A How-To guide: The tools of a modern-day PR student.

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For as long as I can remember, the internet has existed. Sure, it was dodgy dial-up that deafened you when you picked up the phone, but it was there. And as a new generation of PR practitioners study or start up their careers, they’re facing a dilemma that those before them didn’t. The expectation of understanding.

I explored in a previous post that future PR professionals will have to be more skilled than ever before and it’s looking increasingly like that an understanding of social network structures will soon become a core skill requirement (Smith, 2013).

It was Stephen Waddington that argued in a 2013 issue of PR Week ‘social media is no longer a specialism within public relations. It is public relations.’ If this is lead to be true, then professionals will need to be proficient and efficient in their online practices.

So where can we start to gain an understanding or social networks? Well, you’ve come to the right place. By starting a blog, you are actively creating content for other students and professionals to relate to and learn from.

Before you start, you need to know how you want to be seen and what content you’re going to create; if you can hit a niche audience with your content then you’re more likely to build credibility, relationships and a following from your portfolio. You’re also showing future employers that you’re serious about the industry and the career you’re preparing yourself for. It’s essentially a digital CV.

There’s also the option to link your posts with your social media accounts. As part of the new PESO model, shared content is one of four types that companies use to reach consumers. It’s also one of the most popular as consumers only share what they are interested in, presumably with people that share their interests. And that’s how it grows.

I feel strongly about Twitter too, having a voice that reaches out to an audience is important and creates conversations – which is a key element of Public Relations. However, using your voice unprofessionally or to say offensive things will damage your reputation, in the cases of Paris Brown and Justine Sacco – it lost them their jobs.

Hootsuite is a social intelligence application that effectively manages your social media accounts. Collister previously stressed the importance of data in PR, suggesting that the ability to gather, analyse and interpret can bring about big opportunities (Collister, 2013: p.297) . Tools like Hootsuite can do exactly this, using such data for social listening.

For example, if a company wanted to know what people on Twitter were thinking about them , they could identify key words and phrases that people use on google (SEO), refine them on Hootsuite and create a ‘stream’ for each term. These streams would then listen for conversations and prompt the company to engage with the right people at the right time. Isn’t it genius?

While this social listening is great for raising awareness – amazing for unknown blogger like myself – it’s also a good tool to use when you’re just starting out and trying to find networks that you can build relationships in. I know it’s something that all students are absolutely craving – after hours of scrolling on LinkedIn (which is also really good by the way), it’s sunk in.

On social media, you should essentially treat yourself as if a brand would. Over the past decade, consumer behaviour has shifted from passive to participatory, and you should show that in your content – encourage people to like, comment and share so that they’re getting involved and becoming a part of the process. As PR moves away from the old models of communication, you’re going to need to think of and understand ways to form strong relationships with your audience (Smith 2013).

None of these tools were available 5, 10 or 20 years ago. As a generation that have grown up through the digital revolution, we’ve been gifted some exceptional tools that will essentially make our careers in PR considerably easier. For that reason alone, it’s imperative that we learn the tricks of the trade so that even when the industry faces uncertain times, the practitioners and professions within it are at the top of their game.

If there’s anything that you take from this post, let it be what I took from my lecture (Thanks Richard!).

‘If your role is to develop relationships with people who matter to the organisation (or yourself), then you should use all channels available to you.’

References:

Bailey R.B (2015) Digital Communication Management lecture series. Digital Communication Management Module. [online] Accessed from my lecture notes.

Collister, S (2013) The Public Relations Power of “Big Data” in Brown and Waddington (eds) Share This Too, Wiley

Smith, A (2013) Network topology in Share This Too, Chichester: Wiley

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