Microblogging a celebrity chef media blitz: Launching NAIT¶s first Hokanson Chef in Residence

Work Sample (2,513 words) Background From March 2002 to July 2006, I worked in communications for the Alberta Chambers of Commerce. In my time there one of the things that stuck with me was the power of an engaged community. One of the initiatives that took off in the time that I was there was a members only online community that I moderated. From that point on I realized the value of social media. In August 2006 I started as a communications specialist at NAIT. At that time, the organization had done very little to use social media to communicate with external audiences. By September 2006, our corporate communications team started to experiment with social media when we launched our Flickr page (www.flickr.com/nait) to showcase before and after pictures of a car that was being auctioned off. And so started NAIT s social media story. The department had not yet assigned social media as part of anyone s job description but because my position was a new one that was going to evolve and be shaped over time, I thought it was a prime opportunity to start experimenting with social media and to learn more. In December 2007 I attended a Canadian Institute conference in Toronto focused specifically on social media and that s where I first heard of Twitter. By January 2008, we started a NAIT Twitter account (www.twitter.com/nait). In January 2008, we also launched a YouTube channel for our newly launched techlife magazine (www.youtube.com/techlifemag). During the rest of 2008, I took every possible opportunity to participate in local Tweetups (in person meetups of Twitter users), social web meetups and additional training opportunities through conferences and seminars. We also started inviting bloggers to certain events. In January 2009, NAIT was getting ready to announce its first Hokanson Chef in Residence program with celebrity chef Rob Feenie from Vancouver-based Cactus Club Restaurants. While the intense three-day Chef in Residence training with Culinary Arts students had been planned for months, Chef Feenie s advanced availability for a traditional media blitz was only known a few weeks prior. Media relations specialist Rayne Kuntz also planned to have in-house video footage shot of the media blitz, to provide a reality TV feel to a behind-the-scenes video that would later be posted to YouTube. That s when I suggested I could give people real-time access to our chef through Twitter. We felt that this was the right time to engage with our audience on Twitter, by appealing to foodies and people involved in or interested in social media, traditional media and public relations. So on January 28, 2009 I was going to be accompanying the Feenie entourage to live-tweet the entire media blitz on the NAIT Twitter account.

1

Microblogging a celebrity chef media blitz: Launching NAIT¶s first Hokanson Chef in Residence

Research
We only had a couple weeks to prepare for the inaugural Hokanson Chef in Residence media blitz with Chef Rob Feenie. My colleague Rayne Kuntz was entirely responsible for arranging the traditional media blitz. For years, our department planned, built relationships, set targets and recorded metrics with traditional media outlets. Because of the nature of the event, which involved prescheduled appearances on radio and television, we were guaranteed traditional media exposure. The only unknown was the news conference being held in the afternoon. Trying something new in real-time with a social media audience was completely new ground for our department and as far as we knew, no one else locally had attempted something similar. At the time, very few local media outlets were on Twitter (Edmonton Journal and the CBC), but it was gaining popularity. On January 15, 2009 the first news to break about a plane in the Hudson River was on Twitter when a ferry passenger posted a picture from his iPhone using the Twitter application Twitpic. NAIT s tagline is an institute of technology committed to student success. Because the organization placed such a high value on technology it wasn t difficult to make the case that while this is a completely unproven, I should try microblogging our celebrity chef media blitz. Our research began the day we became involved in social media by listening to, engaging with and getting to know our Twitter audience. This was a very critical step to building our credibility. Had we not built that presence, I would not have attempted live microblogging on January 28, 2009. My research included two key areas: 1. 2. Twitter audience and non-Twitter audience Technology

1. Twitter audience and non-Twitter audience We knew that the Twitter audience in Edmonton and area was not very large (1,948 in January 2009 - Appendix A), but the result of an engaged chat could have significant effects (e.g. online buzz creating an extended online presence). Because the audience was small, I also had to determine how we d extend our participation by including those who d be interested in the content but weren t necessarily using the Twitter. At the time, I also realized that there was value in making the medium (not just the message) part of the story. As such our potential audiences included the following groups: y Food bloggers and foodies y Students in our public relations, radio and television and culinary programs y Public relations practitioners and those interested in social media 2. Technology The second critical aspect of my research involved how we were going to pull this off. While jumping to tactics may have seemed like I was bypassing part of the planning process, it was important in understanding whether we d be able to follow through on what we would be promising. In other words we had to know the limitations of the technology that existed in order to know that our plan was as solid as possible before diving in.

2

Microblogging a celebrity chef media blitz: Launching NAIT¶s first Hokanson Chef in Residence

In order to test the technology and my own capability in staying focused on what was happening around me while communicating with an online audience, I live tweeted a January 16 cooking class I attended at the Servus Credit Union Place recreation centre in St. Albert. I learned that I could post 44 tweets over three hours with half the battery life left on my iPhone. Twitter goes down, all applications tied to Twitter go down, batteries die, wireless networks go down and Internet connections get lost so it was important to have a backup plan for all scenarios. I didn t want to build up excitement for our event but fail to follow through. Recognizing that technology can fail and that I would be all over the city on the day of the actual event I added an additional camera, laptop and wireless card (on a different network from my iPhone) to my tools to use the day of the event. While Twitter also goes down itself (e.g. now infamous fail whale) I knew that in the span of about 8 hours, it should still be up long enough to pull off enough microblogging of the media blitz. In our research we also had to take a number of steps to prepare for the event including getting buy-in from the media outlets. Since our plan was to follow Chef Feenie in-studio, it was important that the media outlets knew what we were doing in advance.

3

Microblogging a celebrity chef media blitz: Launching NAIT¶s first Hokanson Chef in Residence

Analysis
I also sought critical feedback. Through chatting with people within our department, the institute s Social Media Discussion Group, students and external stakeholders, we were able make the live-tweeting idea better by explaining what we were doing and avoiding the use of lingo, which could intimidate those not familiar with Twitter. Because we would be doing this in a very public online forum, there was the fear that someone could hijack the conversation. To prepare, I read up about blocking a user on Twitter but at the end of the day, I felt comfortable with the reputation we had built for NAIT in social media and figured that if anything would go wrong with an abusive user, the audience would be supportive and not allow such abuse to occur. Unlike the traditional media blitz where there was guaranteed traditional media coverage, I feared that no one would participate. By seeking critical feedback, many of the individuals offering advice helped promote the initiative and some committed to participating. Also Twitter was used to promote the event in advance. Our objectives for the live-tweeting portion of the media blitz were: y y y y y To profile the use of technology by engaging with our audience and providing access to a prominent chef. To increase reach of NAIT s chef in residence through social media. To connect in real-time with foodies/food bloggers. To provide a real-time behind-the-scenes look to students, demonstrating our mandate of education for the real world. To demonstrate innovation in PR within our peer group.

4

Microblogging a celebrity chef media blitz: Launching NAIT¶s first Hokanson Chef in Residence

Communication
Our key messages were the same as our traditional media blitz: y NAIT is kicking off its Hokanson Chef in Residence program with celebrity Chef Rob Feenie. y The Hokanson Chef in Residence program will bring in mentors for NAIT student chefs training. y Chef Feenie hosted a show on the Food Network, authored three cookbooks, beat Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and is food concept architect with Cactus Club Restaurants. y The Hokanson Chef in Residence was made possible by a $1 million endowment from John and Susan Hokanson. y The interest earned each year will be used to fund a variety of opportunities for students to learn from some of the best chefs in the world. y Chef Feenie will be NAIT s Hokanson Chef in Residence from February 11 to February 13, 2009. In planning the following considerations were also taken: y Making sure I wasn t in the way or interrupting. The night before, all the batteries were charged, sounds on devices were muted and flashes turned off and the day of the live-tweeting remained in the background. Prepared and told people. I posted directions about what we were doing on our homepage calendar. I also knew in advance what our day was more or less going to look like so some posts were prepared including previously shortened URLs, found media and the chef s employer on Twitter and planned some posts. Created a hashtag to group the chat. I created a unique hashtag (keyword with the # symbol preceding it) to help people see what we were talking about, but it also helped with measurement once the event was done. I used #NAITchef then I was able to group the chat in Tweetchat for more knowledgeable Twitter users. Made it easy for our audience. I knew that our potential audience had varying degrees of knowledge of Twitter. By using Tweetchat and having real-time updates on our website, I was able to make it more dynamic by having real-time posts appear instead of directing people to a static Twitter page. Measurement. By using URL shorteners and a photo service like Twitpic, I could tell how many people clicked through on our content. New followers, the number of people that interacted with us, blog followup posts and traffic to various pages on our website are all part of my metrics.

y

y

y

y

Because I had no idea what to expect my goal was to get ten comments/questions from different Twitter users. Budget The costs for this initiative were minimal with any additional costs totalling $1,048 for the day s activities as well as staff time. January 28, 2009 costs $100 minivan rental internal cost $913 YouTube video production internal cost $35 television clip from CTV $1,048 Total Annual media monitoring/measurement costs $3,600 FP Infomart (monitoring service) $13,800 CNW (monitoring service) $1,155 Media Relations Points (measurement tool) $18, 555 Total Staff time

5

Microblogging a celebrity chef media blitz: Launching NAIT¶s first Hokanson Chef in Residence

In addition to my role involving the social media for the day, my colleague Rayne Kuntz managed the interaction with the media outlets. We also had the public relations practitioner from Cactus Club Restaurants accompany Chef Feenie as well as a NAIT staff driver for the day.

6

Microblogging a celebrity chef media blitz: Launching NAIT¶s first Hokanson Chef in Residence

Evaluation
Through our actions on January 28, 2009 we accomplished the following objectives: y y To profile the use of technology by engaging with our audience and providing access to a prominent chef. To increase reach of NAIT s chef in residence through social media.

The following objectives were also achieved through the following metrics: y To connect in real-time with foodies/food bloggers. o 91 Twitter posts by the NAIT account including replies and posts the day before o 48 comments/questions from users on January 28, 2009 o 35 images were posted and linked in the discussion by NAIT, there were 815 combined views of the images, but that has since gone up as the chat is posted online with links to the pictures. o 341 combined clicks to various other links (media sites, video, restaurant, info about chat, etc.) in the chat (615 by March 15, 2009) o 23 users interacted with us, most were local although we did have a few from elsewhere including Calgary and Guelph, ON o 7,408 users follow the combined group of 23 people o On January 28, 2009 there were 180 Page views or 119 Unique Views of the discussion posted on our website at nait.ca/naitchef To provide a real-time behind-the-scenes look to students, demonstrating our mandate of education for the real world. o A representative from our student newspaper (The Nugget) and two sections of PR students in our business school also participated, which demonstrated our mandate to provide education for the real world. o There were 1,785 YouTube video views as of April 5, 2010. o We were asked to come back and present the initiative as a case study for a PR class. o Before the chat, we had 189 followers at www.twitter.com/nait and we were up to 214 followers by February 4, 2009. We have 1,067 followers as of April 5, 2010. o A summary of the chat was posted at www.nait.ca/naitchef o There were 495 Flickr photo views by April 5, 2010. To demonstrate innovation in PR within our peer group. o The chat was also brought up (by NAIT) the following Monday at the Edmonton social web meet up because a number in the room participated in the chat. o The initiative led to four conference speaking requests and achieved a Gold CPRS National Award of Excellence.

y

y

In terms of the technology, we only lost connections a few times in studio and Twitter only went down momentarily during the day. They were no abusive or offensive comments posted. Total MRP (combined traditional and social media, excluding Twitter, Flick and YouTube) for the day was ?.

7

Microblogging a celebrity chef media blitz: Launching NAIT¶s first Hokanson Chef in Residence

Final words
This initiative certainly put NAIT on the map in terms of social media activity locally. While I knew I couldn t repeat the same initiative for 2010 with Chef David Adjey because we weren t doing a media blitz as we had done for the launch and the name of our new resident chef was already widely known, it set the stage for the Date with Chef David Adjey blogger night. For 2010, we invited a dozen well-recognized food bloggers for a meal with David Adjey, while I live-tweeted once again. The 2010 initiative was a learning experience that I wrote about in my personal blog. http://www.wheretobegin.ca/the-date-with-chef-david-adjey-experiment/

8

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful