Guest Post: Leanne Reilly | A Cup of Lee | "Blogging to Become an Industry Voice"

UK Blog Awards 2015 – submission from Leanne Reilly,  (nominated for Best Individual/Freelance Arts and Culture Blog: ).
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Why I started blogging 

This summer marked a milestone for me. Not only do I turn the big three-oh, but it was also exactly one year since I started my blog.

Initially, I started blogging because I wanted to improve my WordPress and SEO skills for the work I do for clients who increasingly want corporate blogs. It would also provide an outlet for my writing; an online portfolio of sorts. So much of what I write in press releases, on websites and social media accounts is never actually attributed to me and so this was one channel that I could claim ownership of.

The decision to choose the topic of PR and Communications was easy. I read a lot of UK and American blogs on the subjects but no one in Northern Ireland was doing it, or doing it consistently and well. So there was the niche topic and the target audience, limited as it may be. I felt like I had something to add to the conversation.

There have been a few surprises over the past year. Not least the fact that people are actually reading what I write! The blog has achieved over 10,000 views which I know from research is pretty good for a niche subject blog in a small geographic area.

Another surprise came in the form of the networking that I’ve benefitted from. I expected (to my stereotyping-shame) to find most local industry people stand off-ish or with little time for me. I’m pleased to say that the reality has been the complete opposite. I’ve met some of the nicest people, whose work I really respect, and I’ve received positive encouragement and feedback.

Why other professionals should blog 

Blogging isn’t easy. It’s time-consuming and difficult to measure in terms of effectiveness. And of course, if a PR person or agency isn’t being asked to provide digital work then they may not need to show they are skilled in this arena. But I see plenty tweeting about how knowledgable they are in SEO and how skilled they are in content creation, yet they don’t even create their own online marketing content?

Content creation (such as blogging) is an obvious service offering for PR practitioners who typically understand how to create informative content. We are also well versed in building relationships and loyal communities, be they stakeholders, donors, customers. So it seems obvious to me that the natural progression to the old marketing material and websites would be to "lay out your stall" online - show, don't tell, what you can do.

Blogger outreach is also a skill we must now add to our toolkit in PR, as brands increasingly want to enlist the trusted voices of bloggers instead of celebrities. Walk a mile (of blog posts) in their shoes and then you can truly understand their media, their constraints and ensure a two-way exchange worth pursuing.

Where to next?

I've been invited to speak to PR undergraduate and Masters students at the University of Ulster in the New Year, about social media, blogging and breaking into the industry. I'm so excited about the opportunity to give something back to students sitting where I did almost a decade ago. And I'm so humbled to be considered worthy enough to listen to. None of this would have been possible had I not sat down to type my first blog post...

Background info:

A Cup Of Lee is the personal blog of Communications Officer Leanne Reilly, a Member of the Chartered Institute of PR who also sits on their regional committee. Her blog focuses on the niche industry market of PR and Communications in Northern Ireland, filling a gap that existed in this part of the UK. Posts range from advice to students and graduates, evaluation of local and international campaigns through to awards ceremonies and the highly popular "Local Profiles" series with access to many of the big agencies and in-house teams at places like Ulster Rugby and the NI Chamber of Commerce.

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