Great advice for students

Wow, has it been this long since I posted to this blog page? Well, it’s been too long. I’m back, to share a bit of wisdom from a fellow college prof. I can’t say it any better than Professor Janni Aragon can.

While grading student papers, I make comments (no names mentioned, unless it’s a shout-out about something fantastic) about grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other fun stuff via Twitter.  I usually keep Tweetdeck running with several columns open, since my students often contact me via Twitter when they know I’m online.

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, there’s such a thing as a hashtag, which is simply a “#” (pound sign) put before a key word. People following that hashtag, but not necessarily you, will see that tweet. It’s a great way to make new friends on Twitter. Sports fans do it all the time during games (#Cowboys, #BigBlueNation, etc.) and commentary on breaking news often spawns hashtags (#Gaza is trending as I write this). Look for plenty of tweets with hashtags during awards shows, reality TV shows, major events and speeches by the President. I have a hashtag for each of my classes, to clue the kids in when I’m specifically addressing them as a group. They also use the hashtags to share links to articles with each other.

One of the hashtags I routinely follow is #grading.  Teachers all over the word commiserate, vent, or brag via this hashtag. They sometimes share weird things they read in student papers. It’s a little stress release, and is also frequently the source of useful information for teachers and students alike. Today was one such day.

I glanced up and saw this tweet from Sean Irwin, who is a PhD student in geography at the University of Victoria in BC.

 He was re-tweeting a link from Janni’s blog, and it caught my eye, because it addressed many students’ concerns when they get graded papers back.

I read it, commented on it, re-tweeted it and am now sharing it here for you because Janni is one wise woman.

I hope all students know it’s not about them, it’s about their work. Yes, I presume there is a teacher/professor/TA out there somewhere who hates a kid and makes it personal, but we’re all pretty honest, and try to be fair.  Remember that the next time you get a paper back that looks like someone bled colored ink all over it. It’s for your good.

And don’t be afraid to come talk to us, either. We might just like you even better.

Halftime in America

As usual, I watched this year’s Super Bowl more for the commercials than the game, although I’m glad the Giants won. Not that I’m a fan, I’m just not crazy about Tom Brady.

The Twitterverse was full of comments about the ads, and there was the usual complement of racy Go Daddy ads and refreshingly a dearth of juvenile, frat-house beer ads involving flatulence and below-the-belt pratfalls.

The car ads that stood out were the Chevy ads–with my favorite also being controversial. Seems Ford saw the ad ahead of time on You Tube and objected, asking NBC to pull the ad. Apparently the good folks at Ford didn’t get the joke.

Audi’s vampire party ad is a hoot, and does a great job of focusing on one product attribute–daylight headlights.

But here’s what everyone is talking about: [<a href=”http://storify.com/samjb/is-halftime-in-america-a-rip-off-of-morning-in-ame” target=”_blank”>View the story “Is \”Halftime in America\” a rip-off of \”Morning in America?\”” on Storify</a>]

Reflections on Martin Luther King Day, with a nod to social media

Today we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was a young child when he was leading change in America, and I’m sorry to say very few people in my family were impressed with him or his message. Perhaps it’s because my parents were older and grew up in a different time. My dad was in a segregated military; my mother grew up in a family where “colored people” were servants. I know my mother died without ever having a meaningful conversation–one between equals–with any African-American person, but she was always kind and polite when she encountered them. She cautioned me that “they are different.” Daddy mellowed in his later years. He loved soul food and had a diverse collection of fishing buddies and fellow woodworking craftsmen that he could hang out with despite Mother’s concerns about what other people would think.

Like many white Americans during the civil rights era, my parents expressed fear. Seeing large crowds of black marchers singing “We Shall Overcome” scared them, and they, like many of their peers, thought that song meant “they” wanted to take over America and marginalize white people. The news media in those days–remember, we were limited to three TV networks, some radio and our daily newspapers–didn’t do a good job of explaining what was going on.  My parents never went to college, so they made their assumptions based on high school educations from small towns in southern Indiana. I’m pretty sure the thought never entered their minds–or that of those teaching them–that all people are truly equal, and no race is superior to any other.
Somehow, despite growing up in a world where the “N” word was freely used, I never understood why “they” were different, other than their appearance. My first questioning of this came in kindergarten. I had a new blue dress with a really pretty front detail that was different and stylish. To this day I remember what that dress looked like, down to the white topstitching and button trim.  The first time I wore it to school there was another girl in my class wearing the same dress. She was African-American and wore her hair in braids with matching blue barrettes.  The teacher had us both stand up in front of class to show off our matching outfits, then we resumed our normal activities.  I remember playing with that girl on the playground during recess. She was really nice and we had fun together in kindergarten.That evening at dinner I related the story to my parents. I remember the sidelong glances at each other, and Mother cautioned me not to get too friendly with her, but nothing much else was said.
The dress disappeared from my closet and I never saw it again.  
When we moved to a small town in Kentucky a few year later the city schools had just been desegregated. My school had their first Black student, a young boy in 2nd or 3rd grade. I overheard the teachers talking in the halls about what to do about him. It was as if he needed special education or something because he wasn’t white. I never understood what the big deal was, but I felt empathy because I was the only Catholic in that school, and the teachers didn’t know what to do with me, either.
Small town America in those days was more isolated than it is now. Limited communications kept ideas concentrated in one geographic area, and didn’t allow for much in the way of additional perspectives. There was no Internet to provide a wide world of ideas. Anybody who was different in any way was viewed suspiciously. I never met a foreign-born person until I was a senior in high school. College exposed me to foreign students and a desire to travel and see what the rest of the world was like, but I never felt like any person of another race or ethnicity was any better or worse than me. Somehow, without being openly defiant, I rebelled against my parents by becoming more open minded. Perhaps it’s because I was bullied and treated badly for being an outsider in a small town, and a Catholic in an environment where we were treated with great suspicion.
In the 1970s Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment and President Richard Nixon endorsed it. It was never ratified by the required 38 states, despite an extension of the deadline, and several states that did ratify it rescinded their ratification. Even though the amendment has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1982, the sad fact is, it will probably never pass. Because the wording is interpreted to include the LGBT community, conservatives are working hard to keep the amendment dead in the water.
Remembering back to the political rhetoric and rumormongering of the ’70s I can only imagine what the ERA ratification process would be like today with the popularity of social media and its ability to spread fear. One of the more sensational arguments against the ERA was a belief that it would make separate men’s and women’s restrooms unconstitutional. I can only imagine how that falsehood and others presented by organizations like Phyllis Schlafly’s  Eagle Forum would go viral and mutate into a constitutional monster that would distract media pundits and politicians from actual governing issues.
All of this reminiscing is a rambling introduction to a great blog I read today from Radian6, a media measurement firm. This blog provides an excellent assessment of how the late Rev. King and his organization might have used social media. It’s also a useful outline of social media strategies that could be employed by any activist organization seeking to make an impression on a wide audience.  I think anybody with an interest in civil rights (or any kind of activism) as well as social media can use it as a guide.

Getting to Know You

The class roster was daunting: 54 students enrolled in “Ethics, Law and Diversity for Strategic Communications,” the required capstone class for Advertising and Public Relations majors where I teach.

Fifty four students isn’t large at some universities, or in some subjects, but it’s a large class in a journalism school, where individual attention and mentoring are key to student success. But budgets are tight and the faculty is small, so all the stratcommers are lumped together into one drab, windowless classroom two days a week to study ethical codes and learn how to make ethical decisions.

The other classes I teach are mostly PR writing classes—intimate gatherings that include many one-on-one coaching and editing sessions in my office. I get to know those students pretty well—their dreams, their fears, their aspirations. Some of them open up about their lives and ask for personal coaching, and I do the best I can with that, even if it’s only to listen and let them know I care. I become close to these kids, and genuinely care about them and their futures. Many stay in touch after graduation to ask professional advice and share important milestones. They’ve become a sort of extended family.

In the big ethics class I already know most of the PR majors, or have them in my PR class that semester. The advertising majors, for the most part, are new to me. Since I want to know everybody by name, I call roll. Yes, it takes time at the beginning of class, but if I passed an attendance sheet around I’d never hear some of their voices, never make eye contact even for that instant when they say “here” and look back down at their iPhone.

I try to get discussions going, and often break the kids into small groups to discuss cases in class. I roam around and try to get to know the kids, but it’s hard in such a large group. I always encourage the kids to come see me in my office, but they rarely do. I want to know their names, where they’re from, what they want to do after graduation. I want to help them if I can, and I can do that better if I know them.

So the day the students presented their first case studies to the class I realized with some sadness I’ll never know most of these kids. Broken into groups of 5, they analyzed an advertising or PR case and made a presentation of their findings. As I sat there watching them prepare their materials I was struck by how many kids I didn’t recognize. I’d look at the group list and at their faces and think “Where did that girl come from? I’ve never seen her before.” “Is that young man the one who sits in the back and never speaks? Who is he, again?”

I still call roll at the beginning of class. As long as they sit in the same seat every day I can usually look in their direction when I call their name, meaning I am at least associating a name with a region of the classroom. But would I know their name outside of class? Probably not. I know the ones who have reached out—those who’ve joined me for lunch or invited me for a beverage with the student association after class. But those are the ones I’d know anyway, because they drop by the office to say ‘hi” and speak up in class. They ask pertinent questions and challenge me and that makes an impression.

Many studies have been done about why students drop out of college. Besides expenses, many reasons related to depression and not fitting in are cited. Feeling like the professors don’t know you or don’t care is a factor in these feelings. Large classes are definitely detrimental to developing close student—professor relationships, but students could do more, too. Walk up to the professor after class, introduce yourself and ask a question—even a lame question is better than nothing. Ask to clarify a concept, ask about the book, the syllabus, anything to show you are engaged with the material and interested in learning. Drop by the professor’s office during office hours, even if it’s to say “I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d say ‘hi’.” Bring a graded paper with you and ask about something written in the margin. Ask about another class, or about an internship. You’ll start a relationship with the professor that will enrich your learning and enhance your collegiate experience. You may even find you have a new friend or mentor for life. But you, the student, need to make the first move, or risk becoming a nameless face in the back of class staring at a mobile device.

In a week or so they’ll make their 4th group presentation to class. By now, they all look familiar enough that I know they’re enrolled in the class, but I wish I could name them all on sight, even in the classroom. The ultimate luxury would be to know them by name if I run into them elsewhere on campus, or out in town. Then I’d know we had developed the solid professional relationship that good networking and mentoring is built upon.

C’mon kids, drop in and see me. Next semester there are 67 kids in that class. I’ll need all the help I can get getting to know you.

What my high school band director taught me about teaching journalism–and life

Everybody can name one teacher who defined their youth in some way, affecting their life forever. Mine was Chuck Campbell, my high school band director, and I find myself thinking about him often these days.
I knew he had been sick, but upon my return from Guatemala the end of July I noticed the “I Miss Chuck Campbell” Facebook page had exploded with comments.  Mr. C had passed on, and so had a part of me.
It wasn’t until I got into a Facebook discussion some time ago with an old high school friend that I realized just how much of an impression Mr. C made on my personal and professional life. I grew up in Winchester, Kentucky, a town that is still small, 38 years after my graduation. It was, and still is, the only high school in a rural county tucked into the eastern Bluegrass region, on the edge of Appalachia. There were a couple of factories, lots of agriculture, and not much else but history in this beautiful area east of Lexington.
I now teach public relations to college juniors, seniors and graduate students at a university in north Texas. You wouldn’t think music lessons would apply to writing and strategic planning, but they definitely do. I realize that much of what formed me as a PR professional for 23 years, and what informs my teaching and mentoring today was learned in that crowded, un-air conditioned band hall (and on a hot marching field) decades ago.
Prior to Mr. C’s arrival in the fall of 1969 the band was not particularly noteworthy. They hadn’t won any major competitions and didn’t generate a great deal of school spirit. If you could play an instrument and show up, you were in. Chuck Campbell changed all that in a heartbeat.
My freshman year was his first year as band director, and he shook everything up.  Overnight we were unified, summer band camp was like Marine boot camp, and we developed as a team despite being a rag-tag group of kids with varying degrees of musical talent and marginal music education. We auditioned for our place in the band, and we knew we earned our position. He was tough but fair, and his tough love and winning smile kept us coming back for what some would call abuse, but what we knew was making us better musicians, students and people.
Many of us got more love and discipline in the George Rogers Clark High School band than we did at home.  Band was family.
The first Campbell quote that comes to mind is “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late.” What did that mean? When he stepped onto the podium to give the first downbeat, he expected everyone to be in their chair with their instrument warmed up and ready to play. For some of us, that meant arriving early, fussing with reeds, and putting an instrument together to warm up and tune. Others could walk in at the last minute, pick up drum sticks or plug in a mouthpiece and go. The lesson was that each of us was responsible for figuring out how much time we needed to prepare, and plan accordingly, because if we weren’t ready when he was, we were holding the group back.
That one phrase carried over into my professional life. In the news business, you live and die by deadlines. The evening news doesn’t start when you’re ready, you must be ready when it starts.  Newspapers go to press (or online) on a schedule. Deadlines mean everything in my business. No journalism teacher or professor ever instilled the value of meeting a deadline like Mr. C.
I tell my students that waiting until deadline to write is suicide. Writing is like playing a musical instrument—you have to drill the basics until they’re automatic before you ever play a song or write a paragraph. In writing, research and preparation is vital, and the re-writing process is even more crucial than writing that first draft—much as in music, where re-playing a passage until you get it correct is also crucial. Turning in a first draft is the journalism equivalent of sight-reading a concerto in front of an audience.  It just can’t be done. 
“The band is only as good as its worst player.”  
Mr. C nailed that one, too, and it’s true for band, choir, sports teams, a newspaper, engineering firm, law firm, or PR firm—any organization that requires a team effort. But instead of making that “worst player” feel like a loser, Mr. C inspired us to help each other improve and excel as individuals, which boosted the team.  Most of us took our study hall in the band room, where we practiced our music or helped each other out with homework. I encourage my students to work together and coach each other, and my office is always full of students looking for help or just to hang out. I deliberately select student groups with a mix of skill levels and the weak ones always rise to the level of the strongest team members.
Mr. C was never too busy for a student, and I try to follow that same example.  I’m sure if he was teaching today he’d be accessible by cell, text and maybe Twitter, to answer students’ questions and guide them through life’s obstacle course.  He’d be snarky when called for, but he’d be sincere in his concern for each student’s needs, musical or not.  And I’m sure social media would facilitate many of the goofy tricks we played on him (and each other) over the years. 
“Kiddo.” 
I call my students’ “Kiddo” all the time, and didn’t realize until I re-visited the “I Miss Chuck Campbell” Facebook group that I’d gotten that endearing term (which sometimes had a double meaning) from him.  I’m sure he loved us even when he was exasperated with us, and he tended to be harder on the ones from whom he expected the most. If you were an achiever you were pushed harder but also took a lot of grief from him because he knew you could always do better. If you were not blessed with talent but worked your butt off, you had his unending respect and encouragement. The casual onlooker could rarely tell the difference, because we were that good. 
Like Mr. C I find myself pushing my exceptional students to be even greater while seeking ways to help the less-talented and inspire them to keep at it. Like Mr. C I also become exasperated with the talented ones who are lazy and happy with the status quo. The talented slackers were whipped into shape by Mr. C and peer pressure, and their work ethic eventually caught up. It happens in my classes, too, especially with group projects where everyone has to pull their weight, and the peer pressure is strongest.
As tough as it was, very few people quit the band. We busted our butts, our parents and the band boosters busted their butts, and when we won our first major competition my freshman year everyone in the state was shocked. By the time I graduated 4 years later we had racked up an impressive trophy case of state, regional and national awards, all the result of the teamwork between teacher and students. Many of us had won solo and small ensemble awards, too.
Mr. C. was a part of our team, not just our leader.  He took our failings personally, not because we failed him, but because he felt in some way he had failed us. I remember after blowing one competition my freshman year (our performance was fine–we actually flunked the military inspection because of a couple of grubby haircuts and wrinkled uniforms) the field commander called a meeting—without Mr. C’s knowledge. We all sat sullenly in our chairs while she and the band captain took us to task and let us know how hurt Mr. C. was at our failure. As a group we discussed how to fix the situation, and I think a couple of the guys may have taken the offending slobs out back behind the Ag building for a “talking-to.”  Changes were made, we all watched after each other, and we never blew an inspection again. 
As a group we took ownership of that failure and turned it into a winning strategy for the future. I had to do that with a student group this past semester that made an egregious error in a project for a client. After a stern talking-to, they understood the problem, rectified the situation, apologized to the client, and put together a dynamite presentation at the end of the semester. Another group project was turned in late, and the responsible party came to me to proactively accept blame and ask that the rest of the group not be penalized.
I strive to impress on them the idea that in the professional world, owning your mistakes and failures makes you a better professional in the eyes of others. Taking responsibility for your actions is mature and professional. I got that from band, too.
I’m sure there were a few kids who couldn’t stand Mr. C, as I know there are a few who feel the same way about me.  I’m guessing Mr. C, like me, lost sleep and fretted about the unreachable student before moving on to focus on the success stories—the ones who work hard and honestly give their all.  They are the ones that give us the joy of teaching, and they’re the ones we’re delighted to see again as alumni.
You’re gone now, Mr. C, but not forgotten, and the lessons you taught us over the years are being passed on to legions of students being taught by those of us you pushed, shoved, mentored and loved into adulthood through our years in band.  Thank you.
Here are some videos of performances during my high school years, including contest programs from my sophomore year (70-71), my junior year (71-72) and my senior year (72-73) when I was the drum major. The beginning of the last one is cut off–if I can ever find a complete version I’ll re-post. 

Using social media for life

It’s almost a month since graduation. I’ve watched the kids walk across the stage, written letters of recommendation to employers and graduate schools, and tried to provide moral support and advice to job hunters while celebrating the relatively large number of recent grads (compared to last year) who are gainfully employed in their field.

The NBA playoffs are over and the Dallas Mavericks won, in a shade of blue very similar to my beloved UK blue—with a Kentucky alum on the coaching staff and another in the communications office.

I went to two funerals in two days—one for a beloved colleague who died too suddenly and too soon, the other for a dear former pastor who was one of the most amazing men of God I’ve ever known.

I’ve also re-landscaped half the back yard, dealt with foundation leveling at our house, continued the archeological dig through the “junk room” we inherited, and kept vigil on a wren’s nest (with 5 babies) directly above the front door, all while trying to get caught up on sleep, swimming, and summer office work. I’m trying to brush up on my Spanish, too, for a second mission trip to Patzun Guatemala. Sometime I’ll act on the paint samples taped to the walls inside and outside the house and start painting.

It’s been a busy month of summer vacation—but I can tell this summer vacation will be too short. I still have a zillion things on my personal “to do” list, a stack of books to read (paper and e-reader), projects to finish, and I try to spend a couple of hours a day monitoring new trends and technologies in social media and communications. The learning and preparation for the next semester never takes a break.

So why am I rambling on like this? Because as much as technology has evolved and made our lives “easier,” we still have to do stuff the old fashioned way. Flower beds needed to be re-built, holes dug, plants watered and mulched. Social media couldn’t do that for me, although it could help me find good deals on plants, tools and supplies, and is helping me figure out what varmint is chewing on my Turk’s Cap plants.

Social media helped spread the word about the two fine people who died, and connected all of us with memorials and funeral arrangements while sharing fond memories.

Foundation repair still involved men digging holes, installing piers and jacking up the house, although social media helped us find recommendations and reviews of potential contractors.

Social media didn’t help me pick out paint colors, and it won’t apply the paint but it did lead me to good instructions for painting over 1960s-vintage wood paneling. And when we found a number of interesting vintage articles in the junk room, social media and the internet helped me find out the history and value of those quirky items.

Social media is making it easier for me to keep up with trends and bookmark source material for my fall classes, which I’ll start planning in August when I return from Guatemala. Social media is also helping me locate donated school supplies to take to Guatemala, and to connect with those group members I don’t know yet. Coffee Break Spanish Podcasts are a big help in refreshing my bad Spanish.

Social media connected me with a local bird expert who reassured me the wrens wouldn’t abandon the nest as long as we minimized our time on the porch.

I could go on and on about how social media is useful in my everyday life. It’s not just for marketers, not just for sharing party pictures, and not just for sharing links to articles I want my students to read. In my life, at least, social media and the internet have become my “go to” sources for the mundane as well as the more exciting aspects of my life.

How are you using social media for your everyday life?

Blogs my students write

It’s no secret I love my students. Well, maybe to them it is, because I do have to use tough love to get some of them to reach their potential.  I hold them to the highest professional standards, and rarely cut them slack on their work. You see, the vast majority of my students are seniors, most in their last semester before launching their careers in the “real world.” I can’t baby them as I prepare to kick them out of the nest.  But I still love them and cry at graduation because I know that’s the last time I’ll see many of them.

At the end of the semester I ask them to write blog posts summarizing what they learned in their classes.  They’re always good, and they provide me valuable feedback I wouldn’t get on a standard student evaluation.  Some of them wax nostalgic, some are inspiring, but all show the students’ newfound maturity as they face graduation. 

Some blogs are particularly memorable, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share two with you.

Alisha Andrews (@alychele on twitter) has been in a bunch of my classes, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching her develop as a writer and strategist through two PR writing classes, an ethics class and a social media class.  Besides her good work, she’s got the most infectious smile, and no matter how bad my day has been, one glimpse at her grin makes the gray clouds part and the sun come out.  So it’s no surprise to me that her blog about Journalism 4460–a required PR Communication class that just about kills me along with the students–hit the nail on the head.  This could easily be the first page of the syllabus next semester.

Reading this blog post took me back a year to another post by former student Sarah Minton (@sarahalisa18 on twitter), in which she expounds on how one knows they’re a PR student at UNT. Enjoy! Sarah was in two of my classes–the infamous Journalism 4460 and my ethics class. Sarah was the Outstanding PR student for the 2009/2010 school year, and another student who was a joy to be around. An avid football fan, she’s famous for striking the Heisman Trophy pose as she walked across the stage at graduation last December.

I’m looking forward to following both of these bright young ladies’ careers, and hope they keep blogging–and making us laugh–for many years to come.

Twitter at 3 am (Denver time)

Show over. Looks like I lived to tell about that one—and didn’t embarrass the university or the Mayborn School of Journalism. (I’m not worried about embarrassing myself, but I never want to hurt the client/employer.) Either I did OK or their second hour guest didn’t show up, because what was originally booked as a one hour interview lasted two. But the time flew by, even though it was way past my bedtime.

Admittedly, I’m a little out of practice, but got the hang of it again quickly. How? First of all, I didn’t think about the fact they claim to have a million listeners of this show. I’m on the phone with one guy who’s asking me questions, and occasionally someone else is conferenced in for a three way conversation. That’s a pretty normal state of affairs for most of us, and one PR pros could keep in mind when doing interviews.

So, how did it go? After my prep (see previous blog post), I had several interesting Twitter conversations with my students, mainly about Rebecca Black’s horrible viral music video—then she turns up on Leno and the snarkfest got even better.

Gotta love Twitter. Where else can you converse with people like they’re sitting in the living room with you while they’re miles away? But I digress….

My desired nap never materialized, and at about 1:30 am I found myself fading. I made a cup of strong tea and got a huge glass of ice water, hooked the headset up to my phone, and listened to the show before ours. I pulled out my notes and listened to people talk about DUI and marijuana and how Obama is a Marxist. Seems to be a theme there.

There was a small posse of students listening—and tweeting—that I really appreciated. Katie Grivna, NT Daily Editor (@katiegrivna), Julianne Verdes (@JooLeeV), Lesley Merritt (@PR_Lesley), @ValerieElisse (sorry, can’t remember your last name because I haven’t had you in class yet), Nick Clarke (@Nikwc) and my loyal TA, Kali Flewellen (@iamkalijo) turned out to be a spontaneous support posse. They’d chime in with comments, quips for me to use, and critiqued everything from the show’s music to the announcer’s voice (very nice).

Rick Barber is one of the best informed and considerate radio hosts I’ve worked with. He knew his stuff but had no problem saying “I don’t understand this, explain it to me.” I was way over-prepared (as any good spokesperson would be) but nothing prepares you for those people who call in to radio talk shows.

The first caller was a Star Trekkie, who thought this whole thing was “borg like.” I found things in his comments to agree with, to validate his position, and Rick eventually politely cut him off to go to a commercial break. We also had a call from a Texan who wants to major in music at UNT, who wanted to know how to use Twitter strategically, and a real estate guy who was asking for advice on how to use SM in his business. I found myself dispensing some consulting advice, which is OK. I want people to know how to use it strategically, and find value in it.

I even got to discuss my beloved Kentucky Wildcats and the NCAA basketball tournament. How’s that for taking control of an interview? And I plugged the social media class blog on air, too.

Kali, my awesome TA, called in and had some good things to say about Twitter, and I had the chance to discuss some customer service case studies, how to set up a Twitter account, and how to find people to follow. I plugged Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and Twellow. Rick seemed to be hanging on every word.

He’s a great interviewer. He lets you talk, asks good questions, and is fun to chat with. I’m spoiled. I felt like I was sitting at a table having a beer with him, it was so easy. Because he’s such a congenial interviewer, I was able to get all my desired talking points in without (I hope) appearing to take charge of the interview.

But those callers can be scary, especially at night—to paraphrase Forrest Gump, “They’re like a box of chocolates, you never really know what you’re going to get.

As for prep– a good spokesperson knows the topic, and is passionate about it.  That’s all it takes to make it look easy, although I was consciously watching the clock to put in a Mayborn plug if I thought it had been too long since the last one.  Gotta think on your feet, but it’s easy to do if you know your stuff and love it.

The kids who tweeted comments and ideas didn’t realize it at the time, but they were doing exactly what they’d be doing for a client or CEO in a similar situation. And they were great moral support. Even though I’ve done stuff like this dozens of times before, it’s always good to know your posse’s got your back.

Click here to listen to the whole show.