Tips for the future Ad/PR student at Loyola

I only have one semester left here at Loyola, so I feel like I am in a position to hand out unsolicited advice.  Of course there’s the generic stuff; study hard, always do the readings, don’t wait until the night before your 13 blog posts are due to finish the last eight of them.  I concur with all that.  Ideally, those pieces of advice should be followed, although I am aware that most times the ideal does not happen, so don’t sweat it.

There are certain other things that I think are more important (and more pertinent to the advertising and public relations major then the aforementioned college 101 tips.

1. Study abroad during college.

While this does not directly relate to your studies and I most cases won’t have anything to do with them, study abroad experience is a great differentiator on a resume.  If you can learn a foreign language while abroad, even better.  During my internship this fall, my language skills came in to play much more than I expected, which is to say, the came in to play at all.  During one of my first days on the job I was asked to research trade publications in Mexico.  Based on the fact that I has studied abroad and learned Spanish and the other intern had not, I was given the project to myself.  It wasn’t essentially a big deal, but projects like that do come up.

2. Get an internship early.

If you can get an internship at the end of your sophomore year, do it.  If you can get one at the end of your freshman year, even better.  I was a money hungry little monster my first years of college and would always choose a paying job over internship experience.  I had my first internship this semester and I really wish I had a bit more to put on my resume.  I have friends who have had four or five internships already and I know that they are not wanting for job offers.

3. Network!

When guest speakers come in to your classes, ask for their card, email follow-up questions and add them on LinkedIn.  Also, public relations people aren’t the only useful contacts.  The lady you babysit for might be a stay-at-home mom, but her best friend Suzzie’s sister might be an exec at Edelman.

4. Take a class will Allan Schoenberg…

Okay I put that for brownie points.  But he is legitimately a good teacher and definitely worth taking.  I’ve had him for two different classes you actually do learn things in his class.  Plus he invites some really great guest speakers (aka networking opportunities.

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Taking a look at my own social media habits

I first started my foray in the social media world as a young, innocent jr. high student.  Like many of my fellow classmates I would sit at home at night and instant message my friends on AIM.  I remember being thrilled when I first learned of AIM.  All of my friends had AOL at home and I was truly envious as we just had generic internet at my house (“AOL is the internet with training wheels” was the explanation I received when I queried as to why we were not blessed with AOL).  Since AIM was run by AOL, it was the next best thing and get this, it was FREE!  All you needed was an email address.

I was poised and ready to sign up for my AIM account, but needed a screen name.  No ordinary user name would do.  Other kids had awesome usernames like SportsDude88 and MaraschinoCherry1019.  I needed a username that would express my individuality and be cool so I would feel lame sharing it with the kids at school.  After several days of pondering and consulting all my friends as well as my siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins… I settled on kellywood87.  It was like Hollywood only better… kellywood plus the year I was born, 87, of course.  I wouldn’t want anyone to confuse me with the other kellywoods out there and besides all the cool kids had numbers in their screen name.

My nights of IMing were fun and exciting ones.  I would hover in the computer room waiting for my brothers or sister to finish their allowed hour of computer time before jumping on myself.  occasionally I would be interrupted by my mom yelling at me to get of the internet because she needed to make a phone call.  But while when left uninterrupted I could talk for hours to my friend my latest crush, the annoying math teacher and how annoyed I had been with Lauren or Christina or Mia that day.

When I moved on to high school I stopped using AIM as much and there were a few years in there where I led a life free of social media.  That is until the end of my senior year when I discovered… FACEBOOK. Facebook was amazing.  All my friends and I were going to different colleges, so Facebook made it easy to keep in touch.  I could add photos of Friday night kegstands and check out pictures of my friends at Ohio State passing out in fraternity houses.  Facebook was way better than AIM and I was even addicted to it than I has been to IMing.  I checked Facebook first thing when I woke up in the morning, after every class and all meals and it would be the last thing I would see before going to bed at night.

Luckily, things cooled off between Facebook and I after my freshman year and I have gradually become less and less addicted.  I still check my Facebook semi-regularly, but it has become more of a tool to avoid doing my homework than an addiction.  I have also joined some more mature (I’m nearly a grownup now, so it’s time I start acting like one) social networks, like LinkedIn.

Ideally I would blog, but the few times I have tried to start a blog it has gone the way of the diaries I tried to keep as a child.  I’d write for three days straight and the not write for seven months.  If I end up teaching English in Spain next year, I do my best to keep a blog.  Hopefully with school to take up my time, I’ll be able to update it a few times a month.

I am surely not as social media crazed as a lot of other people are and I would like to keep it that way.  If I end up going into public relations I will most likely be doing tons of social media for clients, so I am sure I’ll get my fix.  While I appreciate the most basic social media, I am not a big fan of posting everything I do online.  Call my old-fashioned, but I like to have my secrets.

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Small towns and social media.

I am from a relatively small city in Ohio.  Toledo, to be exact.  As many non-Ohioans are not too up-to-date on their Ohio geography, here’s a map for your reference.

Most of us native Toledoans consider Toledo to be the center of the universe.  After all we brought you Katie Holmes, Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H… anyone?) and heavy metal band Lollipop Lust Kill.  That’s not to mention Tony Packo’s, the Toledo Mud Hens and largest continuous sheet of tempered glass on record.  But I digress…

The point here is that while we small city folks may have oodles of hometown pride, most of us can own the fact that we are often a little behind on the times.  Fashions, trends and new ideas take longer to grab on around town.  Social media is not exempt from this rule.  The originals like Facebook and MySpace took a minute to become the hip thing.  I remember my younger cousins in suburban Chicago were on them long before I was.  YouTube caught on fairly quickly, but I of course heard about if from my Chicago cousins first.

Nowadays most Toledoans know of the pleases and sorrows of both Facebook, YouTube and blogging, but some of the other networks that are huge in  Chicago still have not caught on in my hometown.  I don’t know anyone in Toledo who tweets and I would be hard pressed to find any Toledo business contacts on LinkedIn.  I would be willing to wager that most Toledoans don’t know what Flickr or Delicious are.

Keeping in mind that Toledo is fairly representative of a lot of midwestern cities and towns, I would be interested in finding out if there is any research on integrating social media in small towns and cities.  I did a quick Google search but did not find much.  Any one have any ideas?

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Thanks Loyola profs! We’ll try to do you proud…

I have been studying public relations for over three years now and have had a number of different professors.  I’ve been lucky enough to have professors who have all worked in the real-world.  While professors who are strictly academics tend to be smart and often have a lot to say about their subject, I’m glad that all my professors have experience in the field they are teaching me about.  I have come to realize that I learn the most from listening to real-life stories of professionals and get very little out of theoretical lectures.

One of the best things that professors in Loyola‘s School of Communications do for their students is invite other industry professionals.  Our professors are aware that their own experience is limited and that we’ll learn more by hearing from people with a wide variety of professional experiences.

One of my favorite classes I’ve taken at Loyola was my Organizational Communications class taught by Robert Kornecki.  Professor Kornecki did not lecture instead, he share stories and case studies with us.  Not only was Kornecki himself a wealth of public relations knowledge, but he also brought in a guest speaker nearly every week to talk to us about various aspects of public relations.

Now that I am entering my last semester at Loyola I truly appreciate the opportunity that all my professors have given me to hear from real-world experts.  During interview and at my internship I am able to talk knowledgeably about actual cases and apply those to a given situation.  I will get the opportunity to create public relations plans until I am blue in the face when I reach the real-world.  Having learned from some of the best and brightest in the industry gives me a leg up over the completion who have not had exposure to as many industry professionals as I have.

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I won’t be tweeting you any time soon

I do not like Twitter.  There, I said it.  I don’t like it, I don’t understand it and quite frankly, I don’t feel like I’m missing much.  I do not need to @mcdonalds to tell me what’s up.  If I want to know what is going on with MickyDees I will google it.  I’m a big fan of Google.

Nineteen hours ago @mcdonalds wrote “Morning Tweeps! We have a winter wonderland outside my window. Good thing I stopped 4 my McCafe Latte this morning – it’s keeping me warm.”  Guess what, @McDonalds, you are not real.  When you use word like “we” and “I,” you really creep me out.

Beyond just being creepy, I don’t like twitter for a number of other reasons.

1. Twitter feed our collective ADD.

Are we really that far gone that we can only take in things that are 140 characters or less?

2. Twitter makes it easy to never have to think for ourselves.

People log on to twitter to find out what other people think is nifty rather than try to define cool on their own.

3. Twitter indulges our vanity.

Do we really need 15 followers to tweet us back in order to reassure us we’re as cool as we think we are?

4. Twitter is about as impersonal as you can get.

If you think your friend Susan would like an article you just read, why don’t you email her a link with a nice note asking how her day is going?

I know that a lot of people disagree with me on this and maybe I am old-fashioned, but I just don’t see the appeal.  Twitter is not for me, but if you are a fan, by all means, go ahead and tweet this to all your friends.

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Public relations ethics

Anyone who works in public relations knows that ethics are a big gray area of the industry.  PRSA has a code of ethics for its members.  Like many codes of ethics though, it is just vague enough to not be cause for concern among the less scrupulous members of the profession.  There is not an industry standard as far as rules and consequences are concerned.

There are plenty of other industries that have vague codes of ethics, but a vague ethics code isn’t a problem for most industries.  The engineers code of ethics probably is not the most clear code available, but who is asking?  Public relations tends to run into ethic trouble with the generally public a lot more often than engineering world does.  A lot of people have an image of public relations as a shady, fact-twisting spin machine.  A quick Google search will turn up dozens of criticisms of public relations.

Most people in the public relations world seem to be too easy-going to care about what the general public things about their ethics.  This seems odd, considering we make our living dealing with what people think.  I think it is time the public relations world revisits its ethics.

One idea I’ve heard is to make public relations a licenced profession.  Anyone wanting to practice would have to pass an exam, much like lawyers, doctors and teachers must.  The idea is that if you have to be licenced to practice, you are less likely to be unethical because you risk loosing your license.  I am not really sure how practical the licencing idea is, but it make sense.  For now, we will just have to trust that people will do the right thing.

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The 90s are pretty much the gold standard in cool.

Wordle.net is probably the coolest thing since sliced bread.  A lots of online applications are interesting/useful/fun but nerdy.  For example, YouTube can be very interesting, it has tons of uses and is always a good time.  But let’s face it, YouTube is super geeky.  If you had told people in the 90s that in ten years they would sit around a computer and watch videos posted by random strangers for hours they would have laughed at you.  Blogging is right up there with YouTubing all day. Anyone who considers blogging to be among their hobbies is probably a bit of a nerd.  I’m not saying nerdiness is a bad thing.  I’m just saying we should call it what it is.

Wordle stands in stark to the great void of internet geekdome.  Wordle is badass even by 90s standards.  This is what Wordle has to say about itself:

“Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like.”

Here is this blog post as interpreted by Wordle:

Wordle: Wordle blog post

Cool, right?  Now I understand that there are sceptics out there who may think “cool” isn’t good enough for them.  These fancy folks need “useful.”  Well guess what, Señor Practical, Wordle is not only cool, it is also useful.  Off the top of my head, I can think of about a million and one uses for Wordle.  Here’s the shortlist.

1. Use Wordle to create an awesome cover page for any paper.

2. Write a poem for your love interest.  Wordle it.  Give said love interest the Wordle (keep the poem to yourself, that’s kind of cheesy).

3. Create a Wordle based on your company website.  Post it on the website to show everyone how awesome you are.

4. Having trouble coming up with tag words for your nerdy blog post?  Wordle it, tag the largest words and post the image on your blog.  You’ll go from nerdy to cool in under a minute!

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