Syllabi Spring 2015: Communication Research and Writing Across Platforms classes

The semester is underway!

I have shared select syllabi every semester since I started this blog. A lot of people contact me asking me for my syllabi and for class assignments. And thus I am happy to continue the trend. You can find all past syllabi from the menu on the left! I’m so glad that folks enjoy these and find them useful!

This semester, two classes I will discuss are my Writing Across Platforms and my applied Communication Research class. I’ve talked about assignments, activities, and perspectives on both in the past (see posts about them under the menu on the left. Blog Topics->Teaching Social Media->Classes).

I have not changed each class all that much since last teaching them. So I’ll spare reviewing each in depth. But here are a few changes or little things worth mentioning:

Writing Across Platforms

Facebook – In the last post I wrote about my decision to continue to teach Facebook in this class.

– Mobile – This is a packed class and it is hard to add without taking something else away. I’ve squeezed in a little time to focus on mobile and writing for mobile. I have an exercise planned where I will bring in our department iPads and have students explore the look and feel of their writing as read from mobile devices. As more and more people rely on mobile devices to read, it is important that we emphasize the medium, its affordances, and its limitations.

– Concise Writing – I am placing more emphasize on conciseness in writing. This is something we all struggle with. I know I do. While it has always been important, shorter attention spans, mobile and digital platforms, and the high-stakes competition for reader attention necessitate saying more with less. We’ll do exercises where students help one-another find the shortest, most powerful way to communicate. There’s also a fun website I am incorporating that can help with writing. I will give it its own post in the future.

– PitchEngine – I used PitchEngine the past two years for my social news release. I haven’t blogged about PitchEngine much. But I’ll be sure to do so this semester. I always try to bring in industry software when possible. And the awesome people at PitchEngine have been very helpful. I’m excited we’ll be using PitchEngine again this year. PitchEngine has undergone exciting changes since last year. And I’ll be adapting my social news release assignment accordingly. Note: Dr. Gallicano and Dr. Sweetser have a great guideline for teaching the social media release.

Communication Research

I made some minor tweaks and improvements to how I’ll present content, and streamlined a few assignments. In a tough class like this, I provide a lot of handouts – such as for how to structure a literature review, methods, results, and discussion section. I worked hard to simplify and clarify those.

I’ve been chatting with colleagues about changes and advancement in social data analysis. I’m hoping to incorporate them into this class in a future semester. To do so, I will need time to dedicate to exploring these options this semester. Thus, I’m presently sticking with my same 3-project model I wrote about last year. Hopefully I’ll have a brand new social media analysis assignment for Spring 2016.

This semester I promise to do something I failed to do last year – blog about our final project in the Comm Research class where students use iPads to collect survey data around campus. I love this project and hope you do too.

Below are the syllabi. A happy start to the semester to all! – Matt

Writing Across Platforms:

Communication Research

#AEJMC14 Highlights: What are the Ethics of Content Marketing?

After two weeks of traveling to New England for a vacation and to Montreal for the AEJMC, it is good to be home! AEJMC flew by!

I’d like to look at one of my favorite panels from the conference: the Ethics and Brand Content panel put on by the Advertising and Media Ethics divisions.  Let me recap and add my thoughts, because the ethics of content marketing is something we need to consider as educators.

The media system "Clover Leaf" from the panel Source: Contently

The media system “Clover Leaf” from the panel
Source: Contently

This panel included Ira Basen (CBC Radio) Michael Mirer (Wisoncin-Madison) and Karen Mallia (South Carolina) and was moderated by Kathleen Bartzen Culver (Wisconsin-Madison). They looked at content marketing, including the different types of content including brand publishing, branded content, native advertising, sponsored content, and brand journalism (the latter of which was a term the panel did not prefer).  It was interesting to look at the ethics of content marketing from the perspective of both a journalist, Ira, and advertising, the other panelists. Ira focused on native advertising, which he defined as: “relevant to the consumer experience, which is not interruptive, and which looks and feels similar to its editorial environment”

Examples of good content marketing, as presented by conference panel presenters

Examples of good content marketing, as presented by conference panel presenters

Interestingly, Ira noted that research shows most consumers are unaware of what “sponsored content” means on sites like the New York Times – they don’t know that the news outlet didn’t write the content. For example, when you watch the news programming and a company sponsors the program, you don’t assume that the company also wrote the news piece on the program. This is a great point. The intent of sponsored content on online publications is just that – for you to not know that the news outlet didn’t write it. What happens when people find out?

One of the best examples was the article and infographic on the New York Times sponsored by Netflix to promote (a show I love) Orange is the New Black.  Netflix paid a freelancer to research and write the piece, focusing on the need for female focused prison policies. You probably saw this floating around. Did you know Netflix sponsored it? I didn’t (despite the logo clearly printed at the top, I hadn’t even noticed it).

Let me make my second point and then I’ll try and tie this together.

Ira also stated that trust in brands is high, while trust in journalism is low (did not catch his source for this statistic. But I am going to take it at face value for this blog post). Ira acknowledged that, for journalism, many of those hits to their trust were self-inflicted. I take it that what he means is that journalists have made a number of public mistakes over a period of time that have resulted in distrust among the general public.

If it is true, why is it that trust in brands is so high right now (at least, compared to journalists)? And how might that change?

Let’s think about it. The purpose of content marketing is to create content for your audience. Continuously. As a brand becomes a media company, there is an imperative to continue to create more and more content.

And that opens up companies to the possibility of making the same mistakes as journalists have. Ok, not the same mistakes exactly. But you know what I mean. The more content you create the greater the chance you will say or do something that will be a mistake – a false or misleading claim, a sensationalist move to gain viewers, a gaffe, offensive or insensitive content, etc.

It is an interesting dilemma. You’ve got to create content. The more you exposure yourself, the more risk you are essentially taking. So as everyday companies strive to become media companies – creating and reporting their own news – will trust in brands decline?

Let me say that differently. Will content marketing, the tool many are counting on to build meaningful relationships and thus trust, result in the decline of trust in brands over the long term?

And how should we deal with this long-term possibility?

It may be that we are simply at a place where mediated relationships with brands are still relatively new and that is why trust remains high. We haven’t had time to grow cynical yet.

Or am I thinking about this all wrong? Perhaps there is something fundamentally different about journalism. After all, a journalist is supposed to be looking out for our best interest. While we acknowledge that a company seeks a profit and offers a specific service to us. Further still, journalism is an institution. We may look at it on the whole. But loss of trust in one brand, does not inevitably lead to loss in trust in another brand. In fact, a brand may benefit by loss of trust in its competitor.

Whatever the case may be, as educators there is a need to really think about what the ethics of branded content are so that our students thrive as ethical content creators.

Survey results of expected growth in B2B content marketing spending

Survey results of expected growth in B2B content marketing spending

Of course, I talk about ethics in my classes. But I haven’t looked at them through this specific lens – the comparison with journalism as media outlets and the issues journalism faces with public trust- and I thank Ira and the other panelists for prompting me to do so.

What do you think?

In sum, it was a fascinating panel that really got me thinking about this question. And this question was just the tip of the iceberg of what came out of a truly fascinating panel.

In closing, I got to attend a number of other great panels while at AEJMC and learned a ton from them! Unfortunately, there were more panels I wanted to attend than time to attend them. It is super busy now with classes 2 weeks away and the ICBO deadline fast approaching. But I hope to get another post up later this week or early next week looking at some of the other great takeaways from the conference, including the great people I met and more!

 

FYI: I’ve written a lot about content marketing on this blog. Here are my other posts on the subject.

What I’m reading: Creatively Canceling School; The Future of Organic on Social Media

Hello from snowy West Virginia!

We’re facing over a foot of snow here for sure. Our driveway is measuring 18 inches! Though I’ve got a ton of projects to work on and a puppy who is getting restless since the snow is too tall for her to get outside (see Instagram photos on the column on the right, and below), I want to take a quick minute before strapping my snowshoes on to share a few articles from around the web.

Just for Fun

Well, school is canceled for us today. Though the announcement from Shepherd University wasn’t quite as creative as the Durham Academy’s cancellation in Durham, NC.

In a related vein, I would love your feedback: With all these snow days, how are you handing your classes? Are you Skyping in? Posting assignments on course management systems? I always find it difficult when classes get canceled.  The lack of continuity and the inability to work with students in class is difficult to overcome virtually. But I think I could do a better job in this area. So any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

To the articles:

What’s the future of organic on social media? Content Marketing and Paid Media on Social Media

Second, not too long ago I wrote about the future of content marketing in 2014. I want to follow-up with three articles that provide further discussion of content marketing in 2014.

  1. Gary Schirr wrote another great post on content marketing’s future, in his 4 P’s of Content Marketing
  2. Mark Schaefer has written a response to arguments against his notion of Content Shock, his term for the negative effects of a saturated content landscape coupled with finite consumer attention.
  3. I also am reading Social Mouth’s ““Organic” is Dead, Say Hello to the Age of Paid Media” – an interesting piece about the likely rise of paid advertising, and increased difficulty

So the question remains – if paid is indeed becoming the pathway to audiences on social media, what will the impact be for strategic communication folks? The Social Mouth’s blog post paints a fairly dire picture, if accurate – indicating that access to publics will be increasingly difficult via organic and that paid may be a must. Or, are these worries overblown, these predictions incorrect? Perhaps I am  missing it, but I haven’t seen a lot coming from the PR blogs about this. Just some food for thought.

What’s coming?

I’ve got a few great posts I’ve been working on ready to release in the next few weeks. So look forward to those! For now, stay warm!

-Cheers!

Matt

What is The Future of Content Marketing in 2014?

As I discussed on this blog, 2013 was to be the year of content marketing. (Here are all my posts on content marketing)

Recently, Gary Shirr (@ProfessorGary) brought up an interesting point in a discussion post he made to the Teaching Social Media Marketing LinkedIn group I’m a part of. It got me thinking quite a bit.

In essence, he asked what the impact of Facebook shutting down the “Like economy” last December will have on organic social media marketing? (And what the proper mix of paid and organic should be)

Gary (whose blog I highly recommend) also alluded to the problem of a saturated content environment, (What Mark Schaefer calls ‘content shock‘).

While I don’t pretend to have the answers to these questions, I wanted to share the problem here on the blog and put out a few related articles that you may enjoy reading. I hope it helps you jump into the conversation (see the great thread of comments on Gary’s post – cited below)!

So what happened?

Facebook made a change to its newsfeed algorithm resulting in a large decline in visibility of branded Facebook posts in an individual’s news feed.

The impact? Anecdotally, my wife, who runs the Facebook page for an international non-profit, said the change has resulted in a recent decline in her organization’s Facebook page stats.

What’s the Effect?

Gary argues in his post that it is the result of an effort by Facebook to drive more paid advertising (read his post for explanation). As a result, he says, organic won’t be enough to sustain a brand on Facebook.

Mark Schaefer posted a comment in Gary’s blog post that adds further clarity to the issue. In it, Mark is quoting a Facebook exec writing about the change: “On a given day, when the average person visits their News Feed, there are an average of 1,500 possible stories we can show. As a result, competition for each News Feed story is increasing. Pages will likely see changes in distribution resulting in a decline in organic reach.”

In a follow-up post, Gary discusses his recommendations to how businesses should adjust given the change to the Facebook algorithm.

Other Challenges to Content Marketing in 2014

As noted above, Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer) recently posted about “Content Shock,” his term for the saturated marketplace of content marketing. In essence, he argues that as more people enter the content marketplace, competition for attention increases, and attention becomes increasingly fragmented. This makes sense! But this content is free. So how do you compete with the limitless supply of competition also creating free content? Mark argues that this flood favors those entities with big budgets, and that the cost of social media is rising. Read his post to get the details and more on the why.

Lastly, in a related vein I recently read an article on Shift titled “How Content Marketing Could Kill PR.” In essence, the piece argues that due to the flood of content being created, PR folks are being asked to pitch cruddy content. This may result in a loss of credibility, as those on the receiving end of the pitch are dealt sub par content. In their words, “What could kill public relations is not the content marketing itself, but increasing pressure from brands to pitch mediocre or bad content.”  It is a really interesting read and one I recommend.  So what to do? The simple solution may be “Create Great Content.” But will that really work? Will there be increasing need for PR professionals to help organizations break through this content shocked ocean of content and reach a targeted public?

What do you think? What is the future of content marketing? Is the “market saturated”? And if so, what will the effect be in 2014? How will organizations respond? Is the playing field no longer level for “the little guy?” Will the cost of social media become prohibitive?

Just some thoughts and questions for your Thursday! I hope you have a great one!

-Cheers! Matt

photo CC by Sean MacEntee

 

The Super Social Super Bowl? Great Reads You May Have Missed

 

Another week is almost over.  This weather has really made it challenging to get in the flow of the semester. Classes were canceled on Monday, and school didn’t open until Wednesday at noon. I want to take a quick minute to share some great reads from the week:

Super Social

The big talk this week has, of course, been about the social media and the Super Bowl. Here are a list of great articles I came across about how brands used social media for the big game:

Before

PRNewser’s Study: Doritos, M&Ms, and more score perception bumps with super bowl previews – As we know, brands now release their big super bowl ads before the game. What is the effect? This article explores.

Strategy

audi_snapchat

Fast Company had a great article looking at Audi’s plan for the big game. While many were talking about the dog commercial, what went unnoticed by many was Audi being an early adopter of using Snapchat for advertising. From the reactions I saw via Twitter, people seemed to enjoy Audi’s Snapchat photo memes.  Missed them? They were only around for 24 hours (unlike the 10 second limit for interpersonal messages). These messages were unbranded, and not related to cars. Here is one review. Personally, I applaud Audi for trying something new and different!

Winners and Losers

But the big question is often who are the “winners” and “losers” after all is said and done? Opinions of course vary, but you’ll see some trends emerge on these articles.

PR Daily’s “Social media ups and downs for Super Bowl advertisers” –

Marketing Land’s “25 Most Fantastic Social Media Updates From Brands During the Super Bowl

And The Metrics?

Here are some interesting stats from AllTwitter, including noting that game-related Tweets increased by 800,000 from last year.

And Media Bistro put together an insightful infographic of the social chatter, including a look at sentiment for different brands.

So what was my favorite Super Bowl ad? Putting everything aside, I have to say… Radio Shack’s #InWithTheNew 80s giveaway.

Really!?

Talk about the 80s in your ad (oh, nostalgia! My love for the 80s is only eclipsed by my love for the 90s), give away a table-top Pac Man arcade (I spent many of my high school years saving up for one of these only to never get a chance to buy it!) via Twitter to increase engagement, and you’ve got my attention. Doesn’t that make them the big winner? No. I’m not sure what Radio Shack’s future is… they tried to rebrand themselves to “The Shack” just a few years ago. And I honestly don’t know how long they’ll be around. But I loved the commercial… but it looks like despite my Tweet, I didn’t win that arcade game.

Maybe next year!

That’s all for now! I am hoping for warmer weather and less snow in the coming weeks. Though if my WeatherBug app is correct, I won’t get what I wished for. 😛

-Cheers!

Matt

The Dream of Content Curators is Alive with Portlandia

Yes, this title is a corny attempt to play on the popular skit from the first Portlandia episode. But the reference got your attention, so let’s proceed… 🙂

I’ll admit it. I love Portlandia. My wife has family from the great state of Oregon and so when I was living in Pullman, WA while getting my Ph.D. at WSU, we traveled to Portland numerous times. I love the city and I can’t help but miss it every time I watch an episode.

A recent blog post on the Portlandia page on the IFC website highlights a New York Times article about chefs feeding chickens high-quality feed in order to produce super tasty chicken. The brief post mocks the issue, using it to share a funny clip from a Portlandia episode where two characters humorously attempt to order a chicken meal at a restaurant but get caught up in the details of how the chicken was raised (asking questions such as, “how big is the area where the chickens are able to roam free?”).

In this case, the folks behind the Portlandia IFC blog do a simple thing very well: they curate content. They take a news story and relate it back to their show in a wonderfully creative and funny way.

Content curation is a great content marketing tool (see my other content marketing posts) for anyone running a social media campaign. Convince and Convert defines content curation as “the art and science of finding and sharing quality content on a specific topic. Curation helps you build an audience. You then have a larger group of people with whom to share your own content, and who can spread the word.” (Check out Convince and Convert’s “5 steps for content curation success…eventually“) . In other words, the social media team monitors the web for relevant content, and uses that content to share it directly with their audience, uses it to create their own content, or relates it back to their own content. Sharing relevant content directly with your audience builds your organization up as a trusted source for information on a subject and is further beneficial because it is hard to constantly come up with new content. It is also useful for new story ideas for creating your own content (like in the chicken example discussed on this posts).

I talk about content curation in my classes but struggle to find great examples to show students just what can be accomplished via curation. I’m glad to have found a fun example that students will hopefully enjoy.

Posting relevant content on IFC/Portlandia website or social media accounts often keeps Portlandia fans engaged with the show, remembering favorite skits, and looking forward to more (such as the new season, season 4 due out next year!). For example, the Facebook Portlandia page often posts single shots with text in a meme style of particularly funny moments from the show.

In my opinion, few do it better than this.

photo of Portland credit: – Paul Horner

bottom –

What I’m Reading: Content Marketing, Social TV, Civic Engagement (4/26/13)

Happy Friday! Here are a few quick reads and news to go along with your coffee this morning!

coffee

I’ve been talking content marketing a lot lately on this blog and have noticed a great deal of interest in those posts, including my critique of Marketo’s ebook. Here are a few articles I’ve been reading lately about content marketing:

Article about content marketing luring away journalists.

In other News:

Social TV has been a hot trend of late. I’ve talked about it quite a bit with my students and its advantages. A few articles from this week:

Civic Engagement and Social Media

Matt News:

Here at Shepherd, today is the last day of the semester. I have big plans for the summer – lots of reading, prepping two classes, continuing to grow my blog, working on a number of research articles with my amazing colleagues, and hopefully presenting at AEJMC in DC this August.

My amazing wife and I are traveling to New Zealand and the Cook Islands to finally celebrate our wedding!

We’ve also committed to getting a dog – a bergamasco (yes, the “dreadlock dogs”) – which we will be getting in August.

Great Customer Service still Exists! – Things didn’t work out with the Husqvarna lawnmower I bought, despite all my research. There was something wrong and the thing had no power. Dealing with Lowes, both the online and local stores, was the best customer service experience I’ve had in years. They took the lawnmower back with no charge for picking it up. And after I made up my mind what I wanted (I went with John Deere), they delivered it and told me if it didn’t meet my expectations, I could return it no questions asked in 30 days. Lowes, it seems, understands the value of a loyal customer. To show my appreciation, I Tweeted @LowesCares because I don’t think we show appreciation often enough on social media. We are often quick to gripe. Minutes later got a thanks from Lowes.

What are your plans for the summer? Are there stories in these topics I missed? Share them in the comments section below.

– Cheers! Matt

photo CC  donjohann