PR Perspective – Simon Collister

Simon_collister_2 So I’m a bit late with this week’s PR Perspective.  The eagle eyed amongst you will notice there wasn’t one at all last week.  Blame BT – they cut our internet connection earlier than we’d asked for in our old offices so it took a week for us to get back online.  Humpf.

Anyway, this week the victim interviewee, is Simon Collister. 

Following an internship with The Times Simon worked for a number of national organisations where he was responsible for planning and implementing creative high-profile campaigns across the media and in Government.  After leaving the voluntary sector Simon worked for a Yorkshire-based PR agency handling a range of not-for-profit, public sector and commercial clients.

Simon is an expert on blogging and developing the use of social media within PR and campaigning.  He blogs at Simonsays… and eDemocracy Update and has been named as "one of the to UK PR bloggers" by PR Business magazine.  He joined EIS in May 2007.

How long have you been blogging?
Oh…since February 2006, so 19 months.

Why did you start?
I went along to the fantastic conference Delivering the New PR put on by the lovely people at Don’t Panic.  It talked about the ‘future’ and ‘PR’…so had me immediately.

Do you think blogging has helped your business?
From an Edelman perspective, blogging and the changes being brought to the PR and communications business by wider online social changes are at the heart of what we’re doing as a PR firm.  Personally, I agree entirely with what we – the company – are doing.  I am 100% confident that we are seeing a major shift in public behaviour and attitudes being unleashed by technology – rather than the other way around.  Smart PR firms are recognising that and changing the way they do PR but also the way they operate as an organisation.  But that aside, blogging has definitely helped me as an individual…helped me get jobs, making amazing contacts, and meet loads of fantastic people – sometimes even in person too!

What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
At the moment, the biggest challenge is finding time to write.  Between trying to move house, working full time and having a life it’s a real struggle.  What to write about shouldn’t really be an issue – if it is, then perhaps you shouldn’t write a blog.  Always a handing bit of advice for clients who want to blog as well.

What do you want your readers to know about you?
Oh.  Deep.  Erm…That I write for them.  That I’m passionate about society and how improving communications and understanding can help make the world a better place.  For me technology is great – but on inasmuch as it represents progress; is a means to an ends and not the end itself.  There was a great quote I read on Richard Bailey’s blog.  It came from John Naughton at the Open University: "Focusing entirely on technology is the wrong way to go about this stuff… The future will be determined by how people and institutions shape these technologies."

Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
Too many to mention.  Lots of good UK PR ones and lots of thinking US ones.  Have a look at my blogroll for a full list of must reads.

If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?
Think about it first.  There has been a huge slow down – I believe – in the quantity of blog posts coming from even established PR bloggers.  I think it’s partly the Facebook factor sucking everyone in and partly Twitter… but the blogosphere’s growth is definitely slowing and consolidating.  As a result I think it’s harder to enter into established networks.  Also, think about what you want to blog about.  ‘PR’ blogs in general I think won’t cut it any more – it needs to be specific.  I tend to focus on PR, technology and social change with a hint of politics/democracy from time to time.  Once you have decided what is your chosen subject and you’re happy to have something original to say that can add to the conversation go for it!  Doing all that in advance will also mean you won’t end up with a naff name for your blog, like Simonsays…

Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
Absolutely… I mean you can argue it’s not really ‘Web 2.0’ and probably not ‘PR’ – but fundamentally technology and the internet are changing society and the public.  This means that anyone in the business of communicating  with the public needs to be aware of these changes and adapt accordingly.

What’s the biggest challenge in PR?
Broadly, understanding how society is changing and adapting.  More specifically: clients!

What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
Do your research so you understand the industry and then go for it.  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  Definitely be prepared to learn from your mistakes.  Always ask the question why?  Not really PR specific advice…but, hey!

Is there a question you wish I had asked you?
That was it!

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