This week, Princeton Writes held the inaugural workshop in a new 10-part series designed to explore the multiple ways in which Princeton’s stories can be told in writing, addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by different media, genres, processes, and messaging considerations. First up was “Mastering Social Media,” led by Dan Day, director of news and editorial services in Princeton’s Office of Communications, and Eric Wilkens, social media coordinator and writer in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
In a dynamic 90-minute session, Day and Wilkens brought their collective experience to bear on Facebook and Twitter, where connections with a diverse – and increasingly distracted – audience must be established in a few well-chosen words. From broad principles (keep things simple) to tricks of the trade (posts with exclamation points generate more engagement than those without), they guided participants through the brave new world of social media. Like every workshop in the series, this one included a hands-on exercise – creating a tweet and a post based on President Christopher L. Eisgruber’s installation address and on Woodrow Wilson School-sponsored research. In the words of one participant, this exercise “was a good reminder that there are many ‘right ways’ to create a post,” and, in a sense, that is the message of the specialized communications curriculum: as Day put it, “good writing is good writing,” but it manifests itself in many forms.
In the first phase of this curriculum, four topics in addition to “Mastering Social Media” will be addressed: “Writing for the Web,” “Translating Science and Technology,” “Crafting an Effective News Story,” and “Writing with the Media and Outside World in Mind.” Each of these workshops is fully subscribed, with a long waiting list, but Princeton Writes will re-offer them next year. Registration for the second phase of the curriculum will open in December, with workshops on “Becoming a Better Editor,” “Telling Your Story Through Feature Articles,” “Communicating Inclusively,” “Capturing Other Lives Through Introductions and Citations,” and “Demystifying Marketing.” Those who participate in at least eight workshops will receive a certificate of completion at a celebratory luncheon next June.
While participants can expect to learn a lot, enhancing their effectiveness, the workshops have another benefit. “Each session is taught by two seasoned communicators drawn from different corners of the University,” notes John S. Weeren, director of Princeton Writes. “Teachers learn when they teach, and when they co-teach, this process is accelerated. Princeton has some wonderfully gifted ‘writer-teachers’ on its staff, and to bring them together in a way that reinforces their skills while placing their talents at the service of others will have lasting benefits for all concerned.”