra mileage you need. Why? Because it’s relevant to something your audience is now interested in. This makes it far less likely that the public will scroll past your Tweet or Facebook post and far more likely that they will share your message or engage with the company or others talking about the company or the trend. Neat, huh? Check out this article to learn more about the tweet.

An aspect of content marketing that I think is particularly effective is learning to sell a product without actually selling it. Here’s a Coca-Cola commercial from the Super bowl this year.

Not once do they say “Coke is awesome” or “drinking Coke will make you happy.” Instead, they are trying to convince the public to associate Coke with happiness or spreading positivity. Perhaps you think this type of advertising has never worked on you. However, would you not agree that your are more likely to support a company or buy its products if they have similar beliefs or values to yours? What if they make you feel great about yourself or doing something nice for others? Associating those kinds of emotions with a company is a powerful strategy that organizations use today to persuade their publics, even though the public may not realize it.

If you’re still struggling with the concept of content marketing, here are some links that may help you out. Until next time, on PR Talk.

http://coschedule.com/blog/visual-content-marketing/ (Visual content marketing. I loved this blog post!)