Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Guest Post: Ashley Funderburk - Tips from an enthusiastic student

Over the past year, I have realized that getting a degree in public relations is not just about going to class and learning, but also about gaining experience. To me experience means so much more than just textbooks. You are gaining something that you cannot learn just by having perfect attendance in a class here and there. I am not saying don’t go to class, but I am saying take every opportunity that comes your way for “real life” experience.

I can gladly say that if I had not done that this past semester I would not have the knowledge I do as of now.

Becoming the firm director of our on-campus student-run PR firm (@CatComWCU) has opened my eyes to so many things. I have been able to apply the skills I have learned in class to the real world. I have only been the firm director for three months now and I have already gained knowledge that a teacher could never teach in a class. Yes, what I learned in class was very helpful. However, my teacher never said that dealing with clients takes patience, especially if they do not understand how PR works.

PRSSA is another great on-campus organization to become involved with. My first semester of majoring in PR I attended a few meetings, but stopped going because I was caught up in other things. The next semester I decided I would not miss a meeting unless I absolutely had to because the research I was doing kept pointing fingers at PRSSA and how important it is. I became PR Jobs and Internship Director of the Chapter at my university (@WCUPRSSA) and now I am Vice President. PRSSA has definitely opened my eyes to opportunities and conferences that I would not have known about if I were not involved.

Needless to say, I probably take on more than the average college student. Recently I became the Social Media Director for Kratz PR and Management (KratzPR). I also intern at two non-profits and love every minute of it. My main point of this blog is to stress the importance of involvement and experience.

Do not wait until you graduate to become involved!

Here are a few tips I have for fellow PR students:

1. Ask professors how you can become involved around campus.
PR can be found everywhere, so even if you do not have a student-run firm you still have opportunities to gain experience. Have a theater department on campus? Ask the director of an upcoming play if you can do PR for them.

2. Intern. I cannot stress how important an internship is.
I have gained so much knowledge from my two internships in one summer than I have gained in a school year. Start looking months in advance to when you want to actually intern because sometimes it is difficult to find an internship. Both of my internships are with non-profits and they really appreciate what I do for them and I love how fulfilling it is to help a non-profit accomplish something. Internships are everywhere, just open your eyes and look!

3. Freelance.
While I have not personally had any experience with freelance PR, I feel like it is a great way to gain experience when you are still in school. Speak with a faculty member, or someone that has had experience with freelancing, and ask if they will mentor you while you do freelance work.

All work and no play= no fun. Every now and then you need a break from all of the hard work you do, and trust me we PR people know what hard work is! Go out with friends once a week or grab dinner with your roommates. Never forget your personal life!

They just keep coming...

I'd like to take time out to introduce the second of my guest bloggers:

Ashley Funderburk.

As with my previous guest blogger we met on Twitter. She began following me a few months ago and I returned the favour. I now look forward to seeing what she is up to and keeping up to date with just where she is - which is everywhere! From the information in her guest blog you will see just how busy her life is and she shows no time of stopping.

It's very interesting to find someone on the other side of the Atlantic who is doing the same degree is me - maybe one day, when we both have our own PR agencies we can meet and share our experiences!

If you want to follow her on Twitter you will find her on @amfunderburk1

Thanks again to Ashley for taking time out to write this for me. From one PR Princess to another Ash :-)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Guest Blog: First Take over Twitter, then Facebook, then THE WORLD: My take on Social Media

I’ve been asked to run my predictions for Social Media in the next few years. Luckily for the owner of this blog, I’m always happy to oblige.

My route to social media

Twitter had been around for a long time before I started using it. I always thought the idea of 140 character messages were ridiculous, and I even had an issue with Stephen Fry (who is otherwise one of my heroes) being silly enough to use it.

Even my close friends who had got involved with twitter had pulled out of using it very rapidly – something I believe is extremely common with Twitter users.

I’d already been burnt with social media. When I ran Fotogenesis – my third start-up and a photography company – I had a fan page on Facebook that I found almost impossible to maintain.

Also, I was the first person I knew to have a proper Facebook purge. If I hadn’t had 3 Facebook purges now I’d have over 500 friends (many who discovered me when I was doing the photography), but instead I have 199 and treat 200 as the target for which I run another purge.

Here’s my prediction #1: Call it unfriending, purging, or rationalisation – this trend is going to get bigger and bigger

My sudden Social Media revolution

Between January and March this year, I got control of my Facebook page. I have a list of colleagues, one for acquaintances, and my ‘access everything’ list of.

Then I joined Toastmasters, and started putting up my videos on YouTube (at http://www.youtube.com/setsights ) and more recently I started taking videos of interesting things I see and adding them on there too.

Here’s my prediction (or more of a statement) #2: Once you join the social media bandwagon, you tend to join multiple channels. Therefore there is going to be more convergence in accessing social media.

What I use Social Media for

Like many I use different types of Social Media for different reasons. I use YouTube because I love public speaking and want other people to see my videos. I do genuinely think they’re good, and I’m desperate to have this video - http://3.ly/haberdasher - go viral, as I think it’s the best bit of comedy I’ve done. Although I also recommend you look at my speech half in English and French on my youtube.com channel which can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/setsights

I desperately want to be a part time, or even full time, professional speaker one day (if I can’t be the next Stephen Fry) and these videos can help publicise me and my upcoming foray into the stand-up comedy scene.

Facebook is a personal-only thing. I mainly use it to find out what other people are doing, providing many of the same links I do on Twitter (such as the latest run I’ve been on, or my latest blog post) and keeping all my photographs in the one place.

I have a blog at http://blog.setsights.co.uk/ which Carly Smith, the owner of this blog I’m writing on today, has written for. It covers career development and personal development, which is the theme of Setsights Ltd which was my 4th start-up, now mostly on hold as I’ve gone into a career as a full time Management Consultant from September 2010 onwards after a chance in direction. It also covers dating – largely because I adore the human interaction of men and women – and occasional I pop in something personal – what I’ve learnt about a situation, or my opinions on Social Media etc.

Too many platforms = sore head

I’ve already said I can’t handle Facebook. I barely have the time to handle twitter.

Mind you, I’ve been impressed with Twitter. When I was thinking about buying a printer, I got an unsolicited message from Dell. When I was angry with M&S, I posted this on twitter and got a rapid reply and resolution.

Each channel is slowly developing its unique angle on social media use.

Prediction #3: Each method of social media will focus on a particular angle, and gradually each angle will be dominated by a single brand

Would Foursquare go and die already?

There are few things that really irritate me on social media. Posting information about your farm is one of them. Posting information on twitter about how busy the M25 is every 10 minutes is another.

And foursquare badge posts are the last. I do understand the point of location based services, I really do, but what I don’t understand it why they need to focus on badges etc. As more companies offer free drinks a la Starbucks and similar promotions, badges will become less and less necessary.

But at this point, Apple or similar will enter the Fray. If your phone has GPS and can detect your location, then sooner or later a company will integrate this into their phones. Or they’ll integrate Foursquare (or even Gowalla) into their basic set of applications.

Either way, I consider myself to usually be an early adopter, but like many people when it comes to something like location based services I don’t want to tie myself down to one format when it may lose.

Here’s prediction number #4: Location based services won’t take off until there is without doubt a dominant company, and yes, I think this will be Foursquare in the short to mid term

But here’s prediction number #5: The first location based service company to integrate augmented reality images into their software and make it work really well will be that dominant company mentioned above


With the rising popularity of guest blogging I decided to ask a few of my friends within PR and other similar disciplines if they would be so kind as to write a post for my blog.

The first blog comes from David Lurie, a serial entrepreneur who has founded no less that 4 companies - his latest being Setsights - a professional training and coaching company. More information can be found on www.setsights.co.uk .

When blog 'owners' invite guest bloggers to write for them I always wonder just what the connection is between them so I thought it would be a good idea for me to explain a little of how I know each of the people who will be writing a blog post for me.

David and I met on Twitter whilst taking part in #commschat - we both found ourselves fighting our corner and often had the same ideas and points of view. We now keep in touch through Twitter and emails. I have used the Setsights services too. My testimonial can be found at: http://www.setsights.co.uk/testimonials/. All in all David is a funny guy and is guaranteed to make you chuckle even on a bad day.

Enjoy his take on social media....

Monday, 19 July 2010

It's all around!

For quite a while now I have meaning to write a post about services marketing and it's effect on consumers.

It wasn't until I began learning about it at University that I even realised service marketing existed. A trip to the car garage was just that, I went in, discussed the strange noises my car was making and didn't give a second thought to the service unless a member of staff was extremely rude or particularly good looking...

I have just bought a new car - a Mini - and was having some trouble with the electric windows. I took it to my usual garage but because the problem was a little complicated they suggested I took it to the dealership. This is normally something which fills me with dread. You walk into the showroom with tiled floors, high ceilings and well turned out staff. I also tend to forget what I went in for when faced with all the new model BMW's. Plus it costs a bomb and once your car disappears into the back you have NO idea whats happening to it.

The first communication I had with Mini just oozed professionalism - the lady I spoke to on the phone was very friendly and helpful. This was the first critical incident point and they had succeeded in making it positive. The phone call was promptly followed up with a text message reminding of my appointment both that day and again a few days before I was due to take it in.

When I took my car in I was ushered towards a shiny desk where my details were in put into the computer. I left feeling like my car was in safe hands. They called when promised and the situation was explained fully to me in my language...I picked my car up the day after and was very happy with the service I had received.

It wasn't until I got it home however that I had the best bit...yes....indeed....they had washed it. I spent the whole afternoon thinking to myself how nice of them it was. Silly I know...probably one of the most expensive car washes I have ever had - the kids down the road do it for £3 and some sweets...but it was the little extra touch of customer service that left me smiling and made the level of cognitive dissonance I felt was limited.

At every critical incident point Mini dealership made an effort to make the experience a postive one. I believe they were focused more on the theatre metaphor, based on performances, with the actors encouraged to develop their own scripts with their smart attire being their costumes. The garage down the road however is based more on the factory metaphor, getting the cars in and out and the money handed over.

Going that extra mile for consumers and over delivering will more than likely get you repeat custom - give them something they aren't expecting.