Edelman Digital Bootcamp

With 70 percent of adults and 93 percent of teenagers using the Internet, it is not surprising that social media usage is steadily increasing. In fact, sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook experienced growth rates of 129 and 260 percent, respectively, in 2007. As a result, companies and organizations can no longer ignore the impact of these social networking sites.

The Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia is taking a proactive approach to the rapid adoption of social media. Grady College is partnering with one of the world’s largest independent public relations firms, Edelman, to host the Edelman Digital Bootcamp for students and educators throughout the Southeast.

Edelman executives and several of the leading social media educators in the Southeast will be participating in this day-long training session. This “bootcamp” is special because of its focus on the entire education process, with practitioners and educators teaming up to provide specialized hand-on training to students and curriculum sessions for area educators.

The idea for the event began at another social media conference Grady College held in October 2007. A few months later, Kaye Sweetser, assistant professor at the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, brought the event idea up to Erin Caldwell, a senior account executive at Edelman in Washington, D.C. The two expressed their ideas to Edelman and UGA, and several months later their idea became a reality.

What was once a topic at lunch soon became the Edelman Digital Bootcamp hosted by UGA for students and educators across the Southeast March 1. The event is sponsored by Edelman and hosted by UGA. Sweetser’s Spring 2008 public relations campaigns class has taken control of the planning and execution of the event.

The overall goal of this partnership is to bring together practitioners, educators and students to provide hands-on experience and help incorporate social media into traditional curricula. By inviting both students and educators, Edelman practitioners hope to begin a trend of coaching students and educators in ethical social media techniques in public relations. This will allow the student to have actually worked with social media tactics, and provide resources for educators interested in infusing social media assignments into their traditional classes.

While at the event, educators will have the opportunity to discuss the practicalities of teaching social media, get assignment ideas and more. They will work one-on-one with many leading social media practitioners including Phil Gomes, vice president at Edelman, and several top educators.

Edelman professionals will focus on sharing ideas and encouraging the integration of social media in core curriculum PR classes. This opportunity will enable educators to gain exposure to various social media tools such as blogs, online photo sharing, videos and podcasts. With the Internet becoming a staple in the working-world, it is imperative that students learn the best ways to utilize social media to ensure success and adequate preparation for life after graduation.