Become a semi-genius from your living room

Jonathon Leven of Great Courses during the filming of “Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science,” taught by Steven Gimbel, a philosophy professor at Gettysburg College.

Jonathon Leven of Great Courses during the filming of “Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science,” taught by Steven Gimbel, a philosophy professor at Gettysburg College.

The “Academization of leisure” is a growing trend. You can find evidence in The Great Courses, learning vacations, podcasts, science centers and brain-training games, reports Greg Beato of the New York Times. The Great Courses offers classes from only the best professors around the country and even some courses partnered through the Smithsonian, National Geographic, the Culinary Institute of America and the Mayo Clinic helping lifelong learners experience edutainment from their living room, on the road or anywhere they may please.

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Turning to Education for Fun

Do you use an exclamation point? How about two?

01CULTURALSTUDIES-articleLarge-v2As writers, we are old school when it comes to punctuation.  We don’t use an exclamation point unless we’re exclaiming, and we certainly don’t use two.  But the rules are changing.  The New York Times, which says “our punctuation is on steroids,” details a world where periods are aggressive and commas are geriatric.  There’s been much debate in our office, but we continue to look to “The Associated Press Stylebook” for updates to the journalistic standard.  What about you?  Where do you take your cues?

This New York Times article details the predicament: When Your Punctuation Says It All (!)

New York Times highlights Ice Energy’s storage contracts with SCE

New York Times logoAn article in today’s New York Times titled “Energy-Storage Plans Gain Ground in California” highlights thermal energy storage company Ice Energy’s 16 contracts with Southern California Edison totaling 25.6 megawatts — enough to power 11,000 homes — using the simplest of solutions, ice.

Water is frozen into ice to replace the cooling power of AC units during peaks times. The ice freezes at night when demand is low. During the day, the units use the ice, rather than the AC unit’s compressor, to cool the hot refrigerant, cutting cooling costs substantially.

“We’re very excited you’re seeing storage as a real part of a solution,” said Ice Energy CEO Michael Hopkins in the article. He added that business owners save by buying their electricity at off-peak prices, and SCE avoids the need for seven or eight kilowatts of electricity per unit during peak periods.

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Energy-Storage Plans Gain Ground in California

Bill Gates learns from The Great Courses

Andrew Ross Sorkin unveils Bill Gate’s workout great courseshabits include learning from The Great Courses DVDs.

“…during an hour on the treadmill, Gates, a self-described nerd, would pass the time by watching DVDs from the Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series. On some mornings, he would learn about geology or meteorology; on others, it would be oceanography or U.S. history.”

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So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class …

The Great Courses makes stars out of university professors

New York Times logoThe Great Courses is the nation’s leading developer and marketer of premium-quality media for lifelong learning and personal enrichment, but its television-quality studios in Chantilly, Va., also are a learning ground for the university professors that get behind the camera, reports the New York Times.

The professors, who deliver lectures on a wide range of subjects from game theory to ancient civilizations, receive coaching on how to adapt their classroom performance style to resonate with the company’s customers who will view or listen to the lectures in audio and visual formats.

“It had a transformative effect on me as a teacher,” said Jennifer Paxton, who teaches at the Catholic University of America and has recorded two history courses for the company and is working on a third. “One of the things they told me is that I should not hold back from really demonstrating the enthusiasm that I felt for the material. I think that, in a sense, I had drunk the academic Kool-Aid: You present something in a serious, sober manner.”

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For This Class, Professors Pass Screen Tests

Social Media and Modern Rights

At work the last couple of days here at Olmstead Williams Communications, we’ve been having some engaging conversations about social media and how it can affect a business’ bottom line. There have been fascinating conversations, and we’ve been posing several open-ended and critical questions in regards to our philosophy and practice.  Here are some of the questions we’ve been asking: “How can we measure success with social media?” “How can we approach it as a craft, a medium, a genre?” “How do we want to be received as a company, a brand, a voice through our various accounts?”

Awards

But the one questions we didn’t ask was how our rights were protected through social media?  How far does our freedom of speech extend in the realms of Facebook, Twitter, and others?  And can a workplace censor those ideas and opinions or hold you responsible for deprecating comments?

Well, it sure came to our attention with a great article in the New York Times by Steven Greenhouse: “Even if it Enrages Your Boss, Social Net Speech is Protected.”  According to Greenhouse, “National Labor Relations Board says workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.”

This is quite a victory for free-speech advocates who believe that social media isn’t just an extension of the workplace, but a space where opinions, thoughts, and ideas are protected from censorship and fear. Of course, this is going to bring about compelling issues over branding and marketing a business’ image. Now that employees are protected under the law and can say what they want without fear of termination, does that mean employees always should speak their mind?

For example, a bartender was fired from his job, because he posted on his Facebook that he was frustrated that his bosses hadn’t given him a raise in five years.  He went on a rant and called the patrons rednecks.  Then there was a reporter in Tuscon, Arizona, who was fired for speaking her mind. She wrote on her Facebook that there should be more murders in the city, because she needed to have something to write about.  I don’t know, but maybe they should have chosen not to say these things.

The debate has only begun. And while this recent ruling defines freedom for social-media expression, does it extend to blogs, too? Okay, companies can’t fire their employees for their posts and tweets anymore, but could they one day sue them for liable? What’s next?

Not all news media is for sale in China

Much of the media coverage in China is apparently for sale, according to an article this week in the New York Times. The practice is pervasive with PR consultants divided on how much to embrace the practice.

How pervasive? Try $20,000 per page in in the Chinese version of Esquire, $4,000 per minute on state-run China Central Television and $1 per character in Workers’ Daily, the Communist Party’s newspaper.

Pay for play is certainly not limited to China. It’s usually much more obvious in the U.S. though and tends to be clearly labeled. Also, not all press in China blends advertising and editorial content so willingly.

At Olmstead Williams Communications, our clients want to be in The Wall Street Journal and on top wires such as Reuters and the Associated Press. There are no shortcuts to penetrate the high bars for their Chinese bureaus — or any other bureau. Only a story that merits the attention will do.

Study names top financial publications and journalists

A recent survey of 349 financial journalists by Gorkana Group highlights The Wall Street Journal as the most influencial publication, with 72 percent nominating the paper. Following the Journal: Bloomberg News, The New York Times and Reuters.

The study also looked at the individuals who have the most influence. Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times placed first.

Execs from Pepsi, Southwest Airlines and others debate the new media mix

Thirty executives from PepsiCo, Southwest Airlines and leading PR, marketing, advertising and social media firms argued Tuesday that getting the mix right – between news articles, company blogs and sponsored ads – is critical for success in today’s crowded marketplace. The hour-long discussion took place during “The Future of Media: Radical Integration” webinar hosted by Cision.

While there was expected disagreement on the value and benefits that PR vs. marketing vs. advertising bring to a company’s bottom line, all participants agreed that social media is changing the equation by amplifying campaigns and closing the gap between companies and their customers. Social media’s value – its ability to interact directly with customers and engage them in conversations that result in priceless insight on what they need/want – exceeds the scale of advertising, immediacy of marketing efforts and credibility of articles in The New York Times and other trusted outlets.

PR practitioners, as natural storytellers, are the best equipped to own the social media outreach as connections with self-publishers on YouTube, Twitter and Yelp are just as important as traditional media outlets.