#EbookInADay: a public relations and learning hackathon

#EbookInADay: a public relations and learning hackathon

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12-months or so ago I wrote about a project out of the University of Boston, US. Students in the advertising department created an ebook about the future of their profession. It struck me as a fantastic exercise, exploring agile techniques, and ultimately learning and development. I challenged my Twitter network to see if anyone was interested in developing the project.

Birth of the #EbookInADay project

Catherine Sweet a public relations practitioner-turned-educator at the University of Solent, Southampton, UK responded. She developed a project that became known as #EbookInADay.

The project was planned over a month and executed in a day in March. Catherine invited me down to Southampton to take part in the project.

The ebook has been published in a variety of electronic formats and continues to evolve as a series of workspaces on the University of Solent student PR blog.

I caught up with Catherine recently and recorded a short interview about the project and the outcomes.

Public relations hackathon

The purpose of the project was to explore and report on new forms of public relations engagement. The goal for students was to develop their confidence in using a range of new media to organisations with their stakeholders.

#EbookInADay had more in common with a hackathon than the typical form of learning exercise that you’d experience in a teaching environment. 50 students were split into eight groups to explore different areas of public relations practice:

  • Networking – connecting with 180 former students via social networks to find out where they are now and what they are doing.  The social web makes it very easy to track people down and make direct connections.
  • Co-creation – creating a conversation from a standing start is tough but the group engaged around 100 students and employers in a Twitter conversation about public relations interns.
  • Curation – reaching out to student bloggers and inviting them to join a blog conversation about the future of public relations. This group secured more than 15 participants.
  • Gamification – this took the form of a treasure hunt that pitted PR students against journalism students exploring competition, recognition and awards.
  • Crowdsourcing – working with the CIPR Wessex group members to develop criterion for the PR Student of the Year, and attract entries for the award this year.
  • Visual mashup – building assets, a network, and engaging public relations practitioners to create and source visual expressions of public relations.
  • Face-to-face – interviewing practitioners via Google Hangout and Skype about their careers and the future of public relations.
  • Measurement – the team integrated an AMEC Valid Metrics Measurement framework as a planning and measurement tool for each chapter, and the book overall.

#EbookInADay outcomes

The Solent students experienced working in an agile way and had to adapt their work based on the response from the audience or publics that they were seeking to engage. They were able to apply their digital skills in a real world environment.

#EbookInADay generated thousands of references on Google and social conversations on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Many of the conversations are still going on via the Solent PR blog.

The project started a national and international conversation. It was a highly visible effort for the University of Solent’s public relations courses.

Catherine and the Solent team are already planning to develop the project next year and focus on public relations and crisis.

The biggest challenge was transferring the content into a publishable format. There is a gap, in both process and production, between publishing content on the web and presenting it in a book format. It is an area that will need to be bridged by software and tools in the near future

The combination of thinking and doing, applying theory in practice in such an intense way is a great form of learning and development. #EbookInADay was so much more than an ebook.

It was a movement of people rallied around a common purpose.

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