Britain’s best PR student bloggers 2016 #bestPRblogs

Best PR Student blogs

It’s been a student blogging competition like none other! 43 students from 14 universities have together created 174 posts dripping with PR-goodness in a competition to win the title of Britain’s best PR student blogger 2016.

Last year Stephen Waddington announced that Livi Wilkes won the 2015 title. Today it’s time for a new winner and I’m honored to have been given the final decision in judging the shortlist set out in PR student magazine Behind the Spin. The magazine is supported by the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), spearheaded by PR academic and teacher Richard Bailey.

The 2016 competition started with the new academic year in October 2015, with the aim to encourage more PR students to blog. Well, it worked! The competition has been running strong since 2013 and has built an active #bestPRblogs social media community.

If you’re interested in a career in PR then building up your digital knowledge and skills is critical, as clients are increasingly looking for agencies that can deliver integrated PR campaigns. The job market is fiercely competitive and students that make an effort to build up their own personal brand online and example their expertise through blogging often make it to the top of the CV pile.

With that in mind all the bloggers I’ve reviewed today are PR superstars. They have all demonstrated their blogging passion by making it to Richard Bailey’s shortlist. So this isn’t just about finding Britain’s best PR blogger, but instead showing Britain’s best PR bloggers.

What was the judging criteria?

Without a proper judging criteria it would have been near impossible to pick the winner of this competition. After much careful thought, each blogger was reviewed considering the below aspects:

  • The quality of blog posts, thought-leadership, and style
  • Types of post formats used or experimented with
  • The design of the blog, readability, and structure
  • Any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) worth noting
  • Integration with social media and wider personal branding

This isn’t the standard 60-point checklist that an SEO professional will use to judge the performance of a website. It’s a subjective rank based on what I would choose if hiring.

Noteworthy observations

Throughout the judging process (now three coffees in) I did observe a few things about this year’s competition:

  • We once again have an all-female shortlist. This is deeply refreshing but also makes me think that male bloggers need to up their game!
  • Several more universities took part in this year’s competition, but we had less students overall.
  • Hosting a blog on wordpress.com still remains a popular choice. This is also a smart decision, as the high domain authority from WordPress can quickly pass onto the blog setup.

Anyway, I’ve waffled on long enough… it’s time to announce the results.

Runners-up

The runners-up are Claudia Barnett (@claudiaharriet_) and Natalie Szczepanek (@Nat_Szczepanek).

Lipstick Theory

Claudia not only blogs about PR, but her other passions in life such as design and beauty. In many ways her blog goes exactly to what the heart of blogging is about; a personal online diary that really allows readers to connect with the author. Blog posts are usually a mixture of text and images, broken up for easier reading on mobile devices.

The blog also demonstrates good connectivity with social media sites. Whilst PR and business related posts were in abundance in 2015, the blog feels like it may be edging towards more of a beauty and fashion focus, even through its name of Lipstick Theory – it feels like there is a lot of potential.

Nat's PR Scribbles

Natalie balances updates about her professional life with thoughts and advice about the PR industry. She uses a mix of images, YouTube embeds, and gifs to write her posts; a smart move, as it allows you to use other peoples’ rich media content and provide extra resources for readers.

She clearly puts a lot of thought into her updates and could potentially be using the blog as a vehicle to hone her analysis skills for university essays. It’s an enjoyable read and look forward to reading her next updates.

Third place

In third place is Hannah Lennox (@HLennox_PR).

Just a PR girl in a PR world

Hannah is one of the more prolific PR student bloggers and still manages to keep posts interesting and varied. In many cases she uses key events in her life to link back to points and debates happening in the PR industry. It’s a genuinely helpful resource that not only helps you tackle writer’s block, but will also give you an overview of emotional intelligence.

Social media integration in posts is great but it would have been nice to have more post filter options on the blog, even an email subscribe box – help me digest your content! 

Second place

In second place is Laura Bradley (@LauraBradleyPR).

The PR Girl

Laura is the only PR student shortlisted who has chosen to not host her website on wordpress.com but to instead use a website building site. It’s a refreshing change and does mean that the design of her website looks different from the blogging competition – it’s not a WordPress standard template.

Beyond the design of her website I’ve been very impressed with Laura’s varied blog posts from how to handle a PR crisis to a day in the life of a PR intern. The layout of her website means I can easily find my next post to read, she has featured posts on the sidebar, and has even played around with adding a photo gallery to the blog. She has also used a mix of post styles to present her stories, including more gifs!

Whilst moving away from WordPress is a refreshing change, it does mean the website isn’t gaining SEO benefits from the WordPress domain.

Winner

The winner and Britain’s best PR student blogger 2016 is Arianne Williams (@ariannewills)!

PR Professional in Training

Arianne is a serious PR blogger who has gained 47 email subscribers to her blog, built a Twitter following of 700+ and already contributes to industry initiatives. She is also one of the only bloggers in the competition that has built up an impressive amount of backlinks to her work, helping her in Google Search. Arianne’s blog is well presented, has plenty of social media integration (and it all works!), and filters for finding her latest posts.

Her post formats are varied such as using a BuzzFeed style, but she does this whilst also having articles that present modern industry debates. In my mind she is a clear winner and a shining example of someone who lives and breaths the industry she is entering. Very well done.

Thank you

Congratulations to everyone who took part in #bestPRblogs 2016, especially those shortlisted and Arianne – keep blogging! You all have bright futures ahead of you.

Later this week I’ll be writing about how blogging helped my career in PR.

The importance of digital content for asset managers

Lansons asset management

Whilst many asset managers in the US have invested in digital and social media, in the UK it feels like we’re still catching up; representing an era before the internet really became useful. So yesterday morning Lansons hosted an event alongside Donnelley Financial Language Solutions group to discuss websites and digital content for asset managers.

In a packed room hosted at Lansons HQ four panellists (I was one of them), along with input from the audience, navigated the digital world to reach useful advice and understanding around compliance challenges.

I joined the panel alongside…

Rosalia Engchuan, Analyst at My Private Banking Research

Rosalia has a research focus on the mobile and web presences of wealth and fund managers as well as on the impact of disruptive technologies on the wealth management sector. She specializes in online communication technologies and mobile channel strategies. She previously worked as a CSR Analyst in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and as digital media consultant.

Cordelia Hughes, Director of Sales for the Donnelley Financial Language Solutions group

Cordelia has worked with asset management clients for over a decade. Donnelley Financial is a global communications provider. The Language Solutions Group specialises multilingual content for financial institutions, with a particular focus on asset managers.

Craig Rogers, Partner in technology and outsourcing at Eversheds LLP

Craig has a focus on the financial services sector and regulatory compliance. He advises on a wide range of matters including the roll-out of strategic technology platforms, complex outsourcing arrangements, application and website development and cloud services.  His clients include retail and investment banks, asset managers, general and specialist insurers and pension funds.

It really was a superb discussion that had no sign of dying even after an hour into proceedings. Afterwards we all headed downstairs to record our views on a podcast. Do have a listen – hopefully more of these events to come!

I’ve started a new blog about beer: justbrewing.beer

Home Brew Beer

“Give a man a beer, waste an hour. Teach a man to brew, and waste a lifetime!” – Bill Owen

Starting a blog is a big decision. Not only can feeding it posts and updates be like running your own amateur magazine, which is a considerable time investment in its own right. It marks a way of life as you will never stop thinking about the subject you are writing about.

It’s comparative to the writer’s demon George Orwell mentions:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

I’ll never stop being passionate about public relations and social media, it’s simply a way of life. However, writing about the subject 24/7 does get tough. Especially as life has room for multiple interests, particularly past times outside of work.

When I first began writing about PR in 2008 the blog had three objectives:

  • Be a learning aide, a process that will allow me to hone arguments and understanding;
  • Begin positioning myself to potential employers as an upcoming digital whizz;
  • Be a publication I can enjoy building, a way of intellectual self-expression.

I still enjoy running this blog and will for many years to come. However, as I’ve become more senior at work the blog increasingly has a slight invested interest about it; clearly a big reason for me to blog is to affect prospect buying decisions.

There is nothing wrong with that, but that reality makes a blog feel a little more serious. It’s not quite the level of self-expression I feel I need; it is also firmly categorised as being a “professional” outlet. May I add this applies to my whole “online identity”, it is all PR focused but that has made my virtual self feel a little disconnected from real life.

So… after much thought I decided it’s time to start a second blog about a second passion. Beer! Oh yes, and I even have a snazzy new name for it: http://justbrewing.beer.

Just Brewing Beer is all about:

  • Documenting my home brewing efforts, success and failures, along with the recipes and processes I am using;
  • Running taste tests on home brews, and potentially commercial beers;
  • Writing about any alcoholic events I may be attending.

I’ve already published a couple of posts, including brewing for the first time. However, the blog really is unknown at the moment; this is the first time I have publicised it. Over time I’ll be recording videos for it and already you will see the posts have a slightly more personal touch about them. That still feels uncomfortable but also refreshing at the same time.

So if you’re interested in my new blog please do visit it here. I’m looking forward to getting involved in the online home brewing community and getting to know others who enjoy it.