Early lessons from the #ebookinaday project at Southampton Solent University

The premise of the #ebookinaday project is straightforward.

45 PR students at Southampton Solent University, split into eight groups under the guidance of course leader Catherine Sweet, are running and reporting on a series of projects about different aspects of modern public relations practice.

The goal is for each group to write up their findings and contribute a 1,000 word chapter, as well as images and references to an ebook that will be published by Solent Press. The book has been planned over a month but will be created in the day.

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I’m in Southampton for the day to lend support to the project. Its genesis is a blog post that I wrote last year about a similar project at Boston University.

The project is as much about the topic as it is about using agile and co-creation techniques to produce a significant piece of work in short order.

We’re half way through the day. Here’s how the groups are getting along.

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Networking – connecting with 180 former PR 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 this group has 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. It’s a big ask but they reckon they have secured 10 to 15 participants.

Gamification – there’s a live treasure hunt game going on as I blog, pitting 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. The group reckons that it has 15 interviews in the bag.

Measurement – this is the important bit. The team is integrating an AMEC Valid Metrics Measurement framework as a planning and measurement tool for each chapter, and the book overall.

We’ve already learnt some lessons.

  1. Markets and organisations are networks. Seek out influencers and connectors. People are incredibly generous with their time if they believe in your purpose and you ask for help with a specific goal.
  2. Millennials have no fear, are digitally native, and are highly engaged and motivated if they are challenged with a task and a goal. The energy levels and drive of the groups is heartening.
  3. We’ve created a community. #ebookinaday isn’t a project any more, it’s a movement of people rallied around a common vision and purpose.
  4. The combination of thinking and doing, applying theory in practice in such an intense way seems to be a great form of learning and development. We’ll know more when the measurement team reports.
  5. If technology can break it will break. Power supplies fail, devices fall over, web services go down (backup, backup and backup again) and we’re pushing the broadband to the limit.

Thanks to everyone that has got involved in the project so far. You can follow what we’re doing across the social web using the hashtag #ebookinaday.

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Professional advisor for agencies and communication teams, Wadds Inc. Author: #brandvandals, Exploring PR and Management Communication. #PRstack, Share This, and others. Visiting Professor, Newcastle University.

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