Please tell me this isn’t true

Please tell me this isn’t true…

Northwestern University (very, very good and well-respected university in the U.S.) teaches the first course on viral videos. OK, I get it. Viral videos are an important phenomenon in today’s media landscape & contemporary culture, and they should be studied. This is wonderful news.

Except that, according to a Northwestern press release, they teach astroturfing as a technique to help a video become viral.

Please tell me this isn’t true!


No, really, I can’t imagine ANY university teaching students to lie and use unethical tactics.

Please tell me they teach ABOUT astroturfing, but do not recommend it as a promotional tactic. Somebody, please, tell me this isn’t true…

The most important lesson

Back when I was a communication graduate student at Purdue, a friend asked me at a party:

So, what is the most important thing you know about communication?

I thought for a second (or two!) then I answered:

Know your audience.

Many years later, I still believe this is the most important lesson you can learn (and practice!) in communication – and of course, the related profession of public relations.

That’s why I’m happy to see posts such as this one by Todd Defren about Shift’s PR process, which starts with a lot of listening.

Carrie Woodward from Brains on Fire visited our class yesterday to talk about the Fiskateers community. It became apparent how much time and effort they put into getting to know their audience, and how they couldn’t have succeeded without extensive research and listening.

Yet, I see so many PR/marketing efforts that seem to be shots in the dark. Let’s just do this. Why? How? Oh, the details don’t matter. Let’s be on Facebook. Let’s be on Twitter.

I was trying to get the point across to my students, that you need to understand your audience, where they are, what they care about, what they talk about, and how… and I used this example:

Imagine you’re all sitting here in this classroom, waiting for PR class to start, but I walk in a random hall down the hallway and start lecturing there.

They laughed at the absurdity of the idea, yet how many companies do exactly that?

I hope my students will remember this lesson, and I hope they’ll be able to get it across to their bosses.

So there, that’s my most important lesson. What’s the most important thing you know about communication and PR?

Music break

This a somewhat uncharacteristic post, but I wanted to make available here the performance of my father’s music. It’s a fusion suite for symphonic orchestra and electric guitar (my dad, Ilie Vorvoreanu, plays the electric guitar). It was performed not long ago in Romania.

Part one: The Impulse of Creation

Part two: Crossroad

Part three: MelanchoHoly

Part four: Cantilena

Part five: Scherzo

Part six: Udigmic Twilight

Learning happens

I’ve been trying to practice more mindfulness lately and one of the things I’ve noticed as a result is how often informal learning happens. It made me think that we should create more opportunities for that – after all, isn’t a teacher one who creates opportunities for learning?

A few examples:

  • At an informal PRSSA get-together, we were sitting around a table munching on chips & salsa, and students were exchanging interview experiences. People would tell stories, share advice and resources. It hit how much the students were learning about job interviewing during that relaxed, informal conversation.
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  • When I was a graduate student at Purdue and had first started teaching, other grad. students and I would often get together and “bitch” about students and teaching. I’m now realizing that those bitching sessions were actually learning sessions – we learned a lot from each other about classroom management, assignments, and new exercises to use in our classes.
  • ***
  • I was sitting in my office with a couple of students earlier today talking about a report they have to write about Career Launch Day. One of the students interrupted me to ask “Where did you learn this? How do you know so much?” Compliment aside, I realize her question marked an instance of learning. She was learning something new during our informal conversation.

My previous employer, the University of Dayton, had launched this program to encourage informal interaction between faculty and students. For example, I could host a book club at my house, and the university would pay for pizza. I left UD before I got a chance to take advantage of that program, but I now understand they were on to something: Creating opportunities for informal learning.

The Clemson culture is more formal than UD, where it was usual for faculty to go out to lunch with undergraduate students – so, other than PRSSA meetings, I don’t see many opportunities for informal learning here.

How can educators create more opportunities for informal learning? Or should we? Will students count it as “real” learning? Will administrators?

Even outside academia, I hope we’ll take that second to acknowledge and appreciate when learning happens – many times not at formal lectures and conferences, but on the beach or over a beer…

Do you have any informal learning stories? Care to share?