Why Auburn is Home

A letter to freshman Christy 

Welcome to the Plains! Wow. As I write this, I am stunned in disbelief that graduation is less than a month away.

These next four years will be some of the best times of your life. I know you are a little nervous. I also know you refuse to let anyone know that you feel out of place being from out of state.

Don’t worry.

That time will blow by quickly and you will be right at home. Below I have done my best to prepare you for some major times in your college career. Get ready, these four years are about to rock!

What to look forward to

First and foremost, you are going to meet your people. Alpha Gam will bring you some of the best humans to ever walk into your life.

From trips to Orlando to Peanut Festivals to watching friends fall in love, this crew has been and will be there for the big, fun and hard times. Thank you Cragon, Hannah, Caris, Earles, Julia, Jennie and Madge. I love you all more than you know.

Next, the University Program Council will give you some of the coolest experiences as a college student. Once Sophomore year rolls around and you make it on the public relations committee for UPC, your life is changed forever.

You will go on to be director of that committee and meet Kesha, Nick Jonas, Nelly and more. You will strengthen your social media management and PR skills. However, most importantly, you will have the BEST assistant directors. These people will shape you, invest in you and help you grow. Plus, you get a lot of free t-shirts which is pretty great.

Lastly, you will find a passion for writing and a love for public relations. The classes you take, the projects you make and the professors that teach you will help prepare you for an amazing career.

What to prepare for

Let me start this section by saying, home is a little further than you think. An eight-hour drive to Orlando makes seeing family significantly harder. Thankfully technology makes it easier to keep in touch – use it often. Call mom and dad daily. Facetime with the babies. Call Nicole. I promise you’ll be happy you did.

Next, you won’t always get what you want. Before this, everything came pretty easy for you. College is a different story. You will apply for positions and be denied. This part isn’t fun. However, it’s important. This will teach you to only apply for positions that you are passionate about. Don’t just try to be in something because it is cool. Take the opportunity to find where you belong and put your heart into that group.

Last but not least, beware of Journalism Fundamentals and Style and Design. These two classes will be the hardest to get through. Start practicing spelling now and maybe teach yourself some Photoshop. You’ll be happy you did.

Things you don’t want to forget

  • The Yellow House – This will be your home for your last two years at Auburn. Although it is slowly falling apart and occasionally infested with roaches, you’ll love this 100-year-old building with all your heart.
  • Your 1st Peanut Festival – Be thankful for this spontaneous road trip with girls you barely know. The first Peanut Festival is the weekend your best friends will officially become friends. It is also the first time you will try cheese grits which may be more important and life-changing, but I’m not sure.
  • Meeting Kesha & Nick Jonas – This concert will start your year as the director of PR for UPC. That position will give you some of your best friends, a lot of stress and experience that will prepare you for your career.
  • Iron Bowls – From the Kick-6 to meeting Kaleb, Iron Bowls bring about defining and unforgettable moments in your life. Go tigers and War Eagle.

Get ready, Christy. Auburn is the best. I can’t describe how excited I am for you! Cherish it. I’ll see you in four years. War Eagle and happy collegeing!



Social media and public relations

Reflections from Sisson 3280

If you are a public relations student at Auburn, you need to take the Social Media and PR class. It is vital in preparing you for your career as a PR practitioner. The world is digital and for people in the world of communications, being well-versed in social media and content management is a must.

This class was not a simple lecture and test class. Instead, it improved my writing, required me to engage on Twitter with my classmates and gave me experience working with clients.

Twitter resurgence

Before this class, my Twitter had greatly dwindled over my four years of college. Very few of my friends use Twitter regularly so there was never a need for me to communicate on this outlet.

However, Twitter is one of the staple social media sites that most PR practitioners incorporate into their social media strategy. This class required that I create three organic tweets each week as well as respond to three classmates’ posts.

Overnight my Twitter account experienced a resurgence, and I was active again. Not only that, my feed was now full of social media rich content. Because of this class, my Twitter account is now a great source for any communications or marketing individuals looking for quick tips.

I may no longer be required to Tweet weekly, but now I want to continue the conversation online with my classmates and different social media influencers I have met over the course of this class.

Refined writing skills

In addition to the tweets, I had to write a blog post about a social media topic weekly. As a PR major this assignment seemed like a breeze. After completing my Style and Design class as well as my internship with Auburn which required me to write regularly, this did not intimidate me at all.

However, this writing was different. In the past, my writing was based on interviews with quotes from people I encountered. Here, I had to create my own content while also incorporating research from key sources.

While this requirement seemed like an opportunity to share with others my social media knowledge, in reality, it refined my writing skills and opened up a new area of writing for me. It gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of social media management and strengthen my writing.

Client experience

This semester, our class also partnered with the School of Communication and Journalism to help improve their presence on social media.

During this time, my group and I did both secondary and primary research as well as performed a communication audit to better understand the school’s current practices. Beyond that, we formulated a plan for them to increase content and better reach their target audience.

This was a huge learning experience for me because it allowed me to apply what we learned in class to an actual client. My group and I created a full report and will present to the school’s social media managers at the end of the semester.

This final project brought together everything we learned throughout the semester and therefore allowed me to create a campaign that best served the School of Communication and Journalism.

My biggest takeaway from this class is that social media is here to stay. Public Relations practitioners need to embrace the digital age and continue to grow their social media knowledge. A company with a strong brand presence online will always be a strong competitor.

I want to give an extra special shout-out to Dr. Sission who taught the Social Media and PR class. From PR Fundamentals to Multimedia Writing for PR to this class, you have been a huge influence on my education and future career. Thank you for investing in me. I will see you online. #Sisson3280

Social Media Ethics

Deciding what to push out to your followers on social

Social media is great. If you’re a business, you especially love it because it allows you to communicate with customers and build a brand voice.

However, as the world continues to go digital, companies need to establish a code of ethics for their social media conduct.

Be Transparent

When a crisis breaks out, most companies initial reaction is to keep quiet. However, companies on social media need to address their publics as quickly as possible.

This does not mean getting defensive. The best approach companies can take is to be transparent with their customers. They must openly post about the issue and own up to any mistakes. Reference my earlier post for more information on Crisis Communication.

In addition to communicating with publics, transparency also means that you are open about who and why you are promoting another brand.

According to Business2Community, “If you are endorsing some product, idea or personality; you need to disclose why you are endorsing it. Mentioning your relationship with that particular product, non-profit entity, brand or political entity in your campaign, handle, or bio is essential.”

Don’t just spread information

Topics on social media spread like wildfire. Although a topic may be trending, companies must ensure that the information is factual.

Not only does it need to be factual, they must make sure whatever your company pushes out aligns with the company’s mission.

According to NPR, “When determining whether to pass along information being reported on social media sites by other news outlets or individuals, be thoughtful. When we point to what others are saying, in the eyes of many we are effectively reporting that information ourselves.”

Therefore, be careful when you spread social media content and make sure it represents your company.

Be respectful of everyone

Social media is global. People around the world use all social platforms daily. Therefore, any content sent out through a company’s page must be respectful of all cultures.

It can be easy for communication specialists to forget this when they are communicating online with their clientele. However, sending out a post that disrespects one ethnicity or nationality could potentially alienate a huge client base.

According to Mashable, social media managers must, “think about how your country or region’s cultural norms differ among age groups, genders, geographical areas and so on, and then consider these differences among consumers in other cultures. Learning about and respecting other cultures will help you localize your brand’s message.”

Consider the Impact

The bottom line of all social media ethics is to consider the impact. Once a post is online, it never goes away. Rouge posts have the potential to seriously damage the reputation of any company. As a social media manager, it is your team’s responsibility to ensure that all posts are tasteful and encourage healthy interaction with your brand.


Apple CEO and Auburn alumnus Tim Cook speaks to students on diversity and inclusion

*This article originally appeared in the Auburn University Newsroom*

Apple CEO and Auburn alumnus Tim Cook spoke exclusively to Auburn University students April 6 as part a visit to The Plains. His lecture, “Conversations with Tim Cook—A Personal View of Inclusion and Diversity,” was hosted by the Student Government Association.

More than 350 students attended the event, where Cook was asked questions from Auburn’s Associate Provost and Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity Taffye Clayton, as well as from students in the audience.

Cook began by telling students the world is more intertwined and global than ever. Therefore, they need to have a deep understanding of cultures around the world in order to be successful.

“Having perspectives and having an understanding that people may be different from you is important. Not everybody has a Western view of the world. Not everybody has a Southern view of the world,” Cook said. “I have learned to not only appreciate this but to celebrate it. The thing that makes the world so interesting is our differences.”

For Apple, Cook says this mentality of diversity is vital in forming teams who work on projects from tech development to marketing.

“We believe that you can only create a great product with a diverse team,” Cook said. “That is one of the reasons that Apple’s products work really well because the people working on them are not only engineers and sciences, but artists and musicians. It is this intersection of the liberal arts of humanity with technology that makes products successful.”

Cook explained that diversity in his teams means more than its traditional definition.

“We believe that diversity is not only the things you can see when you look at people, but it’s the invisible things as well. We take a very broad view and say diversity of life experiences,” Cook said.

He continued by emphasizing the importance of embracing other cultures and having a global mindset.

“If you’re like me, you will always prefer home. It’s the feeling I get when I come here to Auburn,” Cook said. “However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t love understanding how the Italians, Japanese or Chinese live. There are some great people in the world. Getting out and understand other countries, being intellectually curious is incredibly important.”

Cook then discussed American free speech, highlighting the importance of American civil liberties and how they define American culture and ideals.

“My own view is if you think about what it means to be an American, the first thing I think about very quickly is freedom,” Cook said. “I think as citizens, we should take the broadness possible definition. That means, allowing for a lot of things that we don’t like or agree with, because we need to challenge our own thinking and allow for the possibility that we’re wrong sometimes.”

Tying this advice into the political tension on many college campuses, Cook said that students from both ideological spectrums should listen and engage in healthy and respectful debate.

“I know on campuses there is this tension between conservative and liberal, and I would encourage students everywhere to, instead of tension, for the liberals to listen to the conservatives and the conservatives to listen to the liberals. And actually show the country that not only can ideologies exist but if they interface, they can come up with incredible ideas and move forward,” Cook said.

Cook told the audience he believes each generation has the responsibility to enlarge the definition of human rights.
“Sitting here today, you and I wouldn’t be on stage, and several of you in the audience wouldn’t be in the audience if people before us hadn’t worked hard to define human rights,” Cook said. “I feel a tremendous responsibility to really reflect on what I can do to help enlarge the definition of human rights.”

SGA President Jacqueline Keck said the event showed students’ willingness to engage in a discussion on inclusion, diversity and equity.

“It is students who are going to move this conversation forward,” Keck said. “We encourage students to take what they’ve heard in this talk and spread it to different groups on campus.”

Social media customer relationships

It’s not your brand, it’s your relationship 

As companies begin to grow their brand on social media, many lose sight of the need to build relationships. Social sites are important for pushing out promotions but that is not their sole purpose.

Social media provides companies with the opportunity to build relationships with their customers and followers.

Imagine Media Consulting defines it as the difference between having a social media platform and a social media presence.

“It comes down to one word: relationships. If you simply exist on social media without engaging, are you truly fulfilling your end of the relationship with your customers?  The answer is no. This is why we put such an emphasis on the importance of relationships.”

How to engage in your relationships online

While it may be tempting to send out a post or tweet and not look at it again until it’s time for a report, PR practitioners must engage with their audience.

According to Quick Book, “Like it or not, how your brand is perceived online influences buyer behavior. To be effective, these social interactions need to be real, two-way conversations and not one-sided marketing messages “pushed” at followers and fans.”

Here are some great tips to remember when starting online conversations:

  1. Respond to comments – People like to know their voice has been heard. Responding to their comments or tweeting back makes them feel like you as a company values them.
  2. Personalize responses – Yes, it is important to respond to everyone. However, make sure to tailor a response to each person differently. When companies say the same thing, it makes people feel like they are talking to a computer, not a person. This does not build a relationship and instead lowers customer sentiment.
  3. Get people talking – Social media managers should encourage conversation amongst followers. This provides managers with insight into customer sentiment but it also motivates customers to share stories. This then builds a community amongst other brand followers.
  4. Don’t fear negative feedback – No one likes to be told they are doing something wrong. However, analyzing customers’ responses and listening to their concerns can help you better serve your client and increase client retention.

Social media managers have a great opportunity to engage with their customers and build strong relationships. Visit Sprout Social’s “8 Tips to Build Customer Relationships With Social Media” for more tips.

Incoming pharmacy dean recognized with Creative Research and Scholarship Award

*This story originally appeared in the Auburn University Newsroom*

When a new medication comes to market, Richard Hansen wants to ensure it is safe and effective.

“Drugs are complex. We assume that drugs on the market have a tremendous volume of research and that we know everything there is about the use of those drugs,” Hansen said. “However, the reality is that there is some information that we do not know. That is really what I’ve focused my work on, helping to address some of those questions.”

Hansen, a department head and the Gilliland Professor in the Department of Health Outcomes Research and Policy in the Harrison School of Pharmacy, recently received the Creative Research and Scholarship Award for his work focused on population-level assessment of the benefits and risks of drug treatments. He has been named dean of the Harrison School of Pharmacy effective May 15.

His research uses resources from programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross and Blue Shield that provide anonymous medical records that Hansen’s team analyzes. With these, he cross references the success of new drugs on the market and discovers new findings on medications that have yet to be fully tested.

“What we’ve been able to do is turn that data into meaningful information. We try to capture the full extent of a drugs risk and benefit profile at the population level,” Hansen said. “When looking at one patient it is pretty difficult, but looking across millions of patients you can start to see associations that otherwise may not be evident.”

Over the last 7 years at Auburn, Hansen’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the National Pharmaceutical Council, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Hansen said his team continuously submits grants and looks ahead to its next project.

“I felt that if we were really going to advance the field, we needed to push the envelope for receiving grants,” Hansen said.

“We ask ourselves how to reinvent the wheel and figure out how to keep that program going. It’s fun.”

He has been published in multiple medical journals and aims to reach audiences outside of the pharmacy discipline.

“It helps spread my information to people that may be the most impactful in making decisions,” Hansen said. “I think that is part of the tactic that I use. I target the audiences that might be able to use this information in different ways such as doctors or policy makers.”

Beyond his research work, Hansen serves on various committees, is a member of professional associations and mentors graduate pharmacy students.

“I try to get graduate students to think about questions that are meaningful to them and their career pursuits,” Hansen said. “Sometimes, that is the hardest thing. I make them think a little bit ahead of finishing their degree and figure out what is going to make them passionate about their careers.”

Hansen said he is thankful for the Creative Research and Scholarship Award because it shows that his work is valued.

“Overall I think we all work really hard but rarely celebrate each other’s success, so it is good to have a program to celebrate not just someone’s award but the success of everybody involved,” Hansen said.