Michael White #socialstudent

Michael White has just finished his final year at the University of Gloucestershire studying Public Relations. He spent his placement year with Microsoft in the Multinational Advertising Department as an Account Manager and has just accepted a very exciting role at Red Consultancy. Appearing in Behind the Spin’s #socialstudent list in a variety of positions mainly in the top ten.
Behind the Spin’s #socialstudent list uses Klout and Peer Index to measure a user’s influence over their social network. But in your opinion, can they be trusted as an accurate measure of your influence?
I find it impossible to take measurement tools seriously, let’s begin with Klout. This is a measurement service which sells reputational value on the basis of a white number in a red square. The only value associated with this number is really only what a user reads into it. In fact the real side to Klout is the business they do selling our own data which they pass onto marketing and advertising companies packaging us as ‘key influencers’. Peer Index seems to sell on a personal data to a lesser extend but still upholds a business back which is driven by our personal data. Both these systems are built to identify our influence across a range of different networks but only attribute this to one, fairly meaningless, answer at the end. It isn’t accurate.

How you think blogs, twitter and other forms of social media help you and your career in PR?
I’ve been to a few job interviews recently for graduate positions. In each interview, positive comments have been made about my blog and status online. It has never been easier for students to get noticed thanks to free social channels at our disposal. A few months ago I wrote an article for ProBlogger entitled “8 Reasons Why Students Should Blog” which received many positive reviews and tackles why blogging is beneficial.

In your opinion, how does social media impact current PR and Marketing campaigns?
In every way but it is important to see digital communication channels at the heart of a PR campaign. In the past the process of creating a PR campaign would involve writing media releases concerning client news, crazy stunts and so on. Today attention to a client can be created online and, if the campaign makes a big enough splash, newspapers will cover it as news from the impact it has already made. Newspapers will never die but how the public digest their news will. Today our news is created by people and these people can become well known in their own right for the news they publish. The role of the newspaper will become rather blurred once the public have a system to read the news without needing a newspaper. A couple of companies are already building software which semantically searches the internet for news and provides the results according to a person’s interest – newspapers are in trouble but individual journalists may just ride out the storm.

Why did you want to go into PR?
Originally I was looking to study on a computer science as I was a key scripter. This all changed when I attended a talk at Lincoln University on Journalism. Writing has always been a passion of mine and from this talk I naturally turned my attention to the PR industry. When I chose to study PR my knowledge of the industry was rather limited but I am glad to say that the industry’s creativity, media relations and communication techniques have had me hooked ever since.

Do you think a degree is necessary to go into PR?
The majority of people in PR do not have degrees but I do agree with the focus on training schemes which the CIPR and PRCA offer in various forms. Most who work in PR come from a journalism background and these people tend to have a traditional approach to campaign planning. The key is finding people who are competent with traditional media relations and digital strategies. This takes a little bit more education. A PR degree has helped me so far but I believe I could have made an impact, although perhaps lesser, if I had studied a more traditional degree such as English.

Why did you choose to study at Gloucestershire?
The University of Gloucestershire, based in Cheltenham, was ideal from the very beginning. It is a small University which worked well as my educational background has always been with smaller institutions. During my interview for my place on the course my past course leader and I had a wonderful chat about western philosophy; this included ethical issues in media. I felt at home and I’ve since formed close relationships with fellow students there.

Have you had a notable mentor?
There are so many names worth mentioning. In the second year I had Richard Bailey who gave me a real theoretical understanding of the PR industry which I have found valuable. I currently have David Phillips as a lecturer who has a wealth of knowledge concerning how online communication channels are revolutionising the industry. Two other names worth mentioning are Bern Wakefield and Felicity Read who are two practitioners and lecturers whose knowledge I could not have been without.

What was your favourite module?
Favourite module so far has been Corporate Reputation as it has given me insight into how organisations are structured, up-to-date analysis of current events and sprinkled with value insights from my lecturer. Lessons may get a bit heavy at times but I’ve learnt the most from this module.

Where did you go on placement?
My work placement was in the Multinational Advertising Department at Microsoft and lasted a year and 3 months. The team took the freshly blue eyed student Michael and trained him vigorously to keep up with the fast paced world of an American conglomerate. The experience gave me insight into how Microsoft is structured internally as well as skills in online measurement which I have transposed to the PR industry in the dissertation I have just written (will provide a copy online once it has been graded).
I would rate this placement 4/5.

What are you planning on doing next year after graduation?
From mid-June I will be starting my role as an Assistant Account Executive at Red in the technology team. Red is a highly creative agency, forward thinking and I am fortunate that they have accepted me to become a part of their team.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Alive and working in the PR industry. I would like to win the CIPR’s young practitioner of the year but don’t want to set my hopes too high. Hopefully still blogging away and enjoying life. Being happy is key.

What is your favourite campaign?
A campaign of interest to me recently has been Edelman’s Starbucks campaign which has run across the UK offering customers a personalised service. This campaign saw comedian Jimmy Carr become a barista for a day, the footage of this event was uploaded to YouTube and shared across Starbucks’ social media channels. In essence this campaign was simple as all it required was to have Starbucks employees ask customers for their names. It would be interesting to see what the impact of this campaign was. Perhaps Edelman could share this with us?

Top tips for students
1)      Work hard at your degree.
2)      Gain as much work experience as possible.
3)      Make a name for yourself online – start a blog.

Mike has always been there to offer fantastic advice for me, make sure you check him out on Twitter @michaelwhite1 and his fantastic blog to discover just what makes him a #socialstudent

Jessica North

Author & Editor

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