A Bit Of Online Etiquette: A thank you to the PR industry

I have a confession… I never wanted to start this blog.

Flickr – Frank Gruber

It happened because of a module I chose at uni and I wasn’t terrible enthused by the idea of blogging about a course I wasn’t even sure I particularly enjoyed.

But now I’m so glad I did!

I’ve always been a keen writer, even if it was just daft short stories, I find something therapeutic in typing out the voice in my head.

Not only has this blog helped me to keep sane with regards to my course, but it’s got me noticed – and that’s a really bizarre thing for a bog-standard, average 20-year-old.

Flickr – John Sutton

It’s lovely to think my rantings, ravings, complainings and whinings have been appreciated by some out there, and even better that people have told me they can relate! Maybe I’m not crazy…

So, I owe a very big thank you to those who have shown support, those who have appreciated my work and those who have helped me along the way.

Firstly thanks to my lecturers at the University of Sunderland – Chris Rushton and Diane Green have put up with my, let’s say, “ambitious” and “keen” attitude. I’ve learned a lot in the past two years and this blog wouldn’t exist otherwise.

Thank you to the wonderful Louise Robinson, there for me when my faith was feigning and a mentor who is an inspiration. I start an internship with Louise on Monday at her new consultancy Creo Communications and I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck in to some great projects with the guidance from a true pro!

Next, a thank you to Ross Wigham, getting to guest blog on his blog was such an honor as well as a confidence boost – the first time I thought this blog wasn’t all for nothing.

Thank you to Anne-Marie Bailey, her guest lectures were so helpful and inspirational. She blogged her way into great jobs and her tips are (hopefully!) helping me do the same.

A gigantic thank you to Richard Bailey, editor of Behind The Spin magazine – choosing me for the top PR blogs of the week 3 times was honor enough but winning the #bestPRblogs was incredible. 

Yes it’s all helped with my confidence, but it’s all helped with my networking too – there’s a few people out there who know my name now and I couldn’t be more thankful for the support I’ve received.

I’m so glad I’ve stepped into an industry that seems genuinely supportive and everyone seems so happy to see others succeed.

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PR Students: Why you should get blogging

Blogging. Nowadays it seems like everyone has a blog.

For me it was a way to get my creative side out when I was stuck behind a barrage of critical theory essays, and simply for the love of writing.

But why would I recommend PR students have their own blogs?

I’m not talking about setting up a platform to chronicle your dinner everyday or the movements of your pets (personally I keep that on my Instagram). Blogging is a realm to create debate, discuss issues with like-minded people and to find your voice.

For those of you wanting to set up your own blog but haven’t a clue, this short video below is really helpful for the initial steps:

Truth is, us PR students are constantly writing – whether it’s those dull theoretical essays, creative online content or structured news releases. A blog gives you the chance to start finding your own way of writing, to start figuring out a writing style that you can fit into any format to have your unique voice in every piece you do.

Having a blog can be a mini portfolio for employers to look at – see your writing skills, your knowledge and interests, and get to know you beyond your CV.

Most importantly a blog can help you get noticed. 

While it may be very commonplace now that everyone has a blog you can always try your best to stand out. When I first started this blog I wasn’t sure which way I’d attack it but it turns out giving student advice is something people want – so that’s the way it’s gone. It may not be earth-shatteringly original but for the moment I’m enjoying my time finding my voice.

I’ve now been featured in the #bestprblogs by @behindthespin twice and I’ll be honest, it felt really good to have someone recognise my work. But you’ve got to get out there in the first place!

Recently we had a guest lecturer at Sunderland – Anne-Marie Bailey. She came to speak to us about how to make our blogs stand out, after all, she is rather an expert.

Anne-Marie studied her masters here at Sunderland and she also set up a blog during her time here. Maybe a bit more courageous than most, she interviewed practicing professionals in the industry to have their tips and knowledge on her blog. Using #raisingtheprofile Anne-Marie continued the discussion with professionals across Twitter and was quickly noticed as a ‘rising star’. She was offered a job before she’d even graduated. Read Anne-Marie’s blog here: http://raisingtheprofile.wordpress.com/

It’s always nice having guest lecturers – a different face and a fresher knowledge base as most are still working in the industry. But knowing it was only a few short years ago that Anne-Marie was sitting in the same lecture hall I was and has already had such a successful career, well it’s inspiring stuff!

So PR students take heed – blogging can help your career. Just remember to leave the cats and selfies for something a little more private!

PR For The Facebook Generation – The challenges and opportunities we face

PR is a relatively new industry in relation to the other media giants like journalism and advertising, so it’s constantly changing.

Flickr – slowshooting

Public relations, to me, is an industry that needs to naturally evolve with the times because it’s all about relevance and being on-trend. While practitioners are now highly engaged with social media, the industry still holds onto the traditional media.

The traditional printed media, while suffering cuts and circulation declines, will always be a vital component in a practitioner’s tool belt. And journalists will probably always prefer emails and face to face contact rather than PRs selling stories through Twitter direct messages or private chat on Facebook. 

But what does this mean for the up-and-coming PRs?

Studying at university was never really in my life plan, despite the fact I’ve always been very academic. I wanted to start my career and get my teeth into the real world as soon as I could. But a degree was necessary, and my brain wasn’t quite done with education just yet. School taught me to study – books are my best friends and academic journals even better.

While I was constantly learning from things already written and examples that had happened, I’d never been told to listen to the current world too.

What’s most daunting about being a PR from my generation is that we’re thrown in at the deep end and out of our comfort zone when it comes to consuming media.

Flickr – Tim Peters

We are so used to getting the news from apps on our phones rather than newspapers. We’re in the habit of spotting trends on Twitter and Facebook rather than magazines. 

Understanding publications, their audience, focus, deadlines and style is paramount in achieving the right coverage, or in most cases, any coverage at all. And this is where PRs of my generation will feel so overwhelmed.

There’s so many newspapers for starters. Nationals, regionals and locals all have different requirements. Then there’s magazines – even wider ranging in their focus and audience. That’s not even starting on trade publications which have even more specialised requirements. 

And that’s just printed media. The tip of the iceberg before we get onto broadcast – television and radio are a whole other kettle of fish to comprehend. 

Flickr – State Library Qeensland

The only way to understand these publications is reading them regularly and consistently. But there’s just so many, that starting this late on provides a bit of a disadvantage. Not to mention that generally the majority of students now rarely have two coins to rub together, and unfortunately there’s more necessary things to buy than a newspaper.

But we do have one key advantage

Our knowledge of social media is second to none. We were brought up on it. 

I may not be an expert, but I’ve used various social media platforms for many years and know their audience, who it reaches and doesn’t, what types of campaigns work best and which don’t. We’re tech savvy us young’uns. And that is what existing PR agencies and in-house teams need – the new stuff.

To me, it feels like we’re stepping into an industry that needs us, but we still need the traditional experts too. 

Flickr – Chris Pirillo

It’s always going to be difficult understanding a new media – whether it’s existing professionals understanding social or our fresh faces understanding print and broadcast. The trick is exposing yourself to what you don’t know.

I’m familiar with quite a few papers from having them in the house from my parents. But I’ll admit I never read the sports pages or any celebrity gossip.

We can never tell what projects and assignments will fall into our laps. Whatever subject it is we are expected to become experts. But what we should always be experts in is the media. Every shape, form and size of it.

How To Be A Good First Year PR Student – Top tips

I don’t profess myself to be an expert, but we tend to take advice from peers over theorists with a thousand books under their belt – illogical really, but I’m happy to pass on my top tips to get your first year right. While it may not matter to your final degree it’s still the foundations on which you’ll build your next two years which do contribute to your final grade.

Essay Writing

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If you ever need to write an essay on the effectiveness of PR – Averill Gordon is your best friend. Always refer to the ‘two-way symmetrical communication model‘ (Gordon, 2012:56). In the real working world theoretical approaches and studies aren’t really used day-to-day (frankly, if ever) but this is one I’ve always kept in my head as an ‘ideal’ – in a nutshell, an organisation and a public communicating back and forth and both parties adjusting to one another.

I highly recommend her book ‘Public Relations’ for first year – it’s easy to read and provides a lot of other theories and approaches to various aspects of the profession which are great for references in essays.

Speaking of which – learn to reference. Referencing drives me round the bend and back, probably because I had about 6 hours of being taught how to do it properly. It’s just a simple formula to follow and saves your skin when it comes to checking for plagiarism. And my top tip – do it first. Don’t write an essay with quotes you ‘will reference later’ – trying to find quotes again to references them is so incredibly tedious and takes forever, save yourself time by getting all this admin stuff out the way first.

Flickr – Tim Riley

Since I first began writing academic essays I’ve always been taught to PEE. And I can’t tell you how many jokes teachers made saying that sentence. Definitely worth an eye-roll. To PEE effectively first you must make your point, a single sentence should suffice. Follow this up with your evidence, the quote to support your comment (included with reference!). Then go on to explain your point in detail, but be as concise as possible. My top tip is to continually question – make a point, but consider what others say, consider how relevant it is, bring in other ideas and question the connections etc.

Writing News Releases

In first year news release assessments were roughly 2 hours long and only required 300 words. Sometimes it’s about pulling out a really dry brief to hit the target, other times it’s about clipping and snipping out the least relevant information to get down to the limit. It’s difficult to give advice on news releases because their so content-dependent, but here’s a few tips I can offer:

– Use simple sentence structures – remember you’re writing to get into a newspaper, write like a journalist.
– Be as to the point as possible – word limits are half the challenge of becoming a successful writer
Remember your client – something Chris Rushton always said was that you have to be schizophrenic to be good at PR; meet the needs of your client and meet the needs of journalists by being able to take each standpoint simultaneously.

Research

Flickr – Colin

 

Research for essays shouldn’t just be books – make sure you look at academic journals and online sources too. The CIPR website has an abundance of articles that are brilliant for your essays. Don’t forget ‘PR Week’, as a CIPR member I get this through my door monthly and it’s proved invaluable for having experts to quote in my essays.

Research for your campaigns shouldn’t be continually within the remit of your friends and through social media. It’s the easiest way to get survey responses but think – is that really the public you’re targeting and the best way to target them? As scary as it is you need to start getting out and talking to people outside of your friendship group. Research for a campaign is the basis for everything you’ll plan so it’s best to get it right.

Networking

Flickr – Paul Wilson

 

It’s not absolutely necessary to have a contact book full of PR practitioners at this stage, but it’s a good time to start making connections. Guest lecturers are excellent contacts to have and easy to make because they’re in your classroom – they’re expert enough to lecture but they’re still working professionals in touch with the industry now.

You’re probably not ready for a proper PR job yet, and probably not confident enough yet either, which is why placements and work experience are invaluable to you. In my first year they weren’t required, but they were in my second. When it came to everyone finding placements, those who had connections were sorted and the stress was lifted early – think about your CV and practice emails that explain the skills you’ve learned and why you’d be good for the organisation you’re applying to – it’s great you’ll get something out of it, but show them what’s in it for them.

Social Media

Flickr – Mindy McAdams

I’m entirely guilty of previously using Twitter as a way to vent my anger or complain about my immune system (I’m convinced it’s conspiring against me). But now employers are starting to look at your social footprint and if you’re like me, it’s best to delete the plethora of grumpy tweets and indirect venting at one of your followers you dislike – time to stop being so ‘high school’. What you put online can be seen by everyone and employers are increasingly checking your profiles. I heard recently of an organisation asking for an impressive Instagram portfolio… mine’s pretty much just of my cats… oopsie.

Think about what you’re putting online, you may (like me) not actually be a grumpy person, but use social media as a good way to vent, but that will be the image you put across.

 

So there are my top tips to do well in first year. Best of luck with the essays and campaigns, fingers crossed with making important connections, and I hope you have many fun hours deleting years of grumpy tweets!