To Tweet Or Not To Tweet?

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Last Thursday I went to a really fantastic conference, Bright One’s Impress London.  And I’m not just saying that because I was a speaker.  Aimed at students and graduates looking to get into a career in PR.  There was a fabulous line up of speakers.

The strongest message of the day, repeated by every single speaker was “when we recruit grads, we expect them to be savvy in social media.”

And so, I was quite surprised that so few of the attendees tweeted during the event.  During his introduction, Ben Matthews told the audience that the hashtag for the day was #impress.

A few people got the hang of it, and very quickly I could form a view of who they were by viewing their Twitter profiles.  By the afternoon session on social media with Stephen Davies, Chris Reed and Rob Dyson I had give up tweeting on my BlackBerry and was brazenly tweeting on my netbook – in the front row.

On Friday, I mentioned on Twitter that I felt quite rude tapping away when others were speaking – which sparked a bit of debate.

When asked if they were bothered by people tweeting when they spoke the response from the speakers was unanimous – no one minded.

Nicola Jones:  “if anything I advocate it, it’s cool to hear what people agree with /don't agree with about what you are saying”.

Stefan Stern: “You can't beat feedback in real time.”

Jaz Cummins: “Agreed, instant feedback is fab. I think tweeters will like it more than non-tweeters though.”

Rob Hinchcliffe:  “not at all, enhances things I think.”

RobmDyson:  Good to tweet for others not present. I'm an advocate as I know how useful & transparent it can be to follow remotely. & spreads awareness / PR of speakers ;)  I'm v used to tweeting at confs. & it means I can 'virtually attend' confs outside England like #begoodbesocial 😉

 

And Stephen Davies raised an interesting point, he encourages tweeting at conferences but added that he  “Can understand why [people may be uncomfortable tweeting]. In non geek circles people are told to switch of their phones before a conference starts.”

But despite the acceptance of the practice among the speakers, some of the attendees had obviously felt uncomfortable about it. 

Carly Ann Smith, a student at Lincoln, said she felt slightly rude if she went on her phone and Rhian Burrell-Joseph commented she thought it was rude to tweet when someone’s talking to you and it would be helpful if the etiquette of what to do in that situation was more established.  And that seems to be at the crux of the issue, some students are not encouraged to tweet at University, so aren’t comfortable doing it outside of lectures. Amy Brunsdon, a student at the University of Gloucestershire, commented that it was nice to be able to tweet throughout as it’s frowned upon in her lectures and J’ara Ami  agreed “I think it was so cool that we were encouraged to tweet at #impress!  It’s all well learning social media but it’s another to engage.

 

Given that graduates are so strongly encouraged by industry professionals to be active on social networks in order to be employable, surely banning Twitter in lectures is short-sighted? David Phillips agrees.  He encourages students to tweet both in lectures and beyond.

Richard Bailey takes a different approach.  Email and Facebook are banned in lectures and so it’s easiest to ban social media tools across the board, including Twitter.

Phillip Young, lecturer at Sunderland University says tweeting has its place and it is important for academics to encourage social media engagement,   “Sunderland was one of the first universities in the UK to incorporate teaching social media into its PR programme and I know from many practitioners and graduates that this knowledge did and still does help them get jobs and, more importantly, make a real contribution from the day they start work.

 I think it is very difficult indeed to separate social media theory from practice! Also, there is quite a difference from being an enthusiastic personal user of Facebook and running a PR campaign with a social media dimension. Understading how you and your friends use social media to find out about the world can give very useful insights but building a strategic campaign that eets specific objective is  rather different, and making the linkages is should be part of any PR degree. (If the students could do it thelmselves why bother going to university!)

 It is my belief that today all PR is online PR. It is no longer a specialism but an integral part of any lecture, and lecturers and  academics who don't appreciate this need to think carefully about their own understanding of the discipline.”

I went on to ask him how he felt about attendees tweeting during conferences, or students during lectures.

“I am reasonably comfortable about tweeting during academic or practitioner conference presentations, which I often do for the benefit of those who cannot attend. Also, as a presenter I find it useful to see feedback and questions.

That said, it is not an easy skill – listening, understanding, then typing something worthwhile at speed in 140 characters is tricky and a lot of presentation tweets (including my own!) aren't of great value.

I can see advantages for students in crowdsourcing comment on lectures – "we are being told xxxxx – what do others think?" but I am not sure how useful general back channel chat is.

One of my students did make an (almost!) plausible claim that being on Facebook during lectures helped her concentrate. Her argument was that  if she was just listening her mind might wander but if she was worried about being caught Facebooking she would then have to listen more carefully to what was being said to avoid being caught out.

I am (sort of) coming to believe that younger people genuinely are better than my generation at multi-tasking, but I am not sure they are that good!”

Jane Crofts, lecturer at Lincoln, takes a slightly different view.  “I find it irritating/distracting if students use their phones during my sessions and I always ask for them to be turned off in sessions. I think it is quite rude to use a phone and engage 'outside the room' during lectures and seminars. To me it is akin to holding private conversations in class and just plain rude.

It's a bit like if I was in a business meeting I would regard it as rude if other people started using their phones for a purpose other than if we had agreed in advance, say to check a point – such as the concept of 'phone a friend'. Now whether this will change as a younger generation take over the board room/lecture theatre I don't know.

Having said that if it is a debate/large lecture session I don't see why there cannot be an agreement at the start to tweet, but it should be done with prior agreement…bit of a Chatham House rules approach.

Now, as to using social media as a teaching/assessment tool that is different and I set blogs and tweets as assignmenets and have done a session just this week on the use of the hash tag, setting it in the context of #demo2010 which failed to trend. I am of the view that social media are just another channel for PR to use and should be used appropriately and selectively, one size does not fit all.”

 

As someone who spends a lot of time teaching graduates how they can make themselves more employable, I am always keen that academics in the field keep their fingers on the pulse of what the industry requires of graduate recruits.  I believe it is in the academic’s interest for their students to go on into glittering careers in communications.  What better advert for their course than successful graduates?  As social media becomes a necessity for every graduate recruit, it is a foolish university that ignores those tools completely.

But the question of etiquette is a good one – I would never tweet , text or email during a meeting, but I would tweet at a conference where it was invited and I think that’s the key – established boundaries and encouragement where appropriate.

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Filed under Careers, PR, Social Media, Students

Are your followers for sale?

For_sale_sign

I have an on-off love affair with Twitter.  Sometimes, I use it loads.  Sometimes, I forget it’s there and then there is a delight in re-discovering it.  I use it mostly for business, although I do follow a few friends (and a couple of celebs, but I’m embarrassed about doing that so let’s not dwell on it).  I don’t live in London and am only in the Shoreditch office two days a week so there are few opportunities to network face-to-face.  Twitter is a nice way of finding out what’s going on in the industry, and building relationships with practitioners.  These relationships are useful to me in three ways; firstly, I edit espresso, a weekly e-bulletin which we fill with PR and media news and feature career tips and industry insights.  Quite often I find interviewees or industry spokespeople through Twitter and I also use it for leads on industry stories.   Secondly, I used to be a recruiter.  I no longer recruit directly but I do have connections with Unicorn Jobs and Taylor Bennett and run their diversity internship programme. Relationships with PR practitioners helps me raise awareness of the programme, and have led directly to donations of time, money and training to the interns.  Thirdly, it’s good to just know who is out there, who are the influencers and who is the young blood to watch.  And sometimes, I get to give a little something back – like last week when a student asked me to give some advice on how to get into the PR industry.

Yesterday, I received an email from a Twitter account.  It was anonymous – in that I know which Twitter account it is but there is no way to know who runs it.  I am not going to disclose which account contacted me, as I’m rather interested to see if anyone takes them up on their offer and so will be keeping an eye on them.

Anyway…. this is the email:

Hello,

 I am writing to see if you are interested in taking over the Twitter account ******, including its large follower base of job seekers. The account can be renamed and rebranded, giving your brand and jobs a huge audience, saving time and advertising costs.

 The account can be found at ***** and is followed by a community of PR professionals who are actively searching for their next role through social media. These job seekers have the online skills PR employers are looking for and are engaging with this Twitter account to find their next job. The account is currently tweeting a feed of job postings from various sources, and followers are clicking through to the job postings to find out more. For this demographic, young UK-based PR job seekers, this is the largest Twitter community I am aware of.

 Taking over the account would put your jobs in front of the right people without having to spend money on advertising. It could also significantly help to establish your brand on Twitter. Twitter allows changing the names of accounts, and the followers will be transferred over to the new name.

 Please get in touch if you would be interested in discussing this more.

 

This is my reply:

No thanks.  I run a Facebook group, PR Job Watch, with over 3,000 members.  We don't need to buy Twitter accounts, we can develop our own.  Twitter is all about building relationships.

I'm not sure it's really in the spirit of social media to be "selling" your followers.

Regards
Sarah

 

And their reply:

Very true. Some do a great job, like Unicorn Jobs, but others look for shortcuts.

It is unfortunate, while there are those looking for shortcuts, there will be a market for things like followers. And when there's a market, there are those desperate enough to feed that market. Still, it isn't like it is being sold for spam. I am targeting relevant people who will take care of my followers. Atleast, that's what I keep telling myself.

Thanks for getting back to me and keep up the great work.

ps. I love your esPResso newsletter

 

I mentioned it on Twitter last night and a couple of people expressed outrage at the thought of followers being sold.  I actually *am* a follower of the account in question, and I am not that happy about being sold myself.   But maybe I am behind the times?  Maybe it is acceptable to build up relationships and then sell them on?  Perhaps the likes of The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den are encouraging such entrepreneurial spirit?

It still doesn’t sit quite right with me.  I will be watching with interest to see if a PR recruiter takes them up on it though.

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Filed under Recruitment, Social Media

Working from Home

  Working from home

As employers become more relaxed about flexible working practices, many more people are finding that they can work from home.  For some jobs, a phone line, laptop and internet connection is all that’s needed, so the option to commute from your bedroom to your workspace instead of a long journey in a car or on a train is very appealing.

Working where you live can be beneficial for both employee and employer.  If you focus, you can get more done.  There are less likely to be distractions from colleagues and you can get on with the task in hand.  You will spend less money – no daily breakfast coffee or sandwich from Pret, and you may save on the commute.   You also get to spend more time with your family (or flatmates!).  If an average commute is two hours a day, that’s 10 hours a week you get to spend doing something more constructive.  The bottom line is that working from home makes you more productive.  Rescue Time’s research in 2009 may have only been a small sample, but gives us a good idea of the levels of productivity that can be achieved by not being in an office.

Of course it’s not all sweetness and light.  There are downsides too.   The lines between work and home can get blurred and it can be difficult to switch off.  You may also find that you get a bit lonely and there is a danger you will fall into the laziness trap.  From an employer’s point of view it can be frustrating if you don’t feel your staff are pulling their weight at home, and that they are not instantly available for a meeting.  But there are things you can do to make sure working from home works well for both you and your employer.  I work from home three days a week and my husband works from home permanently so I am very familiar with the pitfalls.  Here’s my top tips for how to work at home effectively:

1)      Have a separate work area.   If at all possible, a separate room is the way to go.  Somewhere where work is work, so that your home life remains separate to your job, is a good idea.  In my case, my husband works in the spare bedroom and I have a desk in the living room.  We don’t speak for most of the day – we work for different companies and when we are working, we are working.  

2)      Don’t turn the telly on.  Ever.  It is tempting.  Hours of fun with Homes Under the Hammer and This Morning may seem like a good idea, but believe me it’s not.  You may think you can work effectively with the TV on in the background, but it is a distraction.  You are not a student, you are being paid to work.  The radio or some quiet music is a better option.

3)      Make time for lunch.  We all know it’s important to take breaks when you’re working.  Having a lunch break is a good start.  It doesn’t have to be a whole hour, but twenty minutes away from your computer screen is a good idea.  Make sure your colleagues know when you are away from your desk and when you will be back.  If you can, set your phone to do not disturb.

4)      Make sure your colleagues know when you are available and when you aren’t.   People who work from home often feel guilty and are concerned that their boss and colleagues are suspicious that they’re not working hard enough, and as a result work much longer hours than they would if they were in the office.   Your colleagues may not be keen on you working from home, particularly if it’s not a common occurrence at your firm.  They may resent the flexibility you have and be suspicious that you are actually sat in your nightie in front of Trisha scoffing shortbread biscuits instead of actually working.   Make it clear that you will be working from x o clock to y o clock and will be taking a half an hour for lunch at a particular time.  

5)      Have a decent chair.  Back pain will make you unproductive and resentful.

6)      If you have children, make sure you make proper arrangements for child care.  Many employers now will insist that you send them to nursery or a childminder while you are working, which is fair enough.  But a few lucky people have employers that are a bit more flexible and allow them to work slightly odd hours in order to be there for their children – so they may allow you to work in the evenings instead of 9 – 5 for example.  Whatever your arrangements, make sure your employer is aware and happy with them.

7)      Get dressed.  I have made this mistake.  Got out of bed, read emails on my Blackberry and then logged straight in on my laptop to start replying to messages.  Before I knew it, it was lunch time and I hadn’t had a shower or got dressed.  Even more embarrassing is when you have to open the door to the postman still in your dressing gown.  You would never go into the office in your PJs so take some time to get yourself groomed and dressed.

8)      If you are sick, you are sick.   Let your boss know.  Turn your out of office on and go to bed. 

9)      Don’t take advantage.  Don’t assume that just because you are at home you can swan off to pick the kids up from school or go to the hairdressers in the middle of the afternoon.  You  wouldn’t do that if you were sat in the office would you?  Ask your bosses permission to finish early or start late.   You are still employed, just in a different environment.  Of course different rules may apply if you are freelance and paid for a piece of work rather than hours worked – in that case it’s up to you when you work and when you don’t.  If you don’t finish the work  you don’t get paid.

10)   Use technology.  Email and remote access to computers are a fantastic way to keep on top of things, but don’t forget the phone.  Many of us would much rather write an email than speak to someone but you could be missing a trick.  Hearing a friendly voice will stave off loneliness, and help you to build relationships with your colleagues.  By not being in the office, you may miss out on the banter so it’s important that other people realise you are still part of the team.

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25 Things to Avoid Doing at Work

Want to know how to avoid winding up your colleagues?  Discover your irritating work habits and make work life easier for everyone.  Here’s my quick and easy guide to what not to do:

1)      Don’t eat smelly food in the office.

2)      Don’t shout into your phone.

3)      Don’t worry about other’s people’s time keeping.  Make sure you get to work and meetings on time, let other people’s bosses worry about them getting there.

4)      Don’t use your mobile/Blackberry/smart phone in meetings.

5)      Don’t take credit for other people’s work.

6)      Don’t come into the office when you’re sick, spreading your germs won’t make you popular

7)      Don’t blame others for your mistakes.

8)      Don’t sit on a task all day then ask a member of your team to do it five minutes before the end of the day.

9)      If you’ve set a deadline for a piece of work, don’t ask for it repeatedly BEFORE the deadline.  What’s the point of a deadline if you’re going to nag for it earlier anyway?

10)   Don’t miss a deadline.

11)   Don’t interrupt.  Give others a chance to speak.  Don’t speak over other people or ignore them completely.  You may like the sound of your own voice but your colleagues will find it pretty grating.

12)   Don’t use endless management speak.  Thinking outside the box is SO last year.

13)   Don’t  allow your parents, friends or partner to call you endlessly at work – particularly if you work in an office where there are no direct lines.  It’s irritating having to take messages from your husband every fifteen minutes.

14)   Don’t be consistently late.  A one off is a one off – everyone oversleeps or gets stuck on a defective train now and then.  But five minutes late EVERY morning is disrespectful and annoying.

15)   Don’t shout across the office at people.

16)   Don’t belittle colleagues and if you have to tell someone in your team off, do it in private.

17)   Don’t talk on the phone with your mouth full of food.

18)   Don’t expect other people to make you cups of coffee if you’re not willing to return the favour.

19)   Don’t leave the printer jammed with paper for someone else to sort out.

20)   Don’t put the empty milk carton back in the fridge.

21)   Don’t say you understand something when you don’t.

22)   Don’t expect everyone to drop what they’re doing to do something for you, unless it’s an absolute emergency (and then be nice about it).

23)   Don’t make a mess in the staff kitchen and leave it for someone else to tidy up.

24)   Don’t leave the toilet roll holder empty.

25)   Don’t send unnecessary emails.  Pick up the phone, or talk face-to-face, once in a while.

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PR Graduate Recruitment Schemes

Over the past couple of years I’ve spent a lot of time giving job hunting advice to recent graduates.  Given that they’ve graduated in the worst economic climate since the ’30s, they need all the help they can get I reckon.

We recently started investigating which PR agencies have graduate recruitment schemes and what their application criteria is.  Here’s what we came up with but I am pretty sure there are plenty more out there.  If your agency would like to be included in this list, let me know.

PR Graduate Recruitment Schemes

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Filed under Careers, Graduates, PR, Students

Omigod I’m back

Hiding
Remember me?  You probably don't as I've commited the ultimate in blogging crimes, I stopped blogging.  I know I know, the law of blogging says you must engage with the online community, write pithy and interesting content regularly and refrain from libelous content.  I've still been writing, just not on here.  Mostly on here:  http://www.unicornjobs.com/ask-the-unicorn/ and also on here: http://www.financetalking.com/pages/resources/careers-uk.php

So what's happened since 2008?  On the professional side, I am now self employed.  This means I have to religiously put money aside every month for the tax man or face jail.  I don't think I'd cut it in Holloway so I dutifully put my 25% away in an untouchable account and moan about it regularly.  So to make ends meet I write (see above) and I am the course director for an incredible internship programme devoted to addressing the lack of ethnic diversity in PR, which you can read more about here:  http://www.unicornjobs.com/diversity  This means I teach employability and office based skills (like how to write thank you letters, seriously) to graduates, I also manage the day-to-day running of the programme so if you would like to know more about it feel free to ask.

My teaching and writing skills are up for hire so drop me a line if those interest you.

I also bake cakes.  This is what interests most people.  My cake website is undergoing a bit of a revamp so when it looks respectable I will introduce you to it.  I have sold cakes at lots of farmers markets in and around Essex, but as my more serious job pays better and takes up more of my time I have put it  on the back burner for the moment.  I do still knock out the odd birthday cake or batch of cupcakes but it's not my main source of income. That said, there will be a few cake related posts in the near future so this blog really is going to be relevant for those people that have a love for PR careers or a love for cake.  Off course a lucky few will love both in which case you've found nivarna.

Pony cake 1

On the personal front; I'm still married, no kids, 1 dog, 2 cats, live in Essex right by the beach, still dieting and I joined Twitter.  I'm @gooorooo if you want to follow me.

 

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Last Night’s Social Media Debate

Despite the erratic weather conditions, it was great to see a few familiar faces at last night’s “Social Media: The Death of Print?” debate.   Drew Benvie, Mick Fealty and Simon Nixon made up the panel and spoke with enthusiasm around the issues of social media and PR.   I finally managed to meet a few people in the flesh that I have been following online for some time, and some new faces like Ben Matthews, who only started blogging a couple of months ago.  With agencies knocking on my door all the time to find social media experts (of which there are few) it’s reassuring to know that PRs are embracing blogging and social media.  Those that really cotton on can carve a real niche for themselves in the market.  Ged Carroll has done a great job of creating a run down of the event which you can read on his blog

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Filed under Social Media