What I learned about PR and blogging in 2013

2013-2014Before 2014 kicks into gear and accelerates away, I thought I’d take a look in the rearview mirror at 2013 and present six things that I learned last year about PR and blogging.

Blogging isn’t dead

As Stuart Bruce writes, blogging still matters for public relations. In the 12 Days before Christmas, I decided to blog each day as an experiment (see previous dozen posts). This was a real learning experience for the following reasons:

  • Although it is quite hard to dedicate time to blogging on a daily basis, it is possible and rewarding to do so in terms of reflecting on something of timely relevance and honing the blogging writing muscles
  • Setting a theme is restrictive but did stimulate some creative thinking on my part and also enabled me to connect real life experiences to the general theme of Christmas.

Although I’m not promising to blog on a daily basis in 2014, I do intend to write more frequently and also produce other series-related posts.  I’d like to signpost other blogs and posts that I enjoy or have found interesting – which returns to the community approach that was established in earlier blogging.

No comment!

Blogging in 2013 (again as Stuart notes) tends to generate social media links rather than comments (as was the case when I started in 2006). Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ for example all increase the reach of a post – with the endorsement of those who promote via their own profiles. But with few comments, it is hard to benefit from the input of others’ thoughts on your writing, let alone use the medium for dialogue and debate. This is something that has happened at PR Conversations as well which was always a blog that stimulated often quite robust debate.  I feel this is a shame and will try to comment more on other people’s blog posts this year.

Social media is more important than SEO

The top referring sites to this blog were Twitter and Facebook, with two blogs (wadds.co.uk and prconversations.com) also driving readers along with an Australian education Moodle site (I’ve had readers from 144 countries apparently). This is a shift in 2013 from Google and other search engines which have traditionally found this blog. I’m not sure if this indicates that more people are using social media search and recommendations or a change in Google’s search approach – or maybe fewer posts being published here.  This is something I’m going to look at more – but not simply to chase hits as that’s not my style ;-)

PR practitioners seek ‘how to’ advice

The leading post for views on PR Conversations continues to be Using Twitter for PR Events from August 2011, which has a life of its own with regular Tweets when found by various individuals. To date it has had 4,192 page views – 82% of which are from unique site users.

The leading post for views on this Greenbanana blog is one called: Is choosing a public relations dissertation topic really that difficult? from July 2008.

Both of these have a practical focus in contrast to more reflective or academic posts.  I think that I can offer more of this type of post, particularly in drawing from chapters in The Public Relations Strategic Toolkit.

PR students are using blogs as part of their academic research

Again, drawing on the WordPress annual report for this site, I can see that other popular posts are those which look at terms commonly studied on PR courses. These include The PR Model of Excellence (May 2009), The difference between evaluation and feedback (June 2010), PR, propaganda, marketing, publicity, communication – is differentiation important (February 2009) and my reflection on the Toyota product recall case from February 2010.

Although it is great to welcome students to this site, I hope they are supplementing their perusal of blog posts with journal articles and books. My experience as an educator is that many students do not recognise a difference in the quality of different sources.

Whilst I try to bring the same rigour in my production of a blog post as I do to more academic publications I have written, the media are not equal (journal papers are peer reviewed and books tend to go through an editorial checking process). Other PR blog posts may be interesting and valid to check as sources, but students need to remember to be critical about what they read – and also read my Plagiarism post.

Again, I will continue to write about topics that should be of use and interest to students and PR practitioners.  There are many interesting areas from PR literature that do not get a lot of attention and like to use this blog to connect theory and practice by highlighting some interesting thinking and theorising.

Many posts stand the test of time

As noted above, many of the most popular posts date back several years (when I posted more frequently). Whilst the context of my musings needs to be taken into account, I’m pleased that most of the posts still have relevance.  It was never my intention when I started blogging to be creating a useful resource of my thinking, but I believe that it has been useful to write about my core principles in respect of PR (and education) and where these have been developed and enhanced (although I’d say not fundamentally challenged) over the past seven years.

In 2014, I intend periodically to look back at previous posts and update or reflect upon them where relevant. I do worry that the repertoire of posts isn’t as extensive as I’d like, but then again, I find myself revisiting ideas without necessarily recalling that they have been of interest to me – and relevant to PR practice and academia – for some time.

Indeed, one of the pleasures of blogging in 2013 was my decision to post on a monthly basis the chapters from a 1948 book, Your Public Relations at PR Conversations. The blogging platform has allowed me to bring the fascinating insight and views of senior executives to a modern audience. I’ve 30 more chapters to go having published three so far.

It is helpful to have this format to look ahead and plan future blog post – something that I want to develop more for Greenbanana where I have written more from personal or professional interest than to a structure or schedule.

Other aspects of blogging that I wish to develop in 2014 again echoes Stuart Bruce’s resolutions. As well as blogging more frequently, I wish to incorporate more multimedia. I’m particularly interested in exploring podcasts as well as video and other imagery. I am also developing some other online resources which are intended to encourage me to experiment further and blog on other topics. More on this to follow.

Here, I aim to use the Greenbanana blog to connect more to my PhD studies and research which are a priority for me this year.

The key to blogging I believe is to have an authentic and original perspective that resonates with others, whilst remaining interesting enough to you as the author to think about, research and post.

One major thing that I have learned is that blogging will continue to be my preferred social media.  Indeed I’m thinking of stepping away from some others.  LinkedIn in particular I’m finding quite annoying – but that’s a topic for another post as part of a new series reflecting on different social media opportunities for public relations which will be part of my January 2014 posting.