Does digital PR deserve its own module at universities?

It’s no surprise that digital PR is becoming increasingly popular within the PR industry. The world has shifted online significantly since the pandemic started which has meant PR professionals have worked more with digital PR.

On PR courses across the country we focus on traditional PR and incorporate digital within these modules, but I’m starting to think that digital PR deserves its own module.

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How is digital PR different to traditional PR?

Digital PR, like traditional, seeks to achieve coverage. It is also concerned with increasing rankings in search engines, The Domain Authority of a website and gaining links (PR Academy). There are lots of resources to learn the ins and outs of each.

If you’re confused by what any of that means, don’t worry. These are the things digital PR professionals are well clued up on and what all PR professionals should know (a bit) about. It’s not enough to stick to just traditional PR anymore, the key is to have a mix. Since the rise of the internet we have so many new opportunities for getting yourself and your brand known.

From this we know there are lots of areas of digital PR that we as students and professionals can learn about. At the moment, I am doing extra reading and webinars through CIPR on digital PR but would definitely have considered choosing a module on digital PR at university as there is so much to it.

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What could be taught in the module?

The list below is what I would include in a digital PR module at university. I’m sure there are more specific things to include too. For those of you who have more experience in digital PR, I’m sure you could suggest topics (I would love to find out your opinions so please comment below).

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Google Analytics
  • Working with journalists, bloggers and influencers
  • Online press releases for high-quality backlinks
  • Anything social media related (mentions etc)
  • Online campaign & strategy planning
  • Online event planning

A lot of this may just be incorporated into PR modules already, such as press releases, campaign planning and event planning. But a focus on digital could cover it in much more detail and set people up for PR roles focused on digital.

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At the moment digital marketing gets its own modules at universities and even whole degrees as it is such a broad topic. I think digital PR does deserve a module as a lot of the things listed above are usually learnt by doing your own research or from experience. If a module isn’t necessary then perhaps more inclusion into the content or additional classes around the course.

I know when looking at jobs and internships online that are in the digital PR field, they quite often ask that you have some background knowledge of SEO, Google Analytics and other tools used in digital PR. Having the option to do a module on this at university could really help when entering the job market as it is so competitive at the moment.

Let me know whether your university has a module on digital PR or you’re a PR graduate who would’ve liked to have had this module option in the comments below!

Five Podcasts for PR and Comms Enthusiasts

I’ve only recently gotten into podcasts. I think this comes from people’s recommendations now that I’ve connected with PR & comms people on Twitter. Below I list five of my top podcasts for PR and comms enthusiasts. They will help with uni as well so they are great for students!

I have to really concentrate on something otherwise i’s just background noise, which is why I recommend listening to them while having a meal or on a walk. If you can listen to them while doing work then I envy you!

1. The Influencer Marketing Lab – Steve Guthrie

I’m a big fan of Scott’s podcast as influencer marketing is something I’m interested in. Scott and his special guests always delve into interesting topics and it’s a very relevant subject so I highly recommend listening.

Influencer marketing has been a widely debated part of PR & comms since the pandemic started, from the positives of working with influencers to their controversial visits to Dubai and breaking lockdown rules. Scott covers all bases in his podcast.

2. Have You Got 5 Minutes? – Rebecca Roberts & Harriet Small

Rebecca and Harriet’s podcast is a great one if you don’t have a lot of time. Their usual podcast lasts around 10 minutes! Have You Got 5 Minutes? is fairly new so you can catch up quickly as well.

Rebecca and Harriet cover topics in the news or things that are popular in the PR & comms industry. They touch on those passing thoughts or questions you were wanting to ask in your next lecture, so they cover anything they think people will find useful – go check it out.

3. Future PRoof Podcast – Sarah & Stephen Waddington

PR power couple Sarah and Stephen Waddington host this podcast that has been running since 2016! With the vast knowledge the pair have, the podcast is full of useful and great information about the business of PR, marketing and social media.

Their most recent episode covered a range of topics from Jackie Weaver to exiting lockdown (which we now have a timeline for). Each episode covers a lot so sit down with a coffee and give it a good listen, their thoughts are worth every minute.

4. Inside PR – Joseph Thornley

Now, this podcast isn’t currently active (last updated 2019), but its previous episodes covered a lot about the PR industry that will still be relevant. Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich and Joseph Thornley all co-host this show and sometimes bring in a guest or two for their thoughts.

This podcast has been running for years so there are a lot of episodes to choose from. Take your pick from algorithms, YouTube and much more.

5. The PR Week – PR Week

You probably already know about PR Week, one of the go-to places for industry news. Luckily for us, they have a podcast too. Each week they catch up on industry news and trends so if you need some examples for your next seminar you can try giving it a listen!

The podcast brings different guests each week to discuss the various topics and provide experience from their time in the industry. I highly recommend as some of the guests come from big companies such as Google or Microsoft.

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Would You Try Baked Beans on Weetabix?

I’m sure a lot of you have seen the debate on Twitter about whether baked beans should be eaten with Weetabix – in my opinion NO, disgusting! However, the conversation was sparked by Weetabix’s image of the food combo, see below. It is one of many different food combos the brand has been introducing to us.

Whether or not you agree with the combination isn’t the point in this social media post. The post was meant to be controversial and to encourage people to engage in debates about it. The post was then followed by over 140 different companies replying with (hilarious) comments. It provided humour in a time when people probably need it most, which is why the post was so successful.

The PR company behind the idea was Frank PR and it stemmed from a recipe they shared last year about chicken coated in crushed Weetabix. They found that people love to engage in food debates-remember the endless pineapple on pizza divide? So, this was a great way for Weetabix to get some engagement.

The campaign grew because of organic shares, replies and likes. They didn’t pay for any of the social media engagement. I think the post did so well because of the tweets coming from other companies. Every man and his dog got involved with some very funny tweets. Something that doesn’t happen all too often.

I have listed a few of my favourite below for you to read. Hopefully you’ll have a bit of a giggle like I did.

Comms Slip Up: The Government’s Sexist Stay Home Save Lives Ad

The government has withdrawn their most recent ad for ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ after the backlash it received for being sexist.

In this advert women can be seen doing all of the domestic chores and just one single man relaxing on the sofa. Way to be with the times, right. This latest ad indicates that the government don’t listen to the public, they don’t find ways to relate and they don’t understand the modern lives of people within the UK. Not the best thought to have about the people that run the country.

Opinions about the government have been mixed throughout the pandemic and slip ups like this just enhance the negative views people have had about the government’s communication throughout COVID-19. To be taken seriously their ads should be respected by the public and in this case, they will have lost a lot of respect from women across the UK. It is the twenty-first century but the government don’t seem to be living in it.

The government statement stated that it does ‘not represent their views on women,’ but if that was the case why had it been made and approved for use? Someone at the PR firm clearly thought, yes, this will work.

Below is a revised version of the ad by a lady called Kim French, which is fitting for the world we live in now.

If the government want their ads to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, then they need to make them relevant and representative of everyone. No one is saying women don’t often do the household chores, but the government’s add indicates that it’s ONLY women doing them. I understand that government PR & comms has been difficult over the last year but we aren’t in the 1950s anymore and things have changed.