Category Archives: Public Relations Higher Education

PROpenMic.org Traffic :: One Year Anniversary

Our PR social network has been in action for one year, as of April 1st.  I thought you might like to know how we’re doing.  I’d also appreciate your feedback on the network.  We can’t get better without hearing from your members (and those that haven’t joined, yet, too).

Here’s an update on PROpenMic‘s traffic over the first year. Only April ’08 through February ’09 (11 months) are available.

I’ve used publicly available information from Compete.com and Alexa.com.  They are services used by media buyers to determine rates for ad buys, for instance. Continue reading

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When (Fans Hope) A Southern University Will Do The Right Thing :: And They Don’t

I’ve been following this story from the beginning. I saw this coming. I hoped it would not happen, but given the timing of certain events, and my knowledge and/or perceptions of Auburn culture, I’m not surprised it has happened. I wish this had not happened. But, here it is. This is, for all practical purposes, the perfect storm – in a PR sense. All the elements of the environment were just right for all that follows to have happened. Why the leadership didn’t see it coming, who knows.

Yesterday.

Charles Barkley states on ESPN that race was the number one reason why Auburn did not hire a black head football coach. See the video below.

Today.

Mark Schlabach states on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program:

ESPN.com football writer Mark Schlabach told “Outside The Lines” today that two other SEC coaches told him, straight up, that Gill would never get the Auburn job, because he’s married to a white woman. Charming. (Source and see the video below)

Sure, I didn’t know exactly what would happen (Charles Barkley’s statements or Mark Schlabach’s interview), but I knew there would be a backlash by someone if the hire didn’t happen. I never imagined the full scope of the disaster we’re experiencing now, however.

Regardless of whether or not you believe Tommy Tuberville was fired or chose to resign, that happened at the same time that a heretofore unknown coach at the University of Buffalo was making a big splash. Turner Gill took a cellar dweller of a football team and beat the undefeated Ball State program to win the MAC conference title. It was the dream public relations move, if nothing else. It was the way for Auburn to step up and cross the race barrier, too. But, to make it better, on paper – Gill actually does look as good as (if not better than) the coach we’ve now hired. Opinions vary on that, of course.

Since Mississippi State broke the color barrier for black coaches in the SEC (and no big name coaches were interested in coming to Auburn) this made the situation ripe for Auburn to make a bold move. Hire Turner Gill as our next head football coach.

Since Auburn did not do what some call “the right thing”, we are now experiencing the following public relations disaster. Check it all out. There is a lot to digest. Never before, not even in Auburn’s Eric Ramsey or Petrino/Jet-gate scandals, has Auburn’s name been so fully dragged through the mud.

The sad thing is, this is really about the athletic department, but it actually has caused numerous references to the school at-large.

My questions, “What would you do? How can Auburn successfully deal with this fiasco? Or can they?”

Track the fallout yourself: Twitter | Web | News | Blogs

Just a sampling of two stories: Auburn was cool with Turner Gill being black, but not his wife being white. | Was Turner Gill Denied The Auburn Job Because Of His White Wife? Those two sites alone are perfect examples of how social media has changed the game for everyone. The first site has about 3,000 average readers. The second site, Deadspin? It is one of the top 4,000 sites on the Web. It has over 360,000 average readers. Oh, and of course – there is ESPN – the TV network and their site … the 16th most popular site on the Web. Social media spreads the story with more reach than traditional media in many instances. This is one of them.

The original story follows these two three updates:

Note: ESPN is covering this so much, for two days they’ve had an Auburn category tab on the front page of the College Football section.

Charles Barkley
ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption
Barkley Elaborates on his claims against Auburn

It Gets Worse
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines
“Turner Gill will never get that job”
When asked why, the coaches responded,
“He’s married to a white woman.”

Mark Schlabach stated on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that two SEC coaches told him Turner Gill would not get the Auburn head coaching job because “He is married to a white woman.” (Quote comes at about 3:16 in the video below.)

This is the type of public relations fiasco that no one wants to have happen. How can Auburn address these issues? What should the NCAA do? What would you do if you were advising Auburn University on a PR plan for this crisis?

Auburn Choses Gene Chizik over Turner Gill
Southern University Misses Opportunity
Deals with Backlash

Earlier, we shared how Auburn University was pursuing a new football coach. The story bode well for Auburn, had they chosen Turner Gill. Instead, they went with Gene Chizik. The backlash started on the day of the announcment. Today, it got bumped up a notch.

Charles Barkley, former Auburn basketball great – and outspoken gadlfy, told ESPN today that “You can say it’s not about race, but you can’t compare the two resumes and say [Chizik] deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst resume.” (Watch Video)

“You can say it’s not about race, but you can’t compare the two resumes and say [Chizik] deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst resume.”

— Charles Barkley

There are some (perhaps many) that feel Auburn missed an opportunity and, by not hiring Gill, set themselves up for this criticism.

Auburn has chosen to not respond to this criticism – so far. Making matters worse, two coaches wives’ actually called into a local radio talk show with their opinions about how Auburn handled the firing (resignation) of 10 year coach Tommy Tubberville.

Listen to Amy & Donna’s calls on Eagle 93.9 Sports Call radio program.


Auburn Coaches’ Wives Audio

The school says that Tuberville resigned, yet they choose to still pay his 5 million dollar plus buyout. Many observers suggest that you don’t pay a buyout if someone chooses to quit.

To Chizik’s credit, he’s not responsible for the firing/resignation – or for the hire. He just took the job. Still, Chizik’s record (5-19) as a head coach is questionable. Gill turned around a perennial cellar dweller, Buffalo, and took them to a MAC conference title.

What do you think about this public relations problem, given Barkley’s public comments? Post your thoughts below.

Auburn Pursues Turner Gill
University of Buffalo Coach Sought by Auburn Tigers

Auburn University, one of the traditional powers in NCAA college football, is pursuing a new coach. Auburn is often considered one of the top 25 college coaching jobs. So, what makes this news?

Race. Ethnicity. PR.

Auburn is also the land grant institution for the State of Alabama. Land grant colleges were created, in part, to provide education for minorities – primarily blacks. (Source)

According to Auburn, the university’s Fall 2008 black / african-american enrollment is 1,642 students. Given that the school’s caucasian / white enrollment is 17,225, black students represent 0.087 of that enrollment, less than nine percent. (Source) The total caucasian & african-american enrollment for Fall 2008 at Auburn is 18,867. This is in a state where over 26% of the population is black / african-american. (Source)

Mississippi State won the honor of breaking the diversity / race barrier by hiring Sylvester Croom, five years ago. Croom recently resigned. There are some, perhaps many, that wish Auburn had been the leader in this regard.

The number of black coaches in the major NCAA programs is still lacking. The number dropped from six to three this year.

Already, two Facebook groups have sprung up calling on Auburn to hire Turner Gill. See Turner Gill for the Auburn Tigers Head Football Coach and Turner Gill to Auburn

An Auburn favorite son, Robert Gibbs, helped send Barack Obama to The White House this year. (Note: Gibbs grew up in Auburn. His parents worked in the Auburn University Library for over two decades. Robert chose to attend school at NC State. Still, he holds a fondness for Auburn and has spoken about Auburn many times on national television.)

Another Auburn favorite son, Charles Barkley recently said Auburn should hire Turner Gill. Perhaps Barkley can do for Gill what Gibbs did for Obama.

Gill is reportedly meeting with Auburn today. Read Gill’s appeal heating up, Auburn is latest to come calling.

There are many people in sports forums expressing concerns about taking a chance on such an unproven coach.

It will be interesting to see if Auburn will do the right thing and hire Turner Gill.

Seeking Advice Online :: What’s the best advice for PR students?

Brad J. Ward (Squared Peg and on Twitter) asked a question on Twitter about two weeks ago.

bradjward: HEY!!!! If you had 133 characters to tell a class of PR college students something, what would it be? Tag it #jr342. Thanks!! And retweet.”

The responses started rolling in. Five pages. Over 60 responses.

[iframe http://search.twitter.com/search?max_id=988531643&page=5&q=jr342 580 400]

The Tweets actually were quite good.

Update: In fact, they were so good – here is the presentation he worked up for the presentation.

JR324 Presentation

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: pr college)

Twitter PR Advice
Kevin Dugan, Strategic Public Relations, on @prblog, and in PROpenMic, posted about it on PROpenMic last night. Twitter Creativity, Beauty, GOLD MINE.

Kevin’s post reminded me of that experience and started my brain to spinning again. You know that’s always a scary thing. So, I thought … with people seeking advice on Twitter, what if they searched Google? So, I did.

Google is your friend. :o) “best advice” for “PR students” … Yep, I went searching for knowledge from the great wizard behind the curtain.

It begs the question, like in the video below, “Where did we go for these answers BG?”

Well, my guess is … the library, or we asked someone face-to-face. What a concept. :o)

That said, as if it’s news to anyone … people are using online resources more and more every day. As in the case of Brad’s Twitter thread, the advice can be quite good and useful.

Let’s see if Google does a good job. You can be the judge.

Here are the top Google results:

[iframe http://www.google.com/search?q=%22best+advice%22+for+%22PR+students%22&sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1B3GGGL_enUS266US266 580 400]

Open the search for “best advice” for “pr students” in another window, if you wish.

I was a bit surprised to find posts from this blog, Marcomblog and Forward Blog all in the top 20 results. Made me wanna do the Snoopy dance a bit, I’ll admit.

But, look deeper and you’ll find that almost all the results are relevant and do provide some good advice.

This further started my mind spinning and it reminded me of another classic I saw the other day. It came from Bob LeDrew, @bobledrew and FlackLife. Here it is, go see Let Me Google That For You, a very funny site. Bob shared that in the PRMindshare listserve, actually. I’m glad he did.

It’s a funny site and fits this discussion. When students ask questions, I often want to say, “You know, (insert name of software here) has this wonderful button in the top menu bar. It’s called “Help” and you’ll learn a lot by exploring there.”

Lessons here? There are a lot of good people online that will help you. Much of the advice you’ll find can actually be quite useful and worthwhile. That said, always be skeptical. Double check. Do your own research. Form your own opinions. The name of the blog, infopinions, comes from the realization that all this social networking and sharing really is (a) a little bit of information mixed with (b) a little bit of opinions. Skepticism can be a good thing. Be skeptical and research for yourself. Then, when you do find good info … thank the good people like Brad Ward, Kevin Dugan, and Bob LeDrew (and all the others) that enrich your life by sharing it with you.

OK, that’s how my mind works. I know. Scary.

Now, on to the video that will definitely make you think. It, too, comes from us via great contacts. Caroline Jones, @carolinejones on Twitter, who kindly shared this cool video posted by Phil Gomes in Edelman Digital’s Authenticities blog.

And, while we’re at it, here’s a presentation about Twitter as a PR tool. Good info! It comes to us from one of our favorite academic bloggers, Corinne Weisgerber, PH.D. at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. You’ll love her blog: Social Media for PR Class. Thanks, Corinne!

And, to top it all off … this presentation was even tweeted last night by @prsarahevans of PRSarahEvans.com. ;o)

Auburn Student and Alumni Network :: WarEagle.me

Campaigns students worked very hard this summer.  They created a social network and pitched it to the faculty of the Department of Communication & Journalism, Auburn University.

Alana Wells, Sherry Namburi, Miles Duncan, Brett Pohlman, Lindsay McCormick and Whitney West were all members of the PR Campaigns class, Summer 2008. This site is their creation. Search for their resumes at PRProspects.com and hire them. ;o)

The mission?  Bring together students and alumni in an online community.

It launched last week.  In less than a week, members have looked at 2,673 pages on the site.  That’s 11.67 pageviews per visitor.  Members spend, on average, 9:49 on the site per visit.  We’re in the early stages of inviting members.  We have 141 signed up, as of Monday evening (six days into the site’s life).

I can’t let you in, as we’ve made this a totally private site.  I can, however, share a look at a screenshot. (Sorry, big file. 800kb)

Colleges and universities have their own alumni departments & programs, to be sure.  But, when you want to bring your niche group together in their sites, it isn’t always possible.  This site will help us connect with our best resources: alumni and students.

We aren’t trying to replace Alumni’s efforts, or thwart them, but we needed a way to engage your students and alumni directly.  I actually believe that our efforts will supplement Alumni’s work.  We can keep our alumni more engaged with the department.  That way, when Alumni contacts them … they still have a relationship with the university.  Cool idea, huh?

More universities should consider this.  Why not?  You have a built in workforce … students.  They can run the site and keep it active.  The site could even be worked in a course’s activities and exercise requirements.  If not that way, you could use your in-house ambassadors (if you have them) or the PRCA / PRSSA chapter could run it.  Hey, it’s good experience for the students.

The Department of Communication & Journalism at Auburn University is often the largest department on campus.  We’ve often had over 1,000 students.  And, in case you’re wondering, our PR program has a higher minimum GPA (than most any program on campus) to even be considered for enrollment.

We want to keep in touch with our alumni.  They are successful and so valuable to our current students.

I see this site as sort of a mini-PROpenMic.  It is a a Ning.com Web site.  Our site is, I believe, more dynamic than any other department social network I’ve heard of at any university.  But, I’m not familiar with all.  Surely, there must be more out there.  Does your program have such a site?

I believe these sites are the wave of the future for college and university programs that wish to keep in touch with their students in a way previously impossible for most departments to launch.  Ning makes that possible.  (Yes, I’m a big fan of Ning.com.)

Students will actually run the site.  Each semester, classes will be responsible for creating the content published on a weekly basis.  From videos to interviews with students & alumni, we will be able to keep the site fresh.

Ning’s various features help us keep the site rich with content, too.  Events and music players allow us to share podcasts and post upcoming events around the area, not just department events.  Groups allow us to share job and internship listings.  Alumni may contribute content, too.

Finally, the key to this type of site being successful is to have faculty buy-in.  That commitment of time assures that students will hear from the faculty.  Communication becomes open and more frequent.  Sure, I’ve heard some faculty (not necessarily at Auburn, either) say that they really don’t want more communication.  So, I’m happy that Auburn’s PR faculty bought into the project.

Other potential pitfalls?  The site will allow students to share their ‘issues’ with the program.  Well, OK.  Hey, if they aren’t complaining here … you can be sure they’re complaining somewhere.  Why not be aware of their feelings and opinions?  I don’t get those that want to avoid student input.  Sure, I understand why they feel that way, but the rationale just doesn’t sit well.

OK, that’s our new student network.  Your thoughts?  I was wary of posting about this, but the students worked hard on it.  We may have some people attempt to sign up (that dont’ belong) but I’ll just have to deal with that.  If nothing else, I love the domain name.  Thanks to Barbara Nixon (on Twitter) for letting me bounce ideas off her, too.  :o)

Students: The Council of PR Firms asks, “What is the most dangerous idea in PR today?”

Cross-posted from PROpenMic.

Reformed PR practitioner B. L. Ochman writes a review of the recent Council of PR firms (CPR) critical issues forum in her blog, What’s Next.

Read the Council’s take on the event in Dangers Equal Opportunity for Smart Marketers, PR Firms, Lively Annual Public Relations Council Critical Issues Forum Addresses “Most Dangerous Ideas” for Future of PR.

The conversation has actually already become an old one. The paradigm shift caused by the advent of social media software (both free open source and paid platforms) has given voice to the masses in a way never seen before. Word of mouth (WOM) is now digital and spreads like wildfire, or creeps along where no one can see it – then achieves a Groundswell of reach people in PR only dreamed of just 10 years ago.  Continue reading

The “utter bullocks” claim that “93 percent of Americans believe a company should have a presence in social media”

Mihaela Vorvoreanu, Clemson University PR professor, offers up an excellent review of the Cone “utter bullocks” claim that “93 percent of Americans believe a company should have a presence in social media” in their survey.

The survey seems to be another example of doing a “survey to market your company’s services” effort. An effort, by the way, that we see all too often.

Frederic Lardinois wrote about the survey in ReadWriteWeb, Study: 93 Percent of Americans Want Companies to Have Presence on Social Media Sites.

Lardinois does a less than deep evaluation of the study. It is almost as if Lardinois is sharing the information as if it is gospel. Now, to his credit, he does ask some the same questions I have:

It would be nice to see Cone break these numbers down a bit more. What types of social media sites, for example, do users prefer? Are there any specific categories of companies and brands that they want to see on these sites? How exactly do they want to be marketed to? What do they think about implications for their privacy?

Unfortunately, he also shares statements like “60% of Americans regularly interact…”

Extracting those types of quotes from the survey’s results are ludicrous. Simply put, at best the results are that 60% of respondents to the survey believe that Americans regularly interact with corporations online, or some such statement.

Without providing a legitimate methodology report, so that we may judge the veracity of the survey, it is irresponsible to make claims such as “…60% of Americans regularly interact…”

What are some of the problems here?

First, we don’t know anything about their respondent pool except that they answered the survey online. Second, was the respondent pool self-selected, or did the Opinion Research Corporation team (ORC) actually develop a legitimate list of potential respondents? Third, if so … how? Fourth, does Cone and ORC just expect us to believe their claims? Sadly, I think they do.

Now, if you look at the Opinion Research Corporation’s corporate history and milestones, one suspects that they have a legitimate strong history of research. Yet, because they are in business and do not control what their clients do with the final report, the results are

Why can’t we tell you exactly how good or bad the survey is? Lack of transparency on Cone’s part. The methodology statement they offer is pretty much void of any information. “The 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study presents the findings of an online survey conducted September 11-12, 2008 by Opinion Research Corporation among 1,092 adults comprising 525 men and 567 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ± 3%.”

I am so tired of seeing PR and marketing agencies putting out this type of survey. It devalues legitimate research when they provide no true / realistic / useful methodology report along with their release. Cone doesn’t offer a link to go see the methodology, nor a link to request one. Oh, there is a link to the PR person that wrote the release, but no promise of providing any detailed results if we request them. So, with a hope in my heart, I have now written to Andrea Larrumbide, Cone, alarrumbide@coneinc.com and we’ll see if we can get a true methodology from the survey.

Yes, I’m pretty sure this is another survey designed to market Cone, not designed to truly ascertain social media reach. I’ll let you know if I hear back from Cone.

Update: I did hear back from Andrea. She was kind and provided a PDF breakout of four crosstabs showing male/female responses on some questions. It is so inconsequential, I’ll not share it here. Cone, Andrea writes, has the following policy: “We only share questionnaires and additional results with our clients.” So, there is no way to accurately judge the veracity of this survey’s results or the survey instrument, unless I become a paying client. Let’s see raised hands of all those that think that’s going to happen. Yeah, thought so. After this, I’m convinced … this survey is “utter bullocks” as was suggested by Tim, in the ReadWriteWeb article’s comments.

In the long run, these types of “survey to drive business” efforts do more damage to perceptions of survey research than they do good for the companies that engage in the practice.

Now, the good news is that no traditional news sources have (as of yet) bitten on the release, at least according to Google and Yahoo! searches. Oh, there may be some out there, but I can’t find them. The bad news? Lots of blogs and other sites are spreading the meme with little critique. See Google Web Search, Google News Search, Google Blog Search, Yahoo! Web Search, and Yahoo! News Search

I shared this in SocialMedia, too. Have any of you tried that site?

PROpenMic celebrates six months online :: How are we doing compared to other sites?

If you just want the stats and graphs, follow this to see them below.

Our social network for public relations students, PROpenMic.org will celebrate six months online on October 1st.

Allow me to begin by thanking all of the members. So many people have helped with advice and guidance along the way. I appreciate all of your help. I also appreciate the involvement of our volunteer administrators (in no particular order): Phil Gomes, Edelman; Kelli Matthews, University of Oregon; Tiffany Derville Gallicano, University of Oregon; Mihaela Vorvoreanu, Clemson University; Karen Russell, University of Georgia; Kaye Sweetser, University of Georgia; and, Barbara Nixon, Georgia Southern University. Not only do they help with the site, but they allow me to bother them asking questions all the time. :o) I really do appreciate their contributions. Continue reading