Monday, September 7, 2009

So begins the great blogging experiment!

A whole new world (Aladdin sold separately).

Starting this week, first-year Creative Communications students at Red River College will be setting up their own network of "professional blogs" in PR class, where they can post their assignments, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and recipes (which I hope they will make and bring to class to share with the teacher).

I'll link them to my blogroll on the right of this page as soon as they're all set up - everyone should have one by this Friday.

We'll do do a similar scheme for second-year advertising students; the media-production folks are planning on streaming the weekly student newscast, and - as I've suggested before - I think there's a huge demand out there to see me eating a bagel at my desk at lunchtime.

Having a blog is becoming more of a requirement in the industry, especially in the advertising and PR fields; my ad major co-instructor Audra Lesosky has made it be known that her agency, McKim Cringan George, likes to see a blogging and social-media presence from any candidate fresh out of school, looking for a job at the agency. Of course, that's in addition to the standard hard-copy portfolio, which still has a place too.

Blogging roundtable

To help kick off the assignment, I'll be holding a blogging roundtable discussion this week in the regular Thursday speaker slot.

Our esteemed panel will include the good people behind Progressive Winnipeg, Message Communications, Endless Spin Cycle, and PolicyFrog.

I'm looking forward to it. Should be a great discussion!

The assignment:

Every communications professional should have a blog.

“Blog” is short for “weblog;” it’s a website that functions as a live journal or public diary. You update a blog regularly with news, information, analysis, and criticism using original writing, reporting, links to other blogs, video, pictures, sound, color, design, and “gadgets.”

Unlike Facebook or social networking sites, blogs are not used to stay in touch with friends; rather, you use a blog to express yourself publicly and participate in a community conversation.

What makes the blog “professional” is that it gives potential employers a sense of how well you write on a regular basis, your “voice,” style, design skills, analytical skills, interests, sense of humor, anxieties, etc.

Blogging is also a good opportunity to learn about how to attract an online audience, how to measure it with services like StatCounter, and even how to make money from your writing by using Google AdSense.

Blog pointers:

* Blog with a purpose: have a focus and a target audience in mind, and be relevant to that audience by providing useful information, not just ads. While you do want to provide links to other web content that could interest your audience, make sure you also provide your original thoughts and insights.

* Don’t include “inappropriate content,” which is anything not appropriate for a potential employer. If you don’t know what that is, always err on the side of caution. Remember: anyone (including your mom and future employers) can read your blog, so make sure your writing puts your best foot forward. Also, Red River College’s “respectful college” guidelines pertain to both the in-person and online worlds.

* Allow people to comment on your blogs and encourage “dialogue” whenever possible. If someone posts something abusive, you can remove it.

* Read other blogs to see what works.

* Show your personality. Don’t be boring – be “you.”

* Promote your blog by e-mailing the address to your family and friends and using Twitter to let your "followers" know when you've posted something new. There’s nothing worse than writing something that nobody reads (just ask your local poet - Har, har).

What happens after you set up your blog?

1. Post assignments to your blog as directed.

2. Start posting other original entries to your blog regularly. Regularly updated blogs get more hits, and are listed higher on Google searches, leading to even more hits. Generally, your readers will expect to see a new entry every weekday. Hits tend to drop on weekends, when people aren’t trying to kill time at work.

3. Start linking your work to outside sources. Most, if not all, of your posts should contain links to articles, words, images, pictures, and discussion of outside sources. Original photographs and visuals are also great, if you have them.

4. Start commenting on your classmates’ - and other writers' - blogs.

This assignment is a mandatory part of Creative Communications, and required to continue in the program.

***

That's the assignment, minus some of the details, including the setup steps we'll do in our PR classes this week.

Next comes Twitter and how to link a website measurement service.

How does it look?

6 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great assignment! While I do wish we had covered this material more while I was still in school, I think I have sufficiently immersed myself enough in the blogosphere over the last few months that I know what I' doing for the most part. Still, it's great to force people to do it through school so they will explore something they normally wouldn't have.

    I can't believe how much thing have changed in the to years since I started Cre Comm. There was never a hint of doing anything like this when I was a first year!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is going to be an interesting experiment. But as much as I am looking forward to what the students will produce, I can't agree with the statement, "Every communications professional should have a blog." For one thing, it's overkill. It assumes that every communications professional is capable of producing a blog worth reading. That's simply not going to be the case. Like any other profession, PR has its share of hacks who should likely refrain from blogging.

    Secondly, the expectation that everyone needs to produce a professional blog is an intrusion on free time and free speech. People who, for whatever reason, don't want to blog shouldn't feel obligated to do so. This is the blogosphere, not an Orwellian dystopia of mandatory participation. ["6079 Smith W., you're not posting to your blog!"]

    I hold no special esteem for my colleagues who blog (except for Kenton Larsen, whose share of my available pool of esteem is wholly disproportionate), nor do I hold those who don't in contempt.

    One statement in your post that I do agree with is, "Hits tend to drop on weekends, when people aren’t trying to kill time at work." If there were ever a study conducted to calculate the workday productivity lost to the Internet...well, that number would be huge. The Internet is the biggest productivity killer since the invention of the water cooler. And long may it be so.

    ReplyDelete
  3. George Orwell didn't foresee that in the future, we'd all be Big Brother, eh? I guess that's more an indictment of YouTube than blogging.

    While having a blog is certainly an intrusion on one's time, I don't agree with the point that everyone having a blog is an intrusion on free speech. The alternative is the gatekeeper system where only a few voices are heard and presumed to be "representative."

    We're also talking about having a network of blogs - 75 people dedicated to making the world a better place to live in. You may say I'm a dreamer...etc, etc, etc.

    To perhaps put too fine a point on it: I think that the reason every communications professional should have a blog is so that he or she knows how it works.

    The reason a communications student should have one is to show a potential employer what he or she is about and, simply, what his or her writing is like.

    I firmly believe that anyone who writes half an hour a day will become an excellent writer - to refrain from blogging may protect the world from some terrible blog - true - but it might also deprive the world of some great ones.

    I don't know what I'd do without my Progressive Winnipeg and PolicyFrog, and it would've been easier for both of these gentlemen to pursue something else. Like scrapbooking or flag football. I'm glad they didn't.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That was one of the best "Anonymous" comments I've seen in a long time. It's nice to know that people can still put together well-thought comments without resorting to name calling when they are under the cloak of anonymity.

    I agree with Kenton, that having a blog is a great alternative to the old gatekeeper system. The whole idea behind free speech is that everyone should have a voice (even those we wish didn't) and blogging is one of the great ways the internet empowers the common man to speak out.

    Right now, having a blog is a good showcase of your communication skills for a prospective employer. Five years from now it may be so commonplace that you'll have to set yourself apart some other way, but for now it's a good thing.

    I also must agree with Anon that the internet is probably the biggest drain on company productivity out there. Anyone that says they don't surf around online on a regular basis at work is probably lying (or their company tracks online activity). You may not be online for large blocks at a time, but chances are you're " just checking in" a number of times a day, be it Facebook, email, ESPN, the weather network...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey, Dan.

    Love your new website layout, but the comments aren't working!

    Thanks also for linking to the Star Trek clip I posted on YouTube. Someone had to do it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Okay, comments are fixed, but I had to turf the mario layout.

    Mr. Anonymous makes one good point. Not all communications proffesionals should have a blog, but they should all be familiar with the blogosphere as a whole. Chances are, whatever company the students work for after they graduate will want them to maintain a blog of some kind. It's a no-brainer in today's online world!

    ReplyDelete