Q&A Friday: Brian BlankBy
In today’s post, we asked Brian Blank, Account Supervisor of Peppercomm and PepperDigital, how technology and social media trends are shaping the way we communicate as PR professionals.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your role at Peppercomm.
A. My role is unique in the way that it straddles both the digital side of the agency along with the communication side of what agency. I primarily work as a consultant with our clients on a variety of areas and ways they can leverage digital media in a strategic way to carry their messages to a variety of audiences. This runs the gamut too – from developing and maintaining social media thought leadership programs to developing strategies for specific platforms. I also help out my accounts with strategic communication work, from writing PR plans and press releases to pitching news.
Q. What drew you to digital and social media?
A. I went to college here in the Silicon Valley and cut my PR teeth in the startup world. I was lucky enough to be on the “front lines” of emerging tech over the years and just loved to find out more about the tools and gadgets coming on the market each day. The digital world is all around us whether or not we choose to participate in social media and provides incredible opportunities for brand to reach new and existing audiences in a variety of ways.
For me, I found the tools fascinating as social media accelerated the feedback loop and changed the way companies interacted with customers. Technology allowed communication to evolve in ways we didn’t even imagine 10-15 years ago. I have always had a fascination for technology and gadgets and I believe this was one of the reasons why I was drawn to the digital and social realm.
How have recent developments and trends in digital and social media changed the PR landscape?
A. For better or worse, it has changed things dramatically, but PR and communications has been evolving for the last 30 years. The advent of the fax machine and email revolutionized the industry just as much as Twitter or Facebook does today. Although with social media we’ve become more open in many ways and sometimes share way too much information. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about tools here and Facebook is a tool, not a strategy. You still need solid counsel and support that matches your business objectives to be successful. The tools will continue to change, so look at the big picture and think critically and creatively.
Q. What skills should today’s PR students be sure to master if they are interested in a career in digital?
A. You have to be comfortable with the technology. As a society, it is becoming a part of our daily lives and you have to be able to know how to use it and be willing to get out of your comfort zone to try new things. Since technology continues to evolve, you have to be able to think about creative ways to solve problems. Think about what tools your client could use to reach their objectives.
Q. What are some basic rules that PR professionals should keep in mind when using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook for work?
A. Separate your personal use from your professional use as much as possible, because a hilarious tweet you want to share with your friends late on a Friday night might not be so funny if you accidentally post on your client’s Twitter handle. Another thing is that it is OK to keep boundaries between your accounts. You don’t have to follow your boss on Facebook but it might make sense to do so on Twitter or LinkedIn. I use my Facebook page as my personal page for friends and family and really only add my coworkers if they become close friends. I open my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for professional use and prefer it that way.
Q. What one piece of advice do you have for those just starting their careers in PR?
A. Get started with internships early on and try a few. You might not love agency life but excel working at a non-profit. The experiences will help shape you professionally and will make you a more rounded candidate for your chosen career field. Learn to be a rock star researcher, because you will always be called upon to know a lot about a variety of topics and the quicker you can get up to speed, the more valuable you will be.