Bias in the Age of Transparency

Photo cred: Tyron Francis
Photo cred: Tyron Francis

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a close acquaintance of mine, who is also the Director of Emerging Technologies and Social Media for a big advertising firm.  I asked him to take a look at my blog and linkedin profile to see if he can give me any advice for improvement.  He brought up something that took me by surprise.  He said, “Why do you have your picture up on all of your social media sites? People don’t need to know how old you are.”

I was a bit surprised because one of the big things I’ve heard from the social media community is how important it is to be consistent in your online presence. Use the same picture for your twitter, linkedin, facebook, etc to build your personal brand recognition.

I think sometimes we get caught up in all that social media has to offer and forget the reality of some situations.  What we so quickly forgot is that there is a great deal of bias in human beings. Everything from your age and gender to your race and religion can and does effect how people view you.

As most of my readers know, I am going to be graduating soon and I am looking for a job.  Social media has given me amazing networking opportunities, allowing me to communicate on a daily basis with people that I never would have met..but has it also hurt me? In this new age of transparency, where you’re expected to be honest and open with who you are, I have put who I am out there for anyone to see. By doing so, I may have also given a lot of companies a reason to weed me out of their recruitment process. Sometimes, all it takes is a picture.

I opted to keep my pictures up and to continue using social media as I have been, because I believe in the values of transparency and honesty.  I think its something that the professional world has lacked in the past and social media is helping us change that. 

Am I being naive? I am looking for an entry-level job in one of the toughest job markets this country has seen in a long time and cannot afford to sacrifice any opportunities. Should I be more careful? How will bias play a role in the “Age of Transparency”? … What’s your take?

Advice for PR and Marketing Grads

m00by
Photo cred: m00by

This is a collaboratively reworked version of Lauren Fernandez‘s post “Let’s Be Frank: Some Advice for PR Graduates” that I thought was SO great, I needed to make it available to my readers with a few additional insights of my own. I also spoke with Lauren after her post to find answers to some additional questions I had which will also be included here. Here we go…

  1. Build experience and set goals. Participate in internships, take offices, join clubs and do community service.  Find jobs that you are interested in and work to become qualified.
  2. Be realistic. Many companies have become big by retaining their employees and job openings are limited, especially in today’s economy.  You shouldn’t always shoot for the big name companies.  You will find that smaller – medium sized companies are the ones looking for bright new entry-level people to join them as they grow.  At these small agencies, you can gain a lot of experience because you really get to see the ins and outs of an agency.
  3. Don’t rush to grad school. Focus on building some experience first.  PR students should always have some experience before going to grad school. Really, a masters in PR is geared toward if you want to go into teaching. However, you can always go for Emerging Media, Public Affairs, Communications, etc. In many situations, only YOU would know what’s the right approach when considering going to grad school. In general, I would recommend having at least 2 years of professional experience first.
  4. You are not too good for ANY offer. As long as an organization has a good reputation, there is no reason to not give it a shot. You might find it’s a great fit, and you will definitely learn from it – good or bad. Also, you might hear of a development coordinator job opening – this is geared toward fund-raising and developing the brand. This is great for a young PR pro because you can really fine-tune your pitching and customer service skills.
  5. Stay open to doing internships after you graduate. Not everyone coming out of school will get a job right off the bat.  If you are set on the big agency, be prepared to take a paid internship for a couple of months before being offered an entry type position. Don’t look at this as a disadvantage!  Since you have a degree, you will be given more responsibility and greater consideration for full-time opportunities. You will take away great experience, contacts and if you do your job well, a recommendation.
  6. Set up interviews around graduation time Sure, your finance and business major friend already landed a job back in December but guess what? This is PR and marketing. The job offers WILL come.  Those hiring, unless stated differently, usually want someone to start within a month of the interview process. This is a field that is constantly on the go and constantly changing.
  7. Network until you graduate! The key is to establish a connection with professionals and stay involved until interview season. Three quick networking tips:
    1. Use social media to it’s fullest! Tools like linkedin, twitter, and professionals networks have made it easier than ever to meet professionals in your field. If you feel comfortable enough, have a lot to say and can say it well, start a blog!  Make sure to be respectful and professional in your online presence. Word gets around in these fields and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation.
    2. Go to networking events! There are always events going on in major cities.  They are a great way to make some real connections with experienced professionals who will only be impressed that you are networking before you graduate.
    3. If you’ve made a contact, communicate with them once a week – either by email, phone or even meeting for coffee. It’s the simple things that keep a relationship alive, and that drive to connect with PR pros is going to get you very far. Face-to-face communication is ALWAYS the best route to create meaningful relationships, especially for those that haven’t jumped into social media yet.
  8. You can focus your job search on social media. As many have argued, social media doesn’t exactly fall under marketing or PR but more of a mixture, and there isn’t an accepted method to approach social media. If you’re set on working in social media, consider an association/non-profit job. Contrary to popular belief, this is where a lot of job opportunities will be coming from. They all need in-house PR, and they also have a great need for the 20-something who is great at social media. In non-profits/association, you truly know the ins and outs of your client, because you ARE the client. In these settings, you also gain a ton of experience because you get to do a lot more, and are trusted a lot more, than in the agency atmosphere.

What did we leave out? What advice would you give to PR and marketing grads?

Web 2.0 Class: Part 2

Welcome to the second post in a the Web 2.0 Class Series.  Remember you can find all posts from this series by clicking the category “Web 2.0 Class” in the Topics section.

laptop
Photo cred: Aftab Uzzaman

What better way to kick off the second class meeting than to call for student feedback, a true representation of social media values?  Through the use of MyCourses, a platform (I am not particularly fond of) that has recently been adopted by  SUNY Geneseo and schools like Harvard, Brown and RIT, Professor Horn asked the students to respond to a few questions.

A few different web 2.0 technologies were used to gather student feedback…

1. Discussion Board (Forum): What are 3 things you would like to do/learn in this class?

I loved this idea.  I didn’t love that myCourses doesn’t allow students to view comments on a post so whoever didn’t start a new post could not be seen by their classmates. Regardless, in a brand new class with basically no set schedule or other examples to depend on, it is important that the professor is addressing things that the students want to learn, and not just what the professor wants to teach.

Student responses included:

  • How do websites make money without selling anything?
  • What is a podcast and how do you create one?
  • How to search / use the web effectively
  • Paypal (A little odd)
  • How to utilize blogs / blogging
  • How to build a website (the class won’t be doing much of this)


2. Blog Post: What are 3 things you DON’T want to do/learn in this class?

I also loved this and since only professors can post a blog entry, the students had to respond in comments that were viewable by anyone, avoiding the issue with the discussion board.

Student responses included:

  • Most popular: Learn less about the mechanics of these services and more about how they can be applied to business
  • Less lecture and more hands-on
  • Spend less time on programs that aren’t commonly used and more on programs that are popular / used frequently
    • (I disagree.  You never know how much relevance a program has until you use it. For example, Twitter isn’t popular on the Geneseo campus but has value in business applications)


3. Blog Post: Post your gmail address.

Pretty straightforward. The class will be using google apps to collaborate on projects.


4. Wiki: What is Web 2.0?

GREAT idea. A wiki was set up for students to write what they think web 2.0 means.  This isn’t meant to be answered immediately but rather something that will develop throughout the semester as students become more familiar with web 2.0 concepts. It will be very interesting to see how students’ answers will change over time.


Professor Horn told the students what he wants to cover in the class, taking into account students’ responses.  He also explained that he is open to letting students take on individual projects if they’re especially interested in a specific topic.

His topics to be covered included:

  • Websites: findability / usability
  • How websites make money on the internet
  • Mashups
  • Intellectual property rights / open source software
  • Wikis / collaboration tools
  • Instant messaging in the office / workspace

In the last class, a few different technology trends / topics were discussed.

  • Moore’s Law
  • The growth of Craigslist and its effects on newspaper revenues
  • The development of 3d movies to slow down movie piracy (Interesting…never thought about that before)
  • The decrease of marijuana use among teens as a result of web 2.0 / social media.  New technologies making it easier to communicate with friends online.  Teens can’t smoke if they’re on their computer at home with their parents. (Also very interesting.)
  • Finally, the long debate that I was happy to see many students had very strong opinions about;  MIT is making all their professors podcast their classes and make their notes available online.  How is this going to effect other schools / professors?  Will online courses completely replace the physical college campus?  You can expect a blog post on this topic soon.

Click here to see all “Web 2.0 Class” posts.

13 Tips For Your First Networking Event

Kelly Samardak (@socialmedium)
Mashable NYC Event Photo cred: Kelly Samardak

I recently attended the Mashable NYC event which was in fact my first professional networking event (not counting those completely useless job fairs).  As a first timer, I had no idea what to expect.  Is this going to help me? Are people going to take a college student seriously? How should I dress? Am I going to know what to say?

Well I set my doubts aside (big step), signed up for the event, attended and could not be more happy with my decision.  I can now provide you with some answers based on MY experience. Of course, everyone’s experience is different.  This will apply more to younger professionals, specifically college seniors, who are looking to expand their network in social media. Here are 13 things I learned…

  1. Make connections before the event. My night would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t connected with attendees before the event.  Most events will have a list with contact info for anyone attending the event. Don’t be afraid to send them an email or look them up on twitter and tell them you’re going to the event and wanted to connect with some people before hand.  It’s a huge confidence booster to see some familiar faces when you first arrive.
  2. Dress semi-casual. One of the things I love about the social media / interactive industry is how laid back it is. Don’t show up in a t-shirt and jeans but you don’t have to wear a shirt and tie either. A nice, clean sweater or button down and khakis or nice jeans will do just fine.
  3. Get there early. If you walk in late, you’ll find it harder to meet people who are already engaged in conversations, and you’ll miss out on whatever free promotions are provided (Peroni sponsored the Mashable event).  Everyone likes to have a drink to take the edge off at these events and if you miss the free drinks, be ready to pay (a lot) for them.
  4. Go Alone! This is something that I was torn over when going to this event.  Now that I went alone, I can say with full confidence that you should not bring a friend with you to a networking event.  It’s tough going to a social event without a wingman but if you bring one, you’ll find it is nothing more than an excuse to talk to them instead of meeting new people.

    wearenommashev
    Photo cred: Kelly Samardak
  5. Be creative. Think of something creative that will make you stand out and help break the ice, commencing conversation. The best example I saw was Arthur Bouie representing We Are Nom who carried around a basket of cookies to give out. They were a hit…and delicious.
  6. State your goal first. Everyone at the event is there for the same thing you are, to make some new connections that may provide future business opportunities and share ideas.  Whether you’re there to look for job, hiring, or collaborative opportunities, the first words out of your mouth should be your name, what you do and why you’re there.
  7. Pick up a nametag. duh right? Well I didn’t even notice the nametag table since it was so crowded until Colleen Eddy was kind enough to point it out to me. Here’s a tip that combines #5 and #6: Write what your goal is on your nametag! I simply wrote “I NEED A JOB!”nametag2 under my name and it worked like a charm. The name tag is the first thing everyone looks at when walking around and people started approaching me!
  8. Be prepared to tell people exactly what you can do for them. This was one of the most common questions I was asked and I regrettably have to admit that I wasn’t fully prepared for it.  As a college student, I expected to only be qualified for entry level jobs where you’re pretty much told what you need to do.  There were a lot of people however that wanted to know what services I would provide for them.  You may know what you can do for companies but you have to be able to convey it to them in a clear and precise manner.
  9. Relax! I don’t know how networking events are in other industries, but the social media crowd is typically very friendly and obviously loves to talk!  Don’t be afraid to go right up to someone and say hi! You will only be received with a big smile and a hand shake.  I had some great, in depth conversations that stemmed from a simple, “hi, I’m Dave =D”.
  10. Bring business cards and a pen. These are really the only things you need on your person.  When someone gives you a card, after you’re done talking to them write a note on the card to help you remember who they are and what you spoke about.  I didn’t do this and found it difficult to match faces to cards from memory when I got home.
  11. Know when to stop talking. Some people you meet will want to have long, interesting conversations with you.  Others will want to know who you are, what you do, get your information, and move on to the next person.  It’s not hard to pick up on the vibe that someone doesn’t want to talk to you anymore.  Say “it was great to meet you” and move on.
  12. Send e-mails the next day. I’d say that you have about 2 days before someone completely forgets about you if no further communication is attempted.  While you’re fresh in your new contacts’ minds, drop them an email.  Keep it short and sweet, tell them how great it was to meet them, and if you’re looking for a job, attach your resume.
  13. Don’t wait until after graduation! I very well may have been the youngest person at the event, but I received only positive feedback.  People thought it was great that I was networking before I graduated.  Most professionals were impressed and commended my enthusiasm.  I made some great connections with some amazing people and created job opportunities come graduation in May.  It’s never too early to start networking. (Well you have to be 21 to attend most networking events but you can still network in other ways!)

If you’re a college senior and you’re thinking about attending a networking event but can’t bring yourself to go, then please just trust me and GO!  You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from connecting with like-minded professionals.

Feel free to comment with your own tips and experiences.  Would love to hear about YOUR experience at your first networking event!

You can find the rest of Kelly’s picture set from the Mashable event here.

Web 2.0 Class: Day One

computer-labThis semester my school, SUNY Geneseo, has FINALLY created a class that discusses web 2.0 and emerging web technologies.  Previously named the “e-commerce” class that taught the traditional systems of online business, Professor Horn is revamping the course to teach students about using different web 2.0 platforms for business purposes.  As a developing field, obviously there are no set guidelines or systems to teach social media.  This class will be highly experimental and will involve web 2.0 values such as collaboration and student feedback to develop the actual class material.

First Day Introduction

After giving a brief introduction of web 2.0, the rest of the class was used to see exactly how familiar the students were with emerging technologies and different web 2.0 terms.  A survey was taken to see how many students are familiar with different tech terms.  Outside of the big terms like facebook and youTube, as expected in a Fine Arts focused school, the level of familiarity with terms like “RSS“, “wiki” and even Twitter, in the class was very low.

Professor Horn provided this chart to show the class how each web technology has developed into web 2.0

picture-21

Course Goals and Objectives:

  • Define and use different Web 2.0 technologies
  • Explain and demonstrate the business benefits of podcasts, wikis, blogs, virtual worlds, simulations, social networking software, etc.
  • Make recommendations regarding Web 2.0 business initiatives
  • Critique articles related to emerging technologies
  • Use online resources and portals to find useful materials

Books:

Professor Horn’s Ideas

  • All students will create an account on google to gain access to google apps. Students will learn how to use adwords, calendar, docs, and other relevent apps.
  • Students will use Secondlife to build on the land that the school has reserved.  Possibility of holding a class online through Secondlife (I love this idea)
  • Students will learn how to build and maintain a wiki.
  • Final project: Students will use everything they learned in class to revamp the Information Systems class (teaches students how to create and maintain databases) to incorporate web 2.0 technologies.
  • All students’ ideas and feedback will be applied to the course.  16% of the student’s grade will be based on team projects that have yet to be determined.

My Ideas

  • Have each student start a blog about something that they’re passionate about on a free platform like wordpress or blogger.  Have them update the blog weekly and provide feedback to other student’s blogs in their groups.
  • Students will sign up for google reader to allow them to read each other’s blogs and any other blogs they find interesting.
  • Have students sign up for twitter and follow each other.  Use twitter to collaborate on projects and share ideas.  Can also be used to complement blogs and drive traffic.

I am very excited about Geneseo embracing social media in such an open minded manner.  With something as new and unfamiliar as social media, the only way that it can be successfully taught is with an open mind and respect for innovation.  Prof. Horn is very open to everyone’s ideas and values collaboration in the classroom.  It will be very interesting to see how the class develops throughout the semester.

Do you know of any social media classes?  What kind of projects did they do?  What kind of projects would you be interested in if you were in the class?

This is the first post in a series of posts that can be found under the category “Web 2.0 Class” that will cover this class throughout the course of the semester.

7 Tips to Engage College Students

picture-11Are your messages reaching college students or are they being tossed away quicker than class notes after a final? Today’s college students and recent graduates, including those from online colleges [ad] have been using services like livejournal, myspace and facebook for a very long time and have developed a talent for sniffing out worth while messages from the noise that floods their mailboxes and social websites.  If done right however, word spreads through college campuses like a cold in a dorm building.  If you have something valuable to provide and you don’t want it to get lost in the noise,  here are some things to tips and things to keep in mind when attempting to engage college students…

  1. If you’re direct emailing off of a research based database…stop.  If students want to be emailed about something, they’ll sign up for it.  Even if you have something valuable, the minute they see a “pitch” in the subject line, they’ll delete it.
  2. Students join groups that their friends are already involved in.  Facebook groups are a great example of this.  In your feed, you are told when your friends join a group or become a fan of something.  They don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on something that their friends are involved in.
  3. Organize your job board.  I can’t tell you how many students, including myself, are searching online for job opportunities.  The problem is, 99% of the jobs they find are for more experienced professionals.  If you want to drive college traffic to your blog or site with a job board, make a clear section that is specific to entry level jobs.
  4. Add a little wit to your twit. Whether you’re reaching through blogging, twitter, or other social networks, keep your content witty and fresh.  College students spend 5 days a week reading boring, bland material.  If you make your content fun to read, they’ll appreciate it.
  5. Brevity is king. Think about how willing you would be to read a long email or blog post after reading 10 chapters of Freud, or sitting through an hour long exam. Time is valuable in college, so take up as little of it as possible and you will be well received.
  6. Sponsor student reps. College campuses are extremely viral environments.  If you don’t know someone, you probably know someone that does.  Create that facebook group then sponsor a couple students to represent you on campus. As I said in #2, students are attracted to groups that their friends are already in, so hire their friends!  A familiar, friendly face can get students to listen to your message. The only companies I have seen on my campus have been red bull and skoal (says a lot about us huh?) so there is a lot of opportunity to embrace a practically untouched marketing method.
  7. Collaborate with clubs and organizations. This is a great way to reach out to college students that can be relatively inexpensive as they receive funding from their school.  Contact the marketing club or any college business organization and give them an opportunity to collaborate with you. Clubs are always hosting events that you can sponsor.  Or you can really collaborate.  Give them some merchandise, have them create a marketing campaign for your company and test it out in their own college campus.  They will appreciate having the opportunity to do something real with an actual company instead of dealing with hypothetical situations.  (I’m trying to find opportunities like this for the Geneseo Marketing Club)

There are so many ways to reach college students.  If you do it right, the viral power of a college campus can pay dividends.  Not only will it spread through campus, but to all those college students’ friends from back home with the help of facebook and other social media platforms.

If any companies are interested in collaborating with the Geneseo Marketing Association Club (GMAC) email me at dspinks5@gmail.com

How to Set Up a “Mentorship”

batmanrobin

In my last post I discussed the value both young aspiring and older experienced professionals have to contribute to the business community.  Whether you’re just coming out of college, or you’ve been at your company for 10 years, the collaboration of an expert’s experience and a fresh new enthusiastic millenial will benefit both parties.

Deidre Hughey was kind enough to provide some feedback and proposed a great question that I decided was worthy of a follow up post. She asks:

How does one know if another person is looking for a mentor? How do you approach someone and offer to be their mentor? Is it the responsibility of the professional/experienced person to offer mentorship or does it lie with the person seeking the mentoring? Outside of people like Patrick, who has set up a single location for both sides to meet and connect them, I think it’s difficult for the act to occur.

Just to clarify, I believe that young professional millenials and experienced experts have much to gain from working together whether it be in a “mentor-apprentice” setting, or just in general, equal collaboration with one another, as long as each party is respectful of the other’s specialties.    Either way, I agree, it is difficult for the act to occur. I will argue however, that if we open our minds to the opportunity, it could be very easy.  I will address Deidre’s question for both arrangements.

“Mentor-Apprentice” Arrangement

Yes, Patrick provides a great program connecting serious young professionals with experienced professionals.  To connect without programs like Patrick’s, it is the responsibility of both parties to do their respective parts. If you choose to establish a mentorship on your own, here is what should be done.

For the Mentor-Seeking Millenial:

It is the responsibility of the millenial to connect with the mentor.  They must present themselves in a professional and sincere matter that lets experts, or mentors know that they are serious about wanting to learn. To present yourself in this manner you must do more than tell the expert that you are serious and read their blog, but also SHOW it! Whether it be in social communities or even on their blog, take an active role, the opportunity isn’t just going to come to you.  Actively participate in discussions and learn more by reading many other blogs.  Then you can approach the expert to ask for a “mentorship.”

For the Mentor:

MAKE YOURSELF APPROACHABLE! I have found that many times experienced professionals have their smaller network of trusted individuals and are very closed off to others who have something valuable to contribute to the conversation.  This happens especially when the person wanting to contribute is a young inexperienced millenial who has not established themselves in the industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect Chris Brogan to start replying to every message he gets from random young new social media enthusiasts.  I also don’t think that every single person can really contribute something valuable to each conversation.  If a young individual has made a strong attempt to connect  and contribute as I described above however, it is important that sometimes, experts step out of their usual trusted networks, hear what they have to say, and act as a mentor.  Remember you may not need them now, but these young new social media enthusiasts are the future of what you have spent all those years building, and can provide you with a valuable alternative perspective.

Collaboration Arrangement

By collaboration arrangement, I mean simply the collaboration of an experienced professional and a millenial on a project or issue.  This is very simple and it’s a matter of respecting each other.

The experienced professional must…

  • be willing to connect with young professionals outside their usual network
  • be sincerely open to new ideas that the young professional may have
  • respect their views and opinions as an aspiring professional

The young millenial must respect that the experienced professional is well, experienced! They must acknowledge that:

  • they have had successes and failures and have learned a great deal from them
  • they have been studying trends and learning about their industry for a very long time
  • they have worked very hard to gain the respect and trust of their peers and colleagues
  • Experience is invaluable; enthusiasm and bright ideas only go so far without an understanding of the big picture, don’t forget that.

Or you can just skip all that and email Patrick Evans at patrickevans@gmx.com.  That works too (=

Go Giants!FBN-SUPERBOWL-GIANTS-PATRIOTS