PR in Social Media: Owning up to Mistakes

Just like Homer Simpson, we all make mistakes sometimes.
Just like Homer Simpson, we all make mistakes sometimes.

In my last post, I talked bout the power of social media on a personal level as it relates to St. Cloud State University choosing to eliminate homecoming. I had a short anecdote I wanted to include, but omitted due to my goal of keeping posts at 500 words or less. The anecdote was about a typo I had on a Facebook post for KVSC on homecoming being eliminated at SCSU:

“Top story at kvsc.org today: St. Cloud State University to climate Homecoming.”

Not sure what “climate” homecoming is all about, but people started making fun of the typo almost as soon as it was posted. Although the headline was posted as KVSC, I was the one behind the typo (or auto correct more specifically). So once it was called to my attention, I had to make a choice: remove the original post (also removing user comments) or own up to my mistake with a personal remark.

Being a PR guy, I felt it was important to be transparent and admit the goof up. So I simply replied to the post (with my name and face next to the comment) and made a little joke out of it with a reference to damnyouautocorrect.com.

Many social media experts believe it is important to always put a face with a company status update. Personally, I feel it depends on the type of post. Posting an article that is “trending” on your site should not require a face behind the post. However, if there does happen to be a typo, whoever made the error should own up to the mistake.

Lastly, just as a reporter should never remove an article with a factual error, a company should never remove a post or tweet with a mistake. It is much more professional to admit fault. Plus, admitting your mistake can only create more impressions and build credibility as a reputable source of information.

Thankfully, this was merely a typo and not anything offensive. Some celebrities and journalists alike have made “jokes” on Facebook or Twitter that have turned out to be quite offensive and created backlash from their followers. Check this article out to learn of a larger-scale mistake and how Kim Wilson suggests handling a “Twitter Faux Pas.”

I should mention I had a mistake in my last post as well. When I omitted the part about my mistake, I left a sentence in that was completely out of context. It was up for a few hours before I noticed it. Can’t even remember what it was now. Did I just break my own rule of owning up to mistakes?

Weber Shandwick Account Executive: Confidence. Initiative. Follow Through.

Account Executive John Poferl from Weber Shandwick spoke at a recent PRSSA/AMA meeting.
Account Executive John Poferl from Weber Shandwick spoke at a recent PRSSA/AMA meeting.

One of the main reasons I am in Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is for the chance to visit PR agencies and to attend meetings with guest speakers. Today, PRSSA and American Marketing Association (AMA) at St. Cloud State University was fortunate enough to host Account Executive John Poferl from Weber Shandwick.

After AMA went through its weekly meeting of officer reports, we watched a short video about life at Weber Shandwick and after a quick introduction, John jumped right into questions and answers. Being a young professional (a 2007 SCSU graduate), John was quick to stress the importance of personal branding of both the online and in-the-flesh sense. He found this important because it seems that resumes now are all so good. Keeping up with trends in social media and showcasing that you have a good grasp of how to use online social networks and how to measure and monitor social media is important. However, John did point out that having a reputable social media presence is important, but if you’re not careful, it can bite you. One example he mentioned was someone who made it through a series of interviews and when it came time to take a writing test, the candidate was tweeting during the allowed time.

Most of the questions from students were geared on resume/interview tips and essentially how to land that first job with a public relations agency or marketing firm. John’s story was a testament to showing initiative and the importance of follow through. John was having a hard time finding an internship as an undergraduate and ended up approaching a business group in White Bear Lake, Minn. He essentially made up his own (non-paid) position as a public relations practitioner to help the group promote its services with a small budget. John later participated in Pro-Am Day at Weber Shandwick where he made a great connection and learned a lot by asking questions. He kept in communication during the following months and when an internship opened up near his graduation date, he was contacted. His internship turned into a full-time job and he’s been at Weber Shandwick ever since.

Some of the other main points gained from this guest speaker are to be confident in the job hunt, always have good questions to ask after an interview, content of a resume is more important than design and being a good writer is maybe the most important quality a public relations agency is looking for. I always love listening to someone share their life journey and always find something valuable from listening. What I got out of John Poferl: Be confident. Show initiative. Always follow through.

Learning Skills from KVSC’s Biggest Annual Event: Trivia Weekend

In front of my billboard for Superheroes of Trivia.
In front of my billboard for Superheroes of Trivia.

KVSC 88.1FM’s 32nd annual Trivia Weekend recently came to an end. Trivia Weekend is a staple in Central Minnesota and consistently sees around 70 teams compete in a 50-hour non-stop contest with nine questions asked over the air every hour. The questions range from sports and popular culture to science and general history with many theme-based questions asked throughout the contest.

This year’s theme “Superheroes of Trivia” was especially fun for the competing teams and question writers alike. The questions are very tough as the writers attempt to “Google-proof” them and the contest is complete with audio sound bites and visual trivia. This is a great contest and is one of the longest-running annual events at St. Cloud State University.

Personally, I never really get too excited about hearing the questions over the air or for putting in volunteer hours for this weekend-long event. However, this being my second year as a graduate assistant at KVSC, I did get excited about putting my public relations knowledge to the test and in exercising my social media and graphic design skills in promoting Superheroes of Trivia. From designing the promotional poster to teasing the Trivia Weekend junkies via Facebook and Twitter, I had a lot of fun building some hype leading up to Superheroes of Trivia and in keeping the conversation going in the social media world all weekend. Most of the design work was based on the poster and included designing T-shirts, small flyers, images for web/social media and even a billboard (pictured above).

Promotions for Trivia Weekend began before the theme was even picked in July. With social media, we were able to get trivia enthusiasts involved by including them in choosing a theme. By creating a social media contest around the idea of helping us pick a theme, we were able to interact with our audience and make them feel more closely connected to the station.

The privilege of being a graduate assistant at an award-winning college radio station has been the perfect supplement to my academic career at St. Cloud State. Jo McMullen-Boyer is a great station manager to work with and she really gives me a lot of freedom to make my position at KVSC my own. The position is mostly geared around creating content for kvsc.org and general public relations for the station as well as some basic graphic design when necessary. The freedom to make the position my own means I have put a strong focus on building the station’s social media platforms and driving traffic to its website. I also get to work on my skills as a photographer at concerts and other special events.

Soon after Trivia Weekend came to a close, postings on our Facebook page were popping up thanking the station for making the weekend so much fun and on what the theme should be for next year. Sadly, I graduate in May and am (hopefully) moving on to bigger and better things and will not get to contribute to picking a theme or teasing the “trivia junkies” via social media during the months leading up to Trivia Weekend. I’m sure my successor (whoever that may be) will carry the Trivia Weekend promotions torch well.

Tour of Target Field–Home of the Minnesota Twins

View from the press box at Target Field
View from the press box at Target Field.

I had the privilege of taking a guided tour of Target Field yesterday in Minneapolis. This was my second visit to the new home of the Minnesota Twins and I could not be any more impressed with everything the stadium and the Twins organization has to offer. The tour was organized by members of PRSSA-St. Cloud State Chapter and was given by Chris Isles, corporate communications manager for the Twins.

The tour was amazing. Chris showed us around the entire stadium — telling plenty of interesting team facts and notes on the construction of the stadium along the way. Seeing some of the suites and season ticket holder areas was definitely impressive. The highlight of the tour was walking through the team clubhouse and stepping outside to view the snow-covered stadium at field level. We even took a look at the dugout before heading to the media room to learn about Chris and his role with the Twins. Kevin Smith, executive director of public affairs for the Twins, also joined us to share his stories and career highlights.

As much as I enjoyed the tour of America’s greatest modern ballpark, the Q&A session with Chris and Kevin was the main feature of our trip to Target Field. As with most PR professionals, Kevin and Chris both had very interesting stories on how they ended up getting to where they are today. The amount of work put in while working for a Major League Baseball team is unsurmountable — Chris mentioned writing about 10 news releases a year while working in health care compared to writing over 100 with the Twins. Chris also manages all social media efforts for the Twins as well as the many other odds and ends communications pros are known to handle.

I am not really much of a sports buff, but I have always wanted to work for a Major League Baseball team. I’ve been to home games for eight teams in 10 different stadiums now and every time go I get excited about the thought of what it would be like to work in that type of atmosphere and actually being a part of a team. Kevin had several stories about the little things he does as a public affairs executive that really showcased why he loves his job.

One example of going above the call of duty was when he was alerted of a little girl in attendance at a game who had just lost her father to cancer a few days prior. Sitting there with her uncle and mother, the family was looking rather solemn. Without hesitation, Kevin got a gift bag and a ball signed by Michael Cuddyer and headed to their seats. He presented them with the gift bag and told the girl that Michael Cuddyer wanted her to have the ball and let them know they were in good hands. He could see their solemn faces turn to tears joy and he quickly got out of there before he broke down too. Listening to Kevin tell this story, I could really feel how much he cares about and enjoys his job. I can only hope to find a place in the world that will give me the opportunity to touch someone’s life as Kevin has.

A Viral Video Holiday Greeting

Watching the hilarious video above reminds me of a lot of things. For one, it makes me think of some of the more embarrassing moments in my life and, believe me, I’ve had my share, but it also reminds me to always think of the unexpected. This being a (mostly) PR and social media blog, I could get into crisis management and how to deal with social media disasters, but since it’s Christmas Day, I think I’ll just wish everyone warm regards this holiday season and cheers to a happy new year.

Special sneak peak into my next few blog entry ideas: social media contests, Epic 2014 and Pummelvision.

Social Media is Not an Excuse for Bad Writing

Text Messaging ShorthandIn my last post, I discussed how social media has changed the way people are finding jobs, the criteria employers now follow and how many in the PR field are branding themselves and networking via social media sites. The videos mentioned noted some astonishing statistics, making it impossible to ignore the social media wave or pass it off as a fad. In this post, I want to talk about something important in every industry: Good writing skills.

Some might not view text messaging (or SMS) as a form of social media, but it is one communication tool that has fundamentally changed the way people communicate. Though abbreviations such as OMG and LMAO (along with a long list of other text messaging shorthand) may be cute and a much quicker way to get a point across, they really have no place in communicating a company message or in any attempt at branding yourself in an online world. If you’re like me and you mostly maintain a Twitter account and a blog to show potential employers what you are all about and some of the skills you have, you should basically never use shorthand.

It can be a challenge to fit a quick pitch and a link to the full article in 140 characters or less for Twitter, but our society’s attention span has grown increasingly short and relies on bite sized pieces of information to give them the knowledge they need. Maybe the first lesson I learned as a student of mass communications was to be concise in my writing. Give the important information up front and all the minor details in the body and towards the bottom (inverted pyramid style of writing).

That’s enough about Twitter. The point I really want to make is that good writing is important. I feel that I am a decent writer, but that’s because I work on it nearly everyday and have been since I started college. However, I can always work on clarity, creativity and brevity, among other areas. With that, please let me know if I have any typos or if you see areas I can work on to improve my writing style … I am open to all suggestions.

So this is my public service announcement to anyone who has a blog or posts short messages to Twitter, Facebook or any other social network that broadcasts to basically the entire world: Be a good writer.

Social Media Changes Everything

Personal Branding
Build your personal brand with social media.

I came across the video “A Day in the Life of Social Media” last night and it reminded me as to why I started a blog: Social media changes everything. I have one semester left before I earn a Master of Science degree in Mass Communications with a focus on PR and Advertising. This is definitely an exciting reality and I am very much looking forward to once again feeling that sense of accomplishment of earning a degree from an accredited university. It is scary because … wait for it … the job market is tough. Not only is the job market tough, but I still am not quite sure what career I want to pursue. Public relations has always interested me and I hope that I can get into that field, but I am also well aware of the potential new (possibly sub) field of social media.

Social media jobs are definitely out there and if you still don’t believe in the phenomenon or if you think it’s just a fad, think again. Some of the key stats that jumped out at me in this video is that 700 million people join Facebook everyday and over 1 billion pieces of information are shared on Facebook in that same 24 hours. Wow. I have had several of in-class discussions on whether or not Facebook will be around forever. You can easily make an argument for or against the case of Facebook, but the fact is, it is here now and as another video has so eloquently summed up, “social media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental way in which we communicate.”

I have not exactly began a job search yet, but what I have done is start to brand myself (hence the blog). Call me a social media geek, but 80 percent of companies now use social media for recruitment. Thus, it is imperative that I maintain up-to-date, clean-cut social media sites to market myself as an aspiring PR professional and social media specialist. I have talked with other PR students who have said they have landed interviews via Twitter and that employers in the PR field won’t even look at a candidate if he/she is not on Twitter. Job candidates are even including their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn sites under their contact section on resumes.

Social media is a reality and I must follow the trend or be left in the dust.

Photo credit: http://rockablepress.com/