Is a citizen journalist really a journalist?

There is no doubt that the field of journalism is evolving. Some are more reluctant to adapt to the change than others in the field, but the truth is that, soon, adapting will be necessary for survival.

In previous years, the word journalist was clearly defined. It was someone who worked for a news outlet, either a newspaper or broadcast station, and earned a salary for reporting news to the community. These people usually worked long hours and had a knack for developing concise and informative stories that were relevant for society. Their role in the community was vital, as they were responsible for keeping citizens informed.

Unfortunately, there were often stories that were missed because there were only so many reporters to go around. This was most noticed when breaking news would arise. Coverage of critical moments in history were missed when a reporter wasn’t present.

That is drastically different today. With the development of new technology such as advanced digital cameras, smart phones and social media networks, any person has the power to report news as they witness it. This is what is now called a “citizen journalist”, but there has been a lot of controversy lately about whether these people are considered real journalists or not.

An incident in 2010 with a Seattle teacher outlined the issue. Teacher Melissa Westbrook was a blogger about the Seattle School District for over a decade and had gained a strong readership in the community. So, when the school called a press conference, she wanted to be admitted. However, the school denied her access and said that it was open to “traditional media only”. Melissa argued that she was a citizen journalist. After a heavy argument, the school reversed their decision and started to admit bloggers.

This decision, of course, didn’t sit well with the traditional media. Whether the industry is ready for it or not, this is an issue that is becoming more and more relevant. In fact, most of the video/picture coverage that traditional media use now comes from citizen journalists who were at the scene when the incident occurred. Some media outlets today even have a section dedicated to coverage from citizen journalists. Many would argue that the added perspective makes the news better, but some say the opposite.

What do you think? Do you think that citizen journalists enhance or weaken our news coverage?


Pinterest: taking the first steps

To follow up on my recent blog posting about the marketing potentials of the new social networking site, Pinterest, I wanted to catch up with you all and discuss how your business can get started using the site as part of your social media strategy.

The first thing to recognize and understand is the demographic of Pinterest’s users. Currently, the majority of users are female between the ages of 18 and 40, and this is evident when looking at which pins are most popular. The most popular categories on Pinterest are weddings/special events, recipes, fashion, travel and photography.

However, Pinterest is growing at an extremely rapid rate. In October, the site generated 421 million pageviews in the U.S., which was up 2,000 percent from June’s estimated 20 million pageviews (via TechCrunch). The site is also still an invite-only beta and is expected to grow even more when the full site is launched and everyone has access to it.

Since each pin on the site provides a link back to the original source, it has a lot of potential for marketers of certain products. Right now, the site is most useful for those who work in the Business to Consumer (B2C) sectors. Although there is some potential for those in the Business to Business (B2B) sectors if you are creative enough to draw some attention. I’ll touch on that more at the end of this posting. For now, let’s look at what you can do to get started on Pinterest.

Do your research. After you’ve created your account, start looking at pins that interest you and that align with your business’ mission. In order to create a buzz on the site, it is important to connect with users who are very active and influential. Much like Twitter, those who are associated with high influencers get their message spread much quicker than those who are not. The stronger relationships that you have with users, the more people will see your pins and click through to your site.

Start your first pin board. This is where businesses can start to get creative. Pin boards are the site’s way of letting you organize things that you find interesting and display them for your followers to access. Michael’s craft store does a great job of this. The store has a total of 22 boards, all comprised of crafts and projects made using their products. The cool part is that each board has a unique theme so users can decide which boards to follow. A few of their boards are titled “Cards to Send”, “Party Ideas”, “Jewelry & Bling”, “Kids Project Ideas”, “Bake It”, “Recycle Me” and “Say I Do”.  Start to think about how posting photos could generate interest among your followers. What do you have to offer and how can you portray it in a visually appealing way.

Connect your other social media sites. The key to inbound marketing success is to make sure that all of your online presences lead back to one another. Since Pinterest is known to generate a lot of traffic to your website, it can do the same for your social media sites. Don’t forget this quick but important step.

Do more than self-promote. Pinterest users have a keen eye for companies who only use the site to promote themselves. Since the site is a hub for creativity and new ideas, it is important to always post quality and innovative ideas. The majority of your pins can be relating to your business, but it is important to also engage with other users and re-pin things that others have pinned.

So, how all of this can work for a B2B business? I started thinking about how Pinterest could work for a company like Weidert Group. Clearly, we are a B2B agency. We specialize in inbound marketing, public relations and design. We could create boards to some of our best advertisements or commercials to generate traffic. We could also show off our photography skills by pinning some of our recent photography projects.

Pinterest is new, so it may take a while for it to find its place in the social media universe. But as Pinterest grows, so does the potential for a wider array of businesses to use it to showcase their work.

Are you using Pinterest? Let us know how. Who knows, you could wind up the subject of a future blog.

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fun in Door County

I just returned from a magnificent weekend in Door County, Wis. with my wonderful boyfriend! Highlights of the weekend included several wine tastings, shopping in Fish Creek, lunch at the White Gull Inn and walking through White Fish Dunes and Cave Point state parks.

I was very lucky to come across a Groupon for the Sand Bay Beach Resort in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. For only $110.00, we got a two-night stay in a standard suite, complete with a king bed, whirlpool, mini kitchen, pull out couch and direct view of the beach. The hotel was very pretty and we were lucky to be there while there was still fall color around us.

Overall, we were happy for the short weekend getaway!

Cave point state park

At White Fish Dunes

A very windy visit to the coast guard station

Shopping in Fish Creek

The beach at our hotel

Be inspired. Be the change.

Yesterday, my dad forwarded me an email that had a link to this video:

I encourage you to watch it because it was really inspiring to me. The message that they are promoting is so true, and it got me thinking about a lot of things, including this blog post. So, I will warn you up front that my post today will be a small break from the usual professional matter.

Rosa Parks

But this topic is just as important. We, as individuals, hold incredible power, and that power only increases when it is spread to a group of people. Have you ever sat back and thought about the power of a simple idea? If you have ever seen Inception, think about the theme of that movie. An idea is infectious. It starts small and grows within us and, if it is developed enough, it can infect the minds of an entire nation. It can change an entire nation.

I saw this happen first-hand when I was in elementary school. I grew up with a kid named Anthony, and his story is one that continues to inspire me. When Anthony was 10 years old, his grandmother had breast cancer, and he spent a lot of time in the hospital visiting her. While he was there, he saw a lot of cancer patients who had gone bald due to the chemotherapy treatment. He was saddened by the patients’ embarrassment of their hair-loss and was inspired to do something to help. At the age of 11, he started his own charity called Heavenly Hats, which donates all types of hats to cancer patients undergoing treatment.

One small idea that changed our community.

Since then, Anthony’s charity has grown to be a very reputable and prominent charity for cancer patients in

John F. Kennedy

Northeast Wisconsin. They have donated over 1,000,000 hats since their inception in 2001.

Just like Anthony’s story and the video above show, individuals are very powerful. Even if you aren’t starting a cultural movement, or even a charity, your thoughts are important.

If you have an idea or an opinion, put yourself out there.
If you are given an opportunity, take it.
If you have a dream, chase it.

I try to to live by these words and have been shocked by the power of my ideas. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed if you step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. It is true in every aspect of our lives as college students and as future professionals. We have the ability to move mountains and create change in this country. And even if you don’t create change within others, you will create change within yourself.

So don’t be afraid to step up and share your ideas. You never now if they might be the start of a revolution.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi



Networking: Why it’s important and how you should do it

There is nothing that I can stress more than the importance of networking with area professionals and putting yourself out there. If it weren’t for networking, I would have missed out on many opportunities that I have been lucky enough to take part in. In fact, I somewhat credit the fact that I got an interview for my internship to networking. Back then, I really wanted an interview; so, after I sent in my resume and cover letter, I reached out to the president of the company. I can’t say whether or not it it was the reason that I got called in for the interview was because of the tweet that I sent to the president, but I think it may have been a factor. Either way, networking is a vital key to success.

Is this you?

So, you may be wondering how you should network with professionals. It can be quite intimidating to think about striking up a conversation with a prominent professional. Trust me, though, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Here are a few tips that I have learned since I began networking:

1.) Before you do anything, make yourself some business cards. This is extremely important because you never know when you will run into someone important. You may miss a chance to network if you can’t exchange information. To make free business cards click here.

2.) Create an opening pitch. This is similar to an introduction, but it has objectives. It states who you are, where you go to school, what your major is, and what your job goals/ intentions are. It should be two sentences maximum and include all of the necessary information. A good and bad example of an elevator pitch can be found here.

3.) Show respect for the professional. Just like when you are tweeting, make sure that you follow the 80/20 rule. Let the professional talk 80 percent of the time and you give your insight 20 percent of the time. This may not always be possible but it is a good exercise in listening. Often times, we are nervous when talking to someone important and this allows us to listen and take the conversation in. It also makes the professional feel respected.

Lastly, remember to be yourself! Above anything, professionals are going to remember a stand-out personality. Try not to let your nervousness get the best of you, and charm them with your pearly whites!

Below is some advice from one of my favorite public speakers, Lauren Berger (a.k.a. the Intern Queen @internqueen). I was lucky enough to meet her while I was in Washington D.C. for the PRSSA National Conference (@prssanational) and I was really inspired by her story (she had over 10 internships before graduation!). Anyways, she’s awesome. You should listen to her!

Your Twitter Image: What’s beneficial? What’s damaging?

It’s no secret that public relations students who have a solid Twitter presence (along with presences on other social media sites) are more likely to secure a job or internship faster than those who don’t. Being able to show potential employers that you can use the tools you will be working with on the job is a huge advantage.

However, there is a right way and a wrong way to position yourself in the Twitterverse. I can’t even begin to explain how frustrated I get when my feed is clogged with seven tweets in a row, from the same person, that say things like, “Just got out of the shower. Felt great!” or “Signing offline! Have a great night Tweeps!”. Ugh. It’s making me cringe as I am writing this.



And actually, I am not the only one who feels this way. Talent Culture, a recruiting company, posted an article entitled “Ten Ways to Kill Your Twitter Brand”, which stated that “spamming” followers with personal updates was the number two way to damage your image. So, what should you, as a PR student, be doing to create a good image for yourself and your potential employers? Here are some things I hear from the PR professionals that I come in contact with:

The Do’s

  1. Do make sure to keep your tweets 80% professional and 20% personal. Like I said above, there is nothing worse than tweeting about your recent peanut butter sandwich or the fact that you just made your bed while talking to your grandma. I do not care. Your followers do not care. And I can definitely tell you that your future employers do not care.

    I'm sorry?

  2. Do engage with your followers. Respond to mentions, thank them for retweeting your post and always answer their questions.
  3. Do try to update your twitter at least once or twice a day. It is estimated that over one fourth of current Twitter accounts are inactive and you don’t want this to be you! Make sure that you are always updating your followers with relevant information.
  4. Do help promote the causes of your Twitter community. If you see a fellow Tweep promoting his/ her blog or an event that their company is sponsoring, help them out by retweeting their message to your network. It will be much appreciated.

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t tweet inappropriate or offensive things. Although the fact that you ran from the cops last night to escape an underage drinking ticket may be funny to you, it won’t be to the professionals in your industry. Remember that employers will always check your Twitter/ Facebook/ LinkedIn (and even your Google results) before you come in for an interview. Make sure that they don’t find anything embarrassing. For example, this is inappropriate:

    It just makes everyone feel uncomfortable.

  2. Don’t change your Twitter picture very often. Think of your picture like a personal logo. This is how your followers recognize you and if you change it a lot, they will become confused and may not even recognize that the person on their feed is you!
  3. Don’t follow more people than follow you. If you have a wacked-out ratio of followers to people you follow, you may loose some credibility and your klout score will go down. (For more information on Klout, check back next week!)

*And just for my own sanity, don’t be a walking stream of pointless thoughts, for the love of God.

Have you come across any ridiculous tweets lately? Post a comment or screen shot!

This guy gets it —>