M.S. in PR Spring Semester at Newhouse

Geoff Campbell Newhouse SU

Hey everyone. I’m just finishing up my first week of the spring semester of classes at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. I’ve had every class at least once and well, I’m very excited. I had been planning on sharing with you some of what will be keeping me busy this semester but my friend and fellow PR grad student Megan Christopher beat me to the punch. Take a look at her newly redesigned blog here.

Below is some information about the classes everybody in our cohort are taking. I’m also auditing a class in Visual and Multimedia Journalism that will help me tremendously in creating content at my internship this semester as a Digital and Social Media Intern in the marketing and communication office here at SU. I’ll update this blog with some of my work in that class once I have something worth sharing.

I’m enjoying all of my classes so far. It’ll be quite a bit of work but I’m ready and eager to do it. Here’s the information about the semester I’m borrowing from Megan who borrowed it from the course syllabi. There are also bi-weekly classes (PR Practicum) that focus on professional development and complement our internship.

Understanding Financial Statements

Objectives:

  • To be able to understand and prepare basic financial statements.
  • Become comfortable with accounting terminology.
  • Develop the ability to communicate the implications of various financial reporting issues.
  • Develop the ability to make reasonable estimates of firms’ financial health.

Major Assignment:

Research project: In a group, complete an analysis of a publicly held company. Groups will analyze the profitability, asset and liability utilization, liquidity, solvency, and debt coverage of the company by making comparisons of (1) the company’s performance over time and (2) the company in comparison to a single other competitor as well as the industry average.

Public Relations Campaign Planning and Execution

Objectives:

  • To understand the four stages of campaign planning.
  • To become familiar with the message development process.
  • To become familiar with public relations tactics and social media platforms.
  • To learn how to evaluate a strategic campaign.

Major Assignments:

Campaign project: Groups will be assigned to design, execute and evaluate an appropriate integrated campaign for the client (The Lerner Center) and will present the campaign book to the client.

Case study assignment: An individually written paper describing, analyzing and evaluating a public relations case relative to the group campaign project.

Public Relations Management

Objectives:

  • To appreciate the value of both the art and science of management.
  • To become familiar with the functions of management.
  • To understand the evolution of public relations as a function of management.
  • To identify the “best practices” in public relations/communications management.

Major Assignments:

Best practices paper: This paper will capture the assessment and insights provided by an in-depth analysis and research based on 3 – 5 key “best practices”. The paper will also address key findings on areas where public relations professionals can make a significant difference in organizations by employing the best practices.

.eduGuru: Broadcast AND Engagement

Broadcast and Engagement

I just wanted to share with you that I had my first guest post published on doteduguru.com. It’s a bit about my case study on Syracuse University’s Social Media use (Broadcast AND Engagement) that I wrote for my graduate PR Theory class at Newhouse. Here’s a snippet below.

As many of you know, Syracuse University is a school that is “smart” at social media. Kate Brodock, executive director of digital and social media at Syracuse University directs a student team that manages SU’s social media presence and they do an admirable job at spreading SU’s message effectively and engaging with a variety of stakeholders online.

The full article is available at doteduguru.com.

Grading Students on Klout?

As I continuation of my writing about Klout in hiring I wrote about its use in the classroom by different professors. Here’s part two.

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a two-part series on social media influence tool Klout’s role both in the classroom and the hiring process. The first post can be found here.

To determine whether or not Klout is an important tool to use in grading coursework, I spoke to professors, students, and career advisors.

Todd Bacile

Todd Bacile

Todd Bacile, a doctoral candidate in marketing and Electronic Marketing instructor in the College of Business at Florida State University, has come under fire by some for using Klout scores as a grading criterion in one of his classes.

I spoke with Bacile about his use of Klout in the classroom. He explained that he was the only electronic marketing professor at the school and he felt that it was his duty to teach his students about Klout. “I need to tell them about this metric… If I didn’t do that I would be failing my students.”

Bacile said he has spoken to hiring managers who check an applicant’s LinkedIn page and Klout score and if they don’t like what they see, perhaps a Klout score below 35, their application gets tossed.

One hiring manager who considers Klout scores in his hiring decision came forward under the condition his company not be named. He stated that the Klout score is “one of the many variables you take into account when looking to hire someone for a social media focused role.” It is “essential to be active on social channels and have some influence,” he noted, and an applicant’s Klout score should be one portion that is considered in the context of his or her entire portfolio of skills.

Grading With Klout: Is It Fair?

However, the criticisms of Bacile’s method focused primarily on the argument that he is using an untested and potentially unfair metrics. Bacile responded with two points. First, he provided a written assignment as an alternative to being graded via Klout. (Out of 150 students, only three have opted for this opportunity so far.) Second, Bacile argued that Klout is as accurate as other commonly accepted grading methods. He pointed to the standard practice of using marketing simulation software to determine a student’s grade.

Like Klout, marketing simulation software provides a grade based on an unknown algorithm. Bacile explained that the software uses hundreds of differently weighed factors that are not revealed to its users. “The algorithm isn’t transparent and is subject to change,” he said. “But it’s a useful service that demonstrates that the world is full of uncertainty.”

Another Viewpoint

Jennifer Stromer-Galley

Jennifer Stromer-Galley

Whatever the real-world implications of the Klout score, not all professors see it as reliable metric. Dr. Jennifer Stromer-Galley, an associate professor in the department of communication at the University at Albany-SUNY who studies influence and online social networks, believes Klout is deficient in the way it measures influence.

“There are people who work to build large numbers of connections to others on social media, through friending and following, but such connections are not necessarily meaningful or ultimately influential,” she said. Stromer-Galley argues that what the communication entails is just as important as who is speaking with whom.

“Developing an algorithm that also accounts for what people are saying to each other is much more challenging than just looking at links and likes, but it is also a more accurate measure of influence,” she said.

More Than Just a Number

Dr. William J. Ward

Dr. William J. Ward

Dr. William J. Ward, professor of practice in social media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, uses Klout to grade his students. “Many people who do not understand Klout get caught up in the number,” he said. “They don’t realize that Klout also provides the context and quality of the content being shared and the engagement with the social network” and that in context, it is a good indicator of social influence.

His class syllabus for COM 600 Social Media Theory and Practice reads:

“Klout measures influence based on your ability to drive action on social networks, and how you drive more engaging and relevant professional content for everyone. It is one way that employers are evaluating your social media experience and potential. You will learn how to use social media like a pro and your influence score will improve on professional topics of interest through the semester.”

Dr. Ward’s students tend to agree that Klout is a fair grading metric. One found Klout “mildly reliable” but sees some discrepancy in that students sometimes have higher Klout scores than industry leaders. “While I think it can be a good base estimate of someone’s social influence, it can’t be relied on 100 percent of the time,” the student said. Despite its disputed accuracy, the student believed that it is “completely fair” for companies to use Klout as a metric in hiring a social media manager.

Klout and Journalism

Ryan Thornburg

Ryan Thornburg

Ryan Thornburg, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, customizes his approach to evaluating Klout for his journalism students. After Klout began receiving considerable attention in both media and non-media circles, he decided to include it in his curriculum because he wanted his students to understand the tool.

Thornburg’s goal is to “stimulate a conversation about ‘How do you do good journalism?’” and to ask students to determine Klout’s value to journalists. Thornburg said that while he doesn’t think Klout will be around for the long term, “it’s an interesting way for someone to get a grounded assessment” of the impact of their actions on social media.

Thornburg expressed reservations about utilizing such a metric in hiring decisions. “ I’d [also] like to be able to explain why my score is the way it is [whether] it’s lower or high. I’d like to be able to describe what other ways of measuring impact are,” he said. Thornburg concluded that it may be predictive for an individual consumer but not for journalists.

Klout: Leveling the Playing Field?

Dr. Stromer-Galley argued that those studying social media need to be aware that if employers are using it to evaluate students, those who want to work in social media “should be on their game and working the system to ensure they are generating solid rankings.”

However, she would “absolutely not use Klout to score students in class.” She argues that social influence measurements place students with an existing widespread social network at a distinct advantage. She explained, “With social media influence measures like Klout, not everyone comes in to class starting on an equal footing. I would not want to set up that kind of environment in my course.”

While these experts’ opinions are relatively split on whether or not Klout is a truly useful grading metric, it is clear that it is causing a stir among educators and hiring managers alike. As Klout’s technology evolves, it will be interesting to see how these experts’ views evolve as well.

What do you think about the reliability of Klout? Does its use by hiring managers justify its use in grading? Is it an unfair way of evaluating students? Sound off in the comments section below.

Use Klout to Get a Social Media Job

Last semester I was interested in whether hiring managers were using Klout scores in their hiring decisions. This post, originally published on the iSchool’s InfoSpace blog, is what I came up with.

Editor’s note: Some professors are using Klout scores in grades and some job posts list Klout scores as a qualification. Should students be paying attention? In this two-part series, professors and industry experts weigh in.

Unless you don’t use Facebook or Twitter, you’ve probably heard of Klout. The analysis company measures social media influence, claiming its algorithm is “as good [a metric in hiring] as a lot of other things.”

Klout’s acting head of communications, Lynn Fox, told Forbes, “We look at this as similar to an SAT…It is one of many factors that is considered when a person applies to a university. Likewise, the Klout Score can be used as one of many indicators of someone’s skill set.”

However, there are those who don’t believe Klout is reliable enough for managers to use as a hiring metric. An article written by Claire BeDell for Sprout Social’s Insights blog called it “useless” for hiring managers because it can lead to qualified applicants being overlooked. BeDell believes that Klout reflects “irrelevant” influence. She concluded that, “Klout is imperfect and shouldn’t be used to inform such an important decision as hiring a job applicant.”

Testing Klout’s Real Use

Many have written about the ability to game Klout. Chris Brogan aptly summarized a common argument against its use, stating “Klout is an imperfect system that ranks noise and crowd dynamics over actionable outcomes.” Tom Foremski of ZDnet agrees that Klout isn’t accurate, saying that “Klout is a poor metric primarily because it changes its algorithm constantly, resulting in wild swings in people’s scores based on nothing but changes in how it conducts its secret assessments.”

Tom Foremski

Foremski, who is critical of the service, said that whether we like it or not, “Klout is part of today’s metrics” and “[n]umbers always win, there’s always a metric and even if it isn’t the perfect metric, there is always a metric of one kind or another being used to judge people’s performance.”

John Koetsier at VentureBeat, however, argued that even with Klout’s problems, it remains a useful tool. He writes that “ignoring online influence, for which Klout score is a convenient if imperfect proxy, is…downright stupid.” He stated that hiring managers should of course search beyond a single number, and that “in combination with other factors, [a person’s] Klout score remains a valuable metric.”

Piers Fawkes echoed Koetsier’s thoughts, saying that despite its flaws, “Klout seems to be a very robust way available to judge the cultural capacity of a prospective or existing employee.”

Should Klout Be Taken Seriously?

Miriam Salpeter

Miriam Salpeter, author of Social Networking for Career Success, believes that it’s smart of community managers to consider using Klout to measure candidates. She noted that while it’s controversial for hiring managers to use third parties to help assign influence, it is important for people going into fields that rely on social media learn about services like Klout.

She explained that as positions using social media become more competitive, “employers will look for other ways to thin the pile or to evaluate people.” Salpeter added that people should not be concerned that there’s going to be a hard and fast rule where applicants are told not to apply if your score is under a certain number.

Regarding a score’s legitimacy, Salpeter noted, “If it weren’t at least somewhat accurate no one would care about it.” In the end though, it’s not about pinpoint accuracy, but common usage.

She noted, “I think that in general that you have to acknowledge that those kinds of measures are just a part of an evaluation process and we should embrace it instead of worrying about if they’re fair or not.” She added, “You know, life isn’t fair.”

Lindsey Pollak, career and workplace consultant and LinkedIn representative, noted that in speaking with recruiters so far, “they seem to only be interested in a Klout score if they are considering someone specifically for a social media-related role (e.g., social media manager), where Klout score would have particular relevance.”

“A Sliver of our Online Presence”

Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer, consultant and professor of marketing at Rutgers University and author of Return On Influence, argued that what Klout and similar companies are doing is measuring “one small sliver of our online presence,”  whether we create content that is shared and reacted to and “[t]hat skill is becoming increasingly important for many job categories — sales, marketing, PR, service, even HR.”

He doubted that he would ever hire based on a Klout score as there are too many other factors to consider, but cautioned that being graded on Klout score “is going to be a reality some students will face as they look for entry level jobs, and in some cases, even more advanced marketing jobs.”

Schaefer noted that there are a lot of strategies that can be used to improve an individual’s Klout score, adding that “any student in advertising/PR should immerse themselves in the social web … [which means] learning how to create content through blogging and video, learning how Twitter really works, and having a solid presence on LinkedIn. If you do those things,” Schaefer said, “the Klout score will follow.”

What are your thoughts on hiring managers using Klout in the recruiting process? Sound off in the comments section below, and stay tuned for the the second post in this two-part series, which will explore Klout’s use as a grading tool in the classroom. 

Syracuse University Social Media Strategy

As many of you know, Syracuse University is a school that is “smart” at social media. Kate Brodock, executive director of digital and social media at Syracuse University directs a student team that manages SU’s social media presence and they do an admirable job at spreading SU’s message effectively and engaging with a variety of stakeholders online.

For my case study in Public Relations Theory with Brenda Wrigley I took a deeper look at the strategic thinking behind the school’s actions on social media. I began by looking at things like “An analysis of the increasing impact of social and other new media on public relations practice” in the Public Relations staple, the Institute for PR and the “Summary of Findings from the Third Comprehensive Study of Social Media Use by Schools, Colleges and Universities” by the higher ed communication masters at mStoner. I was able to convince the SU library to buy primary research on PR practice in higher ed which provided good quantitative data on what a variety of schools are doing.

I combined that background research with in-depth interviews, news reports, and archival information to have concrete evidence to support the notion that engagement with many stakeholders via social media is crucial to effective public relations practice in higher education. However, that’s not the long and short of it. It’s not enough to simply say “We need to be on Facebook and tweet at people and have videos of campus with corny music.” It’s about having an understanding of where your audiences are, what kind of content interests them, and in what form they want that content.

Being open to communicating with stakeholders makes this much easier and having an understanding of website and social media analytics doubly so. My paper is nowhere near the final word, but it’s a start.

Note: This semester, as a a graduate intern for Kate Brodock I’ll be working on content strategy for the school’s various accounts, organizing all the multitude of accounts of the school, and after I learn how to do so effectively in “NEW 600: Visual Journalism”, creating video content for the school.