Guidelines for PR student blogs

11 Jul

Prstudent Why blog?

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)

Blogger beware

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.

Best blogs

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.

Blogging code

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’)

SOURCES

About blogs

Blogging style guides

Blogging policies, guides and disclaimers

Blog hosting and blogging software (mostly free)

Research studies

UPDATES

15 June 2007

Facebook etiquette: my thoughts

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

Iain Dale has written a guide to political blogging for the BBC, at the start of the party conference season.

13 July 2006

Steve Field, commenting at Forward, makes the excellent point that the ‘care and feeding’ of a blog takes time. He warns that not everyone will want this commitment.

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

Experienced blogger-podcaster Neville Hobson has written his terms of use including his statement of intent. I’ve added the link under ‘blogging policies’ above.

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.

25 Responses to “Guidelines for PR student blogs”

  1. Heather Smith 11/07/2006 at 4:46 pm #

    Wise words and a good source of interesting and relevant links here – thanks.
    I agree with the ‘Blog smart’ quote.
    I was once asked by a lecturer in the middle of a seminar if he could show Laterstudy as an example of a blog to other students. Before I’d had chance to reply I could see him typing in the address. I knew that resistance was futile.
    As I watched my words appear on the screen infront of the class did I say a silent prayer of thanks that I hadn’t let rip about one of the lectures the night before?
    You bet I did.

  2. Richard Bailey 11/07/2006 at 6:18 pm #

    Perhaps I too should have checked with you before putting you in the gallery – but at least I only have positive things to say about Laterstudy. ‘Do no harm’…

  3. Stephen Davies 11/07/2006 at 6:36 pm #

    Great set of guidelines, Richard. Clear, concise and to the point.
    If I can be a pain, you could add the WordPress.com as well as WordPress.org to the list of blogging software too. WordPress.org is free but you need to rent your own host whereas WordPress.com is a free online blogging platform.
    Are the Leeds Met PR students blogging next academic year?

  4. Philip Young 11/07/2006 at 7:05 pm #

    Thanks, Richard! This is a very useful piece – and not only for students. You could have added “Good bloggers are happy to give” – which is one reason why PR Studies is a required read.

  5. Richard Bailey 11/07/2006 at 9:47 pm #

    You see: you can teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve amended the WordPress entry to the free version.

  6. Erin Caldwell 12/07/2006 at 12:04 am #

    Bravo, Richard! You’ve done a great job pulling together some really outstanding advice. I wish I’d had a good set of guidelines like these to refer to when I got started! Concise … and yet thorough. Thanks for the resource!

  7. Paull Young 12/07/2006 at 1:09 am #

    Richard,
    This is a brilliant post, well done, and thanks for the mention.
    My advice to PR students looking to start blogging would be to not be shy about contacting their young blogging peers.
    We’ve just gone through an identical process to them, and we don’t have the heavy time constraints and overflowing email inboxes of the big guys in the industry.
    I can’t speak for all my peers (check my list of Young PR bloggers on the New PR Wiki, or my squidoo lens above), but I know that I’d be more than happy (and quite frankly, excited) to have a chat with any young PR pro thinking of getting into blogging.
    It’s all about conversations and relationships – and I’ve found the many young PR bloggers I’ve spoken to to all be extremely friendly.
    Students, after following Richard’s advice above – don’t be frightened about saying g’day to those of us who are blazing the trail!

  8. Paull Young 12/07/2006 at 1:09 am #

    Richard,
    This is a brilliant post, well done, and thanks for the mention.
    My advice to PR students looking to start blogging would be to not be shy about contacting their young blogging peers.
    We’ve just gone through an identical process to them, and we don’t have the heavy time constraints and overflowing email inboxes of the big guys in the industry.
    I can’t speak for all my peers (check my list of Young PR bloggers on the New PR Wiki, or my squidoo lens above), but I know that I’d be more than happy (and quite frankly, excited) to have a chat with any young PR pro thinking of getting into blogging.
    It’s all about conversations and relationships – and I’ve found the many young PR bloggers I’ve spoken to to all be extremely friendly.
    Students, after following Richard’s advice above – don’t be frightened about saying g’day to those of us who are blazing the trail!

  9. Michael Morton 12/07/2006 at 2:51 am #

    Richard,
    Like everyone else, I agree that this is an excellent and most needed post.
    I definitely agree with your advice about having a thick skin. Part of becoming an expert in your niche means sticking to your guns when others disagree with you. There will always be bloggers who will disagree with your opinion. Sometimes these bloggers leave snide comments or write cynical posts about you in there own blog.
    My advice, when faced with such a situation, is to always take the high road. Acknowledge there opinion and state your case, but never get into a blogging feud.

  10. Karel Mc Intosh 12/07/2006 at 4:14 am #

    Great article. Another thing I try to bear in mind when blogging is to try to give content that gives the reader something. Don’t let someone leave your blog empty-handed. Even if it’s one new piece of information, at least they may have learned something new.

  11. David Phillips 12/07/2006 at 10:27 am #

    Fab. This is just great. Thanks Richard.
    Can I plagiarise it for the book?

  12. Richard Bailey 12/07/2006 at 11:48 am #

    Of course you can use this, David. I’m an open source, public domain, free speech sort of person. (I’ve just emerged from an academic workshop that touched on plagiarism. I choose to remain silent on this topic to avoid controversy…)

  13. Richard Millington 12/07/2006 at 12:21 pm #

    Agree entirely. I began working in PR with no experience or education and have used blogs/wikis as my entire theoretical reference. There is a staggering amount of information avaliable for people of all levels.

  14. Paull Young 13/07/2006 at 8:26 am #

    And another piece of advice:
    While a blog can become your online resume, don’t write it with that goal in mind.
    Write for yourself, write for a selected target audience and write about your passion.
    Don’t just write for prospective employers. But, make sure you are aware that they will, eventually, be reading!

  15. Chloe Chaplin 13/07/2006 at 11:44 pm #

    I’m very impressed with your guidelines Richard! I tried to find something as clear and concise as this when starting my blog not so long ago…I didn’t have much luck though!
    Hopefully this will encourage the new PR students to go ahead and create blogs of their own!
    Thank you for the mention. I must admit, I do let my blog down by not writing as often as I should do but hopefully as I gain more experience I will improve on this!
    One piece of advice I would definitely give to anyone wanting to start a blog is to make sure they some level of commitment to writing for it. I don’t think it’s essential to write all the time (this is not always feasible anyway) but a PR blog does need to be ongoing. In my opinion, it’s definitely better to not have a blog at all than to start one up and later abandon it!

  16. Karen Russell 17/07/2006 at 3:42 pm #

    Excellent post. I’m really glad you wrote this and even happier that you shared — it exemplifies the best of what social media have to offer. You can be sure that lots of University of Georgia students will be reading it in the coming year!

  17. Chris Clarke 18/07/2006 at 11:40 pm #

    I think this is a great resource, very thorough, well-written…and even though “blog smart” is reference, I feel slighted not to be named among the PR student bloggers turned industry pros. I don’t know if you’re unaware or not, but I did get hired at Thornley Fallis based on my blog and my knowledge of social media. Just thought you’d be interested to know in case you missed it in Joe Thornley’s “Blog Smart” post.

  18. Richard Bailey 19/07/2006 at 9:50 am #

    Thanks, Chris. I am aware that you were the inspiration for the ‘blog smart’ policy and am happy to give you credit for this (I link to you in my blogroll). I’m aware that my very small sample of student and young PR blogs was only a selection – but was rather more concerned that I’m only crediting one of my students in this list. If I’d included all the good examples they should be aspiring to, I fear I might have put them off blogging.

  19. Ian Benet 13/10/2006 at 9:54 am #

    Really useful piece. Will certainly make me consider any future posts.

  20. Jaclyn Humphreys 13/10/2006 at 9:55 am #

    I think this is a great help to budding bloggers like myself. Thanks for all the tips!

  21. eironae: [ahy-ruh-nee] 31/10/2006 at 9:06 pm #

    Student blogging policies

    Im working on compiling resources for student blogging policies. My specific situation applies to higher ed, but Im sure there are facets of all student age group policies that can be utilized. Ill be pulling best practices out of…

  22. Ren 24/02/2007 at 6:20 pm #

    Thanks for this Richard. It’s a useful introduction to blogging and a styleguide too. After reading it, I hope I can do my budding blog some justice!

  23. Mark Desgranges 10/08/2007 at 10:17 pm #

    Hi Richard,
    THis web site is useful for people wanting to make links and learn the ins and outs of blogging.
    Mark
    http://marksmedia.blogspot.com

  24. Narindwa_Lea Mgonja 06/09/2007 at 10:18 am #

    Hello i am Narindwa_Lea a PR student and i was just serching via google and find this intresting site.is very good.keep it up.

  25. Greg Smith (PR Lab) 19/10/2007 at 7:38 am #

    Hi, Richard
    My PR Techniques students at Edith Cowan University started doing it this year with blogs for one media project on Facebook. Next year they will be writing a weekly blog for one semester on an issue of their choice; hoping to engage with key audiences. It’s a test of their writing and ability to connect online. They hate writing🙂
    Regards,
    – Greg

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