“Making the world a smaller place…”

“I can take out my iPhone and scan the tweets and see what’s happening half way around the world, and I can put myself in the shoes of someone who is trying to overthrow a repressive regime and I can suddenly have an empathy with that person that I would not otherwise necessarily have had … People all around the world are realizing that we’re not just necessarily citizens of a particular state or a particular country, but citizens of the world. And this is a growing feeling and I think that the Internet and social media tools are making the world a smaller place and allowing us to feel this empathy.”

— Twitter’s Biz Stone on the power of social media networks. (via nprfreshair)

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Communicating with the generations.

During a daily trolling of the PR/Media blogs, I came across this interesting little cheat sheet from Ragan’s PR Daily. Titled How to communicate to different generations, it gives a brief synopsis of what a variety of age groups best react to in messages from companies. Connect to the article here for more information, but here’s a brief run-down and some parts I found most interesting:

Age Group: Oldest generation (WWII generation),

communication preferences include:

  • Concise summary, sometimes known as the ‘Reader’s Digest approach’
  • Highly specific
  • Linear and sequential presentation of the information
  • Greater emphasis on formality

Age Group: Baby Boomers,

communication preferences include:

  • Experience that allows individuals to share own views/experiences
  • Democratic approach
  • Sense of equality and fairness is ‘critical’

Age Group: Gen Xers,

communication preferences include:

  • Hands-of approach
  • Visuals and graphics, with minimual text
  • Perceived sense of expertise from messenger
  • Relevance
  • Use of technology
  • Feedback and affirmation without strict intructions

Age Group: Gen Yers,

communication preferences include:

  • Collaborative learning setting
  • MOST visual (i.e. demonstrations) and technologically adept
  • Want to know exact expectations
  • “Active” learners

It’s interesting to see how differently each generation will react to a message. It certainly makes one pause and wonder how each individual interprets a single message– such as an advertisement or even a blog post. Since I assume that the majority of bloggers are of the younger generation, I guess I should start using more visuals. But, according to Gen Xers, I better make sure those visuals are RELEVANT.

So what do you think about this little guide to generational communication? What most surprised you?

“A language we all speak…”

Classes have started up again. For the most part, we’ve only met once or twice, but my schedule seems enjoyable. A fun last semester that will also hopefully prove beneficial to any job possibilities.

In line with my school’s policies, as seniors we have to take a final “Core Curriculum” class. The subjects of these classes are varied, and we choose whichever one might appeal to us most. I chose a Psychology (my minor) based class with a former professor with whom I actually did some research and independent study work. The topic is “Families and Society,” and at our introduction class yesterday, we spent much of the time discussing what a ‘family’ is exactly. We began by introducing ourselves and our majors. My professors then had us each relate the topic of Family to our respective fields. As a Core class, she was determined to highlight the importance of our various views and experiences in understanding the subject. To make a long story short(er), ideas and terms were thrown around for an hour or so. Discussion ensued. Afterward much conversing, my teacher decided to make things a little fun and show us film scenes that portrayed families. Her explanation for this was because “Media is a language we all speak.”

This statement was made as just a passing remark, but I immediately wrote it down in my notebook. It’s by no means revolutionary or deeply profound, but I found it interesting. As a Communications major with a focus in Public Relations, I consider the media to be a large part of my field. It is, in fact, my interest in all forms of the media that lead me into this discipline. So, to consider that media, a major study of mine, was a universally understood language was sort to remarkable. During my walk back from the class, I thought more about this small statement that most people didn’t even take notice of. It really is a uniting ‘language’ of sorts. We all use it, acknowledge it, learn from it, accept or disagree with it. It is a part of our everyday lives, no matter where we live or who we are. Only the most remote indigenous tribes can be arguably free from media influence, but even then the difference between our society and theirs is much greater than just a lack of newspapers or television.

Media is universal. While it comes in all forms and language, we all understand it. It’s there and we know why it’s there. Whether we trust it or distrust it, whether we enjoy it or hate it– media truly is a “language we all speak.”

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Today I got into a discussion with some of my co-workers about the purpose and benefits of Twitter (Note: These are co-workers in a field completely unrelated to public relations and, as women primarily in their mid to late 40s, they had limited knowledge of this mysterious thing called “twitter”). In the midst of explaining WHAT twitter was, I mentioned that I myself have a twitter page. I was met with a similar reaction that I often get from my very own peers– “why?”

Often I’m asked what possibly advantages Twitter has over Facebook. The error here is that people are so quick to compare the two social networking sites. Sure, they have similarities (for instance, I’ll often dumb down my Twitter explanation by comparing it to Facebook status updates), but they are also vastly different. I use Facebook to stay in touch with friends from home, friends from school, friends from abroad, and even the occasional soft-core stalking of people I haven’t seen since high school. While I do “follow” some of these same people on twitter, I look at twitter as a much different platform from which to conduct and access networking and communication.

As I explained to my coworkers today, Twitter is beneficial for companies who want a way to send a quick message to employees or consumers. They can have multiple accounts– perhaps one for Customer support, another for internal communications, and still another with job opening postings. Having done a lot of work on twitter for a recent internship, I realized that most of the Fortune 500 companies are on twitter and have employed it in some of the ways I mentioned above.

But there is much more to twitter than finding out the latest in news from Microsoft or big name car companies. Often the immediate appeal, especially for the youth or starstruck, are the celebrities that use twitter. I will admit that I was similarity drawn to twitter when I found out that I could be following these idolized individuals who we, the masses, usually view as so far away from ourselves, so separate. Twitter gives you a behind-the-scenes sort of view of celebrities– their thoughts, perhaps picture and video posts, what they’re up to, and usually all this goes public without the censorship of their badgering publicists. These sort of things have led to a number of fun scandals for the public (i.e. John Mayer, he was practically asking for it). I myself am a big movie and television buff. I like to see the behind the scenes footage, know what’s happening on set, and even catch up on my spoilers. For this reason, I follow a number of entertainment and film sites on twitter. Their 140 character headlines are sometimes enough, or else I’ll click a link or photo they may provide. I also follow my own brand of celebrities, including directors (such as Jon Favreau) who are always eager to give their most loyal audiences some sneak peeks.

Of course, there are still other reasons to follow people on twitter, such as keep up with friends or getting the latest headlines, but the question often is– Why tweet?

Honestly, I enjoy it. I enjoy coming up with 140 character witticisms that I hope my (few) followers enjoy. It also does come in handy for keeping in touch with my few friends who also tweet. I admit, I’m horrible at keeping in touch, even with all of the modern day advances in communication. And yet, despite my inability to sit down and send an email, I will ALWAYS check my twitter, where I find out that so-and-so got accepted to law school, or so-and-so really enjoyed some movie. These little tidbits are often trivial, but still help me stay connected– to friends, family, websites, news, and even the occasional celebrity.

For companies, the “why tweet?” is obvious– for your business. While studies show that the majority of twitter users are under the age of 30, they are also usually the most technologically advanced. For certain companies, this is exactly the market they are looking for. For other companies, a twitter account still keeps them in touch with this particular target audience. No business needs to completely devote themselves to their twitter account, but it certainly is a good way to keep clients and consumers updated. In crisis communication situations, a twitter account is also beneficial in maintaining a clear and open position. Sure, you could write a whole blog entry (like this one), or you could give multiple updates, as you get them, keeping your audience informed and up to date.

Most recently, I heard that a heart surgeon has decided to employ twitter to give live updates as she performs open heart surgery. At first, I imagined some Scrubs-esque scene where a doctor tweets in between every task– that’s ridiculous, I thought. Then I realized that obviously the surgeon themselves was not tweeting (duh!). It eventually dawned on me that if I had a family member undergoing a difficult and life-threatening procedure, I would want constant updates on their progress. Imagine the countless hours people wait to hear the news, pacing back and forth, unable to settle down until they know the news. What if they could follow the surgery on twitter? Would that reduce their anxiety? Sure, there are probably several problems and possibly even ethical situations there. A few bugs to work out. But what an extraordinary idea.

So if you use twitter for fun, for the news, for the business, or for whatever reason– enjoy it. It’s not Facebook. It’s not a blog. It’s its own site, with its own unique features to be explored and expanded on. Or perhaps it is the very simplicity of twitter that attracts so many of us. As I once tweeted: Twitter is perfect for people like me whose wit rarely reaches anything above 140 characters.

(oh, and P.S. to enjoy some more of my writing, but in a 140 character limit sort of way, feel free to follow me: trickart262)