Several IUP students and alumni co-wrote and published a book with journalism and public relations professor Dr. Erick Lauber.
The book, “Your Kid’s World Today,” lists May 2020 graduate Katie Mest as a co-author alongside Lauber. The other contributors are Seth Woolcock, Lily Whorl (2019 journalism and public relations graduates), Desmond Brown (2020 journalism and public relations graduate), Morgan Rhin (2020 marketing graduate) and Megan Donny (senior, fashion merchandising and journalism and public relations).
“Your Kid’s World Today” is a compilation of 53 articles and blog posts from the website Lauber ran with the students called DecodingTodaysYouth.com, according to Lauber.
He said the blog was created as a result of a grant he received about two-and-a-half years ago to meet with parents to discuss substance abuse problems in today’s youth.
“We designed what we thought was an excellent program, and we bought pizza and soda, and we had Walmart gift cards, and we got almost no attendance,” Lauber said. “We just couldn’t get parents to come talk to us.”
He said face-to-face meetings just weren’t working.
“And that didn’t sit well with me because I’ve got three kids,” Lauber said. “They went through school; I know their issues; I know the world is different today than it was when I grew up.”
“The initial concept was opioid-prevention-based,” Woolcock said.
But, that changed when Lauber and the team found out that many parents have quite a large knowledge gap concerning today’s youth. So, they switched courses with the blog.
“The premise is to tell parents things that they should know about their kids that they just don't,” Mest said.
According to Mest, the blog discussed things like technology, mental health issues and “how parenting has evolved” since today’s parents were teens.
Since college students were only a few years away from being teenagers, they helped Lauber understand what issues today’s youth are facing.
So, he brainstormed with his team of students about what methods would best reach parents, which led to the blog.
“Posts about newer topics like vaping and TikTok got lots of traction online because parents don’t understand them,” Lauber said. “The blog posts would get ‘hundreds of clicks’ on Facebook, but since not everybody uses Facebook, the idea for a book came about.”
His team took the best things from the blog and added some new content for the book.
However, writing a book wasn’t all peaches and cream.
The hardest part of converting a blog to a book, according to Mest, was figuring out what to do with the links in the blog posts. Online, readers could click all the links that were referenced to find different articles, but that wasn’t an option in print, so the team had to come up with a way to circumnavigate that.
Lauber also said that laying out the book proved to be difficult.
“Katie Mest just stepped up to the plate and did a lot of layout,” he said.
“Another issue was making the content in the book ‘evergreen,’ or be as valuable today as it will be a few years down the line,” Woolcock said.
Both Mest and Woolcock cited their work with Lauber as being integral to launching their careers.
Mest got experience with search engine optimization (SEO), which led to her current job as SEO specialist for Storage Asset Management in York.
Woolcock said that, from his training as a journalism student, working with Lauber taught him the concept of demographics and target audiences and led him down more of a public relations and marketing path.
“I made my own brand… that wouldn’t have gotten a start without Dr. Lauber and his teachings,” Woolcock said.
“It was really cool to work with Dr. Lauber on this project because a lot of skills that he taught us in his multimedia courses were the same things we applied to the blog in different projects,” Mest said.
Mest and Woolcock had some advice to share with IUP students.
“In general, students should take advantage of opportunities presented by professors,” Mest said.
“It’s nice to experience that when you have a team behind you who understands where you’re coming from,” she said.
“No matter how good you think you are at something, there’s always room to improve,” Woolcock said. “Accept feedback and don’t be afraid to go back and fix things.”
“Digital is such a powerful way to go [in regards to journalism and public relations],” Woolcock said. “It’s a great way to give yourself a platform.”
Though, he also advised not to focus solely on internet-based career paths.
There is value in having “something solid, something physical to read,” he said.
Even though the book is published, Lauber isn’t planning on slowing down.
Since the book was planned months in advance, there isn’t a lot of information regarding COVD-19, but publishing another book with that information isn’t the wisest decision, either. COVID-19 may not be as big of an issue in the time it would take to write and publish another book.
“The problem, of course, is being timely,” Lauber said.
“You have to play the game of ‘where is the energy gonna be best spent.’”
Lauber is also considering going into podcasting with a new team of students to reach an even larger audience. He likes educating the public, especially parents, he said.
“I would recommend to IUP students to stay in touch with your younger siblings and be a role model and help discourage the kinds of behaviors that we know are not healthy,” Lauber said.