My “to do” list for the next few weeks

Blogging has played a vital role throughout my University career. Not only has it satisfied my craving to constantly write but it has also allowed me to network with students and professionals in the PR industry. Despite the (alleged) comprehensive attention I provide this blog I have a few projects running which also demand a fair amount of attention. The following are on my “to do” list for the next few weeks:

Dissertation on Measuring Reputation Online for PR
At the beginning of April I’m required by the University of Gloucestershire to hand in a dissertation between 8000 and 10,000 words. As of this post I am just over half way writing my dissertation on measuring reputation online for PR. The dissertation explains measurement techniques and introduces the world of semantic analytics. It is exciting but fairly brain intensive piece. I’m aiming for it to be MA level rather than BA (nothing wrong with an optimistic goal!).

Essays & Other Assignments
Dull and necessary. I can’t wait for all my University assignments to be completed. Not much to write about these tasks. They just need to be done which usually involves large amounts of library time.

GlobCom 2012
GlobCom 2012 is a global communication project where University students from around the world become separate virtual teams to satisfy a real world client’s demands. I’m confident of producing a strong proposal and presentation for this due to my experience at Microsoft as a Multinational Account Manager. Looking forward to this project.

Writing a Book [more details soon]
A group of students at my University are joining up to write a book about Google+ for the Public Relations industry. I will have more details about this project soon. For the moment I need to knock out 8000 words on several chapters. I’ve always wanted to be a published author (I’m already a sort of published poet…) and so this project will be brilliant.

Cheltenham Fundraising Event [more details soon]
At the beginning of March a fundraising event, organised by a few PR students, will happen to help raise funds for GlobCom 2012. The whole PR class needs to travel to Abu Dhabi for the GlobCom 2012 awards evening. Funds raised will go towards our expensive plane tickets. At this event local businesses will have the chance to bid for PR students to assist at their organisation. I am putting myself up for bidding which means you could have the chance to win my “expertise”. The winner may have me for a couple of days and use me as they please. PR strategy, social media, coffee making – even toilet cleaning! I am yours. I will have more details about this event soon.

Applying for Graduate Schemes
For the last couple of months I have been applying for a variety of graduate schemes. When I leave University I would like to stay in the PR industry or move to lobbying. Filling in application forms is a necessary evil!

New Client
It seems I may have also managed to gain some freelance client work. This is an exciting opportunity to once again put my ideas, experience and knowledge into practice for the benefit of a company.

 

Phew! Only three months left of being a University student and I still haven’t learnt the art of sitting back and relaxing. I feel a post like this is necessary to silent the widely held view by sceptics that University students are lazy!

What is on your “to do” list?

The CIPR Must Play a Stronger Role in CIPR Approved Courses [RESPONSE]

On the 3rd February I wrote a blog post calling for the CIPR to take a stronger role in CIPR approved courses. Essentially the post explores, through personal experience, the level of support the CIPR provides their student members and how they could improve. This blog post features the CIPR’s response.

A couple of hours after I posted the original I received a reply from the CIPR Director of Policy and Communications, Phil Morgan, through Twitter. Not only did this show the CIPR are good at their social media monitoring but it also demonstrated the importance they place on their student members – they wanted to answer to my post. Whilst waiting for the CIPR’s official response a fair number of comments appeared on the post and my email inbox has been relatively busy. Each commenter provided a valid opinion and a few with constructive criticism.

Yesterday the CIPR responded publically to the post.

From Alison Steel, CIPR Director of Professional Development and Membership

Hi Michael

You make some good points and, as I have suggested to you by email, I’d like to meet up to draw on your ideas and those of other undergraduates. We want to provide a student membership that is of genuine value to students and future employers. Enhancement of our student package is already underway and we have further, quite radical changes we want to make in the near future.

However, I would like to challenge the overall picture you paint of little return from student membership. There are so many more benefits than you suggest. Not all are perfect and we are working hard to make sure that, for example, networking opportunities are available and consistent between regions. I have just initiated a review of placement finder – you’re right it does need improvement.

But there are some really good benefits for CIPR student members – for example access to some 30 webinars (worth around £700) free of charge – either live or on demand. The CIPR member area also has a wealth of case studies, policy briefings and research to support your studies. The CIPR Conversation (a blog aggregator) is – as I’m sure you know already – becoming the place to discuss topical PR issues.

We already have a database of PR jobs – it’s called PR Jobshop and there are currently just short of 1,000 jobs throughout the UK advertised there. They are not currently categorised for graduate entry, so that’s something I plan to look in to.

I like your suggestions for regional networking and will definitely be picking that up with our regional committees. It would be great to bring university groups together but I fear the cost of travel for students might preclude this – perhaps there is some way we can work around this, including possibly a virtual forum.

As of last week, CIPR Council approved a change in regulations which means that graduates from three-year PR degrees recognised by the CIPR qualify to become MCIPR after just one year in a professional PR role and those who have had one year’s work experience already as part of a recognised four-year ‘sandwich’ course qualify to apply for MCIPR as soon as they are working in their first professional PR role. This move substantially reduces the length of time graduates of recognised degrees need to work in PR before they can become full members. Once you are MCIPR and complete two years’ online Continuous Professional Development (CPD) you become a CIPR Accredited Practitioner – a standard recognised by employers and recruitment agencies.

Having said all that – I would also echo Richard Bailey’s comment, outlining the multiple parts that go into making a successful education in public relations. CIPR’s input is just one part of that. Heather Yaxley also makes very important points about proactivity.

We believe we have a reasonable existing package of benefits but we are also striving to improve it, informed by the needs of PR students. As a Chartered Body we have a duty to the profession as a whole – and PR graduates are a significant part of the profession’s future.

With very best wishes – and thanks for your input
Alison

 

Since the official response the University of Gloucestershire has once again been listed as a CIPR approved University to the delight of all current PR students. Over the next couple of weeks I will be gathering thoughts from my PR class concerning CIPR Student Membership ideas (along with anybody else who would like to leave a comment on this post) which I will be able to discuss with Alison.

I am very pleased and impressed with the outcome so far. The final year of University is extremely hectic but I have made a promise to myself to assist giving value back to the CIPR through (perhaps) joining one of the regional groups once I graduate. I will look into this nearer the time.

The CIPR has proved to me (and hopefully to all of you) that they do care about their student members, ideas are listened to and changes are happening.

Pinterest is a New Form of Social Advertising

Yesterday I introduced Pinterest, experimented and now going to explain why public relations professionals should include Pinterest in their social networking mix.

Facebook Ads

Pinterest may prove to be one of the few social networking websites where individuals primarily build relationships with each other through brands. This not only deserves remark in terms of referral traffic for businesses but re-imagines social advertising.

Traditionally social advertising is formed by Ad Agencies pertaining social information on their users (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Facebook are good at this) and then providing them with Ads which fit their social contexts. We see this on Facebook all the time. To prove my point I have taken a screen capture of the adverts which currently show on my Facebook sidebar.

They probably targeted on:

  • Pot Noodle: Noticing that I was between a certain age range and a student.
  • PaddyPower: Likely used my location in Cheltenham on the grounds of the approaching Racing Week.
  • Windows Phone UK: I used to work at Microsoft; I’ve mentioned Microsoft and have listed technology as an interest. Easy targeting.

My observation is that Pinterest is a new form of social advertising. Instead of complicated algorithms, heavy budget costs and targeting using social parameters – users are advertising to each other. It may even be unintentional and the system comes across as a superior version of Facebook friends recommending pages to each other.

Just look at the screen capture of the main Pinterest home page:

Pinterest Home Page

At first glance it could be easy to consider that each pinned image does not seem like a brand. However each image pinned from a website still maintains a link to that website. The best example of the phenomenon is the online clothing business Asos.

A quick search for Asos on Pinterest reveals dozens of images shared between users.

Each image is pinned from a particular section of Asos’ website. So Pinterest’s social advertising system begins like this:

  1. Girl views Asos website and finds dress she likes or has purchased.
  2. Girl pins a picture of clothing from the page to a relevant Pinterest board.
  3. Followers of the girl on Pinterest notice the dress and may ‘re-pin’ the image to their board, like and comment on the image. Comments may include advice or praise.
  4. Any girls who see the image on Pinterest only have to click on the dress to be taken directly to the purchase page.

Simple! This is social advertising. Recommendations have always existed on social networks but Pinterest performs differently.

Any visits from Pinterest can easily be tracked using Google Analytics. Such tracking provides the public relations industry in tracking direct sales and at a cost lower than online advertising.

 

Experimenting with Pinterest

A new social networking site has appeared, Pinterest. What is the purpose of this network? How does it fit into the social networking landscape? I’ve registered to find out.

Essentially Pinterest is a bookmarking website for images. Users are able to create virtual boards and then pin images to them. Each board is named (perhaps humour, books worth reading, best dresses, etc) and users are able to pin images to each of their boards. Images can be sourced from webpages or uploaded from devices.

Pinterest has been operating on an “invite only” basis for the last 2 years. It is usual for social networking sites to target tech journalists and bloggers for coverage when they are made public. However Pinterest opted for the traditional tactic of building their user base before attempting coverage. Due to this Pinterest quietly grew in the background, hidden from mainstream eyes, until December 2011. Currently the website approximately receives 11 million hits per week – no doubt this figure will be sharply increasing.

To sign up you need to request an invitation. From conversations from others it seems this process can take up to a week (mine took 5 days). Due to its recent popularity increase expect a waiting list whilst Pinterest organise for their servers to cope with the amount of traffic.

Last night I spent some time experimenting with Pinterest and as you can see from my Pinterest profile, I have created boards relevant to me. This includes the prestigious “Wall of Ale” board which features different ales as I consume them. There is no doubt about it; Pinterest appears at first glance to be a colossal waste of time.

Pinterest as the new Tumblr?
Popular blogging service, Tumblr, is known for its prolific “re-blogging”. Users frequently share images presenting wise words, photography and humour. Therefore Pinterest is taking an existing social networking behaviour but providing a specialised system. In this respect Pinterest is a better version of Tumblr. It is for sharing images with little words. Tumblr may begin to see a decline in its users.

Images are faster than words
As a writer the speed of the internet often offends me. Users are spending less time on pages – speed is king. Images can be digested faster than words. Ignoring the short descriptions available to users on Pinterest this is a social networking site purely for sharing images. Users can browse quickly, share efficiently and feel immediate satisfaction. This is why Pinterest is addictive.

Pure Sharing
Pinterest is a website of epic sharing potential. When you sign up you can select categories which are the most interesting to you. The network will then automatically connect you with likeminded users. This simple trick is a receipe of epic sharing proportiations. Every user you are connected with is likeminded, therefore images are more likely to get shared between users. Each piece of content has an original creator but it easy to forget this when using Pinterest as the sharing is of epic propotions. That “re-pin” button will be pressed thousands of times by most users.

For the Ladies
Pinterest seems to be a network catering far better for the ladies. Popular topics appear to be design and fashion. The vast female presence may have something to do with the Pinterest user base built over the last 2 years. I would love to know the ratio between men and women.

 

Over the next couple of days I will write more on the topic of Pinterest. Sign up now to be legible for an invite to the network and feel free to visit my profile.

Let me know if you have any questions.

The CIPR Must Play a Stronger Role in CIPR Approved Courses

UPDATE (16/02/2012): THE CIPR’S RESPONSE TO THIS POST HAS NOW BEEN POSTED HERE.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) must do more to support their student members. Graduate unemployment has hit its highest level since 1995 and prospective PR graduates from CIPR approved courses are not being adequately supported.

The formula is simple. As students we are concerned with Return On Investment (ROI). Currently student membership to the CIPR costs £35. Other than dozens of copies of PR Week what benefits do we get in practice? To me CIPR student membership is really just a magazine subscription. If you believe this observation is overtly cynical then chat to the students who have decided against student membership. Their main concern is over the benefits.

“What benefits will I receive for joining the CIPR?”

According to the CIPR’s website student members will receive the following benefits:

  • Skills guides on essential areas of PR practice
  • Best practice case studies of PR in action
  • Research and reports on key communications trends and issues
  • Work placement finder to help you get practical experience
  • Networking opportunities to help you build “you” (Need to check your grammar CIPR…) contacts
  • Opportunities to get involved with your local CIPR group
  • Free subscription to PR Week

In reality all student members will get their PR Week subscription and be able to access their work placement finder (Their work placement finder was not up-to-date when I used it. Has it been improved now?). Every other benefit remains unfulfilled in my experience.

We all know that a PR degree is near worthless without the relevant work experience. Rachel Barkley (2nd Year PR Student from Leeds Met) debates in her latest blog post over the nature of work placement and sandwich courses. Should placements be compulsory? It is vital that a PR degree is supported with industry experience – this is an area I would like to see the CIPR delve into.

In their student member benefits they have already noted that students will receive “networking opportunities” but I have never noticed such events. Either the CIPR is doing a bad job of promoting their events or this benefit is not being supported. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if the CIPR:

  • Arranged for their regional groups to organise networking sessions for PR students in their local area.
  • Arranged events purely for students from CIPR approved courses for networking between Universities.
  • Maintained a graduate database of PR jobs.

To my knowledge the only student members of the CIPR who receive any form of benefit from the CIPR are the CIPR Student Representatives. I was fortunate enough to be a representative for my University during 2009/10. You get to network with your regional group and arrange a CIPR approved event (albeit with a tiny budget). This isn’t enough though.

As PR students graduating from CIPR approved courses we can expect to receive ACIPR professional accreditation. No doubt, the title is fancy. Where is the value though?

As a student who is only four months away from graduating I have received no contact from the CIPR. Aren’t I meant to be on a CIPR approved course? I would at least expect an email enticing me with networking opportunities and asking me to renew my membership. Nothing though. Hands down, the most useful resource of PR students looking to graduate is Ben Cotton’s list of graduate schemes.

The CIPR define the industry as, “Public relations is about reputation… Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour…”. Yet it seems that the CIPR has close to forgotten their student membership and CIPR approved degree courses. For the continuation of the CIPR these groups contain vital stakeholders. Hundreds of students are about to graduate. What is the CIPR doing to support them? My membership has lapsed. I want to know my £35 to renew will provide me with more than a magazine subscription.

I have two questions for the CIPR:

  • What do you currently do to support PR students from CIPR approved courses?
  • What changes will you be making to the CIPR student membership benefits?

 

PS. Whilst writing this post I noticed that the University of Gloucestershire is not listed as a CIPR approved course. This needs fixing.