Skills PR students need to know

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It is becoming more apparent that the future of communication belongs to the Internet. Newspapers are on the way out, and the majority of reporters and journalists alike are moving forward toward the world wide web.

As a student, during this time of innovation and rapid change, it is easy for me to notice the shift. If not, I would be putting myself at risk of being irrelevant and outdated. 

Companies are expecting to work with public relations firms that are relevant and innovative. Agencies expect young PR professionals to know the ins and outs of social media. PR pros need to be able to manipulate the tools to achieve success in social media initiatives.

Adam Singer outlines skills that all PR professionals need to know:

Understand HTML, PHP, CSS, MySQL: These skills are not only necessary for techies, they are simple and when you start to get good they easily allow you to present content exactly how you want.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Placing content on the web and utilizing keywords, tags and external links will help your chances of being placed higher on search engines like google. Have large goals in mind for your company or client website.

Ability to work in WordPress, Durpal, Expression Engine etc.: As a PR professional you need to be able to work with all communications tools. Learning to work with CMS will allow you to easily work on a client’s website, networks and blogs. 

Understanding of what defines successful content: As businesses start to see the benefits of using social media, there will be less of a need from PR professionals to get them into the tools, but the real challenge will be helping them create content that gets shared. 

“A blog needs to be written and kept by a company, not by their PR agency. But, companies will increasingly turn to their PR agency for consulting and creating content, which drives relevant traffic/links and builds a subscriber base.”

Proven ability to build a successful blog: Create a personal blog on content that you are passionate about. It is important to show you embrace the medium, understand it and can be insightful and interesting.

Understanding of RSS and how t use feed creatively: As a PR professional understanding RSS, using it to read content and knowing how to use syndication is vital. Use RSS to your advantage to build a fanbase, spread messages and get content deep within the social web.

Understanding microblogging: Twitter, FriendFeed and other services are a great way to share content and interacting with customers. PR and communications people should be at the forefront of this and closely study the relationships formed and the way people discuss and interact with content.

Ability to process and understand site analytics: Learning to interpret site analytics, see trends and make recommendations is a vital skill for PR people. It is also important to be able to explain to clients how you can measure the success of a social media campaign. 

Understanding of what is possible with web apps: Businesses are looking to their PR firms to help them build creative web apps that attract thousands of users across social media platforms. You need to know what is possible to create with these applications to be able to create and complete a successful strategic social media plan. 

Hopefully these tips will help you in your preparation to become a public relations professional.

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Building and Maintaining Online Communities

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I am fortunate enough to be a part of Kelli Matthews, Strategic Social Media class, in which we discuss new technologies and study how to utilize web 2.0. We often have visitors and we were lucky enough to listen to Matt Neznanski, Hannah Smith and Katie Pontius-Stansberry. The three speakers discussed how to build online communities, as well as the future of journalism in the web 2.0 world in which we live.

Many companies have succeeded in building and maintaining an online community, take Dell for example. On the other hand, there are thousands of companies that have failed. Ed Moran, a Deloitte consultant who just completed a study of more than 100 businesses with online communities, believes the problem is that

“Businesses are focusing on the value an online community can provide to themselves, not the community.”

Building:

There are some important questions to ask before deciding to create an online community. Will people want to join?  Why should anyone care? What do users get from participating? Adding value to participants is one of the main goals for creating a community. If you add no value it is likely that the community will fail. It is also important to fill a need for the people who are going to use the product. This means, before you start the community, research topics of discussion around your product to figure out what drives people’s interests. Once you decide that a community would add value to members, it is important to provide an area where members can create and share content that is visible to everyone.

Starting a Community:

When you create a community, members work together to create content. The ownership is then transferred from the individual to the group, and it is important to acknowledge and reach out to opinion leaders, creators and influencers.

Stansberry presented the process in a simple format:

  • Determine and reach out to your opinion leaders (creators and influencers).
  • Start with a few features and then expand outward as the community grows.
  • Integrate with other marketing, advertising and public relations activities.
  • Reward contributors with recognition (link-backs).

Maintaining a Community:

  • Stay engaged with your community. Monitor and quickly respond to comments.
  • Integrate your community with real-world events.
  • Cross-pollinate with existing social networks.

Growing a Community:

  • Update regularly.
  • Use social marketing tools to promote brand.
  • Give your members something of unique value.
  • Create ambassadors.

The most important thing to remember when building and maintaining an online community: Give power to the hands of the community. Embracing two-way communication is vital to the success of a company’s online presence. People don’t respond well to contrived responses and advertising campaigns; if you open up a discussion and allow members to voice their opinions, most likely, the community will be successful.

Other Blogs:

There are many opinions and tips on best practices for creating an online community. I encourage you to check out

Jeremiah Owyang’s diagram on The Life Process of a Successful Community

Ryan Buchanan’s, Chief Marketer’s, article on Building Your Brand by Creating Community

Kami Huyse’s, Communication Overtones, article Start Small to Make Big Waves in Social Media

Mark Collier’s, The Viral Garden, article Six Reasons No One Likes You Online

Yay I graduated, now what?

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For many college students, graduation is just around the corner, and the thought of entering the workforce is terrifying. Not to mention the constant reminders that we are in one of the worst economic situations. Searching for a job can be exhausting, scary and daunting. I am currently on the hunt for an internship: You know it’s bad when people aren’t looking for free help because they don’t have enough staff to support training and mentoring interns.

Although I am just a junior, I feel the heat and pressures of the job search. I recently went on four informational interviews to figure out where in PR I wanted to start out. Along the way, I learned some valuable tips for students.

Skills:

Every person I talked to emphasized the importance of writing skills. Without hesitation, all four women told me that if there is only one thing that I take away from the University of Oregon it better be the ability to write. Most everything else that you will do in a job can be learned on-site, but writing is something that must be known and continuously worked on to be successful.

Volunteer:

If you haven’t secured a job or internship, offer your free time to a non-profit and ask if you can help with their communications department. Offer to do tasks within your field of “expertise.” Having multiple internships will show employers that you didn’t just sit around waiting for a job to come to you, but rather you were proactive and continued to use your PR skills while searching for a job.

Network:

I emphasized in my first blog the importance of networking: Believe me it’s crucial. Every time you meet with someone ask them if you should get in contact with someone they know. By doing this you can create a large network of potential employers and referrals, the more the better.

Acknowledge:

When a professional meets with you or you talk with someone at a function, write them a thank you note. Instead of thanking a person via e-mail, handwrite them a note. A friend of mine got a job because she hand wrote a thank you note. Since hearing her story I have adopted the practice in the hopes I will be as lucky.  Every time you meet with someone and they provide advice, make sure you acknowledge that you appreciate their time and insight.

Talk:

Let it be known that you are looking for a job or internship. Do this through social media networks. You never know who will read you tweet, blog, status update or Linkedin profile and have a job or know someone who has a job you would be interested in. Word of mouth is not just successful for businesses; everyone can benefit from these tools.

To find more tips check out:

5 Ways to Land Your Next (PR) Job

Tips for young PR Professionals

Tips for finding a first job in PR

Also check out UO Alum Beth Evans she writes about finding a job abroad really interesting check her out!

Measuring the Success of Social Media

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A problem that a lot of companies are having right now is measuring the success of social media campaigns. An issue that may arise for up and coming PR professionals is explaining to a boss that social media is important and beneficial to a company. I have gathered some information that might help you in case you are ever asked how to measure social media and why companies should invest time and money into it. Hopefully you find it helpful.

Social media is on the tip of a lot of people’s tongues these days. More specifically is the topic of how to measure the success of an online campaign. Most want to attach a number on something when the word measurement is involved, like page views or comments.  That’s a good place to start, but does it tell you anything substantive? In order to be successful and really understand how effective an online campaign is, both a quality and quantity benchmark need to be incorporated into the measurement strategy.

Social media has really revolutionized the way companies can interact with their audience. Marcel Lebrun talks about the art of listening and how effective it can be for a company. On his blog mediaphilosopher he says, “On the surface, listening seems to be about receiving. However, conversational listening sends a message: you are important to us.” Listening to what customers are saying about a brand and responding to their comments personalizes the relationship and allows trust to build. This is exremly important, especially with the increase of demand for companies to be comletly transparent, responsive and honest.

There are certain ways to successfully listen and measure how effective a company is being online. In order to do this a company must observe, listen, engage and respond. Measurement is an important tool to understand for social media because a lot of organizations are struggling to find the results. It allows companies to observe what’s working, what’s not and how they can adjust certain areas to make their product or company better. Once a company is online, they need to determine what they want to measure, whether it’s reputation, conversation or customer relationships. These objectives require qualitative measurement and should generate questions like:

– Are we part of conversations about our product?

– How are we talked about compared to our competitors?

– Were we able to build better relationships?

– Were we able to participate in conversations where we previously had no voice?

To measure traffic, sales and/or SEO ranking a more quantitative approach is required. There are a lot of free tools that can help with this measurement that are available, like:

– AideRSS: allows you to enter a URL and shows you statistics about its posts, like how many times they are shared on social media sites.

Google Analytics: Analyzes a company’s blog traffic, subscriber count etc.

Xinu: allows you to receive statistics like SEO, bookmarking, page views etc.

There are many more site like these, here is a link to a list of others Toolkit

Chris Lake, CEO Econsultancy, has some good tips on measuring a social media campaign and what to look for:

1. Traffic: This is one of the more obvious ways of measuring social media. Who is talking, what are they talking about and is it important to your industry/product.

2. Interaction and Engagement: Participation is a valuable indicator for companies. Interaction can be anything from leaving comments, to participating in support forums, to leaving customer reviews and ratings. Engagement is the company’s part in creating valuable dialogue and conversation and responding to customers’ comments.

3. Sales: Companies can track sales from Google referrals and monitoring customer feedback through sites like Twitter. Dell discovered that it made $1m from Twitter in 18 months.

4. Search marketing: The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) factor cannot be understated. For example a picture, image, video that is placed on a site like Digg can generate a lot of traffic and a link from Digg. Even better it can generate links and tags from many other bloggers, and can spread quickly through word of mouth without the company paying  for advertising.

5. Brand metrics: Word of mouth can help shift the key brand metrics, both negatively and positively. These include brand favorability, brand awareness, brand recall, propensity to buy, etc. Positive brand associations via social media campaigns can help drive clicks on paid search ads.

6. Retention: A positive side effect of increased customer engagement is an increase in customer retention. Zappos, which is a case study in how-to-do-Twitter, is closing in on $1bn in sales this year, and “75% of its orders are from repeat customers”.

Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, are we getting what we want out of the conversation? Jason Falls on his blog Social Media Explorer made a good point about what companies want from social media. When you ask businesses why they are participating in social media, what do they say? If they say that their only objective is “to make money, then they will fail because currency in the social web is found in both relationships and content.” The goal is to participate in the conversation, to enhance your relationship with your audiences and become a trusted member of the community that surrounds your brand. He ended with “Your ROI is what you got out of the conversation, not what you got out of their checkbook.” These are just a few things to think about when trying to figure out how effective a company.

The key to success: Brand yourself

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I recently attended the Puget Sound Chapter of Public Relations Society of America’s 2009 Career Jumpstart at Seattle Pacific University and thought I would share what I learned.

The messages given by keynote speaker Kyle Warnick were:

  • Be authentic and genuine
  • Network like hell
  • Differentiate yourself
  • Play to your strengths
  • Be prepared

None of this information was necessarily new or groundbreaking, yet it was refreshing to hear words of encouragement from multiple professionals in the field.

Most people are aware of our current economic crisis, so now more than ever is the time to get ahead and stand out in the stack of resumes. Warnick’s advise is to do your homework before an interview.  Review the organization, know who their clients are, what their products are and do a web search on the person you’re meeting with.

What I gathered from the conference was to start early. Go on informational interviews now, ask people you know to put you in contact with someone they know (network). Going out and talking to professionals benefits you in many ways: you gain the experience of talking and interviewing with little pressure, you are getting your name out there, and you open up the opportunity for further networking.  Although going to talk with PR  pros might be uncomfortable, it is great experience.

Words of wisdom from Tera Randall, account executive, Porter Novelli, to those who have apprehensions about networking and putting themselves out there: “If you are comfortable in your job, you are doing something wrong. Constantly working outside your comfort zone is a great way to ensure you reach your full potential.”

Introduction to the blogging world

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I am starting this blog for one of my public relations classes at the University of Oregon but really this class was just a motivator. Starting a blog has been on the back of my mind for quite some time now. I will blog about contemporary public relations issues, social media, the economy and the job market for recent and upcoming journalism graduates.

I am  excited to share my thoughts and hopefully others will respond or comment on my ideas.