This is the second post in my series entitled “PR Toolbox,” and how I use the Internet to help advance my PR education and get me ready for the job market in just a few months! First off, I talked about Twitter; next up – blogging!
In the world of PR, communication, and even politics, establishing a clear brand message is critically important. In every news release, social media post, and event, you strive to establish a strong brand that resonates with your target audience. As the communication professional behind a brand, you are expected to build and maintain that brand.
As a student, what better way to build your online brand than through blogging? A blog, which can easily be built on a site like WordPress or Blogger, can easily act as your own personal website where you can blog and build a virtual portfolio – all in one place. So, how do you get started? I know it can seem like a daunting and time-consuming task when you’re building a website from scratch (I know it did to me!), but here are a few steps to follow:
1. Know what you’re interested in, and make that your focus. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in a lot of things, but it’s often best to concentrate on one topic or field. Afterall, the best brand messages are those that push one or two main ideas rather than a bunch of ideas that clutter your overall message.
I chose to focus on the two industries I love and ultimately want to work in – public relations and political communication. Although I blog about a lot of different topics, from planking to Starbucks to the GOP, I always do my best to connect my ideas back to PR or political communication tactics or trends.
However, don’t feel like you have to blog about PR just because you want to work in PR! One of my fellow PRSSA e-board members is an avid baseball fan, so she started a blog dedicated to commenting on anything and everything baseball-related. Also, this blogger, a recent M.A. in Communication grad, took her love of food online and created “Eat Something New.” From recipes to restaurant reviews, she offers her readers valuable commentary about foods of all kinds!
The type of content isn’t as important as the quality of your content – blogging regularly about almost anything will help you improve your writing skills and show future employers valuable writing samples.
2. Chose a design that fits you. Admittedly, I changed my overall theme many times before I finally settled on my current theme. WordPress (and like blog-hosting sites) offers thousands of themes, but many are extremely generic. The key is to make it your own.
For me, I created a Wordle using words that show up most frequently on my blog. I also customized my sidebars to include my “Commentary Cloud” (which acts like an automated word cloud using tags) and my Twitter feed. Set aside some time to go theme surfing to ensure that your theme fits with your overall brand!
3. Expand your brand. In addition to blogging on a regular basis, I added an “About Abby” section, as well as sections for my resume, writing experience, and related work. I use Scribd or DocStoc to upload all of my documents online. (I recommend using Scribd if you have a WordPress blog; it’s much easier to embed documents.) Keep these documents updated on a regular basis to show your visitors what type of work you do in addition to blogging.
4. Get inspired! See what other students do to build their online brand via blogging. Here are a few samples other of student/young professional blogs that I regularly follow:
– “Simply Speaking,” Mackenzie Krott
– “Social PR Lifestyle,” Lauren K. Gray
– “From Sweats to Suits: When Practice Makes Perfect,” Kimberly Ciesla
– “Brittany Kapp’s Blog,” Brittany Kapp
– “Cover to Cover,” Jessica Lawlor
– “Emily Tharp’s Blog,” Emily Tharp
– “I Carry It In My Heart,” Janie Sikes
…These are just a few to help you get some great ideas about your own blogging! Please feel free to comment if you know of other great student blogs to share.
5. Share the love. Sharing other people’s material is a great way to get your name out there. Everyone (especially start-up bloggers!) love a retweet or mention on LinkedIn. Take the time to promote other people’s material if you find it particularly helpful or interesting, and you’ll likely find that people start promoting your material and posts as well.