BYU’s PR program: Top five and on the rise with social media and engagement center

Brigham Young University’s (BYU) public relations (PR) program has been ranked top five by PR Week multiple times. Yet this program continues to improve. Before winter semester, BYU’s PR program is renovating to incorporate a social media and engagement center for students, giving them an advantage in job application and more experience before graduating. This social media and engagement center won’t change the PR program’s structure, but will improve the education that students within the program receive.

As a junior in the program, I can see the incredible opportunities that PR program offers its students. The faculty is student oriented, and the classes are career focused. Students are required to participate in hands-on projects and get real-world experiences through internships and working with real clients before graduating.

The PR program is also dedicated to giving students an edge above other job candidates. BYU’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is one of the largest in the nation with over 100 members, providing students a stronger PR network compared to other universities.

BYU PR graduates work throughout the world and are placed in high-end jobs right out of college.

One aspect that helps BYU’s program standout and give students such a quality experience is the Bradley Lab.

Students gather at the Bradley Lab for group or individual projects. (Source: Madison Jergensen)

Students gather at the Bradley Lab for group or individual projects.
(Source: Madison Jergensen)

The Bradley Lab is room 170 in the Brimhall Building. It’s a place for any public relations student to do homework, use Adobe suites, meet with a group or just catch up with friends.

Travis Mortenson, Public Relations Student Society of America President and BYU PR student, says, “The Bradley Lab is just a happenin’ place with high energy and friends and food. It’s a common gathering area where students enjoy doing homework. I spend lots of time in the Bradley Lab. I can say I’ve spent quite a few hours in the Bradley Lab myself.”

The Bradley Lab is also home to the Bradley Public Relations Agency run by Dr. Lincoln Hubbard. Students have the option to take the three-credit class and essentially be an “employee” of the firm. Students work with companies to improve public relations efforts. Previous clients who have hired Bradley Public Relations Agency include Allstate, Vivint, Marriott and Thatcher + Co. These clients allow students to work on projects and head campaigns or social media efforts, just as any PR firm would.

All of these portions of the PR program will benefit from the updates in the Bradley Lab.

So what exactly does this innovative update entail?

The Bradley Lab innovation will include moving Hubbard’s office to the southwest corner of the room. This is to create a more spacious and inviting environment.

Couches and tables will be arranged to promote teamwork, without crowding the room. It will also include an update in furniture, wood floors and wall colors.

However, all of these updates are simply to better incorporate the greatest addition to the Bradley Lab. This update will include the installment of a social media and engagement center. Over Christmas break, eight monitors will be installed on the north wall. All the monitors will be equipped with a variety of social media tracking platforms.

Social media is a major part of PR, but hits a dead end without analytics.

Zignal Labs visually tracks social media analytics in realtime. (Source: zignallabs.com)

Zignal Labs visually tracks social media analytics in realtime.
(Source: zignallabs.com)

This center will be modeled after Zignal Command Center. Zignallabs.com states, “Zignal Command Center creates a common operating model for teams to collaborate, make faster decisions and plan strategically. Stunning, data-driven visualizations deliver the realtime insights to take action.”

Most of the north side of the room will be dedicated for students to use the center. Tables and chairs will circle around the screens to keep the area open and user friendly.

Joseph Ogden, associate teaching professor of public relations and part of the committee in charge of the social media and engagement center, states, “The north wall will include eight monitors driven by separate computers. Eight students can be tracking different social content, different key word strings and different monitors, all at the same time… The middle four monitors can convert into a giant 96-inch screen where teachers and lab workers can teach students the logistics of operation and the application of analytics.”

Ogden is excited for the modular aspect of the lab update as well. All furniture is movable so the room can transform from a command center into a classroom into a PRSSA event.

This social media and engagement center is expected to be ready by Jan. 2017, just in time for the new semester.

Who will use the social media and engagement center?

The social media and engagement center will be open for the use of public relations students, but specifically those in classes working with real clients.

Classes that deal with real clients include Comms 318 (PR Research and Measurement), Comms 485 (Strategic Public Relations Campaigns) and Comms 370R (Bradley PR Lab).

These classes now use social media tracking programs as best they can on a personal laptop or Bradley Lab computer. This center will make social media tracking not only easier, but also more effective for a client.

What are social media engagement platforms, and which will be used?

Social media engagement platforms have recently become more popular, especially within the BYU public relations program. Common platforms that will be implemented in the new social media and engagement center include NUVI and Zignal.

NUVI helps students monitor their social media campaign in realtime. (Source: Screenshot from NUVI.com)

NUVI helps students monitor their social media campaign in realtime.
(Source: Screenshot from NUVI.com)

NUVI states, “Real-time data visualizations are what set NUVI apart. Beautiful, insightful, data-driven designs will fuel your strategy and guide your decision-making process. Our visualizations are designed to provide actionable insights as quickly as possible to key decision makers.”

With my experience using NUVI, I’ve been impressed with its simple layout and user-friendly content. Generating an easy-to-read report is just one click away. I also loved the visual aspect, not only for me, but also to impress my client with the social media work done, all displayed in a visual way. Logging in and glancing at the main deck everyday keeps PR professionals up to date on all their campaign efforts.

Zignal is a similar platform. Although Zignal is the Lab Center, it also serves as data analyzing software. Explained on zignallabs.com as, “The industry’s most intuitive and highly customizable analytics solution means you don’t have to be a data analyst to get the insights you need.”

Ogden states, “Brigham Young University strives to give students experience with tools that are pretty advanced and other universities haven’t even tapped into yet. We have partnered with these companies, and we are able to receive this software many small companies can’t even afford.”

Why is social media analytics so important in PR? 

If asked what a public relations job entails, a PR professional would likely include social media in the definition. Social media is our forte.  PR professionals manage Instagram accounts, create Facebook events and send out Tweets like it’s second nature. However, none of that matters, and our value is lost, if we can’t show the value of social media.

Devin Spann, communications adjunct professor at BYU and experienced social media professional, states, “ It’s very important for students to be familiar with social media analytics specifically because in real business, date drives decisions, and social media is a great way to narrow down what your message should be and how your customers feel about you.”

While recently enrolled in Bradley PR, I was responsible for social media posting, but most importantly the analytics of all social media. I used NUVI, which gave me great insight as to the effects our social media efforts had.

It was during the analysis we conducted that we realized our Facebook videos had much greater reach than any other type of post on any other platform.

I also learned through analytics that with every successful social media post, there was a rise in those who registered for the mock election my team at Bradley PR was promoting.

Had we not used social media analytics such as Facebook Insights and NUVI, we would be blindly shooting into the dark as to what is successful on social media and how that success displays itself in the outcome of a campaign.

Alexa Fox, social media expert and author for Segue Technologies, states, “Tracking your social media analytics is essential because it helps you figure out what is or isn’t working, enables you to track your progress throughout a given time, and ultimately saves time – a precious commodity in the marketing world.”

How will this center give BYU PR students an edge in applying for jobs?

Companies anticipate students have had a variety of experience outside of classroom.

Spann elaborates, “Businesses are expecting students to show up ready to work and knowing how to work rather than being told what to do. The more familiar they are with analytics, and social media analytics, the more help they’ll be to a business.”

Using a social media and engagement center with real clients will give BYU students a major talking point at their next interview and help students jump right into working as a PR professional.

How has social media analytics impacted your professional career?

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