MSU’s New Media Drivers License: I’m certified. Are you?

Photo by KEXINO on Used under Creative Commons license.

It was with great excitement that I enrolled in the New Media Driver’s License course for the fall 2010 semester.

I wasn’t disappointed.


The full course name is “New Media Driver’s License for Public Relations & Advertising” and (in fall 2010) it is listed as ADV 492, sections 701-706. In its graduate-level version, it is listed as ADV 892, sections 701-702.

In it, students learn how to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flikr, YouTube, Digg, Technorati, etc.) for internet marketing. We learned to not only monitor but also participate in conversations about brands taking place in social media.

We also learned about SEO (search engine optimization – in other words, how to get your name/company/product to appear at the top of Google searches), news releases, blogging and Google tools such as Google Adwords and Analytics.

The course is taught by two instructors: Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex Digital in Ann Arbor, and Michael Lorenc, Google Adwords manager, also of Ann Arbor. The course was created by Mehraban and Richard Cole (who oversees the course), who recently stepped down as the chairman of the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing but will still be teaching at MSU.

(I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Cole back in September for a faculty profile for the MSU News website. Check out the article and video here.)

Two books were required for the course: The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott (which had to be read before the first class) and Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds (which we didn’t need until the last assignment). Both books are fantastic.

Photo by Intersection Consulting on Used under Creative Commons license.

The structure:

There were 150 students enrolled in the course. Most students were either juniors/seniors or grad students and even professionals in their 30-somethings and a professor or two.

All 150 students are taught together. We met twice – once in the beginning of the class (which started a couple weeks into the semester) and once at the end of the semester – on Saturdays in Novi at Walsh College from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m. The first meeting was a (fantastic) crash-course through internet marketing, SEO, etc. There was a brief presentation for the final meeting, but most of it was devoted to listening to the top 11 presentations in the class (the final project; more on that later).

Beyond that, assignments were turned in weekly online. We had three main assignments each week:

  1. We had to find four resources – websites or articles that discussed what we were learning – that would be useful to others, and post them to the site.
  2. We also had two discussion topics that we had to comment on for participation points.
  3. Lastly, we had a homework assignment, which was on a different topic each week. Each post had to be search engine optimized and had to include a photo or video and two hyperlinks.

Photo by Intersection Consulting on Used under Creative Commons license.

In brief, the topics were:

  • Week 1: Build class profile on the class website; write a 250-word post on the New Rules of Marketing & PR book
  • Week 2: Choose a blogging platform and set up a blog (or use an existing one) and introduce us to your blog
  • Week 3: Write about SEO and digital marketing resources and submit it to an article site, linking back to our class resources page
  • Week 4: Blogger outreach. Choose a blogger, read their posts and write about their style.
  • Week 5: Learn about the Google tools and how they can be used to increase your marketing strategy.
  • Week 6: Pick a brand and write a listening and brand monitoring strategy for them. (For this assignment, I outlined a strategy for my hometown newspaper, the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus. Check it out here.)
  • Week 7: Explore creative ways of leverage YouTube abd other video sites for your brand, product or service. Explore Valsartdiary and write a post about online video usage, the best tools/tactics/ideas to use.
  • Week 8: Build a Google AdWords Campaign for the Kellogg Center.
  • Week 9 and 10: Read Presentation Zen and create a 10-slide presentation in which you propose an internet marketing strategy for a chosen brand using all of the tools and techniques we have learned. Here’s my presentation:

(Note that, as taught in Presentation Zen, this presentation is meant to be visually appealing but is NOT meant to stand on its own. The presentation is incomplete without the presenter – myself. So you won’t be able to understand much from it… But you can still look at pictures of my turtles!)

The graduate sections (which I enrolled in as an undergraduate through the Honors College) had one additional assignment that was due a week before the final meeting. The assignment was a lot of fun – we had to write two Twitter-length (140-character) posts on “insights on how the applications or lessons each week might reveal or represent an emerging trend in social media advertising or public relations or both.” The result was 14 Twitter-length posts.

In summer 2010, the graduate assignment was a short essay.

(Note that these assignments may all be subject to change; the course is continually being developed – as it should be – to keep up with the latest trends and technology.)

My opinion:

I came into the class looking at social media from a journalism perspective, so I was both caught off-guard and also fascinated with how social media is (increasingly) being used by businesses and for the promotion of promotion of business enterprises. In a way, what I learned was the use of social media in a way that is the antithesis of what I’m taught in journalism. Social media are, more often than not, subjective – and we’re taught in journalism to be objective.

But I found a common thread to these starkly opposite approaches social media. News organizations and articles are businesses and products themselves, and have always been – and will continue to be – promoted through media, whether it’s new, old or social.

Photo by Intersection Consulting on Used under Creative Commons license.

What I found most useful were the tips on SEO for websites and blog posts, which I use every time I post on New Media Shift now – in fact, I use it in every YouTube video I post, every article comment I make and every tweet I post.

In the New Media Driver’s License course, we learned about a smattering of uses for social media in internet marketing. Each of the topics we covered could have been covered in greater depth – though given the limited length of the course, the number of students enrolled and most especially the speed at which technology and the online social sphere is changing, such depth would not have been feasible.

Given that, I would recommend this course for novices (who may or may not have a Twitter account and don’t know what a re-tweet is), beginners (who do know this but might not know much about SEO – before this course, this is where I would have considered myself), and medium competency (who understand Twitter and have a basic/solid understanding of SEO, but might not have applied this by creating their own blog/website; or by creating searchable content that may be of interest/use to others; or by reaching out to bloggers and others to promote an idea/service/product/business).

Social media gurus and advanced internet marketers may appreciate learning a few things but may hunger for greater depth; or they may be downright bored. For those individuals, I recommend looking for another course – though it may be highly difficult or impossible to find a better one – or finding time to educate yourself in your own ways.

(I’ve always been a huge advocate of autodidacticism, regardless of the topic or the depth of the instructor’s knowledge. I know that the instructors’ knowledge is greater than what they can put into the course, and I’d love to spend more time learning from them, if given the chance.)

In the end, I think that, most importantly, the New Media Drivers License course gets your feet wet  – or for some, dunks your head in a good one a couple times – but it’s up to you to dive deeper or swim out further. The course teaches social media self-empowerment; now that you have an idea of what’s out there, you can explore further on your own.

As Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the world.”

The solid place to stand is this course; the tool is social media; and the internet world is yours to move.

2 responses to “MSU’s New Media Drivers License: I’m certified. Are you?

  1. Erica

    Sounds like a great course. I’m psyched that you guys are using my “New Rules” book.

    You’ve got the absolute best background for this — journalism. You already know how to understand audiences and tell stories.

    You should do great!


    • Hi David! Thanks for the comment and for following me on Twitter, too.

      It’s fascinating to see the different ways social media are used by different fields and types of people. At the same time, many of the uses are very similar, so the “new rules” are very applicable to all of these fields – which makes your “New Rules for Marketing and PR” book all the more relevant. I can’t wait to finish it!

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