Digital Dialogue: Getting ahead of the class, social media style

February 12, 2010

Being effective online means focusing on what you can offer your community, not what you can take from it. This is solid and succinct advice from Butler University’s Evan Strange in PRSSA’s Forum publication this month.

Strange is among thousands of PR students who will graduate in May seeking employment. He’s also among an expanding population of young adults who create Web content and use social networking to jump-start their careers. These proactive behaviors are necessary given the competitive job market, and also serve as good examples of technology use for veteran professionals.

Mikinzie Stuart of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. isn’t idly awaiting graduation either. She is working in a part-time PR position with her school’s higher education department. She also created the PRepguide blog to facilitate knowledge sharing among students and practitioners.

“I started PRepguide because I had so many questions about what to do beyond homework to prepare for my career,” Stuart says. Her early blog posts pondered topics such as whether to consider graduate school right after undergraduate studies. Most comments advised getting real-world experience before furthering education.

Another post, “20 Ways PR Students Can Beat the Winter Break Blues,” suggesting career-minded activities to keep busy over the holidays, was picked up by Penelope Trunk’s “Brazen Careerist” site. The exposure helped Stuart’s daily blog visitors grow from double to triple digits.

Stuart leverages common social tools including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to attract more people to her blog and network with professionals. Stuart and I connected online via the #PRStudChat Twitter group.

She also started networking with Allan Schoenberg through Twitter. Schoenberg is director of corporate communications for CME Group and an adjunct professor for PR studies at DePaul University and Loyola University Chicago.  After Stuart read one of Schoenberg’s tweets about grading student blogs she asked if he would evaluate PRepguide as well. He was impressed and now recommends it as a resource to his students.

Increasing her  Web reach makes sense for Stuart, as it should for all communicators. Big Rapids is a small town with fewer oportunities for communicators. Expanding an online community simply creates more relationships and business opportunities.

Like Stuart, Strange includes consistent blogging as part of his social media profile.

He has also bridged the real and online worlds through internships. He created the Indianapolis Airport’s social media strategy during a summer 2009 internship, and currently interns at Hirons & Company, an advertising and PR agency near campus.

These are two of many talented individuals who are already contributing to our profession. I am impressed with their creativity and early engagement. Their advice for peers seems ageless.

Stuart encourages people not to be afraid of asking questions, and believes that honing one’s writing skills is a must because it touches nearly every aspect of business.

Strange, in line with his community mindset, suggests that everyone tries to be the professional versions of themselves online.

“Treat your social media profile like work, and your community like coworkers,” he says.

That’s good advice.

Ryan Zuk, APR

Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at

Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


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