Recently I was invited to give a talk to PR Masters students at Southampton Solent University about the importance of blogging and to take part in an active discussion about working in an agency versus working in-house.
The first half was an interesting talk about a recent campaign conducted by Martyna Stepien a PR communications specialist at Ageas. Martyna, also an ex-Solent University graduate, has a strong PR background having previously worked for Southampton City Council as a senior communications officer. Her talk was very interesting, I got to see how she was running a national campaign for Ageas, and I could compare this with my own experiences of campaigns.
Following Martyna’s presentation we discussed the pro’s and con’s of agency and in- house life. This made for a lively debate, as you can imagine. But, we agreed on most points and came to the conclusion that it was dependent on personality, what you preferred and the type of company/business the PR was for.
Next came my talk about the importance of blogging. I always get nervous about public speaking. I have done since we were made, every year without fail, to take part in the dreaded ‘speech day’. It’s as bad as it sounds, everyone prepares a speech, delivers it and then the class voted for the best. Awful. Just awful.
My knees still turn to jelly and I still do get nervous (who’s with me?), but those experience each year, despite being terrible, have made it more manageable and taught me valuable skills to get through public speaking.
I started by explaining a bit about myself and then telling my blogging story. I’ll re-tell it to you with snippets from my Powerpoint. I think it sums up all the points I want to make in a far more entertaining way than if I were to try and write it out another way.
My blogging journey…
I knew from a very early stage of getting into PR that I should blog. I was very aware that it was a good way to showcase your skills, to practise writing and that it opened up opportunities.
So I did, I started a blog back in 2011.
Could I figure out WordPress? No.
Did I ever write on the blog? No. Not once in three whole years.
I had so much fear about putting myself online and a huge fear about being judged. I couldn’t get past my own embarrassment (I still struggle with this now!). I was no writer, who would even listen? (OH HOW WRONG I WAS!)
It looked a little like this…
What changed? In 2014, I decided to make myself go back to university an do a Masters in public relations.
It was then, that I was strongly encouraged to create a blog as part of my Professional Practice module. I’m not going to lie, I hated this. I had no idea what to write about and it felt forced.
But it did get me writing, just not very regularly due to holding down a full time job and full time Masters course. I was exhausted. There was little motivation left after a full day in the office followed by studying into the small hours. As you can see…
At the end of my Masters I got my first job, took a little time out and then that’s when it gets interesting.
In August 2016, after being inspired by my job, reading blogs online and meeting a local blogging community, I decided to commit to blogging. If I tried my best for a couple of months and it wasn’t helpful I could then stop and be satisfied that blogging wasn’t for me. So here’s why I did it and what I did…
Just by doing a few simple things, like posting regularly, I soon started to notice a lot more people reading my blog and engaging with my posts.
I started seeing some results like getting recognition from Sarah Stimson. She put me on her 50 UK PR female blogger list. This not only introduced me to other bloggers, but it was a real boost to my confidence. Sarah will probably never know that this little boost did so much for me at a moment when I was really doubting myself. (If you ever read this Sarah, thank you so much!)
My first blogging event with Southampton Bloggers was with MAC cosmetics. Maureen Seaberg, who collaborated with MAC to make the new lip product, re-tweeted and liked my blog not once, but three times! We even had a conversation on Twitter. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it that she’d picked up on my blog, let alone that she might have read it. I still find it hard now to understand the power I have to connect with other people from the comfort of my own living room.
All these things started to help me gain traction. I got listed on Vuelio, invited to more Southampton Blogger events and also started to seek out PR opportunities myself. It’s really opened up some fun opportunities to get involved with and to try out my writing skills.
Most recently Bright Lights Big City got listed 0n Vuelio’s top 10 UK PR blogs by women on International Women’s Day 2017.
This experience was so valuable as it gave me the chance to reflect on my blog, where I started, how I’ve developed and where I am now. The more I put in, the more I get out.
I’m really enjoying blogging now and love the new opportunities to try things and to challenge myself. It’s put me in touch with some incredible people and I’ve done some wonderful things.
The best part though was when my blogging became useful at work. As I had lots of blogging contacts that I’d formed outside of work I had a network ready when a project came up with a new client we had taken on. At work I was allowed lots of responsibility and got to help run the event. All my hard work at home had paid off and it was great to feel extra useful in my day job.
After the talk it really hit me that I’d come much further than I thought in a very short space of time. A blog gives you a voice, and a platform to share your skills and your passions. If you’re starting out in PR this is a great way to showcase your skills, build a portfolio and to get noticed.
I never thought that blogging could help me so much, and I hope that’s what the current Masters students from Solent took away from my talk. Blogging is a powerful tool, don’t underestimate it.