Groups of two or three students will select a case study of an instance in which social media tools were used by journalists and/or PR professionals in ways that raised questions or controversy. Each group will give a presentation to the class that summarizes the case, analyzes the (in)effectiveness and (in)appropriateness of the usage of social media (drawing upon criteria discussed in class and in the readings), and identifies lessons the case teaches us about best and worst social media practices.


Each group will select a case from a list. Presentations will be staggered throughout the semester (see the schedule below). Requirements for the presentation:

  • Length: The presentation must be at least 7 minutes and no longer than 10 minutes. Presentations that are too short or too long will lose points. Rehearse your presentation to make sure it falls within the time limit.
  • Division of work: Each individual should participate equally in the presentation. If one member of the group does not make a sufficient contribution to the presentation, that member may lose points.
  • Summary of the case: The presentation must include a complete summary of the case (What happened? What were the reactions? What were the consequences?). Although you are not writing a research paper, you will need to research the case in order to give an effective presentation. Each of these cases was discussed extensively in the press, on the web, and in social media. You should be able to find considerable information about your case. You won’t be able to find everything you need to know from a single source. You are expected to consult multiple sources. This might be require some digging. If you’re having trouble finding information, let me know.
  • Analysis of the usage of social media: Analyze how and why social media tools were used effectively or ineffectively. And how they were used appropriately or inappropriately. Rather than simply stating your personal opinion, support your arguments by referencing observations made by the key “players” in the case (How did they defend or justify their use of social media?), referencing observations made by others (What did media observers or members of the public say?), and referencing criteria identified in class and in the assigned readings. (e.g., “The Scott textbook notes that bloggers should never …, yet that’s exactly what these bloggers did.”).
  • Lessons learned: The presentation must identify several lessons that journalists, public relations professionals, or the public can learn from the case. What does the case teach us about best or worst social media practices? What can be done to avoid repeating any mistakes that were made?
  • Interactive or multimedia elements: Each presentation must incorporate one or more interactive or multimedia elements. These may include, but are not limited to, PowerPoint slides or Prezi. For many of these cases, the original blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, etc., are still available in original or archived form (which might require some digging). You might want to show them to the class. You might want to come up with other creative ways to involve or engage your classmates in the presentation.
  • Delivery: DO NOT BE DULL. The presentation should be professional, yet conversational, in tone. You are welcome to use notes, but avoid relying heavily on them. Do not read from a script. The presentation should not sound like a memorized speech. Engage your audience.


The assignment is worth a total of 40 points, broken down as follows:

  • Summary of the case (10 points): Did you summarize the case in a way that we could all understand? Was the summary thorough, addressing all relevant points?
  • Analysis and lessons learned (10 points): Did you analyze the ways in which social media were used effectively/ineffectively and appropriately/inappropriately? Did you cite sources (the key players, observers, the public, class readings) to support your arguments?
  • Delivery (10 points): Did you engage your classmates and maintain eye contact with them? Was the presentation 7 to 10 minutes? Did you avoid relying heavily on notes? Was your style of delivery appropriate and effective?
  • Interactive/multimedia elements (10 points): Did the presentation include one or more interactive or multimedia elements? Were these elements used in substantive ways that contributed to the informational value of the presentation (rather than as “decoration”)?

Schedule of presentations

  • Feb. 17 – ConAgra Foods/Ketchum dinner party for food bloggers (Ryan and Elicia)
  • Feb. 24 – The firing of PR executive Justine Sacco (Brecken and Reagan); Katie Fisher’s fatal car accident and Progressive Insurance (Rich and Elisa)
  • March 3 – JP Morgan Chase’s #AskJPM Twitter campaign (Jacqueline and Amanda)
  • March 31 – The firing of Shreveport, Louisiana, TV meteorologist Rhonda Lee (Glo and Ashley)
  • April 7 – The Facebook meltdown of Amy’s Baking Company (Katherine, Brittany, and Chris)
  • April 14 – The (White Plains, N.Y.) Journal News’ gun-permit map (John and Kelsey)
  • April 28 – Joe Paterno’s premature death on Twitter (Christine and Marinna)

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