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.
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.
The runners-up are Claudia Barnett (@claudiaharriet_) and Natalie Szczepanek (@Nat_Szczepanek).
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.
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.
In third place is Hannah Lennox (@HLennox_PR).
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!
In second place is Laura Bradley (@LauraBradleyPR).
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.
The winner and Britain’s best PR student blogger 2016 is Arianne Williams (@ariannewills)!
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.
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.