Using Linkedin

After spending some time during the summer sorting out my CV and putting together a portfolio of my work I thought it was about time that I gave my Linkedin profile a bit of TLC.

After having an account on the site for nearly a year and not really doing much with it (and to be honest not really knowing how best to use it), I thought it was about time I gave it a bit of interest.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at other people’s profiles on the site, looking at things like the type of information they include, how they set their profiles out, what applications they use, what groups/networks they join etc in order to give me some knowledge of how I can use this site as effectively as possible.

After updating all of the information on my profile to sit side by side with my paper CV as well as with my other social networking sites, I thought I was just about done. Then just as I posted the link to my new profile on Twitter, Aimee Carmichael (@aimee1986) posted a link to a blog post discussing how to get the most out of LinkedIn.

The post (which can be found here: How do you use Linkedin- Infographic) discusses how LinkedIn can be used to network with professionals in your industry and create business opportunities. Later on in the post, four tips are given which tell you how to create new connections, strengthen relationships, position you as a thought leader and hopefully provide you with leads and future business opportunities.

These tips made me realise that LinkedIn is more than just having an online CV/portfolio that other people in your industry can see, it is about networking and really making the most of the opportunities social media has given us. The four tips are as follows:

1. Commit once a week to use LinkedIn to connect with several current or former business associates this will put you top of mind for opportunities that may emerge out of these strengthened connections.

2. Over the next month make the effort to join ten groups on LinkedIn. This will raise your visibility and personal brand.

3. Once you have joined these groups start a discussion in each of these ten groups you have joined. As you are an expert in your field people will notice your thought leadership and will want to engage your services for their companies.

4. Go to LinkedIn’s Answers section and answer 5 questions a week. This is a long term strategy but will pay off over time.

After reading this post, I have decided to challenge myself to carry out each tip in order to use my LinkedIn profile more effectively. I hope these tips help others who like myself were not really sure how to best use the site.

My LinkedIn profile can be found here: Amy Lockhart

Key skills for PROs

To succeed in PR it is no longer enough to write a good press release, create and maintain relationships with key media players or be a good communicator, advanced digital skills are now a must. However, have people become so focused on the importance of the digital era that they have put to one side the importance of basic PR skills?

Whilst studying for my PR degree  it has been drummed into me from day one how PR is a fast changing world and how having advanced digital skills are becoming more and more important in the day-to-day role. However, in reality having advanced digital skills is not enough to succeed in the PR world. The need for PRO’s to be multi-talented with a broad range of skills is becoming more important then ever before.

An article I read in PR Week (August, 12 2011) discussed the five most important skills PRO’s in the future will need. Although digital skills were top of the list, well networked and strong media contacts, good strategies abilities, business and commercial acumen and being good at relationships/communication were all in the top five. The need to be a well-rounded individual is becoming more and more important. Organisations want PRO’s who can work to a high standard using a wide range of tools, not somebody who is only advanced in one topic and surely that’s a good thing? If somebody working in PR can adapt to a multitude of different situations and can achieve good results using a range of different tools surely that can only mean more successful campaigns with improved results?

Creating a campaign using only digital tools will not achieve results for some organisations, however for others may achieve the opinion change they were after. For other organisations traditional print media may not reach the majority of a target audience, yet for others this may be the only way of getting a message across. Integrated campaigns are what organisations want, a campaign that incorporates traditional media with online media and everything in between. To create a successful integrated campaign, a wide range of skills are needed, skills that can range from basic communication to advanced social knowledge. So yes, digital knowledge may be an essential skill for a PRO both now and in the future however, it is not the only one needed to gain a successful career in the industry and I think sometimes we need to remember that!

The 2011 PR Census

Back in April I wrote a post about the launch of the 2011 PR Census and the importance of individuals in the industry filling in the short questionnaire. Last week, when the results of the census were published, I was surprised at some of the results, although I was pleased to see that over  1,300 people practising PR took part.

I can’t believe that only 10% of people in the PR industry are aged between 18-24, I really thought this age range would play host to a much larger number of people, especially with the number of people graduating from University with PR degrees. I wonder whether some people ‘fall’ into PR after having some time in another career path which would explain how the highest age range is 25-34 at 43%.

I was also surprised to see that the majority of practitioners are from White British Backgrounds with eight percent coming from other white backgrounds, two per cent coming from Black Caribbean/African or British backgrounds and six percent being from other backgrounds. For an industry which is known to be in touch with a huge range of people from a great number of places, I would have thought there would have been a much more diverse group of people working in PR.

Although I was surprised at the above results, I was pleased to see that growth is expected to continue, with nearly half of professionals expecting to increase recruitment in the next two years, this can only be a good sign for up and coming PR practitioners (myself included)!

Online communications as we all know plays a huge part in an everyday PR practitioner’s life and the figures from the PR census only confirm what we already knew, with 93% of practitioners saying online comms has increased in importance. I expect that this figure will continue to increase with social media becoming an even more important part in an organisation’s campaign.

To order a full copy of the PR census, priced at £150 for PRWeek subscribers and PRCA members and £200 for others go to http://www.prweek.com/go/prcensus

Quick Response Codes

Until recently, I never realised the magnitude of the world of QR Codes. Although I knew what a Quick Response Code was, what it was used for and the ways in which they could be used, I had never really thought about how an organisation could use them in their day-to-day promotional work and I would never have guessed how popular they were becoming with big companies.

Last week, when on placement with Newcastle United Foundation, the idea of putting a QR code onto data collections cards was discussed. Instantly I knew this was a easy and space saving way of putting the charity’s newly launched Facebook page details on the copy, yet until that point I didn’t realise how easy these codes were to make and how they could have a positive impact on increasing views to an organisation’s social site.

I thought that the codes would have to be made by a specialist with some high-tech piece of equipment, yet it took me no longer than five minutes to create and send the image of the code to the printers. All it takes is the URL of the page you are wanting to create a code for and the Facebook app ‘QR Code Generator‘ (which can be found through Google) and you’re done.

After making the code for the Newcastle United Foundation, I stopped at Pizza Express for lunch where on the table decoration was a QR code with ‘scan me’ wrote next to it. I found that by scanning this code I could download the Pizza Express App where I could search the menu, book a table at a Pizza Express restaurant and even pay for my bill via my smart phone, meaning no more waiting for the card machine to be free when you’re in a hurry, perfect!

After two encounters in two days with QR codes, I began to research them and found that they are becoming more and more popular. Not only are organisations using them to promote their social sites, places such as New York Central Park are creating campaigns around the use of QR Codes to interest and entertain a younger, more tech-savvy audience.

I believe that we will begin to see more and more use of QR codes in our everyday lives, whether it be on copy sent out by organisations or integrated campaigns like the one above, either way they are most definitely the future!

The importance of social media…

Since breaking up from University for summer just less than four weeks ago, the importance of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have become more apparent to me than ever before.

In the past four weeks not only have I won a £50 shopping voucher courtesy of Metrocentre and their ‘What’s in the bag?’ Twitter competition, I’ve also won a free car valet courtesy of Benfield Motors and their ‘Enjoy the Journey’ campaign. I’ve also spent some time helping out at Newcastle United Foundation, with the aim of raising the profile of the charity and the work that they do.

The more my personal use on sites like Twitter increases and the more industry experience I gain, the more I’ve realised that in todays market, social networking sites play a huge importance in an organisations development.

Organisations who don’t use social sites need to quickly come to grips with the idea that social media is fast becoming the main way to communicate with an audience and they need to understand how and why these sites can work to benefit them.

It is no longer enough for an organisation to just have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. An organisation must be constantly using these sites to connect with existing and potential customers, ensuring the information they post is both timely and relevant. Having a Facebook page is one thing, have an effective Facebook page is another.

Running competitions on Twitter like ‘Retweet for clean seats! Free valet for 1 winning car lover at a Benfield dealership’ can generate a huge amount of interest in your company. When I saw the competition on my timeline last Tuesday, I automatically re-tweeted without thinking about whether I would win or not. By Tuesday night I was the winner of a free car valet and I haven’t stopped telling people about it since. I don’t know exactly how many people I’ve told, but I’ve definitely talked more about Benfield this week than I ever have before, I think that speaks volumes for itself!

Organisations need to understand that social sites aren’t difficult to run or operate and they can bring huge benefits to a company. All it takes is a little bit of time and effort…

PR for Geordies…

On Tuesday night, the people of the North East braced themselves for the first episode of Geordie Shore and after watching it I don’t think many Geordies will be happy about the perception of Newcastle it gave out.

From a PR perspective, if the idea of the show was to make people from the North East proud of their roots, to put Newcastle on the map as great city and to increase the level of tourism to the city then after watching the first episode many would say it has failed miserably.

After watching shows like The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea, I knew the city was never going to be shown in its best light, yet I never expected the whole episode to be full of out-of-date stereotypes of what the people of Newcastle are supposedly like.

According to one of the cast ‘ you’re not a proper Geordie unless you’ve got a tan’ yet walk up Northumberland Street on a busy Saturday afternoon and I’m sure you’ll see many people who don’t.

Hopefully, in the next few episodes we’ll see a real representation of Newcastle, but after watching the first episode I’m not so sure. Lets just hope for the sake of all the real Geordies, that the programme hasn’t ruined the good reputation the city has worked hard to build!

Here comes the summer…

This week I finished my second year at university and just like last year a feeling of great excitement hit me, I was about to start my four month summer holidays! However, a feeling of both reflectiveness and nerves started to kick in too. This was going to be the last time for a while that I would have a four month summer holiday, as this time next year I’d be just about to graduate and be getting ready to go into the big bad world of PR.

For the first time since starting at university, I thought about how much I’d learnt about myself as a person and the knowledge I’d gained. I realised I’d learnt a lot more than I first thought! Writing a critical evaluation for my social media module, the main reason I started this blog, made me realise just how much I’d learnt. Evaluating my blog and the online presence I’d aimed to create in January really got me thinking. When I first started university, I didn’t know a lot about PR apart from ‘it being something to do with communication’, now I can’t understand how I didn’t know about it, when everything that surrounds me on a day-to-day basis bares some relation to the PR industry.

Not only have I gained a huge amount of knowledge about the PR industry, I’ve also realised the importance of social media tools and personal reputation management. This time last year, I can remember both Philip Young and Josh Halliday telling me in a social media workshop that Twitter was the best thing since sliced bread. I took no notice what so ever, saying that I just couldn’t understand it and it looked so complicated. Over the summer of 2010, I made it my mission to understand the frenzy and one year one I don’t know how I survived without it!

My era of being addicted to Facebook has finished, and I’m now addicted to Twitter. Not only do I use it as a tool to communicate with influential people in the industry, I also communicate with friends through it and I now find out the latest news right from my own phone! It’s the last thing I look at at night and the first thing I look at on a morning, (sad I know!)

All of this thinking made me decide that instead of having four months off doing nothing, I’m going to really make the most of my time. I’m going to continue to maintain (and hopefully increase) my online presence and I’m going to gain as much experience of the PR industry as possible. So that this time next year, the prospect of being in the big bad world won’t seem as big or bad after all!

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