Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cultural Diplomacy Through Blogging


Earlier this week I blogged about a cultural diplomacy panel discussion I attended at Syracuse University. One of the topics of discussion was social media and how Marjane Satrapi did not think it was an effective tool for improving diplomatic relations, and how panelist David Pogue disagreed. As I stated in that blog, I also believe that social media is a great tool for cultural diplomacy. The more I thought about, I began to believe it even more and I got to thinking about a book I read last year.

The book is called "Baghdad Burning," and it is a compilation of blog posts written by an anonymous female only known as Riverbend, who lives in Baghdad. She blogs about her experiences and feelings in regards to the Iraqi War. Her story is incredible and moving and I learned a lot from reading this book.

Riverbend began blogging in 2003 and was last heard from in October of 2007, after arriving safely in Syria with her family. Her posts were well-written and insightful; providing her honest political insight as well as cultural information about her family and her country.

I do not mean to review this book, though I do highly recommend it. This blog though, is a prime example of cultural diplomacy achieved through social media. Through her emotional and insightful story-telling, people from across the globe are able to share her experiences. Many disagreed with her viewpoints, I'm sure, many learned things about the war, and many wept for her and her family and friends. Everyone who read it though, had a better understanding of what it is like to live through that, on the other side of this war. Whether or not you support the war, which I will not get into because this is not a political blog, a sense of understanding and sympathy went out to this girl and her family.

That is cultural diplomacy. Many people felt a connection to this girl, and therefore to the people of Iraq. Many had greater understandings after reading her blog. In this case, and in other similar to it, social media has proven its use for the good of cultural diplomacy.

Social media isn't just an online marketing tool, it's a tool to help us understand one another and provide connections and sense of understanding across cultures and countries. That's my PR thought for the day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starbucks Uses Social Media for Business. No, Really

Maybe you saw my title and thought, so what? A lot of businesses are using social media to promote their brands. Well, that's great, but that's not what Starbucks is doing, well not all of it at least. They are actually using social media to CONDUCT business, not just promote it. I got this tidbit of useful information from one of my favorite blogs, Mashable. (

So yes, they've had Wi-Fi for a while now, that's not what I'm talking about. They are actually providing a way to find the Starbucks closest to you and even pay for your coffee using your mobile device. Hey, if I can pay and be done with it on the bus on my way to work - I'm doing it! That's not all though, with this FREE mobile app, you can customize your own drink and save it, manage your Starbucks card account balance, search for stores with drive-thrus, and invite people in your address book to meet you there.

I thought this was an important feature to write about because it's an example of a business that's really using social media to make getting a cup of coffee easier for their valued customers. And let's be honest, a lot of us out there need our coffee because we're not quite awake enough to function, so if getting it is easier - I'm sold. This is a valuable tool that was obviously made with the customer in mind. That's value in social media. That's smart mobile business.

A lot of companies get a Facebook page or promote an event or their brand using Twitter, which is all good. But somehow they think that makes them progressive and they really give themselves a pat of the back for using social media. The businesses that see the greatest payback from using social media though, are the companies like Starbucks, that see how it can add value to their customers' days. They're not just talking about social media, they are really doing it in a way that will no doubt create greater customer satisfaction.

Getting into social media is a big step for businesses who are still just joining the game. But to really get value out of social media for your business, you need to find a way for it to have value for your consumers first. That's my PR thought for the day.

*Photo from Google images

Monday, September 21, 2009

Social Media and Cultural Diplomacy

Today I went to a panel discussion on Cultural Diplomacy as part of a Cultural Symposium at Syracuse University. ( The panel included Marjane Satrapi, Paul Salopek, David Pogue, and Shen Wei, and was moderated by SU law professor David Crane. Each of them are very respected in their fields and watching them interact was very interesting, particularly the inputs and interactions between David Pogue and Marjane Satrapi.

David Pogue is a New York Times columnist and author of "The World According to Twittter." Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian and French contemporary graphic novelist and author of "Persepolis." While the discussion was not devoted to cultural diplomacy as it related to social media, the topic certainly came up. These two panelists views on social media and cultural diplomacy seemed to be quite opposing, though both were respectable.

Pogue kicked off the discussion using his iPhone to demonstrate cultural diplomacy by using an App to listen to an amateur musician play music on his iPhone in Australia. He explained how this technology has the ability to connect with complete strangers in very unique ways. He may be impressed or unimpressed by the Australian's musical talent, but he most certainly feels connected to him, improving the diplomatic relations of two individuals. He went on to further explain his points, but I'll now explain Satrapi's side.

She criticized that social media; Twitter, Facebook, and other such outlets do not have the power to improve cultural diplomacy because it is not real. She even said something to the idea of you can have 500 friends on Facebook and none of them may be your "real" friends.

To this, I say two things. First, I disagree, this person agreed to be connected with you. Just because you cannot see or hear a person in real time, does not mean that you are not connected with one another. Secondly, who is to say, even if they are not best friends or even face-to-face friends that their connection within the social media realm cannot give them the power to influence one another?

Example: Friend A and Friend B connect on Facebook. They do not know each other personally, but have similar interests; they are in the same groups and fans of the same pages. Friend A is from the United States, and Friend B is from Iran. Two weeks go by, and Friend A puts up a status that pops up on Friend B's newsfeed. The status reads "I support the 'Greening of Iran.,'" in reference to the Green Movement that does not the support the current radical regime of Iran and may force the regime to close Iranian universities to prevent protest and opposition.

Friend B reads this and is a student at a university in Iran, who also supports the Green Movement. Friend B messages Friend A, and they begin an in-depth discussion of Iranian politics from two totally different points of view. Friend A learns a lot about the Green Movement from someone who is actually living it; and Friend B finds comfort in support from an outsider. Maybe this is a miniscule scale, but here are two people, an American and an Iranian citizen, who have forged an important bond. If that's not cultural diplomacy, I don't know what is.

Marjane Satrapi made many insightful and interesting points during the panel discussion; I simply did not personally agree with this one. If we are truly trying to improve cultural diplomatic relations, then shouldn't we go after it with any means we have available? To rule out social media, a force that is taking the world by storm, seems like taking a step backwards.

Social media is a force whose undeniable advantages should not be ignored by anyone; businessmen, politicians, diplomats, or anyone hoping to stay informed in this world. Social media does have the power to aid cultural diplomacy when used in the proper manner. Thats my PR thought for the day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ignore My E-mail? Not A Chance

I recently purchased the book Socialnomics by Erick Qualman and read the first three chapters today. I won't comment too much on the book until I'm finished, but so far it has been interesting and provided some good insight. It's an easy read, so I should get through the rest fairly quickly, but I wanted to comment about an excerpt from Chapter 3, titled, "Social Media = Braggadocian Behavior."

The excerpt discusses how e-mail, though still a vital computer mediated communication medium, is actually being ignored by some members of Generations X and Y. Immediately, I began to disagree in my head, however, as I read on, the proof shocked me. According to the book, Boston College did not give e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen this year and Apple hired a 22-year-old who had never sent an e-mail in his life.

As a fellow 22-year-old, I found the latter incredibly difficult to digest, considering I have sent at least two e-mails a day since I started college over four years ago, and most days I sent infinitely more than that. I have three different e-mail accounts (2 for each college I've attended and my personal g-mail), and I send e-mails to friends from home every single day; I e-mail my boss countless times a day about various projects I'm working on; I e-mail former professors and bosses; I e-mail my sorority sisters for updates; and of course, I e-mail my mother. Not to mention my Google Alerts that I rely on to stay informed about current events in PR and social media. Without e-mail, most of my friends and family would not even know I still existed and I would have a much harder time maintaining connections and relationships.

Maybe this 22-year-old was able to get away with texts, instant messaging, comments on Facebook, and other such mediums for informal e-mails to friends, but what about professionally? How did he even submit his resume to Apple or any other companies that he applied to? If this person went to college, what if he had to ask a professor a question?

Additionally, while networking sites and other social media may provide messaging services very similar to e-mail, most, if not all, lack one major function; the ability to attach an outside document. This includes Word documents, presentations, photographs and much more. How would this person send such stuff; is it really possible that he has never had to?

All I know is that I have a lot of questions for this 22-year-old employee of Apple who has managed to escape the e-mail phenomenon for so long and still landed a job for Apple. I'm also not trying to knock the guy, good for him I guess. He's clearly been able to master social media in such an incredible manner as to have replaced a more traditional form of communication, at least as far as new media goes. Still, inquiring minds want to know, how did he do it?

I've embraced social media in my life, but I still find the need for constant e-mailing. The fact that others don't and can still maintain a professional online lifestyle baffles me. That's my PR thought for the day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Staying Current: Vital to PR and Not as Time Consuming as It Seems

So by now it should be no secret that's it's vitally important to stay current if you're in the public relations industry. This means current with all kinds of news, because you never know what news could impact your business or client, either positively or negatively. But it's also important to stay current with industry trends and changing social media. If you're in PR and you don't follow social media, you won't be in PR much longer.

Today, during my research pubic relations class, we talked about the blogosphere and even Google alerts. A lot of fellow classmates were wondering, if there's so much news and so many blogs out there, how are we supposed to follow it all? I agree that there's hardly enough time in the day as it is, but I still manage to find time to stay current in the news and the world of social media. So I thought I'd share my tips about how I manage my time and still stay current.

First of all, our professor today discussed Google alerts, which I also subscribe to. He discussed following something as specific as a company, particularly Wal-Mart. However, I've decided to broaden this quite a bit. I subscribe to three Google alerts; public relations, social media and politics. Whenever there is a news item or blog about any of these topics, I get an e-mail. It's not a pain like it may sound, for those of you who already have an overflow of items in your inbox. I get three e-mails a day, one for each topic. In the e-mail is a list of all the articles or blogs that pertain to the topic. Now, do I go through and read every single one? No, but I read each title and the first paragraph. If I like it, I read on. If not, it's on to the next article. So I do not read every single thing, but I get a general idea from the first paragraph, and I read all of the stuff that seriously interests me.

Also, I know you've all heard enough about Twitter, but when used effectively, it can actually save you time. Follow people or organizations that are worthwhile; such as PR firms, the PRSA and social media experts. They'll post links that are worth your time - they've already done the work of sifting through the surplus of information out there to find the good stuff for you!

On top of this, I also read almost everything on This is a great Web site for people breaking into PR, or those who know little to nothing about social media. I also recommend, which connects social media to PR more than mashable. Both are great sites.

It can be difficult to find time for things in your day that don't seem absolutely necessary. But you have to think that if you really want a career in this, it isn't just an option anymore; it's becoming a necessity. That's my PR thought for the day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Establish Web Presence with Brand-Yourself

Establishing GOOD Web presence can be tiresome; it can be difficult; it can be tedious. But it is also vital to success in a down economy during what some have called "the Youtube era." If a potential employer googles your name, do you think they'd hire you? is trying to help people do just that. It's a company created by three student entrepreneurs from Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management, to help people establish a good Web presence that will help them get hired. (Disclaimer: I work for the Whitman School.)

They coach you on many aspects of the job-hunting process, such as creating a meaningful personal brand, marketing yourself online, reputation management, and the importance of useful activities, not the summer jobs where you made coffee all day. Not to knock that, I spent a few summers at Dunkin' Donuts myself in order to makes ends meet during undergrad.

All I'm saying is that anyone who's interesting in establishing a good Web presence, which should be almost everyone in this economy, should check out the tips they have, and actually put them to good use.

There are so many articles out there that are useful on this topic; all you have to do is look. One I found recently from the about 5 social media power tools was very useful. I actually found this article from a tweet by Like I said, they know what they're talking about; that's why they've experienced so much success.

Creating a brand with can help anyone with their social and professional networking if they want to. Make sure you know what's coming up on a potential employer's screen if they google your name. That's my PR thought of the day.

Obama Warns About Dangers of Social Media

Okay Okay, maybe this topic has been beat to death. Yet, people are still doing it. They are incriminating themselves with what they put up on their social networking sites. Pleading the Fifth won't save you now, your Facebook album already incriminated you. What will it take to make these people realize that no professional business or recruiter will take you seriously if you're profile picture is you doing a keg stand?

Well, maybe the president will be convincing enough. When a student at Virgina High School asked how he could be president some day, Obama answered honestly, that people young and old need to be careful about what they put on their Facebook profiles. It's a technology age and it seems we'll be able to get dirt on just about anybody in a few years from now. Maybe it's not fair to this generation because these social mediums weren't around before, but it seems simple to me. If you don't want people to know about it, don't put it online for everyone to see. Better yet, don't do it, but everyone's young once and makes a few mistakes. Just be smart enough not to document it on the World Wide Web.

Networking sites are supposed to be a useful tool, not a harmful one. There's enough literature out there about it now, so there's not much room left for excuses. If you're serious about your career, you know what to do. Keep an updated LinkedIn profile, have a serious and non-incriminating Facebook, update your Twitter with tweets of substance, not what you had for lunch.

It's nothing too new, but that's my PR thought for the day.

From Matchmaker to Wedding Planner

First of all, I'd like to apologize for a mistake I made in yesterday's post about blogging. PR-squared has stayed very up to date with their blogging. They provide relevant and valuable information on social media frequently. I mixed up their site with another one, techprgems. Like PR-squared, I really do enjoy this blog and they have great information for newcomers or experts in social media. However, is the site that has not posted since August 20th, and we'd love to hear from them soon!

Onto today's post. Since I discovered, I've been fully addicted to it. Today they had a post on how to plan a wedding on the Web.

For this service, you can do everything from planning your proposal, sending invitations, registering, picking a caterer, a vendor, creating a Website to keep guests informed about nearby hotels or your fiance's background, and even afterwards sharing your photos. Basically you can plan your whole wedding without even leaving the confines of your own home.

All of this is great if you're a Web-equipped individual, I won't deny that. But they help you plan the proposal? Where's the romance? What happened to the days of a fancy dinner, ring in the dessert and getting down on one knee? I'm not saying that's the only way to do it, but the point is that it's supposed to be personal and thoughtful. Brainstorming ideas with people you don't even know hardly seems like either of those.

Also, how are you supposed to pick a caterer while sitting on your couch. You can read as many reviews as you'd like, but when it comes down to it, don't you want to taste the meal you choose for all your loved ones to eat on your most special day? And it that cake is going in your face, you had better hope you like that whipped vanilla frosting or whatever you choose.

The Website seems like an excellent idea though, as a way of keeping guests informed. They can find maps, hotels in the area, maybe even predicted weather. But if my friend or cousin is getting married, I want to meet the fiance, not just hear about him or her on their Website. He's a new family member, not a new employee, so I'll skip the resume thanks.

I feel like I'm criticizing Web weddings too harshly. I think it's a great service and many people have successfully capitalized on it. It surely makes a lot of people's lives easier in a very stressful time. When it comes time to plan my own wedding, I'm sure I'll make good use of many of these applications. However, I won't get too carried away in making my wedding impersonal. What's next, an online bachelor party instead of going to the strip club?

That's my PR thought for the day.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Introduction Post

This is my first blog and I'm pretty busy with work and grad school, so I don't know how often I'll be able to update, but I'll try my best. Here's a little about me first.

I'm a graduate student at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University in the public relations program. I earned my BA from Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Business Administration. Currently, I work at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse, as the PR/Web assistant.

After graduating, I plan on moving back to my hometown just outside of Boston, looking for a job at a PR agency in the area. I like agency work over working for a corporation, because I think being able to work on different project and with new clients will satisfy my creative and restless mind.

I thought I'd just introduce myself so people know who they're hearing from. Look back for my views on social media and public relations.