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New Rules of Marketing and PR :: Students Feeling A Buzz

Fall semester brings more blogging and social media exercises to my classrooms. This semester, as with all in the past, I’ve tried to do something new with the hope of catching the imagination of each student.

I have a story, but first – some background.

The PR Writing class is reading David Meerman Scott‘s book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Then, theyNew Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott are writing about it in their Fall 2007 class blogs. Along the way, the students are also exploring social media releases, online release portals and more. You’ll be happy to know that they are doing a lot of other writing, too. Releases, features and more are weekly exercises. Finally, they will create an online newsroom for a nonprofit client … a real client.

I’ve never said, and never will say, that social media will replace tried and true public relations practices. It does offer a new way, sometimes a more appropriate and successful way, of serving a client’s interests and those of their stakeholders. And, developing an understanding of online release writing and delivery is certainly useful.

So, the story is that – as usual – many students are skeptics. Jackie is was one of them. But, she recently had an ah-ha! experience.

Understanding, Ah-Ha’s, and Intuition: To us humans, an “ah-ha” means that at a particular point in time we do not have the solution of a problem, or even an understanding of it, but a moment (a few hundred milliseconds?) later we have a solution or a clear idea of how to reach one, and a feeling that we know why it will work. (Source: Stanford Discussion Group)

It all started when Jackie was researching her client for the final project mentioned above. Her client, the Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative (ACHMI), was having a conference and she attended to meet, greet and listen.

Jackie related her story in a post to The Loveliest Village and in her own blog, The title of her post? “Wow, This Stuff Really is Important.”

Long story short, Jackie was listening to those attending the conference discuss how they might best get their message out to their key audiences. After awhile, Jackie couldn’t restrain herself any longer and she started to talk about what we are covering in class.

Here is the kicker. This ACHMI initiative is an $8.2 million dollar project. It was a student, just learning about new media, that caught the interest of these conference attendees … so much so, they asked her to speak at the conference. Jackie, bless her heart, stepped up to the challenge and spoke to the crowd about what we are doing in class.

It gets better.

David Meerman ScottRemember those posts of Jackie’s? Well, David found the post in his Google Alerts and dropped by to comment. But, he didn’t stop there. David wrote about it in his blog, WebInkNow.com. His post is entitled The New PR Generation. It even shows up on the Amazon.com page for the book. Two of David’s readers came by to comment, too. One is from Washington, D.C. and the other from Saint Joseph’s, Missouri. Elsewhere, we’ve seen comments from South Africa, The Netherlands and points coast-to-coast in the USA.

It gets better.

Tonight, I receive an email from an Auburn colleague, Michael Tullier. He serves on the PRSA Universal Accreditation Board. A colleague of his, from that board, sent an email stating, “FYI. This was circulated among our “Legends” group of APRs in San Diego. It speaks highly of Auburn.”

Talk about a long tail and six degrees of separation. Talk about buzz. Talk about an unintended, yet positive, result from a classroom initiated meme. Whew!

You know, this isn’t just any ol’ book and any ol’ author we’re getting the students involved with, by the way. Right now Scott’s book has a sales rank at #503 overall in Amazon.com’s Books section. The book is in the top 100 for business books at #92, as of the last check (the ranks are updated hourly). And it is now sitting at #4 in the Marketing category. Is it just me, or doesn’t that deserve a mention? The book isn’t just great … it is also a best seller.

So, that’s good news. Yea! for our team. Yea! for the students. Yea! to David Meerman Scott for taking an active interest. Thank you!

But, you know what? I still find myself in the position of having to (a) justify what we are doing in class, (b) defend the value for the students, and (c) convince people that we should continue the practice. Of course, I’ve been paying for it all out of my own pocket all the while, too. (Sorry, just a little venting.)

You know what, I find myself wondering if it is all worth it for me. I know it is worth it for the students. I know that it has helped, is helping, and will continue to help the department, college and university. But, me … I’m getting tired. Sigh.

Update: All that being said, I really do want to encourage you to visit the student blogs for this semester. The list of the student blogs for Fall 2007 is located on the Loveliest Village site. Students are also posting features and videos there, so check them out as well.


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  2. Robert,

    Terrific post. Thank you.

    Change agents often wonder if their efforts are worth it. When I first started talking about the new rules more than five years ago, everyone was a skeptic. The only way I could really spread the word was to quit the corporate world to write and speak. And the initial audiences just didn’t want to know. They wanted to continue with the “media relations” (read spam) that they always did.

    Finally, people are listening. And because of you, the new generation has a fantastic head start. We are showing that, individuals and organizations of all kinds can finally communicate with the public again after years and years of being at the mercy of the media.

    You are a pioneer. You’re doing more to further the cause of Public Relations than the so-called experts at places like PRSA.

    Yes, evangelism is tiring. But we both know it is worth it. I hope you can continue to push yourself spread the word.


  3. Robert,

    When I jumped into the blogosphere, you were welcoming and an inspiration for my students and teaching style. David is right, you are a change agent far more valuable than the suits. Your teachings live through each student. I would almost repeat the college experience if only to have you as my instructor!

    David’s book is an excellent tool in the classroom. I know my students have enjoyed the material and it is much easier to digest than the average dated text. As always, I wish your students luck. I will be following all of them…and you!

  4. Thank you, David. Yeah, I shouldn’t have vented … but it just came out. It is worth the effort and I do want to continue. Maybe just in another way. What is most gratifying in all of this is the ability now for students to actively interact with an author like you and see how these new tools can spread rather quickly.

    As I wrote to a friend about this, what is perhaps most impressive is how fast – and how far – this meme has spread. For this type of story, you could not do it using traditional PR / media practices, IMO.

    So, this live practice by the students is actually a positive experiential learning experience.

    Lauren, thank you, too. I appreciate your kind comment. I remember when you joined the conversation, so to speak. I see your posts and comments elsewhere. It is great to see you still practicing and teaching these new tools, too. You keep it going and I’ll try to as well.

    Thanks for coming by and commenting. Take care.

  5. Being a pioneer is definitely tough at times, but you are truly paving the way to the future. I’ve had at least three more full classes of journalism students using PRX Builder this semester. People are paying attention to what you’re doing and now we are seeing classrooms across the country emulating your work.

  6. Thank you, Shannon. Love to hear that others are trying out the class activities like ours.

    You have certainly be helpful to us from the very beginning of all the SMNR work and your sites / plugins have made these classroom activities possible. So, thank you for all of your contributions, too.

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  8. Robert,
    Great post and story. I feel the passion thru my screen, your students are lucky.

    I am the platform trainer for PRWeb. We partnered w/David to market his book with several releases and events. He is telling the truth as we,at PRWeb know it.

    My reason for the comment is to invite you to speak to me about helping your students use real-world tools, like press releases to help their nonprofit client. I would be willing to fund 3 releases thru our distribution channels to 2 students free of charge. The prerequist would be to attend my New User Orientation webinar and call into our teleconference bridge line to hear my live presentation and be involved in the Q&A with people from across the country.

    Please call me,

    Mario Bonilla
    866.640.6397 213

  9. Thank you, Mario. We appreciate your generous offer.

    I will call you. Please allow me to speak with the students tomorrow in class, then I’ll call you on Thursday. We love any and all offers to learn more about news releases.

    Thanks again!

  10. Rob,

    Glad to see at least one of your students has seen the light 😉 That is a great story.

    We are definitely all experiencing a little social media fatigue (I haven’t blogged in weeks), but don’t get tired or give up. Even though you’ve been singing the same old song for years (to what, at times, seems like little avail) social media is still very cutting edge for the lagging majority. You are giving the students valuable knowledge, that (while they probably don’t appreciate it now) will help them to stay afloat in a constantly dynamic and super competitive industry.

    Because of my social media expertise I could actually compete with (and beat) other job candidates with similar degrees. Who’d have thought an Alabama girl would be working in NY of all places! Your hopeless devotion to us was worth it to me (and I can name you a bunch of others). I hate to go all cheerleader on you Rob, but I’ll do it if I have to. Keep up the good work. Auburn is really lucky to have you.

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  12. That is so cool that you are using that book in class…I was just thinking to myself the other day that I wondered how different the college experience in PR was (and was going to be) with the introduction of social media in classes. It makes your students that much more valuable to have that experience and knowledge, I think.

  13. If a PR class instructor hands out the Meerman book, that instructor is totally clued-in and up to date on the triumpho-emergent media that’s shaking not only mainstream media and corporate communications, but the very way we manage all relationships and how we think.

    For example, blogging for 5 years has increased my writing, thinking, researching, networking, and debate skills far more than I can possibly describe in words, thus negating my claim, and this is how Winning Through Self-Loathing can work for an organization.

    InfoTainment, where what is meant is sealed in the cement of insightful humor.

    Twitter helps us think and communicate in extreme brevity. One learns how to condense what would have been a few paragraphs, or pages, into 140 characters or less, and that includes a hyper-link.

    If CEOs aren’t experimenting with videoblogging, YouTube, wikis, blogs, Gleamd, Spock, Jaiku, Pownce, 8apps, Yippikaya, flickr, del.icio.us, Tumblr, Kyte.tv, Campfire, Virb, Venim, Ning, Conduit, Zaadz, Netsquared, Swicki Eurekster, LibraryThing, Freebase, and other Web 2.0 apps, getting personally involved in online communities to whatever degree they can…then, if they’re exhibiting negligence here, you cannot trust or follow them anywhere.

    The CEO must be visionary, or step down. There is nearly no risk, if a rational policy and a smart strategy is adhered to, and the financial investment is also approximately nil. It’s just the ROT, Return on Time that must be carefully factored.