Reporting by Leah Esher
In the forthcoming General Election all parties have dedicated teams managing their social media output. It is also near enough impossible to read a copy of PR Week without hearing the term social media. Indeed, as a university student studying Public Relations I am not unaware of the growing popularity and benefits of social media. And apparently, nor is Leeds Metropolitan University.
Whilst following the Tweets during the recent #AddMe Conference organised by University of Gloucestershire student Michael White it was claimed by PR consultancy 10Yetis that Leeds Metropolitan University and Bournemouth University were the two best universities for social media. As a first year Leeds Met student I felt I was in a reasonably good position to judge and although we had been lucky enough to hear from a handful of social media experts, at present we did not have a dedicated social media module.
So why are Leeds Met PR students so social media savvy?
After hearing that 10Yetis felt my university was a leading educator when it came to social media, I decided to research some of the recent success stories relating to PR and social media.
An amazing achievement for the university came when a Public Relations student and graduate collected awards for the Euprepra (European Public Relations Education and Research Association) Social Media Awards 2010. Laura Fischer, an MA PR student at Leeds Met picked up the ‘Best Student Blogger’ award for her ‘New Media in PRactice’ blog. The Best Young Practitioner Blog Award went to Ben Cotton for his blog ‘Social Web Thing’. Ben is a BA Public Relations graduate from Leeds Met, a Leeds Met Graduate Trainee and now works for PR agency Edelman. Clare Callery, a BA Public Relations student from Leeds Metropolitan University was also shortlisted for her blog Clare Siobhan Callery – PR student. Laura Fischer, Ben Cotton and Clare Callery are just a few of the social media pioneers whom the university has given birth too, nurtured and developed into some of the hottest prospects in social media today.
Being a PR student at the University, I am very aware of the active encouragement we receive to incorporate social media into our university work. However, although entirely aware of the importance and supersonic growth of social media, the university do not offer a dedicated social media module throughout any of the Public Relations or Communications subject group. They have not discouraged students though; Students from Leeds Met are treated on a weekly basis with talks from industry leaders all eager to prepare students to enter the big wide world of Public Relations. In 2009, Leeds Met held Leeds Business School’s autumn CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) Guest Lecture series. A lecture held by Leeds City Council’s Head of Communications, Andy Carter, emphasised the constantly changing landscape of the media and the importance of embracing this to test new ideas and new technologies. Andy and his team concluded that they needed to make changes in their communication mediums in order to move with society – this included the launch of an innovative virtual news room. The news room provides rich communications content using audio, visual and images and acts as a resource for journalists, who can make use of the material at any time.
The Leeds Business School’s autumn CIPR Guest Lecture series ended in December 2009 with the presentation of the Claire Mascall Prize, supported by Redmayne Bentley. The third prize of £500 and a two week placement at MCG PR went to Julia Lumley. The Second prize of £500, as well as a two week placement at the Centre for Public Relations Studies was awarded to Sadie Edwards. The first prize winner, Katie Brown, was offered a two week placement at Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) and £1000 and all runners up received a copy of Public Relations and The Social Web by Rob Brown. Katie’s winning essay was on the use of social media by a not for profit organisation and can be viewed here
Leeds Metropolitan University students have also benefited from special guest lectures including ones from Daryl Willcox and Fernando Rizo. Daryl Willcox, Head of Daryl Willcox Publishing, a comprehensive online service for media relations professionals gave a lecture titled ‘Being Digital – The Future of PR”. Daryl Willcox blogged about his visit to Leeds Metropolitan University commenting “…trip to Leeds Metropolitan University where the audience showed probably the best understanding of the changing world of media relations I’ve experienced so far.. It’s due to Leeds Met taking digital PR seriously on its PR degree course, which is to be congratulated.”
Fernando Rizo, Head of Digital Media for KetchumPleon UK, also gave a special guest lecture, teaching students “How and when to sell digital PR to a client”, giving students examples of when digital PR worked and when digital PR did not work.
Adam Burns, second year Public Relations student at Leeds Metropolitan University who attended the lecture said, “I left the Rose Bowl inspired to make my next PR campaign innovative, cheeky and for it to be a success both in traditional and digital media.”
Adam Burns, who in his first year studying PR at Leeds Met set up the very first PR department for the Students’Union and is now Head of Communications, has strived to use social media heavily to communicate to students and the wider community.
I believe that the encouragement that the university gives to students to incorporate social media into their work and the education they provide to the students towards this really explains why students at Leeds Metropolitan University are so switched on when it comes to social media, despite no dedicated module. The university truly recognises the importance of what it means to be in touch with social media and digital PR and provide us with fantastic opportunities to learn about it.
We are also now encouraged to record all of our work online in an e-portfolio. This not only allows students to showcase their work for employers to log on and look at with a click of a button, but it also illustrates the desire of PR students and teachers to embrace the digital age.
Here are some great examples: