PR students on learning Twitter

I place a lot of emphasis on Twitter in my PR courses, but were not sure whether that was such a good idea – from their perspective. So I asked my PR students from the Spring 09 Stakeholder Communication class to respond anonymously to a survey about learning twitter. Their answers are below:

Do you believe it was beneficial for you to learn how to use Twitter? Please explain why or why not.

  • – Yes. Twitter is a good example of a social media tool and the only way to truly know about these tools is to use them. It was good for us to use because it was not too demanding, yet still allowed us to get a feel for how these different tools work.
  • – Yes I do. There are many social norms and things about twitter that I learned from this class and I think its great to show a potential employer that I understand those things. I also think it was great to teach us to be active when you get on twitter because its annoying if you just get on and don’t do anything with it!
  • – Yes. I think that we kind of “jumped onto something” much earlier than a lot of other people. I think it was beneficial because it helped us learn how news can spread really quickly and network with others.
  • – I do believe it was beneficial to learn twitter, especially since it has become so prevalent in today’s society. People ask me what Twitter is and it eels good to know that I can explain it to them because I learned it through class. It’s becoming more and more mainstream everyday and I’ve enjoyed learning how to use it.
  • – Yes. I liked that I already knew what Twitter was all about and how to use it before it became such a hot topic. Since I had already learned about the professional value of Twitter, it prevented me from getting caught up in the hype. I think this is allowing me to be a more constructive Twitter user.
  • – Yes. Not only is Twitter a necessary tool for PR practitioners, but it is becoming mainstream for all people involved in social media. Within a year or so Twitter may be the equivilent of Facebook, and it is important that PR students stay ahead of the trend.

Has Twitter helped you learn in any way? How has it helped (or not)?

  • – Yes it has helped me learn about social media. Basically the general rules of using o twitter are applicable to most social media tools. For example, you have to be consistent with using it- you can’t just create an account and then forget about it. You have to interact with people – not just broadcast random things. Twitter has a culture about it, just like other social media tools – and it is important to be able to tap into the culture of the various tools.
  • – It has helped me learn more about social interaction with PR people. I think urging us to get on to communicate and teaching us to tweet during class helped us learn it. Especially when you told us how to interact with professionals.
  • – yes. When we used it in 301, I thought it was kind of pointless, but I completely see how useful it has been in a PR class. You always have said that social media is becoming more and more important and it really is. You have showed us how jobs are hiring people to just do social media so I think that it has helped us learn to get to know other people and be less shy when it comes to networking and see how a problem can occur very quickly over Twitter, etc.
  • – Yes it has helped. It’s helped me become more comfortable with contacting people I don’t know, expressing myself, learning more about others, and become more connected.
  • – I like being able to connect with people from all over.
  • – Following the conversations of PR professionals has helped me get insight into what their world is like on a day to day basis. It also helped me to make a few connections for myself.

Do you feel you “get” Twitter? What about it do you (not) understand?

  • – I do feel that I get Twitter, but I feel that I am not using to my full capacity. I understand what is valued in the community, but I feel that I don’t always bring that value because I feel I don’t have the time to go out and find the interesting thought provoking news – I feel that I am on more of the receiving end of what’s going on – and that’s fine with me…
  • – I think I “semi” get twitter. I still don’t completely understand retweets and stuff like that. but I understand how to search for things from what you taught us.
  • – Yes very much so.
  • – I do “get” Twitter. I still have a lot to learn, and I need to become better about posting original thoughts and putting more depth into what I saw, but overall I do eel that I “get” it.
  • – It took a while, but I think I get it now. Sometime I think I get it too much because I get so frustrated with the whole fad aspect of it.
  • – I understand Twitter, but I feel like you have to almost become addicted to it to become a full-fledged user. You have to be constantly engaged with someone else in conversation and understand all of the lingo and special tools (i.e. RT, #) to use Twitter to its full potential. Sometimes its unnerving to try to start/join a conversation rather than just give updates on what you’re doing, which most people won’t reply to.

Aything else you’d like to tell me about Twitter in PR classes?

  • – Twitter is good for PR classes. Regardless of what people say. 🙂
  • – This was great for communication with you as well. I think it helped us be able to interact and I think its great to keep the lines of communication open with you!
  • – I like being able to Twitter about class…during class. It’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off of other classmates.
  • – I would recommend giving students a few contacts outside of the classroom to follow when starting. For instance, offer students the names of PRSSA mentors to follow first who can springboard them into conversations with other professionals.

What has your experience been learning or teaching Twitter?

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

My twitter is not your twitter

There’ve been several discussions -which I’m too lazy to link to- about twitter: What it is, what it should be, the right/wrong way of using it, who you should follow, who you should unfollow, and most recently, how to measure authority (whatever that is: influence? credibility? trustworthiness?)

I resist any attempts at defining the right way to use twitter and I urge you to do the same.

The right way is that there shouldn’t be one right way.

It all comes down to the way you view the world:

Possible worldview #1: The world is complex, pluralistic, and fragmented; there are multiple voices and multiple truths. People construct their worlds through communication.

Possible worldview #2: The world can be reduced down to a few simple laws, rules, and patterns. There is one truth out there waiting to be discovered.

If #2 is your worldview, then you will keep looking for the “right” way to use twitter, and for the right way to define and measure authority.

However, if you see the world as in #1, you will agree that different groups and subgroups will create different cultures around twitter, and will use it in different way. You may also agree that a person who has authority in one group doesn’t have it in another group, because each group has different criteria for authority, and in some group the concept doesn’t even exist or matter.

To me, the beauty of social media is that it is fluid, pluralistic, multivocal, fragmented, and chaotic. Yes, it’s very postmodern, and that’s the way I like it. I see no need to impose strict authoritative definitions. Once these definitions are imposed and accepted, twitter becomes them – because that’s how we construct our world through communication.

And the problem is, that once something is constructed and accepted, it becomes reified – it becomes a hard, immutable, taken for granted truth. We forget there was a time when it was open to negotiation and discussion and we continue to live with it, to obey its definitional authority, even when it doesn’t serve our purposes any longer.

To avoid this, I’d rather we keep the world of twitter fluid, complex, and pluralistic, and that we don’t agree on any one definition or right way. Rather, let us enjoy the multiple worlds and villages we’ve built around twitter, and celebrate the fact that my twitter might not be your twitter, and that’s the beauty of it.

NCA story

I promised a friend I’d post this story from NCA – the annual convention of the National Communication Association, aka where all the communication profs get together to share research and network.

My friend was riding the elevator, along with other people wearing the NCA name tag, and one who wasn’t. The tagless person asked:

“So, what do you communicate here, at the National Communication Association?”

A young man in the elevator answered:

“Fear and anxiety.”

I’ll write about this more some other time, but for now, I want the story to speak for itself. If you’ve ever been to NCA, you probably know what I’m talking about. Maybe you want to share in the comments, if you can overcome the fear and anxiety?

Creativity: Don’t take it personally

I’m reading Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s (yeah, he’s the one who came up with the concept of flow) book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.

Creativity_book_cover.jpgCsikszentmihaly proposes a very interesting view of creativity, not as something individual or personal, but the result of fortunate interactions between individual productivity in a certain field and the encouragement and recognition of that productivity as novel and interesting by other people in the field.

He calls this a systems view of creativity and explains that it’s not enough for individuals to come up with ideas. If these ideas are not recognized and encouraged by peers, no significant contribution to society or culture happens.

I initially found Csikszentmihaly’s view of creativity counterintuitive (like most academic concepts ?) but I’m beginning to fall in love with it because it points out the importance of the environment for creativity.

Csikszentmihaly hints that a supportive, encouraging environment that invests attention and resources in potentially creative individuals might be more significant a variable than individual creativity itself.

Using the example of the Renaissance, and the extraordinary creations of the dome over Santa Maria del Fiore by Brunelleschi (photo) and the Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti (photo), Csikszentmihaly writes:

If these two artists had not been born, some others would have stepped in their place and built the dome and the doors. It is because of this inseparable connection that creativity must, in the last analysis, be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationship within a system.

According to Csikszentmihaly, an environment (system) that fosters creativity has the following characteristics:

  • Provides support & encouragement in the form of attention to ideas
  • Provides resources to individuals so they can engage in creative processes
  • Provides stimulation through competition
  • Has a system in place for selecting good ideas and acting on them

So how do you, as an employer, teacher, manager, or academic administrator create a system (an environment) that fosters creativity?

<rant> Meeting every single idea or initiative with “we can’t…,” yes, but..” and/or “we tried that 10 years ago, and it failed” might not be the best way to go about it.</rant>

The Question of the OTHER

This past week has reminded me of this book by Tzvetan Todorov I read back in college (in Romania). It’s an analysis of how people and cultures relate to OTHER-ness. If I remember correctly, when faced with an OTHER who is deeply and radically different, people feel fear. They feel threatened. They feel uncertain. And then they choose one of the following behavioral options:


a) they feel superior to the OTHER, they attempt to conquer or make the OTHER their subject or subaltern. That’s how the European conquerors related to the people Native to the (now) American continent. That’s how the Nazis related to Jews.
b) they appreciate the culture of the OTHER more than their own, and they “go native.” They “convert” to the OTHER’s culture and give up their own. Todorov offers the example of one European officer who preferred the Native American way of life.

c) they respect the OTHER as a different and equal partner, and build an ethical and respectful dialogue and relationship. They coexist.

Is option a) how many people in the U.S. relate to Obama, because he is in many ways the OTHER (different from them, and from their idea of a president)? Does this explain the death threats and scary behaviors, the stuffed monkey at political rallies, the black-face parties?

The question of the OTHER also has direct applications to public relations. Many times, the organization or the CEO feel they know better, they’re smarter that the public. “If they knew what I know, they’d agree with me.” The examples when the organization bows to the public and takes their lead are very rare. Do you have  any? And finally option c), is what PR should be, as defined by Grunig’s excellence model, the relationship management approach to public relations, and, in social media circles “the new PR,” or “PR 2.0.”

There’s no reason in 2008 not to do what you love

If you’re offended by a couple of dirty words, don’t watch this. Nah, watch it anyway. It’s Gary Vaynerchuk‘s keynote speech at Web 2.0 Expo (via Tod Defren), it’s about entrepreneurship and doing what you love, but it’s really about how to live your life (and enjoy it).

The video is highly motivational, inspirational, and entertaining. Runs about 15 minutes.

The PR takeaway:

“Listening is not enough. You have to give a shit. Do something about it. You have to care.”

J. Grunig didn’t phrase it quite like this in the excellence model of PR (aka 2-way symmetrical), but that’s what Gary V. is talking about 🙂

What are your takeaways from this video? What ideas stuck with you?