Monday, May 4, 2009

The Big Question: "To blog or not to blog"

(As usual, the un-edited version):

    Essays, speeches, exams, club meetings, a part-time job, a social life; with so much to worry about already as a college student, who in the world has time to blog?
    With blogging becoming a growing phenomenon, “to blog or not to blog” has been the question on many public relations and journalism students' minds.
    Bryan Blaise, Senior Account Executive at Fleishman Hillard International Communications advocates student blogging because it gives individuals “a chance to practice one of the most essential skills you will use day in and day out, while becoming an expert on a specific topic”.
    “Fantastic writers, like prima ballerinas or star quarterbacks, are made, not born,” Blaise said, “A natural talent for writing is only improved through continual practice, and with today’s ease and accessibility to blogs, there’s no reason for a young PR or journalism student not to blog.”
    Aside from improving upon one’s written communication skills, blogging proves to be an indicator to potential employers that a person is participating in new media. Dr. Robert Stewart, the associate director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, believes that the only reason a student should not blog is if they want to risk not having a job.
    “I’ve heard more that one person in the industry say that they’ll ask about blogs when hiring because they automatically assume you blog,” Stewart said, “Employers in the industry want to hire people who are participating and can function in the Web 2.0 world.”
    Although Stewart advocated the obvious benefits of this new art to the incoming journalism school freshmen, less than 30% actually took the advice.
    “Blogging isn’t for everyone. There’s an art, science and dedication required, and many people won’t commit to that,” Blaise said, “The opportunity is there for everyone to blog, but doing so half-heartedly or without purpose or strategy will do more harm than good.”
    M.J. Clark, Communications and Leadership Consultant at M.J. Clark Communications, agrees that “it does you more harm to start a blog if you don’t keep up with it”.
    “Blogging is great if you consistently update it; if you don’t, you’re creating your own negative PR for your own personal brand,” Clark said, “It’s something that really needs to be thought out. If you’re not a blogger and think it’s not something you can keep up with or something you’re passionate about, it does you more harm.”
    Stewart, on the other hand, believes that although there is some risk involved, “there is way more risk in not doing it”.
    “If you have a talent, you do things with it,” Stewart said, “Employers don’t want to hire people who bury their talents.”
    A common fear students have about blogging is that a mistake or a sentence that is not in a potential employer’s style of choice will cause that potential employer to look the other way.
    “College is about getting mistakes out of your system. It’s better to learn lessons as a college student than to have to start trying to learn at a job and making mistakes there,” Stewart said, “Also, no one is expecting blogs to be in AP style. Newspaper bloggers don’t follow AP style and sometimes even write in first person.”
    Blog writing is actually more conversational and more personal, according to Andrew Revkin, a reporter for the New York Times.
    “[Blogging is] a journey towards understanding,” Revkin said, “I don’t know what’s going on; I know some people who have a decent idea, but they could be wrong, too. So why not come along on the ride?”
    Many students argue that they simply have nothing to write about, but the reality is that there are an endless amount of “blog-able” topics.
    “Blogs are a chance to communicate your perspective on just about anything you want,” Blaise said, “I would encourage young professionals to blog about topics or situations relevant to [their] desired career goals.”
    Although Blaise suggests that students steer clear of topics such as “the latest Gossip Girl episode or your newest pair of Manalos”, he does agree that a blog does not have to read like a textbook.
    “Communications can be found in almost anything, so if you’re set on having a fashion or sports blog, consider blogging about the communications activities of companies within that industry*,” Blaise said.
    Another common misconception students have is that they do not know enough about the industry to blog.
    “I have actually learned a lot from students. If you have confidence then you should know that your opinion matters and people in the industry may know a whole lot less than what you know right now about new media,” Clark said, “Students have an insight and need to know that they have a worthy contribution.”
    If not done passionately or with good intent, blogging may prove to be destructive; however, if done with thought, maintaining a blog can offer benefits to students that students of “older media” could have never enjoyed in the past.
    “Every post, Tweet, or wall comment is a testament of your personal brand, and you can not be flippant about what, where, and how you communicate online,” Blaise said, “However, experience in the strategic application of new media is a major asset that new professionals can bring to the table and set themselves up for quick and great success.”

*Bryan Blaise is the author of, where they cover a wide array of people, companies, and issues all through the lens of communications about and to the LGBT community.