Toe the ethical line

Before entering the public relations profession the more philosophical of my confrères had doubts that my ethical persuasions would handle the reality of service delivery. It’s always been a possible grievance and in the past (before my present position) I’ve faced ethical dilemmas. How fortunate to be involved in a role where the job’s scope affords such self-masturbatory question of principles.

When it comes to social media I’ve made it very clear in the past of my outright support of individual liberty and the importance of sharing knowledge. So I’m absolutely delighted that the agency I work for, Keene Communications, has agreed to pledge ethical allegiance to Wikipedia. In my role as digital consultant I had the pleasure to announce the news, after board-level discussions.

It’s important that we, as Keene, serve the needs of our clients but also respect the process of Wikipedia. Our content will ultimately shape Wikipedia and people’s judgment of the free encyclopedia. We are always willing to have open and honest relationships with Editors, as well as challenge them on key topics of debates that are central to client campaigns.

Wikipedia launched 13 years ago and swiftly gained respect for accuracy and reliability. This feisty non-profit relies on donations and is an example in its own right of why internet access should be considered a fundamental human right.

With the  joint statement of ethics for communications firms on Wikipedia, PR agencies no longer have to worry in isolation about any Conflict of Interests (CoI) and know exactly how to interact with this valuable online resource. I personally look forward to publicly debating with editors over client issues and adding to Wikipedia for the greater good.

Review of Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7 is Google’s first attempt at introducing Android to the tablet market. Logically you would have thought that their main competitor would be the iPad, but oh no. Google labelled their official competitor as the Amazon Kindle Fire which has still not greeted British shores. The Google Nexus 7 is the result of a collaboration between Google and Asus – it worked.

Boasting a 1.2 Ghz quad-core CPU, 416 MHz Nvidia GeForce ULP with 12 cores, 1 GB DDR3 RAM and a battery capable of 9 hours of usage, this is a device for me. It clearly outperforms the unbranded tablets sold in abundance on eBay whilst at the same time keeping to a price tag starting at £159.

Making the decision to purchase Google’s first tablet didn’t take me long – it is a better version of the Amazon Kindle Fire.

This 7-inch tablet is a pleasure to use; it can be picked up with one hand and weighs just enough to feel well-built but not so heavy to be uncomfortable after long periods of use. As a Windows and Apple user the Google Nexus 7 introduced me to the Android UI for the first time and at this stage I must confess the Jelly Bean OS feels far superior to iOS. It is quick. So far the only lag I have experienced has been on content heavy web pages. In terms of everyday use this tablet just makes life easier. It is the first tablet computer I have owned and I can proudly profess to have fallen for the form factor.

That doesn’t mean to say it is the first tablet I have used. The iPad is a superb piece of design but I practically find the device clumsy to use. Its weight makes long reading sessions uncomfortable and attempting to type anything of great length is a frustrating experience. The screen on the iPad is its one redeeming feature but you would expect this from a price tag upwards from £400. Whilst Steve Jobs may not have approved of 7-inch tablets I personally find them far more convient to use.

The Google Nexus 7 has already served me well as an eBook reader, newspaper reader, portable video player and games console. It was designed for consumable content. Although, strangely, this is what refrained me from purchasing a tablet PC up until now.

As a heavy content creator tablet devices have never really interested me. Frequently I used to draw comparisons between netbooks and tablets, finding netbooks the desirable middle ground between consuming and creating content. Now that I have found an affordable tablet simply consuming content isn’t a problem.

There is a downside to the Google Nexus 7, the Google Play store. So far the majority of apps are still optimised for smartphones only. In fact the official Skype app flags the Google Nexus 7 as untested and unsupported! If Google’s new tablet proves to be popular then expect developers to pay more attention to optimising apps for tablets. At this stage the Google Play store is only a partial let down to an otherwise brilliant tablet.

Research into Latent Semantic Analytics

Over the last year the internet has evolved, a transition which we now all abide by although may not have acknowledged. Content is no longer king, context is.

The sheer volume of data being created each minute is staggering (check out this infographic) and techniques are constantly being developed in order to search and organise this data. In the PR industry it is critical to keep an eye on all data relating to clients, surrounding topics and key influencers. The vast amount of content avaliable makes this task easy but only if easy search solutions exist.

For my dissertation I researched a very new area of online analytics called Latent Semantic Analytics. The process has existed for decades but only a handful of organisations have managed to use the mathmatical technique for business means. Within my dissertation I explore the benefits of Latent Semantic Analytics by how the process can create relationships between words depending upon their frequency and contexts.

I managed to gain a First for this piece of research and I am pleased to be able to share it with you all online today. Not only do I hope you find the content of my dissertation interesting but current PR students may find it useful to read in terms of the structure I used.

 

Feel free to share this post with anybody you think would be relevant and if you have any questions I will try my best to answer them!

Google+ Local Launches

A stark contrast exists between a ‘social network’ and a ‘community’. Whilst I may exist on Twitter, it would be impossible for anyone to say that this is a community. The users I communicate with are rarely the same and the network is constructed on the notion of following strangers based upon interest. In comparison a forum system builds relationships between users – that emotional connection is essential for community.

Over the last few days Google has replaced Google Places with its newly launched Google+ Local. Not only is this a drive to incorporate Google+ into its location based services but it is expected to attract business owners to Google’s Places service.

Google+ Local, according to the search giant helps improve how people discover and share local businesses inside Google+. Below is an excerpt from Google’s blog post.

“With the release of Google+ Local, rolling out today, we are bringing the community of Google+ to local business owners around the world. We aim to improve the way people discover new businesses, rediscover places they love, and share them with their friends across the web.”

At the end of May news appeared of Google’s partnership with review service Zagat. Gound breaking in many respects as this previously, exclusively premium service, is now being offered through Google+ Local for free. A quick visit to Google+ Local this morning revealed a list of local restaurants, heavily focused on consumer reviews, appearing near my current location near Gloucester.

There is no doubt that, coupled with review functionality, Google has started to heavily tread on the toes of Foursquare and Facebook Places. It offers a more convinient service that having to ‘check in’ constantly and delivers premium review content from Zagat.

The quick development of Google+ just goes to show how influential social networks are in this current age and puts other networks, such as Microsoft’s so.cl, to shame. Whilst the majority of users (in my experience) still use Facebook frequently, Google+ will begin to gain new users thanks to its updates. Whether Google+ is the ideal network for real world friends to connect with each other is a different matter altogether. Currently Google+ appears to be the perfect place for mutual contacts to share and discuss – I may be wrong though.

At the beginning of 2012 my PR class were debating to write a book on Google+ but it never went ahead. I’m glad. The network is developing so quickly and for PR purposes constantly changes. When a business gets involved with Google+ the main benefit is SEO. However every local business (especially retail) cannot afford to miss out on Google+ Local. Consumers are already talking openly about you online, digital PR has never been more important.

How I landed myself a Graduate PR Role

It is my aim in this blog post to provide an honest overview of my graduate scheme search and how I landed my upcoming graduate role at Red. This is an extremely “transparent” post which covers my experiences precisely.

 

It would be dishonest for me to say that the only graduate scheme I applied for was Red. Such an act would be lunacy in an economic environment drowned in talented graduates. For the last 3 to 4 years it has been necessary for upcoming University leavers to apply for as many job roles as possible. Graduate unemployment has hit its highest level since 1995; members of my class were not able to leave all their eggs in one basket.

The approach I took when applying for graduate schemes was to ask myself if they filled the below criteria:

  1. Would the role suit my interests?
  2. Does the organisation “feel” right for me?
  3. Will I be able to live on the salary?

When I started applying for schemes in January I made sure that I could answer ‘yes’ to each of these points. Thanks to a superb list of 2012 graduate schemes by Ben Cotton I had somewhere to start. Yet I only applied to organisations who appealed in some way to me. Each scheme I applied for provided me with different processes, different experiences and I am going to share some of what I learn’t within this post today.

Firstly it is important to note that the majority of public relations graduate schemes are not exclusively open to graduate public relations students. Indeed a graduate from any discipline can apply for a PR role. This doesn’t undervalue the worth of a PR degree (we are at an advantage with the skills taught to us) but instead makes the process a lot harder.

Edelman
I was one of the lucky thirty to make it through to the Edelman assessment day. Their process involved the initial application, telephone interview and finally the assessment day. Needless to say making it through to the assessment day alone was a an experience which I was thankful for. On the day I was interview by three individuals within the company, took part in a written assessment and did a presentation to a panel of eight employees. On the whole it went well, especially for my interview as I was rated in the top five.

Edelman was tricky though. Even though most of my assessment day was ranked highly I was considered to be ‘too good’ for their apprenticeship scheme. To this day I disagree with this observation as an experience in a multinational agency such as Edelman would have been extremely valuable. Yet it may not have pushed me considering my already in-depth experiences at Microsoft due to the structure of their scheme.

They clearly value their potential employees as HR assigned me to be interview by their Digital Team – a role which would have put my 9 months ahead of the apprenticeship scheme. Whilst my interview with them went really well I did not get the role with them – competition was too high and another individual (not necessarily a graduate) with more experience obtained the role.

Instead saw my skills to be better aligned in analytics (I did try and convince them that my maths aren’t that good!) so asked me for another interview but with the analytics team. Due to my experience at Microsoft doing Online Advertising I knew that an analytics based role was not quite right for me, after much thought I graciously declined the interview.

Edelman are a forward thinking agency who tried to find a part of their business to plug me into but at this time it did not work. Everyone I met at the agency in London were delightful, very bright but what they could offer me was not quite right in the end.

An undisclosed smaller agency
Out of all the agencies I applied for my most confusing experience was with a smaller agency based in London. Their assessment day involved a group task and presentation, successful candidates were then invited back for a final interview. In particular I found the group assessment nerve racking as one of the candidates (who studies law) recognised me from my blog. Whilst this gave me a push to perform to prove my ‘real world value’ to this follower, it did cause me to worry. Living up to people’s expectations can, at times, be worrisome.

Nevertheless I managed to obtain a final interview with this agency which went incredibly well. By chance I had already seen clients of theirs in the media and could rehearse the media impact of them in 2011 without strain. It is remarkable what stress, focus and the desire to please will do to the mind.

I left the interview almost certain that I would get a job offer from them within the next week. Whilst this delighted me I knew that I was still waiting back from Edelman and had yet started Red’s graduate scheme processes. I’ve never been one to settle for the easy option if a better choice existed and at this stage I was not certain this small agency was right for me – despite the friendliness of its staff.

After a couple of weeks though the agency didn’t get in contact – rather confusing as after a final interview the decision is usually quite quick. I then found out from the manager that the agency had already done some hiring and had yet to make a decision about me, to help make their decision I agreed to do two days work experience for them. Those two days seemed to go well although obviously, being a work experience student, most of the time you tend to feel like a spare part.

After the two days were up a few days passed and the agency revealed uncertainty about my position due to client movements, eventually they were going to award me a role which would start in August.

To be honest my interest in them was dying at this point, not due to their business approach but because obtaining a graduate role with them was really drawn out. Even though I had spent in the region of £80 going to their various days (National Express Coaches and Oyster purchases) they seemed to find it difficult to make their decisions. Whilst everyone in the company was a pleasure to work with and meet I couldn’t commit any more time to processes and start dates were far too late.

Red
Red’s campaigns frequently receive attention in the PR industry; creativity is their weapon and their approach should be inspiring for smaller upcoming agencies. All of their employees were pleasant to speak with, their flat structure even meant speaking with managers to be easy and they were honest throughout the whole procedure. I left the Red assessment day and final interview with nerves and high hopes I wished to suppress. Somehow I knew that they were the agency for me and if they decided against my application it would have dealt a heavy blow.

Thankfully I got the job and cannot wait to start.

I did get rejections
I’m aware that I have only listed three agencies who I managed to get into the final stages for. In reality I also got rejected from a handful of agencies in either the first stages or after telephone interview. The fact I eventually obtained a graduate role in the end shows that every agency is looking for somebody different for their organisation. Whilst you may not make it through one scheme, another organisation may find you suitable for an assessment day and may even offer you a role.

Throughout my graduate job search I have placed a large focus on my emotional reactions towards agencies. This is the first step into my career and so I must take every job offer seriously but at the same time I must make sure that I will grow.

In summary my graduate job search revealed these lessons to me:

1# Check that you keep your top button on your shirt done up. When I attended the Edelman assessment day it was warm so I had my top button undone. Unfortunately I forgot to do it up before the interview. Despite this I was rated in the top five who were interviewed that day but pictures taken on the day revealed the unsightly undone button. Thankfully they didn’t mind too much (some graduates on the day were not even wearing proper suits!) but it is worth remembering the top button.

2# Finding a graduate job is important but make sure the agency is right for you. Some agencies may do fantastic traditional PR but their digital approaches may be lacking. Everyone in the PR industry has to take digital seriously. Think of your CV – do you really want to work for an agency whose approaches are still set in the noughties? No.

3# Don’t take rejections personally. I was rejected in the early stages of Blue Rubicon and Hotwire – yet Edelman, the world’s largest PR agency, accepted me for interview. Agencies look for different sorts of candidates and sometimes we are not the perfect match. Keep applying.

4# When applying for graduate schemes it is important to only apply for those organisations you are actually interested working for. On that note don’t just apply for one or two schemes. Apply for every scheme which takes your fancy. Some applications are deliberately made long to cut down the amount of applicants. Each PR graduate scheme receives between 300 – 700 applications, play the numbers game and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

5# Understand your role, contract length and salary before applying. Someone I know from my class was offered a job at a salary of £16,000 a year. Man cannot live away from home with bills, food and travel on this sort of pay. The minimum salary for a PR graduate these days is £18,000.

6# The chances are that members of your class will probably be applying for the same jobs as you. Your class mates are the competition but don’t let this deter you.

7# During group interviews (which usually involve a task) always remain the courteous person you are. On one assessment day a graduate on my team was incredibly rude, overly competitive and a pain to worth with. He didn’t get the role because no agency wishes to have someone like that in one of their teams.

8# If you have a chance after an assessment day spend time talking with other graduates. Everyone is usually very friendly and talking allows you to gauge your competition. Competition for new talent in the PR industry at the moment is very high!

9# Don’t forget the skills you have learnt at University. Those who do not come from a PR degree tend to forget the basics such as objectives, strategy, tactics and evaluation in campaign planning. Use structures like this to really make your ideas stand out. Make sure you use a mix between traditional and digital PR.

10# The final and most important point of all – RELAX. You have nothing to be nervous about. Nerves can hinder your performance so remain relaxed at all times, enjoy assessment days for the attention you get and before not too long you will land yourself a job.

 

I hope that this blog post has proved to be useful and that I haven’t upset any PR agencies in its publication! Let me know if you have any questions. I would also love to know your best and worst experiences of job hunting.

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.

Wallit is a new Social Network which allows Virtual Wall Collaboration

A new social networking app, Wallit, shot up in popularity yesterday after it was featured in the Apple’s Stores “New and Noteworthy” section. The application allows users to create virtual walls which are locked to specific locations using the iPhone’s GPS locator. These walls can then be viewed by anybody logged into the Wallit app and be used for social collaboration.

The latest version of Wallit introduces a character index system which means walls accumilate their own character points which indicates the popularity of the wall and the social networking influence of the users posting on it. This means that Wallit uses an algorythm in order to understand your influence across Facebook and Twitter then applies this to a rating on Wallit.

Even though the app only went live on the 6th March it already boasts over 700 virtual walls with users using each wall as collaborating points across home and business. Over 127 countries are now using Wallit which probably means the initial starting figure of 700 virtual walls will soon be blown out of the water!

The Apple Store is right – Wallit is a noteworthy social network for us to keep our eyes on. At this stage the app is far too new in order to be used for any serious business means. However, once the userbase as grown larger, it could easily become a useful network to use at:

Events
You could create a virtual wall for people to collaborate with during an event. May be a good way for people to meet each other and introduce promotions.

Shopping
If you are a shop you could introduce a virtual wall to the high street to attract users of Wallit into making purchases.

Business
Allow your co-worked to talk with each other using a virtual wall. Wallit could be particularly useful for those who work in larger business and wish to build relationships with the colleagues they share a floor with.

Advertising
Could Wallit eventually introduce an era of GPS targeted advertising? Wallit could cause push up messages advertising nearby offers. Not to say that this is a good use of Wallit – GPS advertising would be annoying.

Wallit is a very new social network at the moment but it is worthwhile trying it out. Will it stand the test of time? Download it and try it out.

Google’s Plan for Google+ [OPINION]

The new social network on the scene, Google+, marks a significant shift with how people communicate across the internet, engage with services and communicate with businesses. Let me explain why…

Google has been attempting to penetrate the social networking scene for the last couple of years. Unfortunately past attempts have failed but now Google+ is making progress. Yet this is not just an attempt by Google to overthrow established networks like Facebook or Twitter. Instead Google+ is designed to socially connect all of Google’s services, much like how Microsoft’s Windows Live services are integrated.

Over the years Google has made a number of notably acquirements; AppJet in 2004, YouTube in 2009, Picnik in 2010 and this year SageTV HTPC software. Look into each of these articles and soon the jigsaw becomes constructed. Google’s acquirements have created some of the biggest names of Google user services; Google Books, Google Documents, Blogger, Picasa, YouTube, Google TV.

Since 2009 Google Profiles lay dormant but it is in my belief Google knew their plan all along. So that their services survive they must be integrated. Why? Because there is no such thing as a fragmented web.

We all love homogenous services, Facebook is the example of this. Yes, it is one social networking but has the option for image galleries, video galleries, blogging/notes (albeit basic but used), email services, etc. Google currently provides completely separate services, the only similiarity is the same Google user login details.

Yet no matter how separate all of Google’s services are they also have a social element. Just look at YouTube, arguably a social network in its own right but any content posted by Google users is absolutely hidden from other services such as Picasa or Google profiles.

Google+ will not only merge all of Google’s products together but also their social elements. This leads me to believe that Google+ is a direct threat to Facebook but could potentially change the way in which we all consume content over the internet.

It is in my belief that the 18 million+ of us who have already signed up to Google+ are using a very different service to how Google+ will behave and appear in the near future. For the moment Google+’s user base is only set to grow but the real question is how long will it be before Google goes ahead with the next step of their plus plan? I think within the next 6 months.