Advice For Anyone Who Wants to Start A Blog

A few days ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she had begun PR school and asked for advice about what to do for the blog she was obligated to do for one of her classes. If you're one of those die-hard BlogCampaigning fans, you probably already know my thoughts on adding another PR blog to the over-saturated sea of PR blogs.

Back then, my advice to my young friend would have been that she should start a blog about something she cares about.

Now, my advice would be that they avoid starting a blog altogether.

Instead, she should start a Facebook Page.

Right at the start, she can populate this Facebook Page with information about herself (or her project) and what the page is about.

Since I'm pretty sure students in these PR classes are encouraged to read each others' blogs, she can then ask her follow students to 'Like' the page (a much easier task than subscribing via RSS).

Instead of daily blog posts, she can write daily status updates for the page. Facebook's newish tagging ability makes it easier to link to other pages, and isn't really that different than the traditional HTML links you'd include in a blog post. These tags have the added ability of ensuring your post is visible on the page that you tagged, potentially increasing your audience. Interactions on these pages (Likes, Comments) will be spread across the social network of her and her friends, encouraging further interaction and becoming much more visible than if these same interactions were made on a blog.

If she does all this, she'll have the framework for a 'blog' that has the potential to be more popular than any of her classmates. She'll also learn a lot about an increasingly relevant tool in the communicators' kit.

She'll still have to ensure her posts are interesting, resonate with her audience and encourage interaction. A supporting website with basic contact information and direction to 'Like' the Facebook page couldn't hurt, either.

What do you think? Is this good advice for a PR/communications student? If you're a teacher, would you give a passing grade to a student who did this instead of starting a traditional blog?


Stop Reading PR Blogs

Earlier this year, I suggested that PR students wanting to get involved in the online world should avoid starting a PR-focused blog. Now, I'm going to suggest that we all stop even reading PR blogs. They aren't that representative of the real world—the wilds of the internet.

Rather than focusing on how this tightly knit community (I believe David Jones referred to it as a "circle-jerk" on Inside PR) does things and communicates, why not spend that time getting more involved in understanding the way actual people use the internet?

Learn how your clients' audiences look for things online. Learn about what they're interested in. Become passionate about what they are passionate about, or at least try and understand their passion.

I'm willing to bet that most of you don't spend your evenings re-reading your old PR textbooks (nor do you buy the latest version every year), but that you probably do browse your region's daily newspapers on a regular basis.

Do you have any idea how few people care about RSS feeds? How many of your friends (outside of those involved in the communications industry) actually care about Twitter or even understand what it does?

Forget case studies. Forget best practices. When is the last time you did something truly new and interesting?


Martin Waxman for CPRS Mentor of The Year

I have recently been informed that Martin Waxman has been nominated to be the TorontoCanadian Public Relations Society's Mentor of the Year award. Until today, I wasn't even aware that this was an award category One of the first emails that I received after joining the CPRS was one asking me if I would be interested in the CPRS mentorship program. With no formal PR schooling behind me, having very few contacts in the industry, being new in the city and generally not knowing a whole lot about the field of Public Relations, I thought that this was would be a great opportunity.

I was matched up with Martin Waxman, co-owner of Palette Public Relations and he has been an amazing mentor.

Although we both have busy and varied schedules, we have managed to meet up for breakfast or coffee about once a month or so. He has always given insightful answers to my questions about the work within a PR agency, and has also provided me with valuable career advice. More than than, Martin has treated me like a colleague and a friend and I like to think of him the same way. I've always enjoyed our conversations, and always look forward to the next one.

I also know that Martin has donated a great deal of his time to be involved with CPRS Toronto, and for this I think of him as a sort of mentor to the greater PR community.

If you're reading this, thanks again for your time, Martin. I look forward to meeting up with you again in a few weeks.


Twitter 101?

A few months ago, I wrote an article for the CPRS Toronto publication "New Perspectives" about Twitter. It was published last week, and I've included it on my blog, adding links where appropriate. If you want to view a scanned image of the article, click here. If you want to view the article on the CPRS Toronto website you are out of luck (they list their Spring 2008 issue as the current one).

Twitter 101?

By Parker Mason

CNW Group

If you’ve been paying attention to the social media world these days you probably know that Twitter is the hottest thing since Facebook amongst the digerati.

At its most basic level, Twitter exists for you to answer the question “What are you doing right now?” in 140 characters. But what began as a simple way to update your friends (or “followers” in Twitter-speak) has evolved into something much more. It is being used to share everything from ideas and links to information about natural disasters and the scores at sporting events and it is taking over the world of online communications.

Twitter matters because it gives people a way of opting in to receive information while also participating in a dialogue around it. While a blog could be compared to a formal lecture with a comments section as a formal question and answer period, Twitter is more like a cocktail party. There are multiple conversations happening at the same time, and you can easily drift between them and either or participate as you wish.

At the recent mesh Conference held in Toronto, delegates weren’t handing out business cards or email addresses so much as they were their Twitter account names. Throughout the conference (and, it seems, most social media conferences these days), an entire background conversation was taking place on Twitter. Rather than waiting until after a speaker had finished, delegates were debating their points during the session. As one blogger wrote, “you weren’t at the conference if you weren’t involved in the backchannel on Twitter.”

While it may still be early days for Twitter, there are still millions of people using the service and the “backchannel conversations” happening at conferences are already happening with your clients. As with all spaces (online or not) people will be having these conversations whether you’re there or not so you might as well meet them there.

So who is already using Twitter?

Zappos (http://zappos.com) is one company that has dove headfirst into the Twittersphere. The CEO of this online shoe-company already has over five thousand followers and is climbing up the popularity charts. Nearly every single employee is on Twitter, and all are encouraged to use the service to respond to questions or comments regarding Zappos. In the name of transparency, the company also has a page set up on their website that collects all mentions of “Zappos” on Twitter.

I’m quite proud of my CNW colleagues for embracing Twitter. When not traveling between Calgary and Vancouver, you can find Doug Lacombe, Vice-President, Western Canada, updating his Twitter feed by publicly fielding questions about the newswire business. At the same time, other members of CNW have used the service to find out more about what is going on at conferences or to simply share links with each other.

CNW Group has recently added a Twitter feed of releases being distributed by us in the Internet Technology category. Journalists and bloggers following the feed will receive a message with the headline of the release and a link to the full version on the CNW website at www.newswire.ca.

How can I start using Twitter?

Like most online tools, the easiest way to start learning is to start using. With Twitter, you’ll have to go to http://Twitter.com to sign up for an account. It is easy to do, and once you’re there you can make use of all of Twitter’s features right from their homepage. However, using Twitter from their webpage is a little bit cumbersome. A much more elegant solution comes in the form of a program called Twhirl (http://twhirl.org). Rather than forcing you to refresh your page in order to get updates from your friends, Twhirl automates the process and turns Twitter into an easy-to-use messaging program.

When you’re there, you’ll start seeing how you can integrate your Twitter account with your account at a number of other online places like Facebook.

Parker Mason is the Web Content Specialist at CNW Group, a global leader in news and information distribution services for professional communicators. Follow Parker on Twitter at http://twitter.com/parkernow

Parker In Print

CPRS Toronto members who read New Perspectives will realize that an article I wrote was recently published there. I'd direct you to a place where you can find it online, but the CPRS Toronto website is slightly out of date and lists the Winter 2006 edition as the current issue. The March 2007 issue is also available for download.

Despite that, I'd like to thank David Jones, Terry Fallis, Paull Young, Mitch Joel and Michael O'Connor-Clarke for quotes that I've lifted from their blogs (or podcast, as the case may be) for attributed use in the article.

Let me know if you'd like me to either send you a scanned copy, or direct you to where you can find it online once CPRS has uploaded it to their website.


CPRS's Social Media Ethics Clause

Jess is BlogCampaigning's newest team member. She's currently a graduate student at Seneca College in the Corporate Communications / Public Relations program. This is her first post. Karen Dalton, the Executive Director of the Canadian Public Relations Society, recently came to give a spiel on ethics to my media relations class. She mentioned the recent inclusion of a Social Media component in the CPRS Code of Ethics. It includes this clause:

V. Code of standards for use of CPRS websites

This policy statement applies to any and all materials provided to the national office of the society for posting to any part of the CPRS website as of its date of receipt at an Annual General Meeting of the society; and to any materials currently on the CPRS website as of that date. It also applies to any website maintained by, or on behalf of, a member society of CPRS. It also applies to any social medium hosted, sponsored and/or maintained by, or on behalf of, the national society or any member society.

This seems fitting since the Facebook group for CPRS was initially created and controlled by a public relations student at York University. It took about eight months before Karen Dalton was able to gain administrative status for the group. Although the student in this case had pure intentions, namely that CPRS should have a Facebook forum, it is nonetheless worth observing that Facebook does provide these opportunities for corporate reputation hijacking. If there’s one thing we’ve been taught thus far in school with regards to reputation management, it would be this: it’s always better coming from the horse’s mouth than someone else’s.