It’s back to school time again! Thankfully not for me, though.College Student I enjoyed it and I have a lot of great memories of it, but I’ve found my “calling” and I’ve happily moved on.

All this school talk has gotten me thinking about PR school, though. Specifically I’ve been thinking about what students will take from their Online PR course.

By now it should be clear that effectively using social media is a critical aspect to the success of most projects.

  • How many students coming into PR programs today do you think know enough social media 101?
  • Is it safe to say that most know the major social networking sites and how to use them?
  • Do they blog, or have they posted a podcast online?

I’ll guess the answer to most of those is no. That brings me to the point of my first post in about three weeks. Learning more about social media and how it can be used in PR before I had to know it, has benefitted me quite a bit.

A little extracurricular self-teaching goes a long way

If you’re a new PR student, these are a three pointers will go a long way to helping you understand the hype, and put you at an advantage ahead of the pack.

1. read, read, read, read, read

I’m a big fan of reading, as you can see. Set up a Google Reader account and actively get out there and find:

As with any kind of reading, it’s important to be critical and do some thinking for yourself. There’s a lot of information out there, and much of it is speculation and hype. Try to pull out the useful nuggets where you can find them, but don’t get bogged down in the overwhelming amount of material.

2. If you’re not already, get onto social networking sites and connect!

You may not be comfortable with connecting with strangers online, but your future employers probably are, or at least considering it. It’ll look good during your job hunt if you’ve taken the time to build up a solid online network. Not only that, if you’re connecting with the right kind of people, you’re looking at many classrooms worth of info right at your fingertips (as with above, remember to be critical of the info you find!).

Meeting people you’ve tweeted with and putting a personality to the picture can be a benefit in a few ways.

  • They will most likely introduce you to someone they know; increasing your network
  • You might get wind of future job opportunities because they know you better
  • You might actually find you want to be friends “for real”

It’s important to mention you may be meeting these people at events where you can learn a lot about PR too. A few of the many examples include Third Tuesday, PodCamp or Mesh Conference. Many are free and a few cost money, but making the effort to get out there and connect can do nothing but benefit you.

3. Start a blog about a topic you enjoy

As you become more comfortable with the tricks of the social media trade, get blogging. You don’t have to write about social media or PR; write about anything. A blog is a great forum for you to share your opinions, as well as an excellent self-teaching tool to help you write concisely. Whatever your topic:

  • Be punchy (point form and numbered lists)
  • Add pictures (breaks up the text – pleasing to the eye)
  • Throw in some audio/video (YouTube or self-made)

Finally…

One important thing to remember is that digital PR is ever-changing. All these experts out there are figuring it out for themselves through trial and error. It’s important to stay on top of the emerging social media tools and not get caught up in the latest fads because they will come and go.

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