Musings of a PR Professional

PR writing and the Internet

The most recent chapter that I read for my current PR class was all about public relations writing for the Internet. The author, Thomas Bivins, took a look at many different things regarding public relations and the Internet in this chapter, everything from web design and formatting Intranet websites. When he specifically focused on writing, however, he had two main points that I think are very useful in their respective ways.

His first main point is, that when writing professionally on the Internet, one should avoid becoming too conversational. He advises to stick to the format and the styles of writing that are customary for the type of document you are creating and write it as though you were sending it out into the world in the conventional way. “A news release is still a news release. A feature is still a feature. Ad copy is still ad copy,” Bivins writes. I think this is great advice to give to PR professionals that deal with the Internet often and in more than one way. Since it is so simple to publish, edit, and update an infinite number of times on the Internet, I think it is very easy to view this medium of communication as much less professional. In my opinion, the simple fact that what you are writing is not on paper makes if feel as if the document is much less permanent, and therefore less important and professional. Also, I think it is much easier for PR professionals who blog as well as work professionally on the Internet to slip into “chatter” writing, as Bivins refers to it. I know that I am the kind of person that will need to make the conscious effort to keep in mind my purpose for writing and make sure that my blogging style does not bleed into mh professional style.

Bivins’ second main point, that he echos throughout the entire text book, is quite simple. He claims that good writing is good in it of itself. Flashy images or exotic layouts you encase your writing in will not improve a poorly written document. I think this is especially applicable to blogging.  Anyone can start a blog, say what they want to say and make it look pretty of professional with the right theme or site design. But, the most well-renowned and valid blogs that are out there on the Internet today are followed by so many for one reason: Their content. They write about relevant issues in an articulate way that exemplifies their unique and interesting perspectives. Through writing well then, well-renowned bloggers draw readers in and gain followers because they can shed new light on topics, they can provide readers with “Ah ha” moments that make reading their blogs worth while.

Libel on the Internet

The other week in my intro to journalism class, we were going over all of the legal issues regarding reporting, journalistic writing, etc. Eventually, the class got on the topic of libel. Libel is the publication of afalse statement that deliberately or carelessly damages someone’s reputation (Inside Reporting by Tim Harrower p. 140) and after some discussion we ended up on the topic of libel on the Internet.

Today, it seems that bloggers bash. They have little or no concern with the issues surrounding libel and are often unaware that what they’re saying sometimes can get them tied up in some serious legal knots. However, one saving grace for them is the ignorance of those being bashed. These people don’t understand the ramifications of libel either and don’t know that what these attackers are saying can be considered libel. They think it’s just them expressing their opinions. And while sometimes that is true, other times what’s being said is really seriously damaging stuff.

Hopefully, as the Internet and blogging continues to evolve and gain relevance, bloggers and the people bloggers are talking about will start to wise up. It will only take one well-publicized lawsuit before people start to shape up and be careful about what they’re putting on the Internet. But why wait for that? For those championing blogging, maintaining that it needs to be taken seriously, they need to realize that with more clout comes more responsibility.

3 Keys to Blogging Well

Blogging is certainly not something that you can just pick up and be really good at right off the bat. However, it seems that this has made for, kind of ironically, a very hot blog post topic. Dr.V compiled a list of about eight blog posts that discuss, essentially, the do’s and don’t’s of blogging. They all made really great points so I decided to compile the most frequently noted/ most important tips for blogging.

  • Know who you are and have a voice.It is very important (and becoming increasingly harder) to stand out in the blogosphere. If you’re merely parroting what other people are talking about or not posting about anything interesting or relevant it’s very unlikely your blog will gain momentum. Blogging should be done with a purpose. So, decide who you are going to be out there in the social media world and be consistent with that.
  • Create conversations.It’s a constant give and take between bloggers, you can’t just expect people to come to you if you’re not putting yourself out there. Comment on other’s blogs, and read. Like a new release, keep up with the bloggers you comment on and want to follow you and find out what interests them. Then, put your own twist on those subjects and write about them. It’s so important to engage people- no one has ever responded well to being talked at.
  • Be real. This is especially important for corporations getting into blogging and blogging during a crisis. If you’re fake on the web, people are going to know it and most likely resent you for it. So, be upfront with your audience, it will build trust and as a result a good relationship. People will be much more interested in your products or services if they feel you understand them and don’t have any ulterior motives.

Geoff Livingston of The Buzz Bin sums up perfectly in his post on ways to woo bloggers, “…blogger relations really comes down to individual relationships. As a result, many conversations deal with basic principles of listening and not overselling, oops, over-pitching.”

“Young PR Professional”

“Young PR professional.” I absolutely adore this quote because I feel like, with this blog, I really am putting myself out there in field. Kipp Bodnar, a PR practitioner for a firm in Raleigh, NC said this today in the closing moments he was on the phone with us. Dr. V telephoned Bodnar to give us another look at what exactly is waiting for us out in the real PR world, and according to Bodnar, quite a bit.

It seem as though there are opportunities abound in the PR field, that it grows every day, if one knows how to present his or herself. Being active online (once again) is very important and something Bodnar stressed in the conversation we had with him. By blogging and tweeting and commenting (and lions and tigers and bears oh my!ing) we are exposing ourselves to PR agencies while simultaneously learning by observation.

“What do you read?” is the first question that popped into his mind when Dr.V asked what he would say in an interview for an internship or job. Although this seems like an innocent question, it’s actually quite the window into a person’s PR soul, if you will. By answering this question, one can learn what people are interested in, what they pay attention to, how they prioritize their information and much more. By simply reading a person can learn so much about anything. I’m certainly going to keep my eyes wide open.

PR Job Ads

Part of our assignment for next class was to just search around on the Internet and look up various ads for jobs in the PR field. One reccuring theme that unnerved me a little bit: LOTS OF EXPERIENCE NEEDED. Maybe I was just missing the entry-level position job ads but the lowest amount of experience I ever found was 1-2 years. I hope internships count!

I feel like I’m getting so much experience already just through this blog. The way it has connected me to veterans, if you will, in the PR field makes me feel as though I’m learning things much more practical and useful than theory out of a textbook. It seems like PR is a field that is very active on the Internet and if that’s the case then I’m already stepping into the thick of things!