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.

Now an Assistant Account Executive at Red

I am pleased to announce that I have accepted a position at Red as an Assistant Account Executive in the technology team! I believe this role will compliment my existing skills and will allow me to develop further as I make the transition from student to a fully fledged PR Professional. I shall be beginning my new role mid-June where I shall be located in London full-time.

Red has always been one of the PR agencies which has stood out in the PR industry due to its highly creative approaches to fulfilling client objectives, which has led to a number of different awards. In 2011 it was awarded “PR Agency of the Year” by Marketing Week and this year it was awarded “UK Consultancy of the Year” by The Holmes Report.

After the initial graduate application and assessment day I was interviewed at Red by two of the agencies’ Managing Directors. An ordeal which should have been nerve racking but the agencies’ flat structure soon shone through as I was eased into a job interview which was a conversation rather than an interrogation. I quickly became aware that the job being offered, the clients available and the sort of work they do would be perfect.

Deciding which company I should work for is heart over mind decision for me. My initial emotional reaction to a workplace will invariably be a large contributing factor to my final decision.

I am gracious and fortunate to have found a graduate job before I have even left University. However it did take a lot of work. Through the final few months of University I applied to roughly twelve different agencies (all graduate schemes); job applications, telephone interviews, assessment days, real world interviews, work experience – I did the lot. I got a few rejections, some interest but my final decision would have always been Red.

My days as a student have come to a close. University is over and a new job awaits. I cannot wait to start working for Red and I am delighted that they want me to be a member of their talented team.

Its time for me to prove my worth in the PR industry.

That’s it then, I’ve finished University

That is University. It didn’t last too long. Before the first year had even begun the clock had already starting ticking, like unlikely footsteps towards a graduation ceremony. Before you know it University is over. No more assignments, exams or nights out. A move which in all proportions shakes the very foundations of a student’s sole as education has been everything. From the age of three I have found myself subject to the education system. It comes with a hierachy of teachers playing god (especially in secondary school) and University being bridge between studying and the ‘real world’. By the time one hits their early twenties they have usally had enough – I’m twenty two.

Education is one thing but now the hard work really begins. Obtaining a degree, even though the process was mostly affirmable, was a necesity. In terms of the public relations industry a degree has prepared me to build up key skills, understand industry issues, growth patterns and has increased my contacts. Lets not forget that it was also through studying at the University of Gloucestershire that I was accepted as an intern at Microsoft.

The hard work begins with practising public relations, driving results for clients and to build up a strong portfolio of knowledge and experience. Within five years time the degree on my CV will be meaningless unless I can prove my worth by practising public relations. In the beginning this will mean living at home but hopefully, as my situation becomes more stable, I’ll be able to move out.

The biggest loss of University will be the people I have met. In some ways the blow has already been softened, by the time I returned for my fourth final year many friends of mine had already left Cheltenham. Therefore losing contact with people has been a staggered approach but not one I wish to repeat. I expect to keep in contact with the majority of people from my final year, especially through Facebook but undoubtedly I may not see some faces for a few years or ever again. Scary.

For those student who read my blog who still have time at University left – enjoy it. Make the most of your time because the clock is already ticking. There is nothing more daunting than being forced into the real world, nothing more exhilarating either.

Of course the only pressing decision I have to make now is how this blog should evolve. Its title is ‘Musings of a PR Student’ which clearly cannot stand for much longer as the PR student days are close to an end. So a name change is certainly due; should a small design change also take place? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

An insightful, intellectual and interesting chat with Neville Hobson

 

Neville Hobson

Neville Hobson first began blogging in 2002, a hobby which grew to incorporate how a business should communicate using digital communication channels. Today he has over 25 years’ experience in public relations, marketing communication and financial relations. His acclaimed statis is clearly exampled by his popular Twitter profile boasting over 10,000 followers.

Today my class and I were fortunate enough to meet him thanks to our lecturer David Phillips. Due to unforseen circumstances involving smoke and a broken car Neville Hobson met the class via Skype but this by no means detracted from him sharing his knowledge and insight. You can read his views of this event in his latest blog post, which is accompanied with a rather fetching picture of my face (pixalation is a godsend in this case).

During the one hour discussion which involved members of the class asking questions relating to the PR industry Neville Hobson shared his views concerning digital communication, intellectual property laws, ethics and his own online activities. Out of all the discussions my main focus point was the PR industry’s approach to online measurement.

I’m still unsure to whether Neville Hobson knows that I partially analysed his Twitter feed within my dissertation to example some basic techniques behind Latent Semantic Analysis (for more information concerning this technique visit this post). So listening to his views, especially his distaste for Klout, reinforced just how critical measurement is for the PR industry.

The insights he shared concerning measurement were rather similar to mine in the sense that agencies ‘in the know’ are attempting to reach their own standardisations, especially Edelman but pinpointing how reputation should be measured is difficult. Do 5000 Facebook ‘likes’ equate to reputation? Does positive sentiment lead to good reputation? These questions deserve blog posts in their own right.

A couple of members from the class put a heavy focus on the social connotations of social media. How these platforms could effect society as a whole through allowing collaboration in business, schools and in our personal lives. Neville Hobson indicated that it is still the case that the minority of people use these social tools but that minority is growing. Social media should compliment our work rather than become the main objective.

It was a very informative class and a wonderful opportunity to speak with one of the thought leaders in the PR industry. Perhaps the most important question I should have posed to Neville Hobson is “Do you fancy meeting in the future for a beer?”. Hopefully one day.

 

New Website allows UK Students to sell and buy used books

My name is Joanne Brady and I am the founder of TheBookPond.com. I am a graduate of The University of Hull, and of Durham University, and I am a mother of four very lively girls.

TheBookPond.com is a site which allows UK university students to list their used textbooks for free in order to sell them locally to other students, cutting out un-necessary P&P costs and reducing ‘textbook miles’. The site is totally free to use, and always will be. I set it up as I am a big fan of saving money and hate to see wasted resources.

Whilst at Hull University, I bought and sold a lot of my textbooks using the department noticeboards, but I found it wasn’t as convenient as it could be. I did a joint degree and I was posting to multiple noticeboards. I also found a lot of my notices went missing for one reason or another. Selling my books as a graduate is even harder work as being away from campus makes it necessary to use online book sale sites, which means paying for P&P and a sales commission, which can be quite a chunk.

The idea to have a site which anyone can access, either on or off campus, and encourage people to sell books directly to buyers is one I spent a little bit of time developing. Having no web programming skills and no budget, I found someone with the skills that was prepared to work on the site as a project and take a punt. I found Graeme, a computer studies student at The University of Strathclyde, and the site was launched in the autumn term of 2009.

Since 2009, in between me having children, us both completing our studies, and Graeme taking a work placement abroad, we have been making adjustments to the site, and have started a blog. We have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed too, and are big fans of social media. In the summer of 2011, we were featured on BBC News 24’s technology programme Click!, which was a massive boost to us. We attracted some worldwide interest, but we are focussing on the UK for the time being. Currently we have over 500 members and growing, and we have over 400 books listed on the site.

I completed my masters degree studying users of electric cars last year, and am now on the lookout for a PhD studentship which fits in with my family commitments. TheBookPond.com is a long-term project which I’m sure will continue to grow and to provide students with a way of contacting each other to save money and stop those once loved textbooks from gathering dust.

 

The main site – www.TheBookPond.com

The blog – http://bookpond-thebookpond.blogspot.co.uk/

The Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Book-Pond/132542209559

The twitter feed – http://twitter.com/#!/theBookPond

My email – [email protected]

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?

It is Good to be Back in Cheltenham

Blogging is a muscle which requires exercise. Yet no matter how dedicated you may be with travelling to the gym each week you may sometime go through a patch of absence. During these times it is easy to become lazy, to fall into a day to day routine which skips your once heavy physical activity.

Unfortunately this has happened to me on the blogging side of my life. Shamefully it has almost been 1 month since I last posted on mikewhite.co.uk. For this I have no excuse – other than a much needed break. My blogging muscles are now firmly working again.

A lot has happened since I last blogged here.

For a start I am now a final year PR student at the University of Gloucestershire. The real world objective to make money has stepped back and now  personal gain consists of delving into a mountain of textbooks in preparation for essays, dissertations and questions. Eventually this experience will become part of a far more useful experience based work placement but for the moment learning is my key objective.

Cheltenham gladly offers a far more peaceful atmosphere than commuting into central London each day but the importance of working for Microsoft has dramatically affected me in a number of ways. Surprisingly identity has become somewhat of an issue – this applies to most the students in my lecturers.

Our placement experience has resulted in us not really feeling like students. Many of which would rather still be working full-time but it’s best not to critique University – this is an opportunity I won’t be able to experience in my life again.

Now back at University I have a few different things lined up including a couple of interviews, being back on the student radio again (which will probably involve some festival work) and maybe writing an academic paper (to be confirmed).

It is good to be back in Cheltenham.

Safely Out of London: 2011 Riots

Source: Reuters

As of writing this I have safely arrived home from London. Microsoft security kept all employees up-to-date of the London riot situation and eventually many decided to leave and work remotely (one of the beauties of working for the world’s BEST software company!). The atmosphere in London is twofold; of panic and solidarity. Somewhat oxymoronic, ironically caused by morons who choose to loot and pillage their own communities.

Last night Ken Livingstone voiced his opinions on BBC News insinuating that rioting amongst the younger generation was due to the economically tough times. Personally I find it rather disgusting how Red Ken decided to take a situation caused by greed and sheer violence as a political point. Yes, generation Y do have it particularly bad but these gangs were never looking for a job – they feed from those who do. The London riots do not seem political, instead gangs have discovered that through joint communication it is possible to cause havoc in designated areas.

Blackberry Messaging is being blamed to be the telecommunications choice for looters. This afternoon the official Blackberry blog was hacked by infamous group TeaMp0isoN_. Yet blaming particular social mediums is not the point. Text messaging could easily be just as valid. Both communications forms could be traced (it is simple) but unlikely.

TeaMp0isoN's Message to BlackBerry_

Panic has swept London and the police will be out in full force tonight. Not only is the police presence necessary to maintain order but it is also a PR drive. Politicians decided that sipping their wine abroad and waiting for the violence to shift was harming their reputation. The Met need to prove that their force have what it takes to keep London under control.

This is only a quickly written blog post by a student who happens to share one aspect with rioters, age. Let’s not tarnish the whole of generation Y over the London riots. Many of us are very different. When I watch the news I feel betrayed – clearly there are many in our society who do not recognise ethics.

In my opinion this video sums up the whole of the London riots. Warning: it will make you angry.

Stay safe.