Monday, May 2, 2011

One Last Thought on Social Media

Katherine Bradford and Lee M. Gills, two social media experts, joined us last Wednesday for our concluding class. The two speakers both spoke on the elements of social media, but with two totally different perspectives.

Bradford spoke on the importance of a positive digital footprint and how to avoid unintentional “toe prints.” On a completely different note, Gills discussed how “response driven” social media has the power to effectively boost profits of businesses.

There is no doubt that social media has profoundly changed the world, but last night it became even more obvious, as a constant stream of tweets united Americans with the breaking news of Osama Bin Laden’s death before it was even formally announced by the media.

During all of this Osama-Twitter hype, I started noticing that my generation understands Twitter’s amazing effect on society, but that they also don’t understand Twitter’s negative impact, and how it can personally damage reputations. I thought back to Bradford’s advice:

Know your audience. Many of the tweets I read last night included profanity and inappropriate sayings regarding Osama’s death. Keep in mind that you never know who will read your tweets if the are re-tweeted. (hint: potential employers)

Separate online identity into personal and professional. Many tweets also included strong political views, some offense and some not. Remember that not everyone shares the same beliefs as you, and whatever you say can potentially offend others.

Blog only about professional and informational subjects. 45% of employers use social media in screening potential candidates. If a potential employer sees your blog talking about “how drunk you’re going to get at the bar celebrating Osama’s death,” consider that opportunity lost.

I can’t believe the semester is already over…we’ve heard from so many motivational communication leaders that have truly inspired the class to be the best that they can be in the PR world.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Frank Roby

From fighting over the front seat of the car to borrowing shirts without asking, my sisters and I have fought over almost everything and anything.  These petty arguments usually involved tears, name calling, and door slamming. Luckily for my mom, like the calm after a storm, 15 minutes later and we would be laughing and smiling—just like that—as if nothing ever happened.

Disagreements are unavoidable, natural parts of life.  Some conflicts cost billions of dollars and precious human lives to resolve, while others can be fixed with in moments over a bowl of ice cream. While there is an enormous discrepancy between these two types of disputes, they both arise from the same communication problems.

Tonight’s speaker, Frank Roby, claims that the inherent problem with communication is how we approach communication. As humans, we are wired to only concentrate on the message we want to send, that we can’t concentrate on other incoming messages. We are so one-sided in our own thoughts and opinions that we find it difficult to open our minds and listen to what others have to say.  

So, how do we fix things? Understand that we must put our differences aside in order to have a meaningful conversation. Although it may sound simple, this is still a huge challenge to all of mankind. And until we find a way to successfully communicate and solve discords, siblings will still bicker and wars will still be fought. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Matt Gobush

Matt Gobush, Manager of Corporate Communications for the world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, knows a thing or two about effective strategic communications. Although his background is not originally in the oil industry, Gobush’s communication expertise has helped ExxonMobil take on the world’s toughest energy challenges.

After working on Capitol Hill for several years, Gobush started at ExxonMobil without any experience in the oil and gas industry. The need for people with political experience in the corporate world helped Gobush land his position at ExxonMobil, where he uses his background in politics to influence policy makers and opinion leaders. Calling communications an “art and a science,” Gobush claims that communication skills are universal: you can apply the same skills to a different industry and still see the same results.

Showing the class that it is not just about cleaning up reputations after major crises, (such as devastating oil spills) but rather improving overall living standards around the world, Gobush shared some of ExxonMobil’s many innovative initiatives. For example, researching the potential of algae for alternative fuel.

Gobush’s presentation made me once again realize the versatility of communications: all these basic skills I am currently learning in class will one day help me in almost any industry. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Maureen Locus

“Life is short. Work Happy.” Norman Brinker, founder of Brinker International, coined this motto to motivate his “BrinkerHeads” to work hard and play hard.

 Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to “work happy” when you’re dealing with disgruntled customers on a daily basis.  With 226 international Chili’s locations, there is enormous potential for many things to go wrong, which is why it amazes me that only four people run the communications team at Brinker International. Luckily, this small yet hardworking team is lead by Maureen Locus, who not only monitors the organization’s media hotline, but helps respond to crisis’ by securing media placements and implementing social media.

Locus has dealt with everything from uptight and unhappy customers displeased with their dining experiences to the more extreme case of a New Mexico woman finding a needle in her mashed potatoes. With a strong commitment to delivering hospitality to every guest, Locus handles each crisis situation in a calm, cool and collected manner. Locus explained to the class that she must “become numb to the situation” in order to efficiently comfort people and solve issues. Throughout her presentation, it was obvious that her patience, work ethic, caring nature, and extreme passion were major contributors to her success in the PR world. Her admirable qualities made me realize and focus on some of the areas I need to practice and perfect before I enter my own personal career.

Along with all of the valuable insight Locus shared with the class, she also generously gave each of us a gift certificate to Chili’s. Immediately after class ended, Laura, Madison and I raced to Chili’s and redeemed our gift certificates…nothing like (free) molten lava cake to end the day. Thanks Maureen! 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Privacy, Please!

Although most Americans still consider TV the most influential media channel, smartphones are rapidly catching up. According to a study by ComScore, over 45.5 million people in the United States owned smartphones in 2010. The explosion of smartphones is not only affecting everyday life, but also strongly influencing the practice of public relations.

As marketing and public relations becomes more multi-layered and multi-faceted, Americans are responding accordingly: by multi-tasking. 75% of Americans use another medium while the TV is on, meaning marketers have no choice but to implement all channels simultaneously. Public relation practitioners can create buzz about a product or service before the start of a campaign or advertisement, and then use that advertisement to direct them to websites, Facebook, and Twitter for a more interactive, engaging experience.  

Facebook, Twitter, youtube, and Four-Square are all accessible right out of consumers’ pockets—including my own. Everyday I use my Blackberry to check email, check out Facebook, tweet, etc. My phone is with me almost 24/7, meaning marketers can also be with me 24/7.

Although this is great for marketers, there’s a whole privacy issue to consider. Marketers can access my number and text me at anytime, and by “checking-in” to places on Facebook or Four-Square, strangers can know my exact location: frightening.

Many people have mixed views on this, but what do you think? Share your thoughts…creepy or creative? 

Friday, March 11, 2011


Everyday 10 billion play online poker—illegally--resulting in a $2.7 billion loss in tax revenue. I had no idea this was even a controversy, until Mike Lake brought it up in class the other night.

Mike Lake, Chair of Burson-Marsteller's Southwest operations and Chair, U.S. Public Affairs Practice, offered fresh insight into the PR industry. Instead of talking about how great Burson-Marsteller is (which it is!—see for yourself here) he presented an exact campaign Burson is currently working on.  The class got to see the exact same PowerPoint presentation that was shown to their client just a few weeks ago. Instead of hearing about the broader, general terms and practices of PR it was really cool to see the campaign’s actual blue print.

Although Lake was unable to disclose the name of the client, the campaign “iPoker Legalization” dealt with petitioning to legalize the practice of online poker. Lake provided all the exact details of the campaign such as their messaging approach, target audiences, and even their survey methodology.

The topic was a little confusing for me to wrap my head around but I am curious to stay updated and see how the controversy regarding this legislation will play out. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Big Debate

Tonight, students gathered in O’Donnell lecture hall for the Communicating Excellence Symposium’s second event to hear the SMU debate team discuss the pros and cons of a possible new U.S. policy of humanitarian intervention.

The opposing sides both provided clear, strong arguments fully supported by evidence and facts-- their rhetorical skills clearly products of semesters spent in Dr. Mark McPhail’s infamous intro rhetoric class.

This being my first attendance at a live debate (ever!) I discovered a few things:

1.    There’s never a right or wrong answer. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I always thought debates were all about the “I’m right and you’re wrong” mentality, but tonight I realized that they are simply forums to express your feelings in hopes of moving and persuading others to share similar views.

2.    I’m fortunate to be a communications student at SMU. I was blown away with the students’ level of professionalism and ability to educate and empower others with their words. I truly believe that the professors in this department can be credited for this. Daily currents events quizzes, essays, and extemporaneous speeches might make most communication studies students cringe, but without these assignments we would never successfully grow as communicators, which leads me to my next point…

3.    I really, really, REALLY need to practice my public speaking skills. Most communication professionals stress the importance of writing, but being able to effectively voice yourself with words is an essential skill not just for success in the industry, but for life in general.  

After tonight, I’m looking forward to attending more debate team events and sharpening my public speaking skills next semester in either Forensics or Mock Trial.