A Few Lessons from Biz Stone

“In order to succeed spectacularly, you need to be willing to fail spectacularly.”  This is one of the first lessons Biz Stone, a co-founder of Twitter, shared when opening his General Session talk at the PRSA 2012 International Conference in San Francisco.

Stone openly discussed the lessons he learned throughout his childhood, younger years, and career. He attended high school in Wellesley, Mass., where he wanted to play sports.  After realizing he was intimidated by basketball, he did some research and found his school did not offer a lacrosse team.  He then took it upon himself to find players and coach to create the team. Despite the obstacles faced along the way, the team excelled.  The key lesson he learned here was, “Opportunity can be manufactured.”

Stone learned another important life lesson after dropping out of college at the University of Massachusetts to design book covers in Boston. He learned, “Creativity is a renewable resource.”  He knew that if the sales and editorial teams didn’t like a design, there was always a new one to be created.

When the publishing company relocated to New York, Stone took a different path.  He decided to move West where his team created Xanga.  This role eventually landed him a position at Google where he met the men who would later become the other founders of Twitter, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey.

When Williams decided to move from Google to Odeo, a podcasting company, Stone joined him.  Stone said, “You really have to be emotionally invested in your company in order for it to succeed.” Stone realized the podcasting business was not a career he wanted to keep pursuing.  This is what led to the desire of wanting to create a new business.  Stone, Dorsey, and an engineer teamed up and Twitter was born in two weeks.  “We showed it to our colleagues and they were underwhelmed,” Stone said.  People thought it was a terrible idea and did not see the potential that was in store.  When someone remarked, “Twitter is not useful.” Williams responded with, “Neither is ice cream.” The reason for the 140 characters? The answer is quite simple.  He wanted tweets to be SMS compatible, and to be able to leave room for the author’s name.

Stone first realized the power of twitter when he was at a crowded festival, and a man in a bar tweeted that he was going to go someone else.  Within eight minutes, people followed to the same location.  This reminded Stone of birds and how they flock together. The big lesson learned here was the triumph of change.  “If we were to be a triumph, then we were not just to be a triumph of technology, Twitter was going to be a triumphant of humanity,” Stone said.  He explained that people are good, and if you give them the right tools they will prove it on a daily basis.


Meet Charley Reed

This week we were able to hear the story of our own Charley Reed who is UNO’s Media Relations Coordinator.  Reed is a UNO graduate who earned his undergrad in broadcasting.  He went on to receive his master’s degree in communication in 2012.  Throughout his entire time at UNO, Reed never had a public relations course.  However, he wrote for The Gateway for 3.5 years.  This is what really gave him the experience he needed for his career.  Before Media Relations Coordinator, Reed was in charge of UNO’s online channels.  He monitored the Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.  When the previous Media Relations Coordinator, Wendy Townley, moved on to work for another company, Reed took her role.  His goal is to tell UNO’s story to the rest of Omaha and surrounding areas. What he has found that in a university where you have over 14,000 students, 7-8 colleges, and hundreds of faculty, you have an unlimited number of story options which is a blessing and a curse because as Reed describes it, “Everyone knows that you’re the person to go to if they want media attention.” He said sometimes you have to let the person down gently that media most likely would not show up to their particular event.  In these cases he has to find a different way to tell that story.  Sometimes he is pleasantly surprised by media coverage UNO receives.  For example, this fall Maverick Productions hosted a tie-dye event in the Pep Bowl. This event was not anything out of the ordinary.  Tie-dye isn’t new, students doing tie-dye isn’t new, and it not very fascinating to watch. Two television stations and the Omaha World Herald ended up covering the event. Reed also mentioned two crises that he’s handled in his career.  The most prominent was when UNO decided to drop the wrestling program.  When this was occurring, Reed was on campus all day monitoring Facebook and Twitter to make sure people weren’t making death threats.  His “favorite” about two years ago when it was the first day back to school after Christmas break and it was a snow day. The problem happened when it was unclear if UNO was going to close school the next day. He had to monitor what people were posting online and people were going crazy saying remarks like “Why do you hate your students?” “Why do you want your students to die?” and other ridiculous comments.  Although Reed has not worked in public relations outside of UNO, he has accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time and is set up for a successful career no matter what he takes on.

Meet Mike Pacholski

Mike Pacholski of UNO TV was our guest speaker this week. Pacholski was directed hundreds of live newscasts in his career.  He came to UNO after working in both commercial and corporate production.  Pacholski focused on what exactly goes on behind the scenes at a newsroom.  He explained that the role of a television director is kind of like a contractor on a construction site.  The producer has the plan and te idea of how they want the plan to roll out.  The director has the technical side and is in charge of actually executing the plan.  When coordinating live programming, there are people who specialize in every aspect of what is going on and stay on top of the front.  For example, there will be a tech director who just operates the switcher.  There is also the TD director who coordinates the script with the audio. When covering live sports, the director in the back who is in charge of the instant replay is the key character.  Also, the director has to be much more open to shots that he cannot call, Pacholski explained.  When asked why he gave up corporate video, Pacholski said that it wasn’t as rewarding for him.  He likes being open minded, and looking for facts and truth instead of staying within corporate lines.  He really missed the live television environment when he was working for corporate as he finds coordinating a team to execute a plan  exciting.  By coming to work at UNO, he was able to get back into television and is now able to share all of his experience and expertise.  He also found that he really enjoys teaching.  “You have to be open to reinvent yourself,” Pacholski said.  UNO has also helped him to reconnect to the television community that he lost while working corporate.

Interview: Chelsea Flynn

1. What was your favorite event that you covered?

2. Which event did you enjoy the most? What was most fun to attend and write about?

3. You covered a variety of topics, from Vala’s Pumpkin Patch to a sorority date party, what was your inspiration?

4. Which type of story did you enjoy most – blog summary, video, or audio?

5. Do you have plans to keep up with your Omaha entertainment story beat after this semester is finished?

Meet Cathy Wyatt

Cathy Wyatt spoke to our class on November 19.  Wyatt is well versed in basically every aspect of Public Relations.  She has done it all.  In her presentation, Wyatt shared her background and shared advice from the lessons that she has learned along the way.  Wyatt was originally a musical theater major in a small town in Iowa.  Three weeks into the semester she realized she did not want to be a musical theater major.  However, she stayed the year and took some core classes since she was on scholarship.  She then transferred to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln where she became a broadcast journalism major.  She graduated in 1987 and was hired right away at KETV as she had been an intern there. After working part time at KETV she moved to a full time position at a small operation in Cedar Rapids.  This allowed her to do everything under the sun. Wyatt advised that if you have this opportunity to learn every aspect of the business 0 take it.  Wyatt is the producer and host of  “Consider This.” She describes the job of a producer has being the hub with a lot of spokes.  Her job includes picking topics, lining up guests, and conducting the interviews.  She also produces and co-hosts “The Art of Aging.”  This is a program she created because she always wanted to do a program for older adults.  Wyatt is also a freelance writer for Omaha Lifestyles.  She writes a monthly column all about her life after 50.   In addition to this, Wyatt is employed full time for Financial Visions where she helps people navigate the healthcare system.  Although she has a very full plate, Wyatt throughly enjoys her career and is a very valuable connection to have.  The piece of advice that really stood out and will stick with me was, “When in doubt, leave it out.”

Meet Kyle Benecke

Kyle Benecke, a videographer with the Omaha World Herald spoke to our class on Monday, November 5.  Benecke graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a broadcasting degree.  He worked behind the scenes with channel 6 news, and then worked at Fox 42 for three years.  Here he learned how to shoot, edit, and take live shots from the people who had been there the longest.  Since Fox 42 was smaller, everyone had to pitch in so he was able to experience all aspects of the industry.  After Fox 42 was bought out and moved to Iowa, Benecke went out on his own for a year.  During this time he did weddings, music videos, and any job he could get.  Wanting to switch gears a bit, he annoyed the Omaha World Herald until they hired him for a videographer position.  His job includes taking videos of the scene to be included with stories. He used to out with reporters and the reporters would ask questions while he recorded the footage.  Now, he goes to the scene, asks the questions, and records the audio.  Benecke said he likes the documentary feel. Right now he is covering a lot of football, which can be tedious work.  This includes driving to Lincoln regularly, and going to all of the games.  Benecke showed us some of this favorite stories from his portfolio.  One included a story about when he visited a piano class at South High School.  This is a story that did not sound interesting to him.  Little did he know that he was going to be blown away. “When you think you’re getting a boring story, just look out – it might really turn out great,” Benecke said.  When doing a video story, Benecke advised to listen to the audio you’re recording first.  This will help you to know what video to take and will allow you to paint a picture for the audience.

Homecoming Highlights

Homecoming week this year was a great success! Maverick Productions put together a wonderful variety of events that were fun for all organizations.  The week began with the Kick-off which took place in the Criss Library.  Students were able to socialize, play games, and enjoy free food.  Monday’s event was Battleship – where teams literally tried to sink each other’s boats as they paddled along in canoes in the pool at the HPER building.  Tuesday consisted of the Free Money Game Show where students won actual cash prizes, and a Chili and Pie cook off was held in the evening. NFL Referee, Dr. Darryl Lewis spoke on Wednesday at UNOrthodox, and Hypnotist Jim Wand entertained hundreds of students Wednesday evening. Events for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday included sporting events such as volleyball, basketball, and hockey.  The final event wrapped up with the Highlighter Party that immediately followed the hockey game.  This video shows a few of many highlights.

Meet Ben Boholl

UNO graduate Ben Boholl spoke to our class on November 5.  Bohall  interned at KVNO radio station which led him to a career at NET.  As an intern, he would put promos together but never spoke on air.  Just the thought of it scared him to death.  One day he was thrown right into the fire.  His boss put him on air and had him read the news.  This was the first time he had ever experienced being life on air.  He described the situation as a nightmare.  He stumbled over every word, even saying ‘lesbian’ instead of ‘Lebanese’.  He went home crying at the disaster and never wanted to do it again.  He did have to read the news again the next day.  It went smoother this time, and eventually he fell in love with it.

Starting out Boholl was told he would never make money in this career, and he says this couldn’t be further from the truth.  “You get what you put into it,” he advised.

When he landed the job at NET he had to produce a seven minute story each week. This was long compared to the three minute stories he was used to.  Boholl told us about his first seven minute story which covered domestic violence in Hastings, NE.  This was a tough project, especially for his first one.  Since domestic violence is such a touchy subject, it was difficult to get the sources and interviewees needed.  When asked how he got in touch with the victims for the story, he described how he called people nonstop.  After talking with several organizations, people began calling back.  The hard part was not over yet though.  At the end of it all he was a wreck.  Boholl found himself dealing with some moral issues.  He didn’t want to feel like he was exploiting these victims by airing their personal stories.  Here are a few tips that Boholl discussed when speaking on-air:

  • Talk conversational – people want to feel like you’re talking to them
  • Have a picture of somebody you know nearby – act like you’re telling them the story
  • Be sincere with people – people want to know that you care about the story you’re covering

Meet Matt and Ben

This week our class was lucky enough to have Matt and Ben of Clearchannel Radio as our guest speakers.  The two were both very entertaining but also very informative.    Matt is the Imaging Director at Clearchannel, and strives to give listeners the best experience possible.  Ben’s job is to make sure commercials air on the right station and at the right time.  He also plays a huge role in all of the copywriting that is done in house. Their topic of discussion focused on “theater of the mind.”  Each station has their own demographic.  For example, Z92 is geared towards men.  The personality of the station tends to be more raunchy, and edgy.  Jokes and topics that may be considered inappropriate are more like to be heard on this station.  The goal of theater of the mind is to reinstate the image and perception the audience has of the station, and to build on that connection.  When deciding how to portray a station, the team figures out what the listener of the station looks like and what their personality is.  They think about every detail of this listener they are trying to market to.  Details include how long he’s been married, where he shops, the age of his kids, etc.  The reason people choose to listen to the radio over their iPod or Pandora a lot of times is because of the personality of the radio station.  By using the theater of the mind process, the radio station is appealing to the audience’s emotion and tries to create a connection with the listener.  Ben explained that the music is the meat that everyone goes back for, but it’s the personalities that keep people coming back.  “It’s not about the songs, it’s about what’s in between the songs.”

UNO Homecoming Week Kicks Off – Let the Games Begin!

Narrator: Each fall members of the Greek community as well as other organizations on campus look forward to Homecoming Week.  This is a time for everyone to come together and participate in a week filled with great events as well as some friendly competition.  James Reitmeier, one of the co-chairs of Maverick Productions, talks about how the week will play out:

James: [sound bite] “For the week basically we have tonight, Sunday night, Homecoming Kick-off.  It’s just basically we’re taking over the library and having a nice social opening night for all the different groups that are competing to get to hang out.  Tomorrow night we have battleship in the HPER pool – real life battleship where you’re actually in canoes and your’e trying to sink the other ones by filling up a five gallon pale and dumping it into theirs. Is it bad if I’m forgetting my schedule?! Tuesday we have the Adam Ace Free Money Game Show where basically people do minute-to-win-it competitions and they pay you if you win, literally hand you cash prizes.  Some people can win up to $250 in three minutes.   So, it’s kind of cool. Tuesday night we have the Hungry Games which is a chili and pie cook off for faculty and students. Wednesday we have Jim Wand.  He is a hypnotist from Las Vegas and he comes in every year and he hypnotises our king and queen candidates and plus a few lucky volunteers will get hypnotized. And then Thursday we have UNO Orthodox or Unorthodox which is this year it is an NFL referee that is speaking on lockout and what it is like to be an NFL referee.  Thursday night we have a blackout at the volleyball game and there will be free food for the first four hundred students.  Friday there is a red out at the new Ralston Arena for the men’s first home basketball game.  And then, Saturday we have a white out at the hockey game because the hockey players requested a white out because when people were black they can’t see them up in the stands. So we have a white out and then afterwards we have a highlighter party in the Junior Ballroom and we’re bringing in PJ Simas. from California.

Narrator: Throughout the week a few students will be competing for UNO Homecoming Queen and King as well.  There are thirteen candidates campaigning this year.  James said he is most looking forward to seeing incredible amounts of different student groups coming together and sharing something special such as our college and our college spirit.

For the UNO School of Communication, I’m Jillian McClenahan.


For further details and updates, check out the Homecoming Week Facebook Events:

#UNOHomecoming Week Part 1!

#UNOHomecoming Week Part 2!