Dawn M. Lauer (Peppercom’s resident expert on spirituality and a crack management supervisor to boot) accompanied me this past week to Northeastern University, where we helped launch the new School of Technological Entrepreneurship. While on campus, we also had the opportunity to lecture before a mixed group of about 50 students who were majoring in PR, Advertising, Journalism, Speech and Communications.
Our subject was the impact of Web 2.0 on the relationship between the media and PR (and between the media and the general public). We covered a wide variety of topics and subjects, including:
1) The fact that every single student, save one, had their own "page" on either MySpace or Facebook. Social networking sites are as ubiquitous among college kids today as bell bottoms, long hair and tie-dyed shirts were when I roamed the N.U. campus way back when. And, the implications to marketers large and small are tremendous.
2) The realization that, in a digital world, individual and institutional images and reputations can be blown to smithereens in a nanosecond. Examples we discussed ranged from the bloggers who "ousted" James Frey ("A Million Little Pieces") and Dan Rather (his ill-fated, poorly-researched 60 Minutes segment) to PR publicists who sent ill-advised, poorly thought-out pitches to influential bloggers and subsequently paid the price in career-wrecking, web-wide humiliation.
3) The ongoing love-hate relationship between the media and public relations. Professor Bill Kirtz, who taught my journalism class and continues to bring his incredible energy and enthusiasm to N.U. classes today, said he’s always felt there were "good" PR people and "good" journalists (and vice versa). Bill said he’s never understood why journalists looked down their respective noses at us PR folk. I’ve always felt it’s because journalists are loathe to admit they count on publicists for many of their story ideas/angles. While they willingly accept our ideas and notions, they’ll publicly deny our contributions and, adding insult to injury; oftentimes demean us as "the evil empire."
Regardless of how the media may feel about we PR types, Dawn and I told the students that the mainstream "Fourth Estate" continues to play a critical role in our world. And, even though traditional journalism has been hit upside the head by the rise of citizen journalists, message boards, social networking sites and other forms of digital communications, they still wield tremendous influence. Our message was not that digital will be the be-all and end-all of their future careers in advertising, journalism or PR but, rather, that they need to embrace and leverage each and every marketing/communications method and mode at their disposal.
We encouraged them to "dive into the digital communications pool" but, based upon the misadventures and mistakes of the Rathers, Freys and unsuspecting publicists, told the students to be sure they knew how to "swim" first.
We promised the students that today’s post would be devoted to the lecture. So, c’mon students, lay it on us: how did you like the lecture and what thoughts do you have about this particular blog? Remember, though, to think about what you write before you hit the "send" button. The reputation you save may be your own.