Back to Mac – social media for PR course starts September 11

Most of us learn about social media from the school of hard clicks. We Stumbleupon sites…download apps…subscribe to blogs…read and bookmark cases…tweet out links…test our ideas…and gain a working knowledge along the way.

And now there are also academic courses if you’re looking to understand social media in a more formalized environment (plug alert).

This fall on September 11 (not the greatest date to begin anything) and continuing for 14 Saturdays, I’ll be at McMaster University teaching a course in social media for PR.  It’s the second time I’m offering it.

The class combines communications theory with practical instruction in social media tools in order to get a strategic grounding in them.  We learn by listening, sharing, tweeting, discussing, collaborating, analysing and doing.

First day starts with an overview of where we are in the social space including getting the whole class on Twitter (under the hashtag #macsocmed).  I’ll also be introducing the students to the blogs of some of the more influential PR and marketing thought leaders.

The core assignment for students is creating a blog about a subject they’re passionate about and then researching, writing and editing posts, adding links, visuals and video and building and engaging a community.  Last year reading and discussing the blogs, which ranged from local politics to corporate social responsibility to moving into and renovating your first house to finding a job, was one of my favourite parts of the course.

Once the students have found their blog voices, I’ll introduce them and share some of our collective learnings and observations.  I’ll also be asking you for your thoughts from time to time.

Here’s where you go for more information on the class and how to sign up.

It’s Saturday morning (9 am to noon) and worth the drive to Hamilton (I hope).


Ghosts of blogging future

On Inside PR #2.17, Gini Dietrich and I talked about ghost blogging, a subject that has been haunting the blogosphere for a long time.  Much has been written about the ethics surrounding it. It’s a debate about authorship and authority. If your name appears on a blog, you should be the person who writes it.  Of course there are exceptions, like clearly identified guest posts, but other than that, the ‘rules’ are pretty rigid.

At the risk of unleashing the ire of ghost busters, I wonder if this approach has become too simplistic.

Blogs have moved beyond digital journals to become an effective publishing format. Seth Godin’s recent views on shifting from traditional to electronic publishing tie into this. Social media newsrooms are essentially blog platforms designed to distribute and share content and news without a single author’s point of view. With the confluence of portable digital devices, all-access Wi-Fi and the need to conserve scarce resources (i.e. trees), it’s easy to see how ‘blogger’ could become synonymous with ‘publisher’. A blog house could be the 21st century version of publishing house, home to commercial and non-commercial fiction, non-fiction, humour, travel, cooking, business, text books, anything really – even nameless instruction manuals. Now imagine we add video and real-time conversation to the mix…

I’m not saying we should abandon personal voices and ideas. Far from it. That’s where innovation begins before heading on its circuitous path from indie to establishment.

We should all strive for transparency and authenticity, yet maybe the blog-of-old has outgrown its initial framework and ghost blogging is no longer the issue it once was. Like the printing press, blogs could evolve into the catalyst that reshapes and redefines publishing. Now that’s a bestseller I wouldn’t want to miss!

What do you think?

In praise of the iPad

I’ve never been a big fan of Apple products. I tried a Mac a year ago and discovered that maybe I’m not that intuitive. I use an iPod at the gym, but haven’t attempted the sophistication of playlists. I’m a shuffle kind of guy.

I guess that’s my way of saying I never had iPad envy. Sure the device looks good, but I’d struggled with the iPhone’s keyboard and thought iPad would be more of the same. Besides I hate lining up for anything; it’s too much like those old images of Soviets waiting for hours for a roll of toilet paper.

But…all that aside, I saw people I know and respect using iPads, heard them extolling its virtues, exclaiming what a breakthrough device it was. So I succumbed. I put my name on a list and waited. And after I got the email telling me it had arrived, I went to the Eaton Centre bought it, took it out of the box and was immediately struck by buyer’s remorse.

And then, I loaded my first apps (is that also short for Apple?) – Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, WordPress, Kindle – and each effortlessly appeared. At first, I felt like Neil Armstrong on the moon. I was moving in a direction I wanted to go though it sure felt cumbersome.

Once I stopped looking for the start button and mastered some Apple idiosynchracies, things got a lot better.  Though I’m still not great at selecting and moving text – I opt to retype.

But when @thornley told me about Reeder, the RSS heavens parted. All of a sudden I could catch up and manage my blog feeds in a way I hadn’t been able to for a long time. The interface is fun and functional and the portability of the iPad means I can read them wherever I have a few minutes and don’t have to feel laptop-bound.

Do I need an iPad? Do I need a latte in the morning? Not really. Both are guilty pleasures, I suppose.

I do have to hand it to Apple for taking Internet portability to a new level and coming up with a visual-verbal-content-device. It reminds me a bit of the Moleskin notebook in its utility and minimalist-cool design.

I remember the first time I bought a Moleskin, took it to a cafe and started writing. I felt like a real expat author, even though I was still in Canada and wasn’t wearing a beret.

I get a similar feeling with the iPad. I’m just glad it didn’t come with a hat.

Note: this was written and most of the links added on the iPad WordPress app and then cleaned up with additional links added on a laptop. If anyone can tell me an easy way to add links on the WordPress app, I’d really appreciate it.

Are you a social media addict?

I have a confession to make: I think I am.

And I wonder if you may be one too.  Worried? Not sure where to turn? Do you want to know the signs?

If so, please check out the guest post I did on the Spin Sucks blog.  Anonymity is guaranteed; no one will know you read it…

And by the way, I hate to admit it, but  even though it’s a holiday in Ontario, I’m still online writing about it.

Special thanks to @ginidietrich and @danielhindin for asking me.

Let me know if you have any more symptoms to add – and if we should start a virtual 12-Tweet meetup.