assignment online conversation monitoring


At the Edelman Digital Bootcamp, I presented a number of social media assignments that I have worked into my traditional PR classes. This assignment is one of those assignments.


This assignment is ideal for PR Research, PR Cases Studies, Administration and to use for the research function of capstone Campaigns courses.

In this assignment, students monitor the online conversation occurring about an organization on posted by that organization’s publics (i.e., environmental scanning of blogs for discussion of company issues). Adoption trends show that the number of people reading blogs jumps each six months and more than half of journalists turn to blogs for sources, story ideas and to “break scandals.” Academic research finds that people who read blogs cite them as credible sources of information and there are several notable anecdotes about stories jumping from blogs to the mainstream media. As such, it is important for public relations students to learn how to monitor blog and other social media content in a systematic way that provides the same insight that more traditional environmental scanning methods do. Remember though, these scans are good only if they include the entire online world — don’t just look at blogs but include microblogging sites like Twitter, and multimedia sites like YouTube or Flickr.

Directions to students: Many people will discuss your organization and its products/services on their own Web sites, outside of traditional media. Just as it is important for you to know what the media and your community are saying about your issues and organization, it is important to know what is being said in social media sites like blogs and message boards. In this assignment you will listen to the “cyberchatter” about an assigned client for one week. During this time you will (1) monitor social media sites, (2) assess the importance/impact of each site that discusses your organization and (3) write a short analysis of the week’s conversation. Additionally, you may make suggestions for action or engagement based on this analysis.

> Learning objectives

  • Apply environmental scanning and issues management approaches to non-traditional information sources
  • Practice research skills in diverse information environments
  • Connect environmental scanning practices with emergent technology
  • Familiarize yourself with potentially powerful, persuasive and relevant conversations occurring about your organization outside the mainstream media

> Layout and content recommendations

  • Assign a client to students or allow them to pick their own clients (suggest large Fortune 500 companies)
  • Identify key search terms with students for their client. Don’t just rely on the organization’s name. Include CEO, product names, issues and common misspellings for associated organizational terms.
  • Demonstrate key word searches on various blog search engines like IceRocket, Technorati, blogsearch.google.com
  • Show students how to set up Google alerts on key words
  • Explain RSS feeds, how to identify them, subscriptions & readers such as BlogLines or Google Reader (note: you can do an initial search on the blog search engines & then subscribe to that search to make life a little easier)
  • Explain tags (often used on blogs, Flickr, YouTube, etc)
  • Explain that blog site importance/impact can sometimes be determined through reading the “about” page of the blogger and reading the comments on posts

> Tips

> Grading rubric

When grading the online conversation monitoring report, treat it much like you would any traditional environmental scanning report. The only difference here is that the net for area to be monitored is cast much wider. The best thing a student can come away from this assignment understanding is that one is always monitoring one’s organization – and it is important to add social media sites to this list of sites monitored. Once systems are in place (e-mail alerts, etc.) the work is streamlined and much easier.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Kaye — thanks for posting this assignment. I’m definitely incorporating this (or something similar) into my PR classes this spring. To explain RSS to my students, I’ve shared this description with them: http://thecleversheep.blogspot.com/2008/01/rss-get-inside-wrapper.html . Just thought you might be interested in it.

  2. kaye says:

    Awesome Barbara! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Great to meet you at the Bootcamp as well!

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