Weblogs remove many of the constraints on traditional print publications. They are cheap (or free) to produce and distribute; publishing is immediate; you can potentially reach a global audience; there is no editor to block or rewrite your words. Welcome to the world of personal publishing!
There are many good reasons for students to blog and here are some of the best:
- Your blog becomes your CV (resume)
- Your blog can be assessed as PR practice coursework
- Blogging is a great way to learn from others
- It helps you develop writing and technical skills
- It allows you to ‘meet’ people and develop a network
Done well, PR student/young practitioner blogs are a shop window for talented and ambitious people. Here are some notable examples:
- Erin Caldwell (PR graduate in US who was hired by Edelman because they already knew of her through her blogging initiatives)
- Chloe Chaplin (started blogging as a first year student; her efforts brought her to the attention of the CIPR)
- Stephen Davies (the UK’s original PR student blogger; his blog helped him secure a placement with LEWIS and a graduate job with Edelman in London)
- Heather Smith (mature student on a Writing for Media degree course who uses her blog to showcase her writing skills)
- Paull Young (the original Young PR consultant; this Australian is a consummate international networker through his blogging, listing and podcasting efforts)
It’s easy to start a blog; but it’s not easy to sustain one or to develop it into one of the best in its category (there’s plenty of competition). So while blogging may be a good idea in principle, it can turn bad in practice. (Be aware: some employees have been sacked for their blogs; some have been reprimanded because of their work-related blogs.)
Here are some reasons not to blogger:
- Any lazy thinking and poor writing skills will be exposed to scrutiny and criticism – perhaps many years from now. (It’s an instant publishing medium, but not a disposable one.)
- Employers may judge you on your blog: does it show insight, determination and an ability to learn? In short, have you shown that you have what it takes? Or does it show you to be a gossip who just can’t keep confidences?
- Publicity is easy; a good reputation is much harder to gain and sustain. A student blog about your ‘sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll’ lifestyle might gain you short-term publicity. But think: will it impress a potential employer; will it please your mother?
- Most people are encouraging, but the anonymity of screen-and-keyboard encourages some to be rude. You may need to develop a thick skin.
Bloggers are individuals (though there are some good group blogs too). Here are some of the characteristics demonstrated by the best bloggers:
- They join the conversation. Posting comments on other blogs shows you’re an active participant in the community. It also gets your name out there, and will bring traffic to your blog.
- They have something to say. Since you can’t be an expert in everything, the best bloggers pick their niche, and become useful commentators in this subject.
- They have something to show. New media is by definition new to everyone; many bloggers are happy to share tips and techniques. The best think visually as well as verbally.
- They speak up frequently. In general, the more often you post, the more traffic you will build. But if you talk over others in a conversation when you’ve nothing to say, people will start ignoring you. Good bloggers post frequently – but only when they have something to say.
- They build networks. Linking to others writing about your subject helps build your credibility; it also encourages others to link back to you, so boosting your traffic and your Google PageRank.
- They get there first. The web is a good place for recycled information (‘the long tail‘): but someone has to initiate ideas and information. There’s a premium placed on being first with the news.
- They weigh their words. Speed can count against quality, yet the best bloggers are considered even when they’re being quick. No one wants to read thousands of words on screen, so your few words must have meaning and impact. ‘Think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible’ is good advice from The Economist Style Guide.
Just because you’re free to say whatever you like doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. (What answer should you give if a friend asks: ‘does my bum look big in this?’) In practice, there are legal and cultural constraints on free speech.
For a code to be effective, it needs to be memorable. The best example I’ve seen comes in just eight words: ‘Blog smart, cause no harm to any person‘.
To provide some context, let’s take a look at the Hippocratic Oath that has been of use to doctors since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Derived from this, our student blogging code has only one point, plus some clarifications:
- First, seek to do no harm
- Avoid damaging your own reputation, or the university’s, or anyone else’s
- Tell the truth, and wherever possible check your facts
- Respect confidentiality (not everything you hear is for public information)
- Retain some privacy (‘safety first’)
- Big Blog Company: All about blogs
Blogging style guides
- Joi Ito: Writing style and blogging
- Rebecca Blood: Ten Tips For A Better Weblog
- Telegraph blogging style guide
Blogging policies, guides and disclaimers
- Parry Aftab: Bebo safety tips
- Tom Drugan: The College Student’s Guide to Managing Online Reputation
- Charlene Li: blogging policy examples
- Feedster corporate blogging policy
- Hill and Knowlton blogging policies and guidelines
- NewPR Wiki Blogging Policy links
- PR Voice blogging policy
- Rebecca Blood: weblog ethics
Blog hosting and blogging software (mostly free)
15 June 2007
7 November 2006
Facebook face off, Education Guardian, 7 November 2006
20 October 2006
The Scobles’ top 10 (er, 15) tips for bloggers (via Forward)
14 October 2006
The College Student’s Guide to Managing Online Reputation (PDF) is a scary but important overview of how your online presence can turn bad. Via the University of Sunderland Weblogs module with thanks to Philip Young for the link.
18 September 2006
13 July 2006
14 July 2006
Here’s a case study of a blog being your shop window, your CV and your portfolio. Graduating PR student Alex Pullin was contacted by The Guardian newspaper through her blog and asked to review some books for graduate job-seekers. Read the account in her words.
21 July 2006
25 July 2006
Government acts on cyber-bullies (BBC News Online, 25 July 2006 with links to sources).
18 August 2006
I’ve added a link to the useful safety tips for Bebo users.