The current generation of students are the first to have been raised with the internet and all that the information superhighway has to offer. We know how to utilise this endless resource as a tool for research, content sharing, and most prominently, for communicating with each other in both a personal and professional way. And that's where things can get a little blurred.
The growing phenomenon of social media allows us to build endless personal profiles to share aspects of our lives with our friends, peers and the world. This can be incredibly useful in the job hunt if used correctly (for advice see here) but unless properly monitored can also be wholly detrimental.
In order to ensure you are promoting yourself as the professional superstar that you are, you must think of yourself as your own personal brand and use the internet accordingly. Launch a PR campaign that will make [insert your name here] the go-to brand for [insert your desired job title here]!
Now, a PR campaign is all about managing communications, and that is exactly what you should be doing. The recent Instagram photo-selling controversy has brought the issue of publicly shared content to the fore, and although this post is not about to delve into the rights and wrongs of selling user-content, it does highlight the issue that all electronic communication has the potential of being seen by someone other than the intended viewer, and is in all senses of the word, 'public'.
This is where your campaign management must come into practice. A rule of good PR is to know your audience, and to communicate with them accordingly. Privacy settings are there for a reason, so for the love of jobs please use them. Human nature dictates that if someone invites you for an interview there is a chance that they will also google your name to get more of a feel for who you are. Everyone is entitled to a private life so if the only thing they can view is a nice smiling profile picture completely free of offensive gestures/substances/imagery then crisis averted (PR is all about averting crises too) and your job is done.
Another great PR rule of thumb is to establish your product as unique, and to make it stand out from the crowd. An example of a great campaign is the old T-mobile flash-mob adverts...remember those? Of course you do! Hundreds of people dancing in a train station? The follow-up advert with the fake Royal Wedding dance? Both classic ads and excellent examples of breaking the mold for promoting a mobile phone company by using very public stunts.
Students of course are no strangers to attention grabbing stunts. Some of the biggest student-based stories this year have focussed on student prank trends that have swept the nation. Pranks are embedded in student culture, and are not going anywhere any time soon. But do they have a damaging effect on employers' opinions of potentially hiring students? This depends on the stunt.
Remember the viral video of Oxford boys doing Gangnam Style? Both goofy and endearing, the video showed a playful side to the university not generally known for its sense of humour. Great PR.
In contrast to this we have the controversial St Andrew's 'Champagning' caper, whereby a few misled students decided to respond to the 'milking' craze (pouring milk over yourself in public spaces, believed to be started in Newcastle. No I don't really get it either) by dousing themselves in champers, mocking their own affluence and sharing the video evidence. The reaction online was bitter, and official apologies had to be issued from the University. The seemingly harmless prank stopped just short of damaging the University's efforts to attract a diverse range of applicants and the Student Union were left to clean up the mess.
Now imagine you are tagged online as the student in the champagning video. An innocent prank which just happened to hit a nerve with a few of the wrong people could find itself whizzing around the world wide web with your name on it. As with most things, prevention is better than the cure, the only way to make sure you do not receive any negative publicity online is to not partake in it. Think about who can view your activity and what they may think. If you're not 100% they will find it hilarious too then probably best just to keep it private, or not do it at all. The same applies to all kinds of communications, blogs, tweets, emails. If it's not suitable for all eyes then ensure it is kept safely within the confines of privacy settings.
The internet is a fantastic platform to promote yourself for free, and if you stick to the guidelines of all great PR, you'll make yourself a superbrand in no time.