Nothing will kill a the spirit of a blogger quite like having the grade the blogs of 120 student bloggers. Ugh. Now you know why I haven’t written a blog in months.
For the past two semesters, I have been working as a TA for the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. In the senior level PR communications course, the 32 students were required to create their own blog site and write weekly about something related to PR, branding and/or social media. I originally started this very blog as a student in that same course a year ago.
In the social media course, taught by the same professor, the 80 students were required to post bi-weekly to the Eagle Strategies class blog. Posts were mostly about social media including new or changing platforms and the occasional corporate mishap, like the Applebee’s waitress fiasco or the Burger King Twitter hack.
Sometimes reading and evaluating these can be a real chore. Most of the students are first time bloggers and very few of them have ever run a professional blog. Despite this though, some of them wrote some really fantastic, entertaining and thought-provoking blogs. But through it all, we all learned the basics of business blogging as it relates to public relations. Here are a few takeaways from the student blogging experience:
- Make your blog visually appealing. We constantly reiterated that blogs should appeal to the visual nature of the readers. Pictures and videos are always a good thing, but they aren’t always necessary. When dealing with just text, try to use bullets, numbers, bold text, block quotes or short paragraphs to make the text easier to follow.
- Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation are vital but AP Style isn’t everything. A blog, by its very nature, is supposed to be more relaxed and conversational so the rules of AP Style don’t have to be followed quite as closely. But thanks to budget cuts in newsrooms across the nation, GSP mistakes are more and more prevalent in the media – especially in their online versions. It’s no wonder that students don’t understand the importance of correct grammar because they see professionals making mistakes every single day! Some rules still stand though. Internet is always capitalized. Alot still is not a word. Most of them made drastic improvements while a few stubbornly clung to their own “creative” style.
- Be original. Be different. If something big happened in pop culture, I knew I had at least a dozen of the same blogs to look forward to. I read so many blogs about the Manti Te’o controversy and the Carnival Triumph that I thought my eyeballs would start bleeding. The worst part is that none of them sounded original or different. It was just the same driveling recap and the same boring commentary. Was there nothing else to write about? If you are writing about something that you know others will write about, look for a different angle or give a fresh perspective that makes YOURS the one people want to read.
- Find your niche. If your have a passion for music and love branding, then write about branding bands and musicians. If you love social media, then write about the latest platforms and how they work for the industry. If your heart bleeds for nonprofits, then write about fundraising and messaging tactics. If you love thrift store shopping, then write about the best deals you found. Whatever your professional or personal interests may be, keep your blog focused to set yourself up as an authority on the subject.