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Aug 18

Teaching Blogging: A Proposed Curriculum for Social Media

Inside PR, a weekly Canadian podcast about the public relations profession, recently discussed the topic of teaching blogging to public relations professionals in response to a comment by from Owen Lystrup, a student at California State University (IntoPR). Social media as a topic for study is just beginning to enter the educational realm, with Robert French’s work at Auburn University being the most commonly cited example (InfOpinions /Auburn PR blog).

The technical aspects of blogging, such as the casual writing style, use of comments and trackbacks, and recently rediscovered benefits of personal journaling, seem hardly worthy of covering with today’s students, although a practicum course might do well to train students in the of the social media news release (PDF, 49KB). The bigger view of social media education — whether college coursework or continuing education for PR professionals — should focus on more significant theoretical and conceptual aspects. Three possible areas such a curriculum could include:

Ethics – Topics regarding social media and ethics should cover such issues as character blogs; anonymous blogs and commenting (especially in light of PRSA’s statement of ethics regarding transparency); and astroturfing, as well as case studies of how companies are handling such issues.

Analytics – In order to handle issues management and public relations response, it is important for public relations professionals to understand significance, movement and strength. Technorati, Google Trends and BlogPulse are important tools for the PR student to master, but Web and RSS statistics will also become significant, in order to understand the elements reported, over-reported or under-reported in tools like WebTrends, Feeedburner or when monitoring AOL activity (see earlier Unsolicited post on PR tools, Steve Rubel discussing Technorati Charts and Technorati’s post on its Blog Charts).

Economics – The business of the internet has long been a web of interrelationships as well illustrated by Bruce Clay’s search engine diagram (PDF, 262KB). Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of myspace.com gives an inside into Newscorp’s strategies for the next generation, while Google’s ad deal with Facebook provides similar insights into Google, which also owns and serves ads onto Blogger. Furthermore, students should understand topics such as the business model (or lack thereof) for various media properties. Currently emerging sites such as YouTube or Flickr may have social aspects that are not readily obvious. Likewise, their business model may also not be entirely obvious either, leading to questions regarding whether some such startups will become the Web 2.0 bust.

In addition to these three areas, sociology and communication theory will provide other abundant insights for study of social media — both by tomorrow’s students and today’s practitioners.

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