After a bit of nagging (I felt a lot like his mother – wash behind your ears and pick those pants up off of the floor), Richard Millington gives us the latest PR Perspective. Richard is 22 and is currently a marketing student at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, He is also a freelance copywriting and marketing/social media consultant, and his clients include Gloucester City Council, Rancon, Hazina and HLTV.org. He is taking the rather unusual step of hoping to go freelance straight from Uni rather than pursue the traditional corporate route. Should be interesting. He’s just moved his blog over to Typepad and here is the necessary link to FeverBee.
How long have you been blogging?
I began a personal blog for just a few friends back in 2004, but I only started blogging about PR in May 2006. After I completed my work placement my blogging slowed down a little, but recently as part of my new year’s resolutions I’ve cut my feeds down, switched to a brand new blog at www.feverbee.com and got things going again. I think it’s going to be important for me when I finish University.
Why did you start?
My first few weeks of my placement were quite intense and one evening I decided to see if anybody else was at my stage of a PR placement. So I typed in ‘Student PR’ and ‘Young PR’ and came up with the blogs of Chris Clarke and Paull Young. I then spent the rest of the evening, reading their blog archives and those they linked to. The next day I asked my boss at apt marketing & PR if she was ok with me starting a blog, and it’s been going ever since.
Do you think blogging has helped your business?
I think it’s helped both my former paymasters at apt, and now my current freelance income. For apt it’s something we began offering as an extra service to clients, one early client took us on specifically for a social media project. It also ranked high up on the agenda for recruiting my successor, Samantha Wilcox.
Personally, I’ve been staggered by the number of opportunities my blog has given me. From a freelance perspective I would consider it essential, one of my current clients found me because my blog ranked higher on local searches than the websites of Gloucestershire’s PR agencies. I’m a firm believer that the indirect benefits of blogging (networking opportunities, knowledge sharing etc) are far more important than any direct advertising revenue/freebies/money benefits.
Blogging and reading the blogs has given me some fantastic insight into modern practices. Every morning my bloglines is filled with practical PR ideas, modern approaches and progressive advice. It’s amazing how many people are willing to share so much information.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge about writing a blog?
I think at times it can be a struggle to write something that’s both original and relevant. There has been several nasty instances this year when young PR bloggers have been slated for opinions on topics on which they aren’t experienced. Which can put us in a difficult position, what can we blog about? I haven’t worked in a PR agency on a daily basis for over a year, so it can be a struggle to keep it fresh.
What do you want your readers to know about you?
Aside that I’m open to work from June 08? I’d like readers to know how much I love what I do. I honestly believe that social media is a much a growing industry as it is a new movement to shakeout the corp-speaking, legal-worrying, suspicion-raising company ethos of the 80s – 90s. And I’m very fortunately to be graduating University at a time when there is such a radical shakeup going on. There’s plenty of opportunities for younger communication professionals to gain valuable work experience early, and rise quickly.
Which other blogs do you read regularly and why?
I put 5 blog feeds into my ‘essential reads’ at the start of the year. These were Seth Godin, Ducttapemarketing, Viral Garden, Copyblogger and Ramit Sethi.
• Seth Godin: Is the ultimate modern marketer, albeit sometimes dismissive of PR. His blog is the best business blog on the internet, and he practices everything he preaches. A truly remarkable blog.
• DuctTapeMarketing is John Jantsch’s small business marketing blog. This blog, whilst aimed at small businesses, is actually full of insight and advice for entry level marketers/PRs.
• Viral Garden is just a damned good blog about marketing and social media.
• Copyblogger helped me get a lot of copywriting work over the past year. The advice is good, up to date and is useful for anybody writing anything to be read by an online audience.
• Ramit Sethi: I’m a young freelancer earning enough to begin investing; Ramit Sethi’s blog is my dream come true. Truthfully, I’ve never taken the time to read up about personal finance, and I’ve learnt many costly lessons. Ramit’s blog helped me both catch up and even give advice to others about their personal finances. I just wish there was a UK equivalent.
I read much more, of course (85 feeds per day) – but if I only have 5 spare minutes, those are the blogs I read.
If you knew someone was thinking about starting a PR related blog what advice would you want to give them?
I would say that sooner or later, you’re going to say something that someone doesn’t agree with. Try to react professionally to those situations and treat it as a learning experience. Nearly all bloggers have to weather such storms, some have actually benefited greatly from the opportunity.
Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
Yes, but not at the speed most bloggers are predicting. Bloggers, by nature, are usually tech-savvy and work either in technology or communications sectors. Working in Cheltenham on my placement year I learnt that a lot of companies aren’t ready to begin blogging yet. If your audience never goes online and relies on newspapers, as some of our clients did at apt marketing & PR, a blog isn’t going to be much help.
In other industries however it became more of a case of how best PR and social media fit together. In Autumn 06 I worked briefly with a company called Wiggly Wigglers, founded by Heather Gorringe. Heather’s quite well known in social media circles these days through her brilliant Wiggly Wigglers podcast. Yet whilst Heather really was a perfect client for our new Social Media division, we struggled (as many PR agencies are doing) with figuring out quite how our PR expertise and her existing Social Media success fit together. We’ve learnt a lot since then, but it’s a struggle many agencies are still experiencing.
Agencies outside the biggest cities are still lagging behind with clients who wont grasp the social media concept for a few more years yet.
What’s the biggest challenge in PR?
There are so many answers to this question. I think from personal experience the most important challenges in PR is agencies trying to make clients sound more interesting, rather than advising clients how to be more interesting i.e. how to do things worth generating coverage, and what to do with that coverage.
Too often the client tells the agency they’re releasing a product in a new colour (or whatever) and want media hits. Why didn’t the client get more out of their agency fees by asking in advance what they could do to generate hits? The agency/client relationship is one which needs a lot more work.
Perhaps the other more obvious challenge is the blurring of industry lines. What’s marketing? What’s PR? What’s advertising? What’s Sales? What’s SEO? So much is overlapping at the moment that it’s difficult to keep up. I can’t say how it’s going to evolve, but PR agencies needs to broaden up what they can offer clients.
What would be your advice to someone who is looking to embark on a career in PR?
Read. Read blogs, books, newspapers and magazines. Don’t stick to just Public Relations material but read around in marketing, social media, copywriting, business and as many other sectors as possible. If possible, try to specialize in an area. Have something to offer a company which they don’t already have, it’s a great way of standing out from the crowd. In your application try to be something other than a “determined and ambitious graduate”. A lot of this goes back to what Mitch Joel and Anna Farmery have discussed – what is your personal brand.
For example, treat yourself as a client. What is your core message? Focus on what you really want to achieve, and specialize yourself to get there.