The missing link…

I finally finished–well almost finished–putting up my profile on Linked In, the networking website for professionals. I first created the profile in mid February as part of a school project.

Since then, it kind of fell off my things-to-do list, mainly due to a healthy amount of procrastination. The fact is, I was never sure what I wanted to put up on my profile. As a student, I couldn’t see the value of using the site to network, since I felt that most of my contacts would be other fellow students. As a communicator, I still felt like too much of a novice–even with all of the contacts I had developed through various projects–to start randomly adding everyone I knew.

What finally prompted me to complete my profile was realizing how important it is to maintain the ties I have developed in the field of communications, especially with my former classmates.

As I found out during a recent get-together with some of them, most of them are beginning to build their own career paths as communicators. By keeping in contact with them, I am able to learn from their experiences and improve my own knowledge, especially in social media and Web 2.0 which have become so vitally important to our industry.

So, six months, 10 days and 14 hours later (give or take a couple of weeks) Joe Chawla has finally made it onto Linked In. For those of you who have been waiting for me to accept your invitations to join and become your contact, my apologies. For those of you who I have recently sent invites to, hopefully it won’t take you six months to respond back to me.

But in case it does, don’t worry … my profile will still be waiting.

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Twittering the night away

I have a friend on Facebook who likes to change his status updates on a regular basis. Every couple of days or so, he has a new one up there; some funny, some confusing. I think he changes them regularly because it gives him a kick to do so.

But this blog isn’t about my friend. It’s about our growing fascination with every new fad on the internet. And as communicators, it seems we are the ones following each new trend, hook, line and sinker.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think social media has a big future in PR. It’s instantaneous, it’s open and it works. But I also think that it’s one tool among many and right now it’s hard to discern what—out of the myriad tools available to us—is valuable and what is not.

Take for example the buzz currently on about Twitter. As I recently learned in my Online PR class, Twitter is the new version of instant messaging and it’s fast becoming popular with a number of communicators. One such person is Thornley Fallis CEO, Joseph Thornley, on whose blog I recently commented.

In my comment, I questioned the value of some of these internet services which seem to be snapped up by so many PR reps. Thornley is a Twitter fan. So is my instructor, Gary Schlee. And so is David Jones, vice president of digital communications at Hill & Knowlton.

So what makes programs like Twitter so useful to public relations people? I see the value of blogging. I see the value of podcasting. But I find it hard to understand how an instant messaging service, that limits communication to a couple hundred words, can have a solid impact on how we interact with our publics.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing anyone for using Twitter, nor am I slamming this new service. All I’m trying to do is get a sense of how programs like Twitter help PR reps out. As Mr. Thornley himself wrote in his latest blog,

“I do not hire entry level people without looking at their blog, following their twitter stream and checking their Facebook presence. I want a sense of who they are over time, not just when they are in my office. I want to know what they think on the issues they care about and how they express themselves. I want to see whether and how they connect with others. And I can find out all those things from their social media presence.”

And to be honest, that makes me nervous. As I responded to his post, I love my blog. I think it helps me focus my interest in PR. And I like learning about and using social media. But because I don’t seem eager to get my feet wet with Twitter, does that make me unemployable? Will every person to whom I apply for a job, immediately pass me by because I don’t Twitter?

What should I do? Should I get on Twitter just to impress future employers? Even that option seems to have its pitfalls, as some PR professionals are questioning whether us newbies to PR are simply smiling and nodding our way into social media just to make an impression with potential employers.

So that is my question. What value do programs like Twitter offer PR professionals and why do we need to learn them to effectively communicate our message? Can anyone help me out?