I hear this all the time from my friends, family and peers. When someone talks like this, it indicates they are either 1) not being challenged, or 2) they are not challenging themselves.
As many of us are learning new things about our specific industry every day, it is becoming increasingly important to be a “generalist” with a wide range of knowledge, as Steve (Mathys+Potestio) mentioned during our class discussion yesterday.
But how can you make this process fun rather than taking the “study” approach?
Well… I’ve figured out an untraditional way of keeping yourself sharp without it seeming like work, studying, or research.
Now, this approach may not teach you everything there is to learn about the world of PR, Advertising and Journalism – but it certainly gives some deep insight into brands, people, culture, social media, news and the world. What is it, exactly, you ask?
It’s called being a super fan.
This could get confusing to explain, but I’m going to try. Stay with me here – I’m going to give you a clear example at the end:
- 1) Select something, or someone, that interests you. It could be US gymnastics, “Breaking Bad,” Celine Dion, the fragrance industry, a soccer team, LOTR series, or really anything. It could be a subject you already know a lot about, or something you have yet to explore.
- 2) Follow it. Use your social media skills to follow your subject in as many venues as you can. You might feel like a stalker, but it’s part of the game. It is important to go beyond twitter and instagram profiles and start looking into hash tags, fan profiles and business partners (if applicable). Although untraditional, you are getting research experience that is particularly helpful when it comes to pop culture, online presence and branding. You might be looking into your subject’s presence in print (magazine, news, etc) for example, too.
- 3) Create a way to track your knowledge. There are many ways to do this, but one popular way is creating a fan blog. This allows you to get not only blogging experience but also show what you’ve learned about the subject. Try to connect with as many other fans as possible and increase your reach. If you’ve done your job well and created shareable/interesting content on your subject, other fans will follow you. You may surprise yourself – and if you do a REALLY fabulous and in-depth job, it is not uncommon that your subject could follow/connect with you! This is an ultimate sign of success.
Here’s an example: I decided become a super fan of a few things. I tried to do a mix of industries, brands and pop culture. I’ll share two of them with you!
- 3) Something I was really interested in: local radio
The last two summers, I spent a bit of my free time using this approach to learn more about local radio. I chose a station (LIVE 95.5) and followed them on every format. Although I couldn’t create much of a blog or profile to track my knowledge for this subject, I made a clear goal: Win a radio contest every summer. It took social media and radio expertise to be able to achieve this goal. I had to be SHARP and ORGANIZED in order to win. These contests aren’t just based on luck – they are based on research, timing and ability to respond quickly. Each summer I won VIP tickets to some awesome concerts! The first summer, I didn’t know what I was doing and it took me a few contests to get the system down. This summer – it was a breeze. Not only do I know more about the radio station, but I know more about the industry as a whole.
- 4) Something I didn’t know much about: Rihanna
I wanted to be careful and select something that would be a challenge. This celebrity is notorious for “bad PR” and unflattering social media (specifically… instagram). The good thing, though, is that there is a lot of content there. This took an in-depth look at twitter, instagram, youtube and tumblr. I had no idea the fan base was referred to as “the navy” and how strongly they felt about her as a public persona. One thing I learned is the impact that a brand (or celebrity, in this case) can give by interacting and responding to their fans via social media. Did you know there is a fan profile out there that tracks and posts all of her instagram and twitter responses? Very creative and a fun read! (@RihPlies) Not only is this fan learning about social media and PR, but they are also creating their own brand. I’ve focused on a more visual blog and wanted to get some experience learning tumblr. You can see mine here!
If you aren’t doing this already, I really recommend it! It’s not only fun, but it keeps you on your toes. Since media is changing every day, it is so important to get practice using it – whether that be creating your own content/brands, following others or learning about how a certain industry works. Also, being “interested” makes YOU a lot more interesting! 🙂