You remember the class? The one that introduces various definitions of public relations and leads to a discussion of concepts such as communication, reputation, relationships, persuasion and so on.
That class is a useful foundation for any course in public relations (and PR Place should be able to help your understanding with our guides, toolkits, essays and posts).
But the academic approach demands an objective and impersonal perspective (‘Grunig and Hunt said’). This has its limitations.
What if we made the question personal and passionate?
What does public relations mean to you? What makes you think you can communicate, understand reputation, develop relationships and be persuasive? How can you show this, without showing off?
This is where our PR student Best PR Blogs contest comes in. It poses the challenge of doing public relations - starting with your own brand.
The contest is a shop window for young talent, and I’ve heard of those featured being approached by employers without even having to apply for jobs.
We’ve run this contest for five years, first at Behind the Spin and now at PR Place. It’s an open contest, with few rules, so let’s call them guidelines.
- The contest is open to anyone studying at university, and not exclusively on public relations degree courses. There are fluid boundaries between marketing, advertising, journalism and public relations and we’re looking to include - not exclude - talented individuals. So it’s open to anyone self-identifying as a #prstudent. Steph Brown, Claire Simpson and Olivia Shalofsky are role models of this self-identification.
- You don’t need to apply, but you do need to get known. So the first public relations challenge is to let us know that you have a blog or vlog - and to share your posts. The best way to do this is via the #prstudent hashtag, but you can also find my contact details at the end of this post.
- We aim to showcase talent, not to expose learners to a harsh spotlight. So a well written post on our topic (public relations) will be included in the weekly round-up. I’m then more likely to include a well-written post that’s on another topic (fashion, sport, celebrity) than one that’s on topic but sloppily or poorly written.
- 2018 winner Orlagh Shanks has shared her writing tips. She’s still a student, but you should be encouraged rather than be put off by her example. It’s not winner takes all - we’re aiming to build a community of learners.
- You can have an individual blog (WordPress is widely used); you can contribute to course or class blogs; you can use a site such as Medium or you can post to LinkedIn Pulse; you can have a YouTube channel. You can teach us about social media channels we may not have heard of. The question is: is your content interesting? Is it relevant? Is it worth sharing?
- A selection of posts are shared each week at PR Place. By Christmas, we provide a half-time ranking of the leading individuals and the leading universities based on the number of posts included. By Easter, we name a shortlist and the winner is announced at the end of the academic year in May.
5 reasons not to blog
There are downsides to blogging if you're a student, so let’s explore these.
- I’m not being assessed on it so I’m putting my energies into getting good grades.
This may be true and it’s perfectly rational, but the world doesn’t owe you a living. You may be surprised to find that a blog impresses many employers more than a first class degree.
- I don’t have anything to write about.
That may feel true, but it’s a poor reflection on your investment in education and in gaining work experience. As a student, you have the luxury of being free to follow your interests. As an employee, you’ll have to take an interest in whatever widgets your client or company produces. Experimenting is a good way to learn.
- I’m not a confident writer and don’t want to be judged.
You’re right to be cautious; poor writing can negatively affect your personal brand. But how do you become a better writer without trying? And you should never publish something you’ve just written. Besides, there are other ways to communicate, such as through primarily visual channels (YouTube and Instagram for starters).
- Blogging is a solitary activity for introverts and I’m an extrovert team player
There are class blogs and course blogs that welcome your contributions. There are student societies that need organisers. You could be the person who provides the meetings and events for others to write about. That’s a PR skill too. Besides, teams need a mix of skills and you’ll find that not all successful PR practitioners are extroverts. Many of us were surprised when Stephen Waddington confessed to being an introvert (see #9 in this post.)
- I’m passionate about sport/fashion/travel/food/music/celebrity. Why can’t I write about that?
You can. It’s a good idea to start with a topic that interests you. But you’ll find it much harder to stand out in a crowded field full of other fans and plenty of professional writers. How many active PR student bloggers are there in the UK? Only a handful at present and only a few dozen in a good year. It’s your chance to stand out in a field where there’s more work than talent.
PR blog stars
Here’s a short list of PR student and graduate bloggers to follow for starters. All but one were PR students themselves (two still are) and four are past winners of #bestPRblogs, so I’ve added in their university by way of encouragement to those following in their footsteps.
Claire Simpson did not study public relations at university - but you can see how strongly she identifies with the subject. It’s no surprise she’s already working in this field.
To complete the record (Google, are you watching?), Jess Ramsey (Sunderland) was 2014 #bestPRblogs winner - the first year of the contest. She’s now an account manager at Tangerine Communications in Manchester and describes herself as ‘a perfectionist with a penchant for writing’.
Richard Bailey, email@example.com (LinkedIn, Twitter)