Blogging is a skill. It gets you thinking as much as it gets you writing. A new generation of PR students is being encouraged to both think and write through an online competition staged by one of the UK's premier educators.
by Richard Bailey
I teach public relations. I’m used to scanning a room and seeing a succession of bored or bemused faces as I try to describe the practice in often abstract terms.
Memo to self: must try harder to communicate.
I partly teach in a Creative Arts faculty where most students have artefacts to show for their efforts. So what do we make in public relations?
We make connections. We help build reputations. We make things happen. We make content and we manage relationships. There I go again, talking in abstracts.
Now let’s imagine a task that tested all these things, plus which required initiative, creativity and stamina. Then let’s make it voluntary to really separate out the sheep from the goats.
Welcome to the #bestPRblogs contest I’ve been running for public relations students that’s now into its fourth academic year.
Each week through the academic year I identify six or so blog posts from PR students across the UK. By Easter, we have a shortlist of frontrunners who then have an additional month to impress an industry luminary who has not been involved in the contest and who decides on the ultimate winner.
Here are the past winners:
2014: Jess Ramsey (Sunderland), chosen by Francis Ingham of PRCA
2015: Livi Wilkes (Southampton Solent), chosen by Stephen Waddington of Ketchum
2016: Arianne Williams (Sunderland), chosen by Michael White of Lansons
What have I learnt from these winners? To give you a lecturer’s model, here are my 3 Cs of student blogging. To succeed, you need to be a:
· Creator: Anyone can set up a blog, but keeping one going week after week takes effort and ingenuity.
· Connector: I’ve never met any of these winners so I first had to discover them and they had to keep placing themselves in front of mind. I’d write any of them a recommendation and provide them with advice and contacts if they needed it: in my eyes they’ve ‘paid it forward’.
· Copywriter: Grammar, punctuation, spelling… There’s a time for breaking the rules. A place for sentences without verbs (like this one). But to break the rules, you have to know what they are in the first place. To put it politely, most student writing is a work in progress.
Let’s recall the golden rule of social media sharing – ‘be interesting’ – and remind ourselves of the qualifier: ‘if you can’t be interesting, be useful.’
It’s easier said than done – but then it’s easier to describe public relations than to learn what’s involved.
My selection of blog posts appears each week at behindthespin.com on Friday mornings. We’re only a month into our current contest and I don’t want to pre-judge the winner this soon, but here are some characterful blog posts from October (sorted alphabetically by surname).
Liam Bettinson (UWE Bristol): Social media: oversharing may be harming you more than you think
Laura Bradley (Southampton Solent): So what is PR?
Marcel Klebba (Westminster): Radio programmes every PR student should tune in to
Sarah Lowers (Greenwich): Spread some love
Lauren Old (Sunderland): Is ghost blogging unethical?
Orlagh Shanks (Liverpool John Moores): How I found public relations
Two men; four women. Six different universities. Four are English; one Northern Irish and one Polish. It’s early days, but I’m pleased with the diversity and range of voices and I’m sure there’s much more talent out there that I’ve yet to discover.
So where’s the job satisfaction in bewildering generations of young people?
I’m pleased that there are so many opportunities for graduates in PR and take pride in PR graduates doing well in the workplace.
#bestPRblogs is just one small way of bridging the gulf between the classroom and the comms team. It’s a tangible example of what I try to make: talented graduates.
Richard Bailey FCIPR MPRCA (@behindthespin) is a public relations educator and editor of www.behindthespin.com