Higher Ed Communication Evolution

Higher education is near and dear to my heart. Over the past three years, I have seen instructors, students and curriculum evolve to embrace new ideas and technology at an astounding rate. In every class taught, I have incorporated hands-on social media training. Sometimes the addition to the curriculum brought about backlash from fellow faculty members and complaining from students who feared the additional work. Yet, at the end of the semester my perseverance was rewarded with the smiles and work of students who overcame their fear of the unknown.

Much of how and what I taught about social media was discovered through trial and error and discussions with fellow instructors. This is why I applaud Jon Hussey of American University for taking the institution to new levels of communication and relationship building. However, after reading the interview between Jon and John Moore, I am concerned about those developing social media strategies in the highered space and their views regarding policies, CRM integration and ROI. And it is not just American University who is struggling to find their way, I recently sat down with a group of educators who wanted to embrace social media, but were encountering road blocks at every turn.

Go Beyond the Channels

Social media goals, objectives and strategies cannot be based on channels (such as Twitter and Facebook) exclusively or there will not be any longevity in your social media endeavors. Strategies will forever be contained to campaigns instead of invested programs if there are no measurable goals and objectives (aligned with overall business goals) in place prior to social media engagement. You have to know where you are going to obtain the results desired. What are you measuring? Why? Yes, do listen for and determine where your community is talking and creating so you can begin to engage in those locations, but do not limit your opportunities because of the channels.  

Embrace Policy

Did a shiver just run down your spine with the mention of a policy? Sharing best practices and conversing with fellow employees does not replace the structure needed when an organization enters social media. Having a social media policy in place is not to box in the participants, but to provide education and structure for how to engage online, and empower your workforce to operate within accepted and encouraged boundaries with the freedom to be themselves. Online interaction is 24/7. Your policy will need to address how the workforce is engaging online during work hours and when they are not at work. Your workforce is representing the organization every time they interact online, even if you have a single “official” voice or limited number of official online spokespeople.

Provide clear guidelines for engagement and disclosure, so that all employees can represent themselves and the company clearly and professionally. By allowing your workforce do what they do best and act as your representative, your organization can gain valuable social capital, credibility, and opportunity. Radian6 (my employer) has some great resources about how to develop a social media policy and engagement guidelines. Check it out and discover you no longer have to be afraid of policy.

Speak C-Suite Lingo

ROI is not about influence, but about talking the same lingo as executive management. It all comes down to dollars and cents. Tracking clickthroughs is superficial information unless you can map the navigation to actions such as downloading a whitepaper, requesting more information or purchasing a product/service. If you aren’t familiar with Olivier Blanchard, he knows a thing or two about how to properly calculate ROI. View his presentation on the Basics of Social Media ROI and go beyond HITS.

Organizations spend millions of dollars to implement CRM tools and processes. Ensure you understand how your social media tools and strategies mesh with back-end systems like CRM. Relationship building through Twitter is not CRM unless the data is being captured in the same profile as all other correspondence. What is CRM? According to DestinationCRM.com, “True CRM brings together information from all data sources within an organization (and where appropriate, from outside the organization) to give one, holistic view of each customer in real time.” Remember, you want your social media strategies to become more than a campaign, but integrated into your programs…so learn to speak the language of those pulling the purse strings.

Kudos to those universities that are diving into social media and transforming higher education. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Do what you do best…educate yourself on the ins and outs of social media and how it integrates into overall business practices and objectives. You will take your lumps, but keep on trudging after lessons learned.

CLE Comm 355: Week 3

I have posted student URLs on this class blog (right sidebar). Please check to see if your name is on the list. I have had issues with Clemson email address and I am trying to reconcile Clemson and Gmail inbox. If you do not see your name on the site and you are enrolled in the class, do not worry…send me your blog URL ASAP to VargasLMV@gmail.com. I will post on the list as soon as I receive.

Currently, you should have three posts published: introduction, your definition of public relations and thoughts on Chapter 1. A video lecture will be available for viewing this Wednesday (on BlackBoard) to discuss topics from weeks 1-3.

Do not hesitate to ask questions. Best chance is to send email to gmail address or call me on my mobile: 817.714.7516.

Attn: Clemson Students Week 1-2


I apologize, but I am in the middle of moving cross-country from Dallas to Boston. Please email your blog URLs to me no later than 30 August to LVARGAS@clemson.edu or VargasLMV@gmail.com. I am still having some technical issues with Clemson email address, so you might want to CC the gmail address.

The first blog posts should be your student introduction (please do not divulge personal information and be aware of your digital identity) and your definition of public relations. I do not want you to regurgitate the text. Please give me your impression of the industry…where do you agree/disagree with the definition? Can we box in the public relations industry to a definition? You tell me.

Food for thought:

I will be back online next Tuesday with video lectures to coincide with your chapter and BB resources.

If you have any questions, call or email me at any time!

CLE Comm 355-400: Blog Creation

Please note, your syllabus requires you to create a blog for class use. We will discuss the reasoning and use for blog in first class, but please, set-up a blog prior to class through PRblogs.org. Creation of blog is simple and FREE. It is your choice to use another blog platform. Please note, when creating a PRblogs.org account, a gmail account may be required.

Individual Blog Work – In accordance with the syllabus readings, you are responsible for posting at least two (but not limited to) weekly topic-related posts.Each post must be 200-300 words and include:

  • link(s) to appropriate and topic related resources
  • contain multiple web links/permalinks

Each student is required to ‘comment’ six times throughout the term on class members’ or other topic-related blog entries. If you comment on blogs outside of class, please provide me the URL/permalink of all blog posts at the end of the course.

Please refrain from lack of professionalism to include, inappropriate tone, language, grammar and spelling in online discussions. Please imagine the other course participants are your co-workers. Anything that would be inappropriate in a workplace or in face-to-face conversation is also inappropriate online.

Each spelling, grammar or proofreading error will cause a one point deduction in all assignments. I won’t count your spelling errors in discussion posts, but if your posts are chronically filled with spelling and grammar errors, you will lose up to 100 points for the overall quality of discussion points.

Presenting someone else’s work as your own is considered plagiarism. Please use sources responsibly and cite them often.

You are expected to make solid, valuable contributions to the discussion. New ideas, questions that get people thinking and additional examples are appreciated. Feel free to disagree with other posts, but do so politely, without making the attack personal. Focus on ideas and keep the discussion on topic.

Education: To succeed, just be good enough

My head is spinning….I am sure if you were to step inside my office, you would see a scene from The Exorcist!

Why am I so on fire today? With the direction from David Mullen (@dmullen) (H/T), I read the CNN article, Alumna sues college because she hasn’t found a job. To sum up the article, a 27 year-old woman (ONLY one year younger than me) is suing her school for cost of tuition plus an additional $2,000 for the stress of an unsuccessful job hunt. Instead of taking initiative to find a job, the woman is expecting the school to do it for her.

Please…take a minute to read the article and the fabulous quotes from that bright young mind.

At least she learned to pass the blame.

dmullen: @vargasl The obvious entitlement that seeped out of her quotes was pitiful. I couldn’t stop shaking my head. I had no idea what to say.

I am not flabbergasted by this entitlement attitude. I encounter this phenomenon every week in my classroom. Students expect for texts to be regurgitated, answers to exams given before test…basically, instead of earning an education, these students want it handed to them on a silver platter.

I don’t think so.

What happened to hard work? Responsibility?

LindsayMAllen: @vargasl It’s especially offensive to someone like me; I gave nearly 7 yrs of hard work to an employer and have been jobless since May 1.

This is not a Gen-Y isolated problem…this is an epidemic across all demographics. Nor is the attitude isolated to education. Turn on the television and find out what the government will do for you because you deserve it.

Is deserving the American dream?

seakisst: @libbykrah @dmullen @lindsaymallen @vargasl What is this world coming to? The American Dream should not equal entitlement, but hard work.

I don’t remember where Martin Luther King Jr. talked about deserving anything.

shawnthinks: @vargasl @libbykrah @dmullen sad part is that this is same attitude that’s working through biz world. Dot com boom started it IMHO

With all this rant…what is my solution? Solve for YES, right?!

I am only one person and cannot control others, but I can control myself. I would be hypocritical if I did not admit that a time or two I have been resentful about not receiving something because I thought I deserved it. But I recognize that dangerous line of thought…and I back away.

I am only one teacher. In my class, I will not give you the test answers and I will help you to the ends of the earth if you, the student, show me due diligence in solving problem on one’s own.

It will take many single individuals to rebel against entitlement. This attitude is not evolutionary thinking. This is how a race becomes extinct.

What will you do to combat entitlement?

UPDATE 8/5: It appears our class act former student has been offered a job by SkiChannel.com.

“Either Ms Thompson is a cunning out of the box thinker and we want her,” said Bellamy “or she isn’t, and her position would not last long.  Either way, the law suit would no longer be clogging up the courts because there are now no damages.  She now has a bonifide job offer.  She just needs to call us and go over the details.  But it is real and valid.  If she is this feisty, we’ll try her out.  But if she is playing the victim card and pushing her problems onto everyone else – then her job wouldn’t likely last long.”

Feisty? Is that what people are calling this behavior?

Interestingly enough, as my daughter was sitting with her reading tutor last night, I was reading The Traveler’s Gift. A fascinating book about the seven decisions that determine personal success. So far, I am wowed by this book!

“The words It’s not my fault! should never again come from your mouth. The words It’s not my fault! have been symbolically written on the gravestones of unsuccessful people ever since Eve took her first bite of the apple. Until a person takes responsibility for where he is, there is no basis for moving on. The bad news is the past was in your hands, but the good news is that the future, my friend, is also in your hands…the buck stops here.” -President Truman via The Traveler’s Gift

As a teacher and also a parent that may be the one thing I can teach and make a difference…maybe not immediate, but one day…the buck stops here.

Consultants: Love ‘em or Hate ‘em

At some point in your career you may have to work with consultants. You or the company is likely to pay them a good sum of money for their services. The last thing you want to do is place a consultant’s recommendations on the shelf to gather dust. Yet, in my current position, this is what I have seen happen with the majority of reports. Why bother hiring consultants, if no strategic thinking or actionable items result? Why waste such an investment of time and money?

I am currently struggling with how to best work with consultants from the corporation side. Recently, my company hired consultants to evaluate our overall corporate branding and standards. A 30-day first impression report was issued last week. Prior to the report being released, the consultants spoke to my team Chief for a total of 20 minutes…that generated two pages of bullet points in the report.

I applaud my company for taking the necessary steps to build a consistent corporate image and voice; however, the limited information provided to the consultants for their preliminary review is disappointing and incomplete. We were excited about the constructive feedback we had hoped to receive form the consultants after they understood our social media strategy and place within the community. Many of the points in the preliminary report do not account for the restrictions we face within our space or any of our strategic plans, objectives and up-to-date analysis.

Needless to day, my team and I were frustrated with the results at first blush. So, I asked my peers on Twitter, what is the best way to work with consultants? Should consultants be integrated with the team? How do you get best results?

Of all the consultants, I have worked with, there are only a handful I would work with again or recommend. I am eager to learn how to work with consultants better from an in-house position. Also, I would like to know what are the best practices from the consultant perspective (next post topic). After all, I will be in that position soon…

So, here is the feedback I received via Twitter:

  • adamcohen @vargasl having been a cons my career, the best client relationships are where teams are integrated w/out regard for badge to focus on goals
  • adamcohen @vargasl also best results are achieved when the team gets real – no team is perfect. It’s not whether issues exist its how team handles em
  • adamcohen @vargasl much is based on establishing right relationship up front, understanding culture, ptrship based on mutual goals. Not easy to start
  • adamcohen @vargasl often the consultant wld request, but need a willing partner. Helps if client has a cons background too, they’ve lived it.
  • KellyeCrane @vargasl Hi! Consultants get to choose who to work with. That said, once on with a client, adjusting to their work style is part of the job.
  • KellyeCrane @vargasl Being an integrated part of the team is highly beneficial, but often not possible due to budget constraints. Am I answering your Q?
  • DebInDenver @KellyeCrane @vargasl how do budget constraints keep you from bein an integrates part of team? And is there an advantage to that?
  • KellyeCrane @DebInDenver @vargasl A client’s budget may limit them to give you 1 tactic of a campaign (for ex), and need you to handle autonomously.
  • KellyeCrane @DebInDenver @vargasl Consultants are not always involved in the strategy/planning. You can opt not to take these jobs, but they’re there.
  • DebInDenver @KellyeCrane @vargasl I think that is a huge mistake on the cos part, they miss out on the pros expertise.

Now, currently I am not in the position where I have the authority to interview the consultants before hire, but am more interested in how to work with them after contract has been established. The consultants I would hire again or recommend all took the integrated approach and adjusted to the work style and culture of our team. Does this interfere with the practical disengagement needed for end-results?

I consider a healthy consultant-client relationship to include:

  • Active listening: Does the consultant pay attention to what you’re saying and respond appropriately – or does the consultant only talk about his own accomplishments?
  • Disengagement: Does it seem that this candidate will be able to provide the objectivity you need in an outside expert?
  • Adaptation: Does the consultant have a grasp of mission and organizational style? Has the consultant bothered to learn anything about your group prior to the interview?
  • Honesty/Integrity: Throughout the relationship, you must be consistently forthcoming about the problems that face your team/organization and vice versa about relationship the consultant has with team/company or about obtaining needed information.
  • Follow-through: Over time, your team will probably agree to undertake a number of tasks related to the consultant’s intervention, such as conducting research or writing reports, that may prove demanding and time-consuming. Do not make these commitments unless you can keep them. The consulting relationship is a collaboration. You must hold up your end.
  • Communication: Determine early on how much and what kinds of information needs to be shared with the consultant and vice versa.
  • Relevant experience: How can you incorporate the consultant’s best insights and techniques into your own organizational practice, so you may be able to handle problems on your own next time around.
  • Evolution: The consultant’s work will often conclude with a multitude of constructive criticism and recommendations. Do you and organization have the energy, flexibility, and courage to take the necessary next steps. Be honest and don’t just be after a tick in the box.
  • Letting go: Do you have the ability to end an unproductive relationship? Whatever the reason, you have a responsibility to end the relationship as soon as you’re convinced that it will fail.

What would you change or add to this list?

What is the best way you work with consultants? Should consultants be integrated with the team? How do you get best results?