Monday, October 29, 2007

How to Talk like a PR Blogger

Cruising the PR blogosphere has not only taught me so much about social media and the PR industry, but also some PR 2.0 lingo. Next time you're catching up on your PR industry RSS feeds, you may come across some words and phrases unfamiliar to the noob PR student.

snarky - I've seen this word used a lot and had no real idea what it meant beyond what I could gather from context clues. luckily one of our texts, The New Influencers, provides a definition in the glossary! Paul Gillin defines "snarky" as "Early twentieth century British slang for 'to nag' or 'to find fault with.' In the blogosphere, it is frequently used as an adjective for cynical or sarcastic" (pg. 222)

snake oil - a term I've seen tossed around by those who hate the idea that PR is using social media as a cure-all for the industry's woes or to discount those entrepreneurs who think their Web 2.0 startup is going to be the next MySpace. This one I had to look up on Wikipedia: "The expression is also applied metaphorically to any product with exaggerated marketing but questionable or unverifiable quality."

"drinking the Kool-Aid" - seen this one in multiple places as well. Urban Dictionary gives us this definition: "A reference to the 1978 cult mass-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. Jim Jones, the leader of the group, convinced his followers to move to Jonestown. Late in the year he then ordered his flock to commit suicide by drinking grape-flavored Kool-Aid laced with potassium cyanide. In what is now commonly called "the Jonestown Massacre", 913 of the 1100 Jonestown residents drank the Kool-Aid and died. One lasting legacy of the Jonestown tragedy is the saying, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” This has come to mean, "Don’t trust any group you find to be a little on the kooky side." or "Whatever they tell you, don't believe it too strongly". The phrase can also be used in the opposite sense to indicate that one has embraced a particular philosophy or perspective."

Urban Dictionary example:
Chris: I'm thinking about attending a PETA rally
Donna: Whatever you do, don't drink the Kool-Aid!

Want some examples of this lingo in action? Type in any of these words into your RSS search and I'm sure you'll come up with multiple blog posts including these phrases. Try it yourself! As always, if you have more to add then please comment and submit your definition!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Group Podcast: Social Media for Non-Profits

The JenKasMeg Show – Social Media for Non-Profits

:28 sec – Jennifer: Social Networking

3:44 min – Megan: Blogging

My Sources: RB Digital Rodeo and NetSquared

7:08 min – Kassie: Twitter

This podcast is the result of a class project for our "social media and internet for PR" class. This podcast was made in Audacity. The song we used is called "Move Your Body" by miyoshimasato.

Listen to our Podcast here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

PC vs. Mac: It's a tie you both lose

PC vs. Mac - South Park Mashup

No one's perfect. I've shaken my fist at both in the past. This cute video points out the deficiencies each like to point out about the other.

The "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" advertisements (which are great) just scream to be parodied - perhaps intentionally? :P

New Influencers: Tools of the Trade

At the risk of being redundant (Shane beat me to it :P ), I thought Chapter 9 of The New Influencers was the chapter the reader was waiting for the whole time: the chapter about making all of the aforementioned tools work for you and what steps a marketer/PR pro could take to get started integrating social media into their practice.

Lemme break it down for you, based on the chapter, because lists are beautiful:

  1. Keeping track of the buzz: check out Nielsen BuzzMetrics to see who's talking about you and your product. Set up some Google Alerts to monitor what the media is saying.
  2. Read up on the Big Boys (and Girls!) of Blogging: Search for the influencers in your market by searching your company and products on sites like Technorati and BlogPulse. Technorati has a mysterious way of calculating the "authority" of a blog, which apparently "is determined by a proprietary formula that factors in inbound links and the activity level of a blog" (pg. 165). The chapter also highlighted Opinmind, where you can do a search and it will come up with two lists: those who spoke favorably and those who didn't - I searched "Mac" on there and got some stark results.
  3. Keep tabs with RSS and social bookmarking: Now that you've found a slew of influencers (bloggers, podcasters and the like), you can keep up with them by bookmarking articles, etc. using tags on a site like where you can tag everything pertaining to your company and products, as well as add your own commentary as to why you saved that link. A cool feature is seeing how many other people have saved that link and what their comments were. Check out how others are tagging pages that reference you: "they're a small window on how others see you. They can help you spot opportunity" (pg. 170). Tag the good and the bad news. This can help you organize the points of contention people have with your company. For following blog and podcasting discussions, set up an RSS feed for those sites and get all of your reading done in one place - but don't get carried away!
So now you know a little bit on finding and keeping track of what's being said about you, and now you're in on it? So how can you reach out and get involved? That's for another day/post, but in the meantime, here's some good advice about starting with the right perspective and how to not pitch to bloggers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Student Beware: Entry-Level PR and Marketing Job Scams

In researching job prospects here in Austin, I've come across several suspicious companies looking to hire for entry level PR/marketing positions. This post is to warn you of the biggest scam artists preying on the recently graduated here in town.

But Megan, what are the signs of a scam employer? Here are the warning signs I've caught onto:

  • Stupid headlines like "Entry Level PR!!" and "Entry Level Marketing - New Firm - WILL TRAIN!!!" should be your first red flag. Most of these are obviously scams, but some are cleverly disguised. My favorite dumb headline, courtesy Horizion Promotions: "Promo & Mkting Reps Needed! MUST Work Well With The Opposite Sex" sounds fun to me! :P
  • Poor job descriptions that don't tell you anything about the position. Either that or they make it sound too good to be true, which it obviously is. They also will probably not include contact information except maybe a link to their website. Which brings us to:
  • They have an ugly,crappy website. Some may be really jazzy, but you can tell the difference between a professionally-made website designed for a serious PR or marketing agency vs. those putting up the front. You'll also notice that there is a lot of homepage space dedicated to "careers" and "apply online now".
So who's promising careers as PR and marketing professionals but are just really wanting door-to-door salespeople to sell their discount cards? I'm naming names:
They only money you make is a small commission off of the cards you sell. That equals is about $15 bucks in your pocket for each $50-$40 card you sell. You will spend your own money on gas to drive your own car around town, lunch everyday, permits for solicitation($10-$75 a piece depending on neighborhood), and all other expenses needed to do your job. It all comes from your own pocket and the girl I shadowed sold 2 cards (so she only made $30) for the day despite the fact that we knocked on about 80 doors and hassled about 30-40 people at strip malls and office parks.
  • McLemore Advance Concepts, Inc.: "All in all, you end up working 6 days a week from 7:30am-6:30pm for what equates to about $1.00 per hour or less.... This company is not a scam, nor is it in any way illegal. However, unless you want to build your career in a business with absolutely no honesty or ethics, I would steer clear from them."
  • Competitive Consulting: This business came up with a long list of complaints. Apparently this company is also known to change their name frequently. They actually sell office supplies out of a catalog, when on their job posting they say they want "sports-minded" marketers.
  • Eventive Promotions
  • Premier HQ
Any other examples I missed? I'm sure this post could be a mile long just in Austin alone. A common theme in these stories is that they interview in a shady place, where the manager will say "we're in the process of moving," etc. Then for the second interview you are sent "in the field" to shadow another seller. At that point, it can't be any clearer.

If you're unsure about the honesty of a company's employment claims and suspect a pyramid scheme, look them up on Rip-off Report, where I found these testimonies. Also check with the Better Business Bureau if you'd like to file a complaint.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tech News: Mac OS X Leopard is why I waited to get a Mac this semester

I've had it with you, Vista. I see enough of of your "better security features" at work.

For my colleauges and my boyfriend, they've heard nothing but "I want a Mac" from me for the past few months; I've even dubbed my change jar "Megan's Laptop Fund". As I'm graduating soon, I want to hook myself up with a new laptop - preferably a MacBook. :) I wanted to get one this summer but my mom suggested I wait and wait and wait.....

And then the Universe tells me why:

The Flack (with good analysis about this release vs. previous Apple release extravaganzas) reports on the newest Mac OS X version: Leopard - which will replace Tiger this month . Check out the link to take a tour of the newest changes. Overall it's nothing crazy new but there's a few smaller cool features: it seems that they sought to tweak the desktop appearance and re-work the search functions. Time Machine is perfect for creating a backup drive on an external hard drive. For those who use Mac Mail, if you're nerdy or girly or both you'll surely enjoy the new stationary features - I like the dragging and dropping of images.

I think the two new features I will use the most will be Spaces, because it's annoying to have a lot of desktop clutter with a bunch of crap open and running. But even better, I like the idea of Stacking, since I often find my desktop cluttered with files I've downloaded which makes me have to organize them all eventually.

The Bottom Line: yay! I'm sure my mother will now feel vindicated. Honestly, I probably would've kicked myself had I just bought a Mac only to see Leopard coming out within the month. However, the Apple site (as far as I've checked today) has not announced when their computers will be shipped with Leopard, so I will hold tight until then (no press release yet). Expect a review when I finally make my PC to Mac conversion.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blog Action Day: "Greening Your Workplace"'s Greatest Hits

This post is in honor of Blog Action Day.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

But there really is a point in making even the smallest of changes. For example, if 20 employees turned off their PC during a lunch hour, your company would save over 3700 watts of electricity in just 60 minutes; that’s enough power to keep an energy efficient lightbulb burning for over eight and a half solid days! -"Green-up your workplace," Big Green Switch
Google "green workplace" and you'll get a lot of hits about ways you can do your part to think of the Earth at work. In a discussion with some techies from SEU and Dell about recycling, everyone agreed that while we were awesome recyclers at home, we were ashamedly not so at work.

Why? While we dutifully recycle our paper, plastics and glass at home, at work it can be more difficult and admittedly a bit inconvenient. Here at work we recycle paper, but to put your water bottle in a bin on another floor - and it's the only one in the building.

Without further ado, my favorite green workplace ideas inspired by Treehugger:
  1. At the end of the day, shut down computers - don't let it sit overnight or hibernate.
  2. Unplug what you can. Even when you have electronics turned off, they are still using energy so that they can come right back on when you tell them to. If this is a pain, at least unplug things you don't use often, like appliances.
  3. Purchase recycled printer/copier paper. Try to print on both sides of the page and always preview your prints to avoid accidental prints that waste paper and ink.
  4. If possible, consider alternate ways to get to work: carpooling, public transit, biking or walking! Executives: consider giving perks to employees who use alternate transportation.
  5. Try to organize a recycling initiative if there isn't one in place and encourage it's use. Make bins easily accessible to avoid the laziness factor, like bins in the break room and small paper recycling bins in offices.
I think the best list of the most useful and realistic ideas came from Suite101's "The Green Workplace" article, so definitely check this one out.

With a few changes, I think most businesses shouldn't have a hard time coming up with a feasible environmental policy that will contribute to smart usage and employee awareness. Even looking up these different tips has already given me ideas about making efforts here at work, and I'm sure I'll be further inspired by the thousands of blog posts that will be posted today.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The New Digital Divide: MySpace vs. Facebook

A "blog essay" written this June got tech bloggers talking, and I just wanted throw in my two cents as a participant since 2004 in both. The essay, entitled "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace" by danah boyd, contends that Facebook is for the kids who are going to college with the money to do so and MySpace is for the kids who are lower-class outcasts:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

This may be an extreme interpretation by boyd, but then again she's trying to make her point. Though she's looking at high school users, these differences may be more pronounced than for those a few years older like me who actually used both even at a time when Facebook was only for college kids.

I think most would agree such differences are inherent in the way the two sites started in the beginning. Facebook was geared for college kids, so it makes sense that Facebook still has a strong college-y connotation. This clean, more professional-ish image was also encouraged by the fact that you can't go graphically vomit on your Facebook page in the way that you can with Myspace (but that's changing do to all of those crazy apps).

On the other side, MySpace was geared toward Joe Anyuser so they could get as many people as possible on the site. Who else remembers a time when we were waiting to get our university added to Facebook ?! So already there was a sense of exclusivity with Facebook because back in the day you needed a valid college email to even create an account.

But not so anymore - I can see where there could be petty Facebook vs. MySpace issues in high schools where someone asks about a kid's MySpace profile and they say "Ugh yeah right - MySpace sucks. I'm on Facebook" (or even vice versa). I can see where social networking could be picked up as another way to make it us vs. them in terms of the cool vs. the outsiders like anything else, right next to what you wear, what music you listen to, etc.

Personally, I prefer Facebook for a variety of reasons, and I think most college kids would agree:
  • no ads on my page (yet!!) unless I put them there in the form of groups and apps I add
  • profiles that don't make my eyes bleed
  • there's no server lag where I'm waiting forever to do something because I'm on during peak hours
  • as of yet and as far as I know, phishers aren't stealing Facebook usernames and passwords. I've been burned twice by MySpace which ended up being embarrassing when everyone messaged me mad about the spam I had apparently been sending them through my account >.<
Note to Facebook: don't mess this up. You upset us when you let high schoolers join. You made it way worse with the stalker news feed. Admittedly, I'm a bit concerned about what will happen in terms of ads and corporate control when Facebook sells out. Will this be strike three?

Monday, October 8, 2007

BuzzDash: Snapshot of the American internet user?

This post recommended by Dustin Harris, fellow helpdesk co-worker.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend :)

Yesterday, Dustin showed me the website BuzzDash, which came about a little over a year ago in September 2006. Here's a bit more about them in their words:

BuzzDash is a site and tool for gauging popular opinion on a wide range of topics - from sports, movies and politics to relationships and philosophy. Built upon individual polling modules called buzzbites™, BuzzDash provides a real-time forum where people can solicit, measure and share opinions on nearly any issue. - "About" page
So for example, here's one that I made (you do have to register with the site to create polls - see the lengths that I go to for you guys?):

On the site, you do not need to register to vote in the polls, just get voting and you'll see the immediate percentage change on the poll that your vote had.

There are user-created polls for most topics, some are silly and some are serious. A fun feature is that every poll hosted on the site (when you create a poll and would like it to be on the site your have to submit it for approval) gets its own page where members can sound off and argue the question, including super-debatable questions from how much of college should parents pay for to whether Bush should be impeached.

From surfing the site, you can tell that users are definitely up on current events. What's more likely of interest to PR professionals are the polls regarding companies and products/services. This site is a good way to keep tabs on how products and brands are being received, such as the succinct depictions of Zune apathy as opposed to iTunes loyalty among those who voted.

I think that if my future job called on me to watch the responses among internet users for a certain company, one of the sites of the beaten Technorati track I'd check would be BuzzDash - visitors assume it's authentic and user-driven (we don't know if there are companies behind these polls in disguise, but the vast majority probably aren't I hope), and it's easy-to-use and addicting. I think this could be a site to watch in the future to see if it sticks around.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Target's still-unaccessible website results in class-action lawsuit a year later

Target, Target, Target... goodness knows I love you and give you much of my money, but this just doesn't look good.

Last October, Target got into trouble when Chris Danielsen (who is blind) tried to make a purchase on their site could not complete his transaction because their site was so inaccessible. The NFB sued Target on his behalf under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Target tried to refute it saying the Act did not apply to the internet.

"The blind have more access to information than they ever had in history _ but that's only true to the extent that Web accessibility is maintained," Danielsen said. "The technology is out there, and we don't need barriers to be put in our way. Give us a way in." - "Blind Web surfers sue Target" (Oct. 2006 MSN article).
So here we go again: This October, another similar lawsuit brought by a blind UC Berkeley student in February 2006 has now become a nation- wide class-action suit.
Public locations in the real world have long been required to abide by the ADA, but the law was written in the days before the Web, and it remains unclear how it should be applied to web sites. One of the lawyers from Disability Rights Advocates, which is handling the case, sees inaccessibility as a simple issue of discrimination, online or off. -Lawsuit over web site accessibility for the blind becomes class action (Ars Technica)
This case caught my attention because of my current work as an intern at Knowbility (an Austin-based non-profit that seeks to make the internet accessible for those with disabilities) because through my involvement with them I've become aware of these technological issues and how frustrating it can be for users with disabilities. I couldn't imagine having to navigate my computer with a screen reader, much less the internet. Eventually, no matter how much it hurts, Target is going to have to make steps towards an accessible website, especially when other companies have pro-actively done so: the MSN article from last October used Best Buy as an example of a company website that has made changes towards accessibility such as adding alt-tags to graphics. More updates to come as the case plays out in court.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Microsoft's 2nd Gen Zune: they're "nothing earth-shattering"

You've heard it before:

  • large shiny screen!
  • touch pad navigation!
  • slim design!
  • comes in multiple color options!
  • get it in 4GB or 8GB!
Are we talking about the newest sexy new iPods? No! It's the second generation Zune to be released in mid-November!

My favorite quote from the CNN Money article about these ready-for-the-holidays Zunes:
"There's nothing earth-shattering there," said Van Baker, an analyst at the research group Gartner, in an interview about the new Zunes.
A nice and concise way of summing it up, Mr. Van Baker.
"Maybe next year they can make an aggressive push against Apple," he said.
Yeah... maybe... ya know if they aren't busy or whatever, Microsoft can come up with something innovative for the Zune.

Don't get me wrong I'm not a complete Microsoft hater, but come on. Apparently they designed these 2nd genners "from scratch" and came up with an iPod.
Microsoft tweaked the look of the new Zunes' display and menus, and added the Zune Pad, a combination mouse-button and touch pad that lets users scroll down a long list of songs with a few flicks of the finger, then click the button to select tracks or change the volume.
I like the above quote - it makes the touch pad seem so cutting-edge.

Unfortunately, no plans for a Zune phone yet - but one of these new 2nd Gen Zunes can be yours for the same price as the equivalent iPod.

But Microsoft isn't worried about "beating" Apple when it comes to mp3 player magic - as their spokesman said: "Market share comes after." Like maybe after iPods become so not cool anymore?

If I were working PR for the Zune, I would try to play up what new stuff Microsoft is doing but not many people know about, like giving servicemen and women free special edition Zunes and starting up their new community website for Zune users.

Does anyone know anyone who has a Zune? I don't think I've ever seen one in person that wasn't a display.

10/4 Update: Ars Technica takes an in-depth look at the new Zune lineup by getting in some Q&A to the head marketer for the Zune. He argues that the zero-fanfare reveal of the new Zunes were purposeful, in opposition to the huge media blitzes Apple throws when they release a new toy. Well that's one way to argue it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Student Beware: is it time for you to do an internet audit before job searching?

While surfing Ars Technica, I found an article posted earlier this year called "Job Candidates Gone Wild: be careful what you post online," which I find extremely relevant as I draw closer to graduation. This is something all students should consider as they prepare to seek professional jobs and opportunities: if a hiring manager Googles you only to find your ridiculous Myspace page or your serial drinking binges and intoxicated escapades on Facebook, this is probably not going to help you (unless that's what your job calls for and in that case, good job!)

Be careful what you post online if you want to be able to get a job in the future. Your blog, web site, Facebook, MySpace, online dating profile, or even forum postings might "out" your salacious activities to a potential employer. According to a survey conducted by business social networking site Viadeo, one-fifth of hiring managers have used the Internet to find personal information about potential job candidates, and a quarter of those have rejected candidates based on what they found. - Jacqui Cheng, "Job Candidates Gone Wild"
So is this fair? This is an argument about public domain: if your crazy photos and epic rants are put out for all to see and read on a publicly accessible site, you should assume that this content is fair game when being considered for a job.

A good place to start would be to see what information you put out there on any social networking sites: if your Facebook page talks about your favorite books and movies that's probably not an issue (unless your employer HATES that movie :P ), but pictures and notes posted that detail your Friday night drunken debauchery may not be what they're looking for.

Another tip would also be to Google your name. Sure many people probably share your name (gosh, look at me - how many Megan Garzas are there!?), but see what comes up that may pertain to you. Example: Google "Megan Garza" and the first hit will be a link to my LinkedIn page that features resume-type facts and shows my list of connections of professionals that I know. This is definitely a preferable result when I think of a manager looking me up on the web.

I think that conducting an "internet audit" to see what pages feature you is an important step for those active on the internet. I took this to heart when I completely overhauled my former MySpace page. For years I had the typical layout but I realized over the summer that if someone searched for me on MySpace they would pull up my crappy page. I then found a clean, professional div-overlay to construct a simple yet very attractive page with minimal information - my page did not show my friends or the comments they left me. I was very proud of it until I recently found out that my account had been phished for the second time which finally convinced me to delete my account.

The moral of the story is that students should consider what they put on the internet in terms of how it will look to others who are considering you. If a resume and a nice suit for the interview is all a part of impression management, so are the pictures you post and the forums you participate in publicly on the web.

What about you all, my fellow classmates and readers? Any great examples?

10/4 Update: Hoi Polloi posted an entry today about investigations targeting employees who have posted ill-advised pictures on Facebook. A 20-year-old RA at OSU lost his job and had to move dorms because of some pictures that surfaced on Facebook featuring under-age drinking. Thanks for putting these examples together, Angelo.