Tuesday, 8 March 2011

@PRprofessionals - To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question #dilemma

It’s not an uncommon sight to see an individual nearly ran over because of mindlessly crossing the road whilst tapping away on their phones….I say this because it has happened to me, on numerous occasions. When I first got my Blackberry I was amazed at the amount of tasks I could do on it but has this fascination with multi-tasking gone too far?

I attended a conference in London and a comment was made about no one tweeting about the event. I personally was amazed with this, new to the whole ‘tweeting from conferences’ it felt completely alien to me to get my phone out and type on it whilst listening to someone talking.

But it’s not as strange as I first thought…

Rob Dyson (@RobmDyson), PR Manager at Whizz-Kidz, said: “I tweet from conferences. To share resources, tips and advice from the speakers with those who can't be there. Whenever I do, I always get people saying "thanks" so I keep it up.”

The more I have used Twitter the more I have followed conferences by searching for their hashtags, and the more useful I have found it!

There are plenty of advantages to tweeting from conferences such as:

- Speakers feel like they are making valid points which can be motivating and a confidence boost.
- Those who can’t attend the event feel involved and can keep up with the action.

-Could be seen as the new way to make notes. You could use them as a reference to look back on.

-It can be interesting to get an input from others and allows those who can’t attend attendance to get their pressing questions answered.

But is it in the spirit of sharing information or is it just an excuse not to concentrate?

The disadvantages can be:

- There is a high chance you could miss vital information.

- It is not guaranteed that the individual will just tweet as they might reply to an email or a text. There was a discussion by Richard Bailey (@behindthespin), a lecturer at Leeds University who decided to test out what would happen. It was met with contrasting responses…

So, we have established there are pros and cons but I think it raises a bigger question: Should it be socially acceptable?

I completely understand the benefit of tweeting from a conference and the insights that can be gained. The whole beauty of social media is the fact that you can gain hundreds of points of view in real time instead of waiting for an ‘official’ blog post which may not include questions that weren’t answered or the reaction of the room.

But if I told my grandma that I used my phone when someone was speaking to me she would clip me around the ear! Whatever happened to good old fashioned eye contact when someone is speaking to you?

However, it is completely dependant on the situation; it is different when being spoken to directly when compared with attending a conference with over 100 people in the room.

What do you find acceptable? Would you mind if someone tweeted whilst you were speaking? Do you actively encourage tweets during your presentations? Do you tweet from conferences? What’s your secret to multitasking?

For general phone use I have identified 4 types of phone ‘multi-taskers’, which one are you?!

The Ignorers:
They blatantly ignore you and concentrate on their phone. They don’t hear what you say and probably wouldn’t be interested even if they could.

The Pretenders: They are looking at you but they attempt to use their phone in their pocket or by placing it under the table. Another breed of the pretender tends to draw out sentences and fill them with ‘ermmmm’ whilst they try and finish whatever they are doing on their phone.

The Postponers: Their phone goes, they raise their hand and stop you from speaking and you must remain silent until they have finished. For me, the most irritating of them all...

The Touch Typers: This breed exhibits a high level of skill and practice. They maintain eye contact as they know exactly which buttons to press.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Guest Post: Charlotte Willcocks

It is the time of year....students are either looking for placement years, placement weeks or even placement days! So I thought it would be a good idea for one student who has been through the process to share her hints and tips with you about:

How to gain experience with no experience!

The catch 22 nature of the work experience world is well known. Employers expect you to already have experience, but you are looking to them for guidance on getting some industry experience. The whole process can be extremely frustrating. Over the last five months I have experienced this first hand, the weeks of tedious application forms and covering letters followed by the agonising wait for a reply that may never come.

Therefore the best defence is a strong offence, it is vital to make yourself stand heads and shoulders above the hundreds of the hopefuls. The most effective way of doing this is to think about the transferable skills necessary for the industry you are interested in and think of other ways to gain this skills other than industry experience, if this is not an option. Here are some methods that I used to secure my own placement:

1. Get involved in a society committee – this will give you the opportunity to practice public speaking, meeting organisation, event organisation, networking, leadership and team working skills, which I have found to be invaluable for my PR portfolio.

2. Start a blog – Due to the fast paced nature of PR it is vital to get to grips with new media. I started a music blog to act as a practice run and to find my own writing style.

3. Tweet, Tweet- It may be hard to get your head around but Twitter is one of the quickest and easiest ways to follow and chat to practitioners within the industry.

4. Persistence is the key – If there is a reply you are really counting on and you haven’t heard from them in a while, there’s no harm in emailing them, even if it’s to find out why they haven’t replied and what you can improve on for next time.

5. Create a LinkedIn page – Not only is this a good way to increase your presence online, it can act as a helpful tool when you get to the interview stage to get some background knowledge on those interviewing you.

6. Be Creative – This is not something that can be done with all companies, but if it is a creative firm you are applying to make your application stand out by using different media, such as YouTube.

I found that by implementing these methods I was able to prove that I was serious about PR with no formal industry experience and create an impressive portfolio of work, which led to me catching the attention of a highly respected consumer consultancy in London, Frank PR, who offered me a twelve month placement.

So in the end there is a way around the catch 22 nature of the placement search, it’s just about proving that you have put in the extra effort to secure the certain transferable skills that make you the perfect candidate for the position.


Charlotte Willcocks is a 2nd year Business and Public Relations student at the University of Lincoln. She has bagged herself a 12 month placement at Frank PR working alongside Jay Sorrels, the head of digital at Frank PR. I'd like to take this opportunity to say: Good luck Charlotte!