MK 354 Spring 2010

April 10, 2010

Has Social Media Actually Changed Public Relations?

Filed under: blog #9 — Tags: , , , — Zach Cole @ 2:46 pm

It’s the all-too-common question that every public relations professional over the age of 40 fears. How are you using social media to supplement your public relations plan? For many, the sudden rise of social media is a shocking trend, which is all the more reason to not ignore it. Okay, so maybe the social media trepidation is no longer as rampant as it used to be, but don’t be fooled – it still exists. PR practitioners across the globe are in awe of how social media is changing the public relations landscape, but to what extent have things really changed?

Esther Schindler wrote an article dedicated to this very subject in 2008, and despite its two-year-old tag, it still holds enormous relevance. Her primary thesis was that social media has changed public relations, but not to the extent that everyone seems to think. Her contention was that public relations is still public relations no matter the medium, and that fundamental persuasive and marketing skills are still vital to the success of any campaign. Schindler stated, “PR done well doesn’t change, even if the communication medium does; and PR done poorly quickly becomes spam to the wrong recipient, no matter which medium is used.”

This topic is important to Berklee’s Office of Public Relations for a number of reasons. At the moment, the majority of the office’s communication practices involve traditional PR – the press release, the media database, and the follow-up. This is all good and well, because the staff of the office is highly skilled at what it does. But due to a declining print industry, the office’s staff may want to consider embracing the new age of PR a bit more.

Although Schindler notes that social media has not drastically altered public relations, she does point out many of social media’s advantages. Using social media makes it easier to instantaneously reach potentially millions of people. Social media can also be highly targeted and is easily measurable. The advantages of social media coupled with the traditional PR-savvy of the office’s staff could increase Berklee’s online reputation and help generate more buzz and word-of-mouth.

Note: Overall, the topic of social media and its implications for marketing and social media can apply to any nonprofit organization. However, I felt that this article and trend was particularly applicable to my site, where I have had the chance to observe the communications practices.

April 4, 2010

Music Educators Weigh in on Music Technology

Filed under: blog #8 — Tags: , , , — Zach Cole @ 1:26 pm

Berklee College of Music claims to be “the world’s premier learning lab for the music of today – and tomorrow,” by evolving to “reflect the state of the art of music and music business.” In order to substantiate its claim, it is imperative for Berklee to remain on the cutting edge of music technology by understanding emerging trends, embracing musical innovations, and applying the new technology to the classroom setting.

Steven Estrella of Shearspire, Inc. compiled the results of survey of music educators and music technology into a 2005 report detailing numerous technological trends in the music education field. The report does quantify which technologies (notation software, music programming and engineering software, musical instruments) are most prevalent in the education environments – but as interesting as the quantitative results are, the qualitative findings from the survey reveal the most interesting trends.

The report notes that the majority of music educators (estimated 80%) actually need to be assured that embracing new technologies will help their teaching methods and their students. This means that outside of the early adopters, many teachers are hesitant to change their teaching habits to adapt to an ever-changing musical world. The music educators’ concerns stem from a variety of sources. They fear that learning about a new technology will be too time consuming, especially given their already hectic schedules.

Furthermore, many educators simply fear that their departments do not possess the necessary budgets to incorporate new, expensive technology. However, despite budget concerns, the report notes that, “the cost of technology has dropped enough so that teachers can engage in using music technology, even if it’s just one computer with a screen, free or inexpensive software, and an inexpensive MIDI keyboard controller. Some music educators may not be aware of how low the prices have actually dropped.”

Berklee may wish to address how its educators feel about incorporating new music technology. After all, it is important for the staff to adhere to Berklee’s mission because everything about Berklee communicates. The teachers must firmly believe that music technology is an integral part of the Berklee education, and that it helps contribute to Berklee’s position as “the world’s premier learning lab for the music of today – and tomorrow.” Without teachers who believe in music technology, Berklee may soon lose it’s positioning, which would detract from its prestigious appeal.

March 24, 2010

Rallying for Music Education

Filed under: blog #7 — Tags: , , , , , — Zach Cole @ 11:48 pm

As funds for public schools diminish in many areas of the country, more and more school boards are faced with the difficult choice of deciding where to cut funding. Some school districts have chosen to cut funds for physical education programs, which is has obvious negative consequences. In Ithaca, NY, funding for music education programs may be cut back, much to the dismay of local musicians, students and parents.

According to WSYR Syracuse News, the plan calls for the removal of five music positions and the elementary instrumental music program. Because much of Ithaca revolves around its local arts scene, these cuts are creating a sizeable commotion in the area. On Tuesday, March 23, students gathered for a musical jam session to protest the proposed cuts and to promote awareness for the need for music education.

News like this is problematic because it represents what may become a growing trend in school districts that are being pressed to make financial changes. Fewer elementary music programs may very well lead to fewer musicians as children grow older. According to Ithaca College Music Professor Beth Peterson, if students are not getting music education in elementary school, they are less likely to take up music in the 6th grade.

For Berklee College, a school that revolves around music education and needs a steady flow of up-and-coming musicians to stay relevant, diminishing music programs are something to keep an eye on. If there are fewer young musicians, there will be fewer applicants to Berklee, and the college may need to make cuts. Sure, it may seem like one school district is too small to have a grand effect, but if Ithaca’s proposed plan truly represents a growing trend, there may be cause for concern.

As the leader in collegiate musical education, Berklee should consider speaking out on this topic publicly, perhaps through PSAs. There are already a number of grassroots organizations and petitions advocating for music literacy in children, and Berklee could readily partner with any number of these groups to lead the fight for strong music education programs.

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