Talking social media to PR students

This morning I did my first-ever guest lecture/talk at the post-secondary level, to fourth-year public relations students taking one of Dr. DeNel Rehberg Sedo’s courses at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS.

DeNel found me via a guest post I’d done on Kimberly Walsh’s East Coast by Choice blog and a comment I’d left on her own blog, where she’d reviewed Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, The Lacuna. She took at look at my blog and got in touch via email to ask me to do a guest lecture to her class. Once we worked out the time and date logistics (since my East Coast sojourn was back in 1973 and I was pretty sure she didn’t have budget to fly me to Halifax), I stopped procrastinating about needing a computer with more juice, bought a refurbished iMac, and mastered Skype for once and for all.

My first test run on Skype taught me a valuable lesson: makeup required for Skype video because even north light produces glare, and I didn’t want to look like a burn victim with unhealed skin grafts (no offense intended). That meant an earlier start for me, but that’s ok – I didn’t want to scare people or rattle myself (although I have to say, the great advantage of doing an in-person talk is that you don’t have to look at yourself while you’re doing it – at least not after the rehearsing-in-front-of-a-mirror segment of the procedure is over).

DeNel and I agreed to try to keep the experience as technologically simple as possible. I emailed her the link to the presentation I planned to use (which I’d found on my friend Allen Gibson’s blog) so she could run the PowerPoint and I could focus on trying to make sense.

Here it is:

Marta Kagan

As follow up, I sent DeNel an email recommending a few books for her students, namely:

The New Rules of Marketing & PR – David Meerman Scott
The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media – Paul Gillin
Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies – Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Friends with Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook – Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo

I also sent a link to Mhairi Petrovic’s web site, which I mentioned in my talk. Her blog (here’s the feed so you can subscribe) is a classic example of how to position yourself as a thought leader in a particular space (social media marketing – I rely on Mhairi’s posts to ensure I have at least a passing acquaintance with what’s happening in that hyper-evolutionary field).

I spoke briefly about the need to customize social media strategies, particularly in the context of small businesses and a recent post I’d read that questioned the value of social media for small businesses in particular. One student challenged me on this (rightly so!), based on her internship work experience with a local Halifax bakery (I’m hoping she’ll remind me of the name of the bakery in the comments section), which gave me a chance to talk about the importance of geolocation services for location-specific businesses, regardless of whether they’re seeking to expand to other cities or franchise. I also mentioned the stellar job Sarah Petegree of Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies is doing with combined social media and traditional PR strategies. I should also have mentioned another UK company, Wiggly Wigglers. The Marketing Profs case study I read was the first I’d come across that talked actual dollars and ROI for social media marketing vs traditional advertising spend (afraid that one is paid content so I can’t link to it here). From what I can remember, ad spend was cut by more than 85% and sales increased by more than 300%.

We talked very briefly about measurement of social media efforts – a vast subject in and of itself, and I suggested a customized approach to that as well, but one that kept an eye on some sort of bottom line – if not sales, then at least hits/web traffic/app download increases – something relatively tangible.

I also talked about the folly of attempting to do all your customer service via social media in general and Twitter in particular, and how disastrous that could be. Within five minutes of finishing the lecture, I came across this fantastic post from Radian 6 about how they manage connecting and engaging with customers online. Hint: by working both smart and hard at it.

For more social media smarts, here’s a video everyone needs to see, Social Media Revolution 2. As for the motivation for this post? Partly great content that needed to be consolidated in one linkable spot, but mostly because DeNel told me she’d assigned one of her students to monitor my blog. Time to generate some more content then!

To today’s MSVU students: you were a great crowd. Hope to hear from you in the comments below. C’mon. Try it. You’ll like it. See that big RSS feed button? Click on it, it won’t bite. Ultimately it will make your lives easier.


About ruthseeley

Ottawa born, Toronto educated, lived in the Lower Mainland and southern AB for more than a decade. Passionate about community, democracy, and good books. Fond of the Oxford comma.
This entry was posted in public relations, Social media, speaking engagements and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Talking social media to PR students

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Talking social media to PR students « No Spin PR --

  2. Kimberly says:

    Great post! I’m so glad you were able to connect with DeNel and deliver real world social media expertise to the next generation of PR grads.

  3. Darren says:

    Thanks for mentioning our book!

  4. ruthseeley says:

    I hear you’re up yourself in a few weeks, Kimberly. Thanks for being the Fifth Business- facilitator for all this.

  5. ruthseeley says:

    Thanks to you and Julie for writing it, Darren. It’s hard not to be daunted by social media when you first encounter it. Then you realize you encountered and started participating in it years ago, you just lacked any kind of over-arching theoretical framework. I know I searched long and far for a book on blogging before I started and couldn’t find one – finally just started doing it. But since my primary goal was writing, I was a bit techno challenged. And linking smoothly utterly defeated me for my first two years of blogging, I think.

  6. doctor d says:

    I am so grateful you “visited” our class, Ruth. I was especially pleased with your thoughtful and oh-so-directed answers to the questions. This group of students is fantastically grounded, with a healthy sense of skepticism and an equally abundant amount of energy. I think they’ll enjoy your list of books, too, so thank you for that and all of the links.

  7. ruthseeley says:

    You’re very welcome – it’s always good to do things outside one’s comfort zone. Social media is such a vast field that I wanted to follow up and provide some additional information (and references) for the things I’d said.

  8. jillianhelen says:

    Hi Ruth,

    I’m one of DeNel’s students and just wanted to tell you I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation on monday. As 20-something PR students, many of us often feel that we know more than the “average bear” when it comes to social media – boy are we wrong!

    Your “Skype lecture” was informative, fascinating and extremely entertaining! Since yesterday, I’ve told about five different people that it would take them 412 years to watch all of videos on youtube. I also want to thank you for your advice on social media and small business as it’s a topic very near and dear to my heart (I’ve actually started my own PR agency to help small businesses with their PR and marketing needs).

    Looking very forward to reading more of your blog posts.


    – Jillian Blackman from Halifax, NS

  9. ruthseeley says:

    Jillian – thanks so much. I was going on about 2.5 hours’ sleep, so I was a little worried I wouldn’t be terribly coherent. Sarah tells me she is striving for world pork pie domination, so it’s a good thing she’s a Twitter early adopter. When I find the Wiggly Wigglers case study I’ll email you. I’d also encourage you, as you work with small businesses, to do up mini case studies of your own – they’ll really help you not only get online and mainstream media coverage, they’ll help you get more clients too. Next planned post: social networking book sites and what they can do for authors.

  10. Not just easier, but perhaps social media will make our lives richer by learning valuable lessons from shared experiences. Thank you for taking the time to guide these students and also for the shout-out!

    Lauren Vargas
    Community Manager at Radian6

  11. ruthseeley says:

    Lauren – it was so great to come across the Radian6 post when I did. It’s so hard to ‘topline’ social media in all its hydra-headed glory in just an hour, so i really wanted to provide more detail and food for thought in my follow-up post. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  12. outsmarts says:

    Note to self: must listen better.

    Thanks Ruth.

  13. ruthseeley says:

    LOL – especially to the compliments.

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