College magazines: What’s the point?

Food for thought for college magazine editors comes by way of Rob Westervelt’s UBrander blog. He urges us to think of our magazines in terms of return on investment and suggests a businesslike approach to definine our magazines’ overarching objectives:

If you don’t have a brand objective for your magazine, here’s how to craft one:

Our objective is to brand [YOUR SCHOOL] as [INSERT SCHOOL’S DESIRED BRAND POSITIONING IN ITS CATEGORY] so that [YOUR SCHOOL] becomes the first place [YOUR AUDIENCE] sends its students and dollars.

Once you’ve established your objective, write out your methodology for accomplishing the objective (i.e. how you’re going to do it). Remember, magazines are about readers, so write articles that connect your brand with the things your readers care about.

Good advice that should also translate to alumni magazines — and to hybrid college/alumni magazines, like the one our university publishes. Many college magazine editors have never had to think in terms of ROI. But it’s a practice worth adopting. So is Rob’s brand objective exercise.


Dude, you’re getting a battery recall: consumer advocacy in cyberspace

Bloggers and cyberjournalists are getting some credit for keeping the pressure on Dell to recall batteries that had the potential to catch fire.

This Business Week article traces how the blogosphere became a consumer advocacy network over several weeks this summer. It began on June 21, when the Inquirer, “a British ‘tabloid-style’ news site for techies, published a series of shocking photographs showing a Dell notebook computer in flames at a tech conference in Japan. The photos and an account of the incident came from ‘Gaston,’ the pseudonum of a loyal Inquirer reader who did not want to be identified because he’s in the computer business.”

The story grew legs and ran all over cyberspace.

“Industry analysts were soon e-mailing their take to mainstream reporters and investors,” Business Week reports. Soon, “Gadget news blogs like Gizmodo and Engadget spat out facts and rumors with equal zeal. They were relentless advocates for the consumer, too. On July 31, Engadget posted photos of a Dell notebook that had caught fire in Singapore. Its comment: ‘We’ll keep posting these until we see a recall or a solution, so please, Dell, treat ’em right.'”

The cybermedia didn’t merely expose the dangers of computers catching fire. They kept the heat on the manufacturers to do something about it and helped the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conduct an investigation into the burning batteries.

Link via BuzzMachine.

Me, according to

Karine Joly posts her interview with me today over at her tremendously informative blog,, which is a blog everybody in higher education should read, and not just for the interviews.
I’m looking forward to meeting Karine in a couple of weeks at the CASE Annual Conference for Senior Communications and Marketing Professionals in Philadelphia. She’s one of the speakers we’ve lined up for this terrific conference. If you’re not doing anything Sept. 13-15, why not join us?

Five, seven or 17 rules for social media optimization (SMO)

Just getting caught up on the rules for social media optimization discussion that’s been bouncing around the blogosphere the past few weeks. (Social media encompasses “the online tools and platforms that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other” via blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, vlogs, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc.)

The SMO discussion began with Rohit Bhargava‘s August 10 post of the five rules of social media optimization (hat’s off to PR Squared for the find).

Here are Bhargava’s original five rules, and snippets of his explanations:

  1. Increase linkability. “Adding a blog is a great step, however there are many other ways such as creating white papers and thought pieces, or even simply aggregating content that exists elsewhere into a useful format.”
  2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy. “Adding content features like quick buttons to “add to” are one way to make the process of tagging pages easier, but we go beyond this, making sure pages include a list of relevant tags…”
  3. Reward inbound links. “[L]isting recent linking blogs on your site provides the reward of visibility for those who link to you.”
  4. Help your content travel. When you have content that can be portable (such as PDFs, video files and audio files), submitting them to relevant sites will help your content travel further…
  5. Encourage the mashup. In a world of co-creation, it pays to be more open about letting others use your content (within reason). YouTube’s idea of providing code to cut and paste so you can imbed videos from their site has fueled their growth.

Easy peasy, no? Then why aren’t more of us (including yours truly) making a conscious effort to optimize our sites for social media?

Anyway, over the past three weeks, the SMO list has grown to 16 (or maybe 17, I’m not certain), and now there are rules for adding a rule to the list. I haven’t scratched beyond the surface of these rules yet, but I’ll delve in shortly and will be looking for ways to make my site more social media optimizationally acceptable.

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College-bound teens: ambitious but unrealistic?

Today’s college-bound students may have unrealistic expectations about obtaining advanced degrees, according to the Florida State University study. Reuters reports that “the gap between school leavers’ career plans and their actual achievements is growing.” Citing several national surveys, the researchers point out that 50 percent of “school leavers” in 2000 planned to get an advanced degree, compared to 26 percent in 1976. “But the percentage of high school graduates between age 25 and 30 who actually earned advanced degrees remained roughly steady, meaning only the expectations have changed.”

This comes at a time, Reuters points out, when SAT test scores record their sharpest decline in 31 years. Which could mean even more unrealistic expectations, which could lead to “wasted time and resources, not to mention anxiety and distress,” say the researchers.

Guy Kawasaki on what students should learn this year

Guy Kawasaki — writer, speaker, thinker, blogger, venture capitalist, etc. — offers his list of 10 (actually 12) things college students should learn this year “in order to prepare for the real world after graduation.” He offers some valuable tips on how to talk to your boss (“Your role is to provide answers, not questions”), survive a poorly run meeting (“First, assume that most of what you’ll hear is pure, petty, ass-covering bull shiitake, and it’s part of the game”), run a meeting of your own (rule No. 1: “Start on time even if everyone isn’t there because they will be next time”), create a decent PowerPoint (follow Guy’s 10/20/30 rule), and more. All are lessons I wish I’d learned in college. (True, PowerPoint hadn’t been invented yet. But still, I could’ve used some help on creating effective slides for the overhead projector.)

The best advice of all comes at the end:

One last thing: the purpose of going to school is not to prepare for working but to prepare for living. Working is a part of living, and it requires these kinds of skills no matter what career you pursue. However, there is much more to life than work, so study what you love.

Improving your PR pitch: 10 reporter hacks

The Bad Pitch Blog presents 10 reporter hacks — ergo, 10 ways PR and PIO types can improve their relationships with reporters.

Most of these hacks are standard practices — doing your intel via Google alerts and searches, building relationships, etc. The rest sound so common-sensical that I don’t know why we don’t do them more often. (For instance, this advice: “Give your mouse a rest and step out to Barnes & Noble and buy the damn publication. Sometimes sidebars, graphics, freelancers and editorial coverage cannot be found online.”) Maybe this list will serve as a reminder for us to do the common-sense stuff.