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Posted on Fri 10th Oct, 2014 in: Evaluation, Industry Comment, Influence by Rebecca Armstrong

This week Aberfield made an appearance at Leeds Beckett University to talk to third year PR students about what we do, how our industry has changed and the big issues that we think are really important in communications today. Both Emma and I are graduates of PR at Leeds Beckett, so we've been there. We remember dragging ourselves into uni after three hour's sleep and, we also remember hearing from memorable speakers who inspired us to pursue a career in PR. Needless to say, we were slightly terrified, firstly that we'd be interesting enough to keep 40 students awake for an hour and, secondly, to be as inspiring and thought-provoking as our predecessors. Here's what we had to say! It's about conversation - and everyone's doing it It's no secret that communications has changed. Thanks to social media networks we are able to communicate directly and immediately with a brand or a business's audience as well as through intermediary influencers. It's about creating conversation - be that through the media, social media, advertising or branding (or all of the above)...and everyone's doing it. Communications teams have become one-man-bands and it's more competitive than ever before. A few years ago we would compete with other 'PR' agencies for business but now it's not unusual to be up against branding, advertising or experiential specialists, all creating conversations. Audience first That's not to say that we shouldn't work with traditional print media anymore or that PR means posting on Facebook all day. What it does mean is that understanding the audience, how they communicate and receive different messages is more important than ever before. Sometimes that requires media relations, sometimes building social media communities and other times it might require a branding exercise. The point is that the audience should shape the conversations we have and create. Not just by knowing how many people are on Twitter but by asking, what do they tweet about? Who do they engage with? What kind of job do they have? Do they have children? What do they do on a weekend? What are their likes and dislikes? Positive Influence AVE, column inches and social media followings are simply not enough when it comes to measuring the success of a campaign. Analytics tools allow us to delve deeper into sentiment, advocacy and, ultimately, influence. Comms teams should be asking how PR, social media and marketing activity have positively influenced their business objectives. Has it driven sales, increased donations, converted consumers, improved reputation or increased visitor numbers? What really stood out for us was the genuine interest that our future generation of communicators showed. Hopefully we influenced PR students to think beyond a great piece of coverage or a like on Facebook and to always ask 'how has this influenced someone to think or act differently'.

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