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Entrepreneurial lessons from “Hamilton”

February 21, 2016


Ever since I was lucky enough to see Hamilton on Broadway in December, I’ve wanted to find a way to get back in the room where it happens again. While for most people that would be enough to see the original cast in person once, I want to see the play one last time even if I have to wait for it.

Fortunately, I’m not helpless to make my return to the Richard Rodgers Theater happen. You see, I had a hunch that the anonymous reviewers could not say no to this research I submitted to the World Media Economics and Management Conference. My two conference papers were accepted so I’ll be back in the Greatest City in the World for a week in May. While I’ll mainly be there for #work (work), I’m going to be sure to take a break for Hamilton, take two. I can almost guarantee I’ll be just as satisfied as I was the first time. If you’re like me, after seeing the show you’ll be back to watch it again.

Ever since I watched this revolutionary play, I’ve been wanting to incorporate it into the classroom as I often make pop culture references in lectures. With this backdrop of returning for a conference whose theme is “Global Media & Local Entrepreneurs” and seizing the opportunity to see Hamilton once more, I’ve come to the realization that Hamilton the play offers many lessons on entrepreneurship. Just as Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to rise up to this masterful musical creation after reading Ron Chernow’s novel about Alexander Hamilton, the Broadway sensation has served as my muse for an unorthodox creative outlet (this blog post and eventual lecture). Like many entrepreneurs, Hamilton was a self-made man whose hustle and determination allowed him to “thrive when so few survive.” Sounds just like the modern day startup scene where the vast majority of companies fail.

Thus, I humbly offer to you five lessons “Hamilton” teaches us about entrepreneurship as told through songs from the musical:

My Shot: This song can serve as inspiration and apt description of aspiring entrepreneurs who are “young , scrappy, and hungry” as they work to “rise up” in life through innovation and creation. This song teaches us that if you have an idea for a new product, service or company that adds value you should “not throw away your shot” at greatness as you seek your independence from the regular daily grind, whether that be college or a 9-5 job.

Nonstop: This song speaks to entrepreneurial hustle and work ethic as many entrepreneurs grind nonstop like they’re running out of time. Given limited resources, entrepreneurs are always mindful of their runway as the startup will either takeoff or crash and burn. Replace the word “write” with “work” in the lines: “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?”

“Why do you write like it’s going out of style? Write day and night like it’s going out of style?” and you could easily be describing modern day entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs put in long, hard hours at all times of day and night.

Satisfied: Just as Alexander Hamilton tells us “I have never been satisfied” such a refrain could come from a present day entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurs are not satisfied with the status quo. They create solutions to real world problems. And tackling one problem or creating one company is never enough for serial entrepreneurs who are out to prove themselves again and again.

“There’s a million things I haven’t done but just you wait, just you wait…”

Wait for It: This Leslie Odom Jr. (aka Burr) song is by far my favorite in the play, and offers lessons on two important entrepreneurial concepts: strategy and failure. Burr is strategic in lying in wait, calculating his ambitions and waiting for his moment to act. One memorable refrain from this number is “I am inimitable/I am an original.” The Resource-Based View of strategic management offers that one way to obtain a sustained competitive advantage is to have inimitable resources. This rings true for large companies as well as scrappy startups.

But this song also teaches us that entrepreneurial tenet that failure can be beneficial if we learn from it. Mistakes are inevitable, but those failures can eventually lead to success for those who are patient.


“Life doesn’t discriminate
between the sinners and the saints
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep living anyway,
we rise and we fall and we break
and we make our mistakes
and if there’s a reason
I’m still alive
when so many have died,
then I’m willing’ to-“


Wait for it.

Room Where it Happens: This is another pièce de résistance from Odom Jr. (for a play about Hamilton, Burr sure does get the best songs, but I digress..) that offers a counter to the patience preached in “Wait For It” by encouraging action.

“When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game

But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game

Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it.

You get nothing if you…

Wait for it, wait for it, wait”

This number is an ode to deal brokering, and speaks to the importance of networking (you want connections to get a seat at the table), and negotiation. Deals often take place behind closed doors and involve making tradeoffs.

“The art of the compromise

Hold your nose and close your eyes”

And finally this song offers that entrepreneurs are not only dreamers but doers as these visionaries bring concepts to life.

This song includes a line “But we dream in the dark for the most part” which according to is likely a reference to a TE Lawrence quote:

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”

Click-boom. There you have it. In addition to being the greatest play to hit Broadway in my lifetime, Hamilton illustrates these entrepreneurial insights. And finally just as immigrants are integral to the story of our nation’s history and Hamilton itself, I would be remiss to point out that according to a recent Kaufmann Foundation report, an immigrant is nearly twice as likely to be an entrepreneur as a native-born American.


While this tale of entrepreneurship vis-à-vis Hamilton is the story of tonight, I have to think that these themes will stay alive and relevant for many years to come. Of course, I welcome your feedback. I’d love to know what I’d miss?


Media Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group

September 8, 2015

Here’s a report from the Texas Tech College of Media and Communication’s Media Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group that I advise. I’m proud of all the students were able to accomplish in our first year of existence.


Media entrepreneurship abounds

June 13, 2014

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Media Management & Economics division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) (

Benjamin Jarvis, a recent graduate of Texas Tech University’s media strategies program, pitches his startup concept, COMM,in Dr. Graybeal’s Media Entrepreneurship course.

Media entrepreneurship is hot right now.

For starters, look no further than popular culture for signs that media entrepreneurship is in vogue.  The new HBO comedy, “Silicon Valley” centers on an up-and-coming music website startup (with a killer compression code) called Pied Piper. The show is similar in subject matter to an Amazon original show, “Betas,” a comedy that focused on a group of entrepreneurs in an incubator creating a new social networking dating app.

The two comedies spoof the Bay Area tech culture with companies and characters similar to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Twitter and Google among others.  Lest you think these shows have everything to do with entrepreneurship and innovation and little to nothing to do with MEDIA entrepreneurship, I would point you to Cindy Royal’s recent Nieman Lab post proclaiming, “media is tech.” (The Texas State University journalism professor has a unique perspective having just completed a year-long fellowship at Stanford University).

Need further proof of the popularity of media entrepreneurship? Look at ABC’s hit television show, “Shark Tank,” where investors pitch their products and ideas before a panel of “shark” investors. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who made a fortune selling to Yahoo! in the late 90s, is the resident “media shark.”  But other sharks have also funded media and tech companies; while the show features entrepreneurs from all walks of life, media companies appear rather frequently. Just this season, a couple sold Cuban on a children’s book recommendation website, for instance.

While not every entrepreneur is as fortunate to hook a big fish investor, many other startups turn toward social networks to raise funds for their ventures.  Many media products, ranging from album releases to independent films, have been funded through popular crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. 

Legacy media companies are also getting into the game of making entrepreneurial investments. Turner Entertainment started an accelerator program called Media Camp that provides mentoring and seed funding to a handful of promising media startups each year. They’re not alone.

For the past two years, Sprockit has showcased a few dozen promising media startup companies on the trade floor at the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual NABShow in Las Vegas. These companies range in subjects from social media for broadcast news stations (Social News Desk) to a sports video capturing and sharing app (SportXast). Sprockit receives support from Comcast, Disney ABC Television Group, Cox Media Group, Gannett Broadcasting, Google, Hearst Television, Tribune Broadcasting, Univision Communications and the AARP.

Recognizing the changing media environment, universities have been increasingly adding courses and programs pertaining to media entrepreneurship to their curriculum. Much like universities compete on the hardwood each spring, programs for the past few years have been able to compete in Student Startup Madness. The brainchild of Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, the top teams advance from regional competitions to the “Entrepreneurial Eight” finals, held at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas each year.

Despite our journals leading the way in publishing seminal research on media entrepreneurship for at least a decade now (e.g. Hoag & Seo, 2005; Hoag, 2008; Hang & Van Weezel, 2007; Haas, 2011), our field of Media Management and Economics has been, for the most part, largely missing from the current curricular push to expand media entrepreneurship efforts. Ferrier (2012) notes that these courses, called “digital media entrepreneurship,” “media entrepreneurship,” “entrepreneurial journalism,” or “new media ventures,” are designed to introduce students to entrepreneurship and the startup culture.

A 2013 report on the state of entrepreneurial journalism education (note: link downloads file) in six countries (Vázquez Schaich & Klein, 2013), concludes that there are ample opportunities to increase collaboration between entrepreneurial journalism efforts with those of our media management and economics field.

In fact, in the United States at least, “entrepreneurial journalism” has been leading the media entrepreneurship movement, often funded through journalism-oriented foundations (e.g. Knight Foundation at CUNY, Arizona State and others; Scripps Howard at Ohio University).

While journalism is certainly important, a narrower focus on entrepreneurial journalism rather than a more broader emphasis on media entrepreneurship could unnecessarily exclude student innovation in areas such as film and television entertainment, music, sports media, and technology (which you’ll recall is media per Cindy Royal), just to name a few.  More often than not journalism innovation in the past decade has occurred from outside traditional journalism industries. Meanwhile, many stalwarts in our field of media management and economics find themselves in business schools, not communication schools.

As colleges and universities expand their programmatic offerings, more is certainly better than less. I’m buoyed by these efforts and excited by what the future holds as more and more universities equip students with an entrepreneurial mindset to innovate in a variety of media industries.

Our division not only can, but perhaps should, play a bigger role in leading and shaping these changes. With media entrepreneurship part of the global theme of the next World Media Economics and Management Conference in New York City, the 2016 event makes for a perfect platform to showcase our division’s scholarship and pedagogy in these areas. But we don’t have to wait two years to continue to make advances in spreading media entrepreneurship.

We can continue to stoke the flames of media entrepreneurship to ensure a passion for innovation burns within the next generation of media creators.

Geoffrey Graybeal, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University, where he teaches courses on Media Entrepreneurship. He serves as bibliographer and community outreach officer for the Media Management and Economics division of AEJMC. 

Love it, but Leave It: We yearn to disconnect

June 19, 2013

As you know, dear readers, I recently completed a self-imposed social media sabbatical. I only lasted about 10 days of no little social media usage. Staying off Twitter and Facebook were the biggest victories. Apparently, I’m not alone in the desire to disconnect. As much as I and others love social media, unplugging and doing without for a while is not only a healthy practice, I would argue a necessary one. I don’t want to wax philosophical about how absence makes the heart grow fonder, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone or any other cliched pop culture reference. I’ve already written about what a short sabbatical did for me and the lessons learned.
This post is about how social media sabbaticals and disconnecting from a hyperconnected world are suddenly becoming all the rage. This week alone, I’ve seen several posts about this very subject (yes, I learned about these articles through social media). Not everyone has to go to the South China Sea, where there is no wifi, no cellphone signal and “most alarmingly, there would be no Twitter,” to escape the daily social grind as travel writer Jillian Keenan did.
“I Google, Facebook, email and tweet in the same insatiable way that I drink water and breathe air,” the 26-year-old writes in the Post piece. Keenan concluded that she “needed a technological detox,” which came in the form of a rugged, but beautiful island and sea adventure.
But we don’t all have to GO away in order to GET away from the deluge of messages we’re bombarded with in our everyday daily lives.
Younger Millennials are starting to figure this out, according to a new study by MTV. Younger Millennials are starting to unplug and mono-task to de-stress. According to the MTV study, younger Millennials “are also consciously taking time to self-soothe, disconnect, de-stress, de-stimulate and control inputs. They increasingly “mono-task” and focus on immersive hands-on activities like baking, sewing or crafting. Some claim their dependence on social media is overrated: one girl says ‘My parents Facebook more than I do.'”
The report found that 8 in 10 young Millennials agree that “Sometimes I just need to unplug and enjoy the simple things” and that 82% of young Millennials agree “when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, I like to stop and just do one thing at a time,” with more than half (57%) of young Millennials like to take a break from technology to make things with their hands.
Of course you don’t have to be a “tech homesteader” or young Millennial to disconnect and disengage from the social world. While my social media sabbatical was a mere week and a half, author Neil Gaiman announced a planned 6-month social media sabbatical.
“Gaiman announced that he would take a break from updating his 1.8m followers on Twitter, his 500,000 Facebook friends and maybe even posting for the 1.5m readers of his blog,” The Guardian reported.
Of course, when you are actively engaged, telling others that you’re deliberating trying to go without seems strange. The peers in your social network may react with disbelief. And saying you’re going offline and actually doing it are two different things.
Baratunde Thurston offers advice on how to successfully #unplug. After a year filled with 1,518 Facebook posts (4 per day), 3,702 SMS threads (10 per day), 4,845 Photos taken (13 per day), 11,541 Tweets (32 per day), and 59,409 Gmail conversations (163 per day), Thurston decided a digital detox was in store.
“I didn’t want to be alone,” Thurston writes. “I just wanted to be free of obligations, most of which asserted themselves digitally.”
So for 25 days, Thurston disappeared from the digital world. His excellent Fast Company post offers a 9-point digital detox list offering “how to disappear.” I highly recommend checking it out.
While there are definite advantages to taking a sabbatical, going to an island in the South Seas, or temporarily detoxing digital from your life, there’s also a price to pay. For me, my Klout score dropped about 15 points because I wasn’t constantly tweeting, Facebooking (is that even a verb?), checking-in, or linking in. I don’t regret it one bit. You won’t either.
When it comes to Social Media, not only should you love it, but leave it. Just make sure you #return.

Lessons from a Self-Imposed Social Media Sabbatical

June 10, 2013

Confession: I love social media. I use social media (I tweet a lot). I teach social media. I study social media. I consult about social media. I strategize social media. I am working on innovating social media. Despite all of this (or perhaps because of), I decided to walk away from social media. For a week. A WHOLE week. As a mini-social experiment of sorts, I decided to go on a self-imposed Social Media Sabbatical. My planned weeklong sabbatical actually turned into a 10-day one. From May 24th to June 3rd, I used very little social media. I decided to share the takeaways of what I learned about my social media usage (and non-usage). Here they are:

*Habitual: My social media usage is habitual. Every morning, I check Twitter primarily as a news feed to read articles from numerous outlets. My morning Twitter read is usually followed by email and Facebook checks. Just as my parents are accustomed to watching the evening news at a set time and channel (“appointment viewing”), my habit has become a routine of “social media-as-news-first thing in the morning.”

*Instinctive: The opposite of habit, but my social media usage is just as instinctive as it is habitual. While I have a ritual of checking social media at a certain time, I also noticed that during “down moments,” my instinct was to grab my iPhone or tablet and check Twitter or Facebook, almost without even thinking about it.

*FOMO Engagement:
With social media there’s always the “FOMO,” or Fear Of Missing Out. Naturally, a social media sabbatical brings the fear of missing out. Facebook has the most daily engagement and it plays up the FOMO angle. Since I had the audacity to not log onto Facebook for days, and thus not be engaged with the platform, Facebook sent me emails telling me what all I was missing. So and so commented about such and such. This person posted pics on Topic Y. I also found that FOMO works two ways. When engaged with social media, there’s also the FOMO of what’s happening right in front of you, or missing out in IRL. Comedian Louis C.K. has a funny bit about this.

*Addicting: Yes, Social Media is indeed addicting. Much like an addict slowly weans himself off of a drug, quitting cold turkey was difficult. I did not succeed. I was able to avoid logging onto Facebook and Twitter for 10 days. But I confess I still had an occasional Foursquare check-in, and looked at LinkedIn from time to time. And like most addictions, you replace one addiction with another. I turned to eating Bojangles. Lots and lots of Bojangles.

*Prevalent: Social media is everywhere. While you can avoid logging onto and actively participating in social media you can’t avoid its reach. During my sabbatical, others were using social media and sharing it with me in the real world. My aunt showed me the Facebook page created for her insurance agency. Others pulled up pictures to show me. Of course, television shows promoted hashtags and tempted me. I filled my social media void by turning to old-fashioned books, about among other topics, you guessed it- social media. Yes, I spent a weekend at the beach disconnecting from social media while reading Shel Israel’s Twitterville.

*Useful and entertaining: The bottom line is that social media is useful and entertaining. That’s why it can be addicting. That’s why we I use it. It’s far easier to come across news from at least a dozen outlets in one place (Twitter) than to individually seek out the websites of The New York Times, News & Observer, Hartford Courant, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Guardian and so on and so forth. I found the process of actively seeking out news articles far more laborious. I also missed using social media for recommendations on places to eat (Yelp, Urbanspoon), and what to eat (Foursquare, Yelp). I missed using social media for sports updates (how were my Braves doing). And I missed the entertaining “second screen” experience of Twitter during television. When UNC’s baseball team was competing in an epic 18-inning ACC tourney game with rival N.C. State, I found myself wondering what Inside Carolina reporter Dijana Kunovac was tweeting about.

*Connective: Social media is social afterall. It connects us, and (for better or worse) keeps us informed with what is going on in each other’s lives. I definitely felt less connected and less informed to friends and colleagues in my social networks during my sabbatical.

Twitter, advertising, television, and #secondscreen experience

May 22, 2013

I asked Mr. T.J. Adeshola, an account manager with Twitter, to speak with my Social Media class and he graciously agreed (T.J. and I were classmates together in graduate school at the University of Georgia- we even co-authored a paper about blogging).

I wanted to share some of his (wait for bad Twitter pun) “TWinsights” with you.

Adeshola, whose clients include ESPN (his former employer), Anheuser-Busch (parent company of Bud Light), and Forman-Brown (makers of Jack Daniels), among others, said that many of the brands he works with understand the importance of being in the social space but often want advice on how to execute best practices and content strategies.

Adeshola works with advertisers to amplify their messages on the platform using Twitter promoted products in the forms of promoted tweets, promoted accounts and promoted trends. While Twitter users want to know how to get verified and how to get more followers, brands are the same way, Adeshola said. They often utilize Twitter to broaden their follower base so that they can create a contingent brand advocates on the platform.

He said that the hashtag is “an aggregation of conversation” and as such no one can really “own” a hashtag per se.

There’s no specific number of tweets it takes in order to trend. “If there’s a huge event (i.e. Grammy’s) that day, it becomes more difficult for topics unrelated to that event to trend nationally. For example, there were over 24 million tweets during the Superbowl! As you can imagine, that much volume can make it difficult for a non-Super Bowl related hashtag to trend organically,” Adeshola said.

Adeshola said that companies try to incorporate social strategy as part of an overall integrated strategy (“to sprinkle some social juice on it,” as he puts it). Social shouldn’t be viewed as a singular approach, however, Adeshola cautioned.

“The idea is not to look at all social channels as one big platform,” he said. “You guys go to Facebook for different reasons than you go to Twitter, or for different reasons than you go to Pinterest or for different reasons than you go to Instagram and that’s something everybody needs to keep in mind at all times. When you’re looking at types of engagement that occur on Twitter, they’re different than the types of engagement that occur on Facebook.”

Aware of the prevalence and influence of TV and how many shows are already using Twitter hashtags to promote their shows, Adeshola said that Twitter provides the perfect “second screen” experience for viewers.

“We believe that we are the ideal second screen experience so with that we are the perfect extension of television, so if BudLight Platinum has a commercial and they say Make It Platinum, which is a hashtag they utilize, Twitter is the destination for conversation around the advertisement, so our goal is to step in as a companion and help amplify these initiatives,” Adeshola said.

The Bird is ever mindful to not just be a “one trick pony” so the popular Social Networking Site is looking to evolve the platform and services with television a natural place for future synergies, Adeshola said.

“Shows want an extension of their show to live elsewhere,” he said. “They want companion interaction, they want companion engagement. The great thing about that is that Pretty Little Liars might end, but the hashtag that’s used within the show organizes all of the related conversations on Twitter, so it’s really the perfect play for advertisers, marketers and content providers alike.”

** Update: On May 23, Twitter announced TV ad targeting similar to what Adeshola was describing, as illustrated in the video below**

Note: I’m cross-posting this on AND my Social Media Class’ Digital & Social Media Literacy blog.

Life’s a Derailment: On Train Wrecks, Social Media and Language

May 20, 2013

Metro North pass from New Haven to New York.

Metro North pass from New Haven to New York.

Last week’s train wreck in Bridgeport, Conn. literally and figuratively hit close to home. Since moving to Hartford last August, I’ve become a de facto part time New Yorker. I’ve probably ridden the New Haven to Grand Central Terminal Metro-North line and back close to 40 times. In fact, I took that same Metro North line into The City on Thursday afternoon, about 24 hours before the two trains collided. If a colleague from Georgia had not invited me to a Yankees game on Saturday I could have just as easily been on one of the trains that got derailed. As it was, the only thing that got derailed were my return plans. Nevertheless, I thought I’d share a few observations from my 80 hours in New York this past weekend.

SLOMO: There are different cute acronmyns like “SLOMO” to describe the current era of (news?) media as one that should focus on Social, Local and Mobile. This focus bore out during the train crash. I first learned of news of the Connecticut train collision on Friday afternoon through a push notification to my iPhone through my Associated Press (AP) Mobile APP. One of the ways journalists use social media is to find local sources for a given topic. Over the weekend, I saw numerous tweets from my local newspaper, the Hartford Courant, looking for Connecticut residents who regularly commute to New York for work willing to speak with a reporter for a story he was working on. I first learned about cancellations in train service from New York to New Haven (and all the way to Boston) through Metro North’s Twitter account (it was a retweet of an Amtrak announcement). Social? Check. Local? Check. Mobile? Check.

User-Generated Content: A group of teenagers were skateboarding at the nearby Rampage skateboard park when the two trains collided. They skated to the scene of the wreck and recorded the powerful footage of the crash you see below (warning: foul language). Many news outlets reported and linked to this footage, as is common to supplement traditional reporting with so-called user-generated content (UGC), particularly for breaking news stories.

Language and Word Choice Matters: My first 48 hours in New York were wonderful. I went to an excellent panel discussion on excellence in television at the Paley Center, reconnected with former students and colleagues from the University of Georgia, had drinks with my favorite Bloomberg reporter and explored new areas of the city in three Boroughs (walked the High Line in Manhattan, visited the Museum of Moving Images in Queens and took in the sunset at DUMBO in Brooklyn). The rest of the weekend went poorly. My friend’s flight got delayed so I went to the Yankees game solo. The Friday derailment left me semi-stranded and scrambling to find a way home. This meant I had to miss graduation at the University of Hartford on Sunday so I was deprived seeing my students’ crowning achievement and celebrating a wonderful year with colleagues. And it rained all day Sunday. When people asked how my weekend went, I found myself starting to respond with a phrase like “oh, it was a train wreck.” Or “it was a disaster.” But in light of an actual disaster of a train wreck, such common hyperbole that we use in our everyday language seems silly and ridiculous. The reality is I just had a bad day. Plain and simple.

Roll with the Punches: Even the best laid plans can go to waste. I took an Amtrak train from Hartford to New Haven and then hopped onto Metro North. After the train wreck (the real one), I was no longer able to get back to New Haven on Sunday to catch my return trip on Amtrak back to Hartford. No graduation for me. I was one of the hundreds? thousands? of folks in New York whose means out of the city were disrupted. I had to scramble to get a late bus back to Hartford. My Georgia colleague’s flight to New York got delayed so he had to miss the Yankees game. As work was being done on the Subway stop where I was staying, I had to figure out how to navigate the New York subway system. I didn’t see everyone I wanted to. I didn’t do everything I wanted to do. But in the end that’s life. Life is full of tiny derailments. We laugh about it. Smile about it. Find a new way home. And move on.

Presenting on a Grand Stage

April 26, 2013

After presenting at the International Symposium on Online Journalism last week, I wanted to share some takeaways/tips on how academics can make a more engaging presentation (particularly on a grand stage like ISOJ). I could easily title this blog post “Presentation Tips (Do What I Say, Not What I Did).”

ISOJ brings together some of the world’s leading journalists, news execs, journalism scholars and students. For the most part, the non-academics delivered far more engaging, dynamic memorable presentations than the academics (myself included). Academics are accustomed to presenting research to a small group of peers deeply entrenched in a core subject area. ISOJ is a whole different ballgame. The crowd is large (350+ in attendance, plus thousands more watching on two livestreams- one in English, one in Spanish). The audience is diverse (people from 30 different countries were present and a mix of different professions as previously noted). The coverage is intense (expect to be tweeted, recorded, blogged about and so forth).

Academics who get the privilege of presenting on this grand stage (acceptance rates are low so it truly is an honor to be selected) should heed the following advice, IMHO:
1)Forget the standard academic format. Yes, you’ll want to talk about the background, your research questions and what your findings are, but doing so shouldn’t follow the standard cookie cutter approach that non-academics either don’t understand or eyes glaze over at the verbose language.
2)Own the Stage: If you’re like me, you’re used to hiding behind the podium. The podium is a place to see the complex underpinnings of the research you’re describing, or place notes/talking points. Most of the non-academics owned the stage. They stood out front and center with the big screen behind them, much like you often find at a TED talk.

Make Like Don Draper: Channel your inner "Mad Men" when making a presentation. The fictional ad man is brilliant at making a pitch.

Make Like Don Draper: Channel your inner “Mad Men” when making a presentation. The fictional ad man is brilliant at making a pitch.

3)Be Tweetable. Have at least one “killer quote” that’s short, memorable and likely to be tweeted- and shared (getting your message to a wider audience).

David Ho of The Wall Street Journal had at least two such moments:

“The first step in thinking mobile first is don’t think mobile last,” he said.

 “The mouse is dead,” he also declared

Longtime Guardian staffer Emily Bell made a great NBA analogy for journalism, declaring “The power has gone from the league to the franchise to the individual.”

Deseret Media CEO Clark Gilbert had a great line about disruption rendering really smart people completely incapable.

4)Think Visually. Graphics and visual imaging tell a story and are more compelling and engaging than text-heavy slides (we all know not to use a bunch of texts but the standard academic study privileges findings).
5)Know Your Audience: A typical academic conference is to a small group of scholarly peers that know the subject you’re talking about. At ISOJ you have a mix of students, scholars, journalists and managers from industry and the academy. Keep your language simple and stay on message. Tell a cohesive story in whatever short amount of time you have to do so.
6)Show Passion and Personality: Yes, we’re discussing serious matters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also have fun in doing so. The Washington Post’s Joey Marburger explained how the Tardis time machine from the long-running television series Doctor Who is an example of how mobile devices connect people to the rest. Even Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times, responded to a question by saying “Whoomp There It Is” (which naturally prompted a tweet with a link to the Tag Team video). Don’t be afraid to use humor in your talk or to show a lighter, more personable side.

In looking back at the video of my presentation, I #fail(ed) to do most of these. After two presentations at ISOJ, I’m confident that the third time will be the charm.  I look forward to the next time I get the opportunity to take the stage in Austin and some stellar presentations from ISOJ2014.

Crowdsourcing Social Media curriculum

December 11, 2012

I’m excited to be teaching a special topics communications course on Social Media next spring at the University of Hartford, where I’m a Visiting Assistant Professor. I have big things planned. We’ll have some exciting guest speakers.  We’ll take a field trip to a television show.  We’ll engage on social media platforms (create social media). We’ll study social media (scholarship of social media). We’ll learn about how others are using social media (an overview of social media). And we’ll become more literate social media consumers (digital and social media literacy).

We’ll read some danah boyd, some Lee Rainie, some Clay Shirky, some Howard Rheingold.  For about a month or so we’ll flip the classroom. We’ll likely tweet and liveblog and engage in a dialogue about social media on social media platforms. We’ll create a diary of our social media consumption.  It’s going to be a fun, demanding, exhilirating semester.  And it all starts in about a month.

But before we begin that journey I’d like to invite you to go to and offer suggestions that will benefit the class and my students.

Thanks for your input.


Red & Dead Diffusion, Disruption & Social Dissemination

August 17, 2012

There’s a lot that could be said and a ton that has been already been written about the departures of student editors from UGA’s independent student newspaper, The Red & Black.  I’ll keep my opinions to myself on many of the crazy twists and turns in this two day saga that has unfolded.

What I will say and do want to chime in on is The Red and Dead.  One year ago, The Red & Black went to a “digital first” publishing format, significantly scaling back its print coverage in the process and focusing on creating a “24/7” news operation in line with what many professional newspapers have done.  (In the interest of disclosure, I taught many of the student editors and reporters who led the digital first charge in the past year although I certainly cannot take any credit for their stellar efforts in doing so).

Given the R&B students’ deep dive into the digital “revolution” a year ago, it is not surprising that the former staffers (and presumably soon to be current again R&B staffers) went about creating an alternative digital news operation within minutes after walking out the door of the paper’s Baxter Street office.

I was mostly impressed by the “digital first” reporting and the use of social media in disseminating the story of their stand for journalism ethics that the staff of the Red and Dead displayed.  Within two days, the Red & Black ex-pats created an online operation that could have proven a formidable student-run rival for their former employer.  Most importantly, they went about reporting news and covering the university community.

As of this afternoon, the RedandDead Twitter account had 3,776 followers and had put out 284 tweets and the group had a Facebook page with 3,298 “likes.”  The Red & Black Twitter page has close to 15,000 followers but has been in operation for a few years.  To develop a sizable following and create a digital news outlet run from an apartment within two days is laudable.

The use of social media to disseminate news of the situation at the Red&Black was also another admirable takeaway from this otherwise ugly incident.  Social media helped give the story “legs” as some famous nationally known journalists such as ESPN’s Rick Reilly and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King even tweeted about it.  National publications wrote about the story, including The New York Times and The Huffington Post, as did national groups like the Student Press Law Center and Associated Collegiate Press.

There’s a lot more that can be gleaned from this episode and I’ll leave that to future research, ponderings, blog posts and class discussions.  I’m certainly glad there appears to be an amicable resolution.

Kudos to the student journalists for applying their digital first reporting and social media skills so successfully.