When I started my first blog, I had no idea whatsoever about blogging. I knew what I would like to talk about –Hong Kong, but I didn’t know what content I should put there. The motive of blogging about Hong Kong is simply because I like the place after my short exchange student days in 2008. Maybe my passion is enough, but I had to find out other varied and informative sources to help me. And then, I found bluebalu: Living in Hong Kong blog and subscribed to it. The author frequently posts many interesting pieces about her life in Hong Kong. One day, the post was about her trip to Korea. It may sound weird, but I suddenly felt closer to her!

I attentively read her introduction again, and OMG, she is PR practitioner. And I sent her an email, hesitated a little while, whether I could interview her as subject of my course work-interview on professionals who use social media.

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She  immediately replied willingly.

Ruth Streder woks at LEWIS PR, an international PR agency with more than 300 people, specializing in high-tech PR.

<What did you study for your Bachelor degree?>

I studied management sciences at Warwick University (UK) and had to complete a number of marketing courses in my second year. The course that I enjoyed the most was marketing communications and I had a great professor who gave us challenging but interesting tasks, he asked us to create and run our own campaigns (we even staged a press conference) and he did repeat that PR is so much more than just the step-child of PR. He really got me interested in the subject and I completed a five months internship at a global agency, which provided me with lots of insights about PR in real life (and not just the theory). At that point I knew I liked PR but I could not compare it to anything else – so I completed additional internships in product marketing and event marketing, and after that it was clear to me that I enjoy working in PR the most.

<What did you study for  your Masters degree?>

 I completed a master in international business at Manchester University (UK) to learn more about intercultural relations and challenges in a global business environment. While the course did not have a PR element, it had an international marketing course, which was very interesting from the whole “think global, act local” perspective, highlighting examples where companies did really well and where they failed. After graduating from Manchester, I knew that I wanted to work in an international company where I had to chance to interact with people from different cultures – and that’s what I do now, as my role is to coordinate international PR campaigns.

<Tips for PR Students>

 There are so many tips that I could give, from reading different news papers and magazines (to get a feel for the type of stories that journalists like to write) to learning about different social media channels (also for your own personal career development, not just for PR) and practising different skills (from creative thinking/brainstorming to writing releases, pitches, comments, bylines, case studies etc. and pitching stories to journalists – you could just use friends for that in the beginning). But the most important one is really to get out and experience PR – go to a career fair and chat to PR experts, follow PR blogs (and if there is something that interests you comment and interact) and try to get an internship. PR in textbooks is great, but real-life experience is so much more important!

<Tips about Job Interview>

If a company is interested in meeting you, prepare yourself. Familiarise yourself with the website, learn what clients they work with (if the company is an agency) or what products/services they offer (if it is an in-house role). Make sure you know a handful of publications (mix of business/nationals and trade titles) and what kind of stories they run (do they do feature columns, profiles with the CEO, product reviews etc.) and be on top of recent news. It is important to understand the current news agenda and if it is all about recession then you need to be prepared to pitch cost-saving tips. Or if there are stories about global expansion plans then make sure to think about how you could position your clients or company in a news piece about top tips to expand to country XYZ.

<Tips about Blogs/Bloggers>

 A few years ago PR was very focused on reaching journalists – mainly from print titles and broadcasts. But now that’s changed, journalists for online publications and bloggers have become so much more important and because of that the approach to target them has changed. Gone are the days when you could issue a press release and had coverage guaranteed. Nowadays you need to approach the influencer individually and make sure to know what he/she is interested in. Relationship building is still very important and I would say if has even increased recently – especially as bloggers want to be treated differently. With the increased speed of news you really need to think quick on your feet and also make sure that you can offer a unique story exclusively to one contact – you can’t pitch the same story to another online medium/blog. Moreover, blogs differ so much in their focus that it’s important to familiarise yourself with the topic and style, you can’t just pitch a product news about a virus scan to a gadget blog! Also bloggers communicated with each other so be prepared that even if you speak to blogger B, he might have heard about your conversation with blogger A already – and it’s important to be open and honest.

<Social media differs from country to country>

There are still companies that struggle with the concept of social media – some think that there is one outlet that works in all countries. But there is no such thing. Facebook is blocked in China and a few countries around the world. There are local channels that are very popular (Xing is a social networking site in Germany that’s known as much as LinkedIn) and while Twitter is used in many countries, it is still dominated by few languages. There are a lot of companies who use English-language as their main language to interact with users, but they often overlook the importance of local language. There might be many reasons for that (lack of resources, lack of knowledge, pilot projects etc.) but it’s often seen as a big faux pas locally. Local journalists, bloggers, influencers and the general public want to receive news in local language – even if that means separate local language channels have to be set up and managed.

<Social media channels for PR>

 Companies recognise that they can’t cover all the channels right from the start – so the focus is often on a few first, for instance Twitter (for short news – to reach out to individual journalists), LinkedIn (as discussion groups provide you with the opportunity to have longer debates about topics and you can ‘own’ a topic and be seen as an expert), Facebook (sometimes with a specific focus on HR/recruitment) and YouTube (especially if you have videos demoing a product, videos filmed at an event/tradeshow where a spokesperson gives a presentation or there is an interesting debate, or filming a customer using your product for third party endorsement) – and it might be that they only trial these channels in a few countries/languages first.

<Thoughts after Interview>

First, I really appreciate Ruth’s contribution. I have known her through her blog, and she kindly answered my questions. This is quite a special and busy time for me, since I moved to Shanghai for learning Chinese during my last semester at MSU; moreover, I still can complete my work through social media. And I have felt how important, practical and influential social media are. Because I would like to work where I can meet different people from various cultural backgrounds, especially Hong Kong (I’m currently job-hunting in HK), Ruth’s interview is of so much value to me.

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