Posted by: Jess Scheve | February 2, 2011

The Ghosts of PR Past, Present and Future

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, a blog and several e-mail accounts.  I find it all a bit overwhelming. And those are just the bare minimum.  I have yet to get involved in sites like Flikr, Delicious or Digg.

Twitter/Facebook Icons

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I was reluctant to get too involved in social media. It seemed so time consuming and addicting. When I was an undergraduate it was not important for a PR practitioner to have an “online presence.”  Now it’s expected. Having only just received my bachelor’s in 2008, I find myself wondering how I “missed the train.”  Did the use of social media really explode in two and a half years? I guess a lot can change in a couple of years.

The Past

Around three years ago I had an internship at the PR office of my undergraduate school, Ashland University. Since I was only an intern working a mere ten hours a week, I can’t say that I am familiar with every single tactic that the department used; however, I can say that they used the trusty press release—a lot.  How do I know this? My duties included writing basic press releases, primarily about students. Some of the releases were about students’ involvement in extra-curricular activities but a vast majority of the releases were about high school students who had received scholarships to attend the school.  I did these releases so frequently that they started to feel like a journalistic version of  Mad Libs. While they varied from student to student, they typically looked something like this:

Madlibs

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_________, son/daughter of __________ has received a Presidential Scholarship in the amount of $7,000.00 to attend Ashland University.   _________ is a senior at _________ High School.  ___________ plays ________, is vice-president of ________ and volunteers at __________.  In his/her spare time _______ enjoys _______ and ________.

My other duty at the PR office included photocopying and filing news clippings of stories about the University, its departments, its students, its faculty and staff, its alumni and so forth.  Now don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot from this internship.  While some interns may be in charge of nothing more than faxing, copying and getting coffee, I actually had the opportunity to contribute to the public relations efforts and I got to see the fruits of my labors when my releases got printed.  What more could an intern ask for?

As grateful as I am for my internship and the education that I received, neither taught me about using social media as a PR tactic. As a matter of fact, what little I do know about using social media as a PR tactic comes from my personal use of Facebook.  This is no one’s fault really.  The fact of the matter is that the social media “phenomenon” seems to have exploded within a short period of time.  I graduated from college in 2008 and in the two and a half years since I have seen Facebook go from being something used primarily by high school and college students to something that everyone uses.  Heck, even my grandmother, (who is 76 by the way), uses Facebook!

The Present

Honestly, I do find myself struggling to catch up at times. But social media is something that you can only really learn by doing. So my advice to all of you PR folks out there: if you haven’t joined already, you had better do so. And fast. With the rate things are going the next “big thing” could hit the web before you’ve even established a profile on Twitter.  The sooner you join, the easier it will be.

Maybe in a way we’re all better people because of social media.  One Mashable blogger even reflects on this in the article Why Social Media Is Bringing Back our Grandparents’ Values.  Think about it.

  • It’s easier to keep in touch with  anyone from an old high school friend to your Aunt Mary.
  • You now look thoughtful because Facebook reminded you to wish your friend a happy birthday.
  • You’re up on all the latest trends and current events thanks to the buzz on Twitter and Facebook.
  • That potential dream job finds YOU because you have an awesome profile set up on LinkedIn.
  • You have a chance to express yourself in “real-time.”

The Future?

I can’t say what the future holds for PR or social media, but I know that in order to be successful right now I must become a master of social media. My hope is that someone else who is in the process of submerging themselves into the online world of public relations finds this useful.  I invite you to share your experiences and in the spirit of Web 2.0—join the conversation!

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Responses

  1. First of all, I love your new banner 🙂 Second, although I’m a little late on posting here, I think you present a lot of valuable information that doesn’t just pertain to students. So many professionals are used to the traditional press-agency PR models, simply because they are either unsure, unaware or just plain afraid to venture into social media. I agree that the only way to really understand it all is by getting out there and playing around with it. Even though I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on how it works, there is a lot that I don’t know and a lot I was never taught, simply because it just wasn’t as big of a deal when I was completing my undergrad degree. Good job at pulling in some pretty cool sources, and I wish you luck at getting to where you want to go 🙂

    • Thanks Margie, I really appreciate the feedback! I think you’re right about many practitioners being used to the traditional model. I hope that professionals in that situation will find helpful information and support on here because it’s so much more difficult to try and learn all of this on your own – especially because new media is constantly changing.


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