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How to make friends and influence employers

12 Nov

Some of our new student bloggers can draw inspiration from this. Allie Osmar looks back on a year of blogging and podcasting, and lists the benefits: improved writing skills, new friendships, a great job (at Edelman, need I say?), and a flow of new ideas.


10 Nov
  • The Economist puts blogging into perspective (Oh, grow up). It’s no longer new and exciting – but it has entered the mainstream. Is that so bad?
  • Facebook’s also no longer new, but it’s unquestionably popular. And it’s continuing to grow. The reassuring thing is that it does such normal, conventional things: it allows people to talk to their friends and form communities of interest.
  • I’m putting some time and energy into the PR student magazine, Behind the Spin after a long, sleepy summer break (what’s the summer equivalent of hibernation: estivation?). There’s some new content up there with more to follow. And we’re always looking for ideas and for articles; check it out.

Ordure! Ordure!

29 Oct

Merde. After five years of hard-earned and well-merited obscurity, this blog is up for an award tonight. The Flackenhack category – Wank 2.0: User Generated Twat.

I can’t make it tonight. But I hope I’ll be able to take those on the shortlist out for dinner some day: I’d be honoured to spend some time with Ben Hammersley, Jeff Jarvis, Richard Millington and Brendan Cooper. May the best blogger not win!

Bloggers: the party’s over

23 Oct

It’s a classic article that’s already creating lots of chatter: Wired magazine’s Twitter, Flickr, Facebook make blogs look so 2004.

The author’s right: blogging’s slow, it’s boring, it doesn’t generate buzz. If you want to make friends, go on Facebook; if you want to influence people, try Twitter.

Thing is, from the same facts I’ve reached a different conclusion. I think Facebook and Twitter (so 2008) may just have saved blogging. Blogging’s relative slowness and the need for considered, self-contained posts makes it an ideal place for reflection. As the speed and quantity of posts has declined, the quality has been increasing.

Reflection may sound rather academic; so let me recommend a well-aimed rant that reminds me why I still love blogging. Just don’t tell Tom Murphy that blogging’s dead; that would really fire him up.

Publish, then filter

19 Oct

John Naughton celebrates an approximate tenth anniversary of blogging in his Observer column. (I’m a newbie who started blogging elsewhere in 2001, though PR Studies has only been going for five years.)

He quotes Andrew Sullivan who sees blogging as a new literary genre and Clay Shirky who sees it as the mass amateurisation of publishing: ‘publish, then filter’.

Blogging briefing

18 Oct

‘A little less conversation, a little more action please’… After two days of talking it’s time to change pace and invite a new group of practitioner-students to carry on the discussions on their blogs. (Of course, conversation counts as action in our world). Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Set up your blog. I recommend WordPress (though quite ‘techie’, it’s open source, industry standard and free); there’s a ready-made forum for your PR-focused WordPress blog at PR From then on, it’s about content, conections and community:
  2. Content: Have any ideas in class sparked your interest? What are other PR bloggers writing about? What’s going on in the world? What have you been reading? So many questions… How will you write about it (short and frequent posts probably work better than long and occasional ones).
  3. Connections. Think link: is your blog a stepping stone to other sources and ideas? Are you begining to get noticed (inbound links, comments, RSS subscriptions)? Remember that Technorati authority will be one of the ways of evaluating your efforts.
  4. Community. Who cares? Diarists throughout history have been content to write for themselves (and occasionally for posterity). That’s a good start point. If what you write has some value to a handful of people whose commentary also interests you, then you will have developed a valuable community. Some blogs have a wider reach than newspapers; most are better for focusing on small, niche interests. Join PROpenMic and let this vibrant community of PR students, practitioners and faculty know about your blogs.

Some key guidelines. Get started before the end of October, and communicate your blog’s URL by the usual channels (email, social networks, class wiki page). You need to keep your blog running for three months: it will be formally assessed after the end of January 2009. My guidelines for PR student blogs may still help, though much has changed in the last two years.

A ‘two-way symmetrical’ with James Grunig

16 Oct

You must have noticed. The emergence of Twitter (twitch-speed) and Facebook (fun, frivolous and frankly personal) has allowed blogging to settle into a comfortably reflective niche in the personal publishing ecosystem.

This means it’s suitable for discussing, debating and disseminating ideas – but preferably in everyday language (note how Seth Godin does this, but not the debating bit). PR Conversations has lived up to its name by debating public relations and social media with James Grunig.

Here’s the key discussion point I take out of this. James Grunig says:

I think public relations is headed in two incompatible directions… I call these two competing approaches to public relations the symbolic, interpretive, paradigm and the strategic management, behavioral, paradigm.

Practitioners who follow the interpretive paradigm emphasize messages, publicity, media relations, and media effects to put up a smoke screen around the organization so publics cannot see the organization’s behavior as it truly is.

In contrast, the behavioral, strategic management, paradigm focuses on the participation of public relations executives in strategic decision-making so that they can help manage the behavior of organizations…The strategic management paradigm emphasizes two-way communication of many kinds to provide publics a voice in management decisions and to facilitate dialogue between management and publics both before and after decisions are made. The strategic management paradigm does not exclude traditional public relations activities such as media relations and the dissemination of information.

I see public relations moving in both directions. I hope it will move away from the interpretive approach and become more of a strategic management approach. I have done everything I could do in my career to move it in that direction. However, I believe practitioners who emphasize marketing communication and media relations in their work are pushing hard to maintain the interpretive approach.

This is a good start point for our discussions in the class running on Friday and Saturday.

Open source marking: measuring student blogs

22 May

Technorati 32 blogs over three and a half months. Hundreds of posts, comments, links, loads of statistics. Which are the useful measures when it comes to putting a cold number down on paper?

Google PageRank is too crude, though there was a scale – from 0 to 3. Alexa has little to say about novice blogs. A count of posts and comments is useful: generally speaking, a blog with 20 posts is better than one with 10. 100 comments are better than 20 (though it’s really not ethical to post fake comments on your own blog: you know who you are.)

I had been reading these blogs as they developed over the weeks, and of course had my own subjective views on which to base an assessment. But I was still seeking a simple, objective measure to validate my view. And I found it.

Technorati‘s count of ‘blog reactions’ was the single best (simple, powerful) measure of how well a blog had engaged in the conversation. Among this student class, there was a high of 26 and a low of 3; blogs with more than 10 reactions were above average.

My blog has 403 reactions – rather C list when compared with star turns like Neville Hobson (1,767 reactions). (These figures will change.) Teacher – mark thyself!

Blogs, fashion and the future

5 May

Blogging’s no longer new; it’s no longer fashionable. But that doesn’t mean that it’s no longer useful.

Mitch Joel makes the case well in Blogging gets a second wind. The one point I’d add is that because they’re not twitch-speed (in Marc Prensky‘s phrase), blogs have been emerging as a useful tool to support reflective learning and reflective practice. Twitter and Facebook may be more immediate and interactive for digitial pioneers and digital natives, but there’s useful thinking being expressed on blogs. (There’s useful thinking on videos and podcasts, too – but published words are still the best way to achieve SEO, as Joel points out).

Let me connect some blogging threads. Helena Makhotlova has been reflecting on changes in the media and what this means for public relations. Meanwhile, Richard Millington asks which aspects of a PR job are most likely to be outsourced and Rachel Todd sees a future in refocusing on new media.

Inspired by these threads, I’d been contemplating a big post on the future of PR work, but I haven’t found the big idea. In times of change, there are threats and opportunities (you see, I’ve nothing new to say). Students will be excited by the opportunities, while some older practitioners may justifiably be fearful of change. Many journalists will continue to find work in public relations (they have always done so) because their ability to research and write objective news is becoming even more important in a Google-mediated world. (Remember Jakob Nielsen’s call for web writing to be ‘concise, scannable, objective’? Of course you don’t, that was more than ten years ago, but Google has a memory.)

There’s one skills gap waiting to be filled. Even more than writing skills, the need is for editing skills. Can you edit a group blog? Can you produce a viral video or a snappy podcast? There’s a future for writers in PR; there’s a future for editors; but the glittering prizes will still go to the thinkers. Now what’s the point of blogging?

Why 3/10 is not bad

1 May

Google_links When our ‘PR and new media’ class began on 31 January, I knew I would have to allow a good three months for our student bloggers to find their feet and have some chance of achieving wider recognition. What I didn’t know was how accurate my prediction would be. (Google indexing has been getting even quicker, but PageRank has become a cruder measure according to commentators). Yesterday, 30 April, Google registered some of these blogs (scroll to end) with a PageRank of 3/10. Only 30%? That’s poor in university assessment terms, but not bad for novice bloggers.

PageRank may not be recalculated for another three months by which time I fear that most of these blogs will be untended. But here’s another prediction: a few will keep going, and may creep up to 4/10 or 5/10 (this blog’s modest PageRank). The scale is logarithmic so each step up the scale requires something like a doubling of inbound links.

Does any of this matter? Well, I’m assessing the blogs in another two weeks and I’ve decided to use a mix of hard and soft measures. PageRank is just one of these ‘hard’ measures; numbers of posts, numbers of comments, inbound and outbound links are others.

More important, student blogs are living CVs (resumes). If you want to provide PR or marketing on a commercial basis, then practise promoting and protecting your personal brand first. We know employers are searching.