Blogging Away: Making Media for a ‘Competitive Advantage’

Daksh Parekh Mesg
Many thanks to Daksh Parekh for letting me share this.

I recently received the above message from a Marketing student who’d just completed a Digital Media unit with me and proceeded to apply the practical media-making skills he’d learnt in an internship. Daksch’s offer to assist his peers not only reveals the enthusiastic collegiality that authentic eLearning can help spark; it also affirms the value of a teaching approach that many (most?) students find intimidating, but that sees all those who dive in find reward in the endeavour.

6 June 2007 by ccarlstead.jpg
6 June 2007 by ccarlstead (CC BY 2.0)

I could assess student learning with essays if I wanted to, and can guarantee with near certainty that there would be few complaints. I could even use some form of test as part of formal assessment and, while there probably would be complaints, they most likely wouldn’t be heard by me and in any case wouldn’t be able to stop me from doing so. But essays and exams can’t facilitate the learning by doing that is needed when studying – and making – online media.

That students like Daksch who come from very different faculties – much less very different degrees – can benefit and thrive when invited to create, share, and network via often unfamiliar platforms is a great thing. This seems to me particularly important given the increasingly fluid nature of media industries, where ‘communications specialist’ or ‘media professional’ are increasingly common descriptors for practitioners working across an ever-varying spectrum of tasks and platforms. It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that the term ‘Marketing’ would seldom be seen in a School of Communication and Creative Arts and its disciplines. Times have changed. Lots of people are getting degrees and everyone needs to look for the new way to give themselves – in Daksch’s words – a ‘competitive advantage’.

Why Blog?

The above anecdote could allow me to take this post in any number of directions, but here I thought I’d focus on blogging – not least of all because students in the current units I’m chairing are being asked to blog. And not only that: they are in large part being encouraged to do so separately from those blog posts they’ll get marked for. There are many reasons for this: a) it’s good practice; b) the hardest blog you’ll ever write is your first; c) student blogs form the majority of ‘unit content’ that their peers will engage with, and so on. But the broader and more pressing reasons for building part of one’s portfolio through blogging can easily be overlooked.

Personally I’m a fan of influential Indonesian blogger Enda Nasution‘s emphasis on blogging being viewed as an intrinsic part of ‘content creation’ rather than a discrete form out there on its own. When I think about ‘blogging’, I don’t just visualise a series of written posts. Strong writing is immensely important, but the integration of different kinds of engaging media content within these is also key. Speaking of which, I made a decided to make a Canva infographic so you don’t have to read me going on and on about this…

Blogging infographic.png
Made with Canva, 25 July 2017.

This list partly adapts some of the compelling points made in Nick Scheidies’ blog on ‘The 20 Biggest Benefits of Blogging‘, but I don’t intend to be that comprehensive here. Many points overlap and even making a list of ten here was tricky enough to compile, so I’m just going to cover the last three points highlighted above in more detail.

Build Your Online Identity

I’ve found that many students, academics, and others find the concept of a ‘personal brand’ somewhat distasteful, but I’m still going to use the phrase here (#sorrynotsorry). Online presence and visibility is a key part of moving into and succeeding in contemporary media industries, and a blog can be a crucial part of a dynamic, active, and regularly updated digital identity. Of course, working out one’s online identity is a constantly evolving process – the Twitter handles I use have changed over time, and the name and template of this site used to be very different when I first launched it:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Online identity isn’t simply something you think long and hard about and then eventually ‘discover’; it’s something that you do. And blogging can be a very useful means by which to develop your brand over time. For some handy pointers about how you can develop your personal brand via content creation (targeted explicitly at students, but relevant to pretty much anyone), check out this blog.

Learn New Things

Beyond learning the technical side of media-making (which can only be learnt by doing), the creation of blog content often involves learning something new. Maybe it’s not a radically new topic you’re completely unfamiliar with, but if you’re doing things the right way you will have done some research and discovered a new or more compelling perspective or angle from which to reflect upon your subject matter. In other words, regular blogging motivates people to learn because despite the claims of a certain US president, nobody has an endless supply of knowledge to be shared that doesn’t need to be expanded and refined.

Feeding into another point listed in the above inforgraphic, you also get to learn from others when they interact with your blogs through immediate feedback. Further, the gratification (reward) involved in publishing a post and seeing others interact with it can ensure that the process of learning is a lot more motivating than a solitary afternoon on a library’s bean bag – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you know what I mean…

Show You Are Curious and Passionate

This point is not covered in Scheidies’ ‘20 Biggest Benefits‘ list, but to me it’s one of the most important – particularly in the context of career-building. Getting a job when applying alongside the dozens (if not hundreds) of others with similar degree testamurs means that employers are going to be looking for something that gives one applicant an edge over another. This will often be experience, but it might also be evidence of a person’s general outlook: Are they enthusiastic? Are they passionate? Do they care about the world?

Learning by CollegeDegrees360.jpg
Learning by CollegeDegrees360 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

There are obviously untold things that people could be enthusiastic and passionate about – everybody cares about something. But not everybody demonstrates this with evidence. The crisis of engagement that I’ve blogged about before means that it’s often the case that people look and are perceived as disengaged. Passionate and dedicated people go beyond the bare minimum, which will mean different things in different contexts. In the context of student blogging, for example, this will generally mean blogging more often than your teacher requires you to for what equates to a credit point. And of course, to connect this back to the previous heading, a sure-fire way of demonstrating a positive mindset and approach to work/life is to show that you understand the importance of continuous, lifelong learning.

Showing initiative like this can work. I’ve seen it work before when undergrad student Ryan Clayton’s blog became a valuable topic of conversation during an interview for a fantastic extra-curricular internship opportunity (see this video). I’ve seen it work before when postgrad Cecilia Distefano scored a terrific position in the social media team of Tigerair in part due to her blogging (see the video below). And I’ll see it work again.

Dylan Hornsby wrote in a blog of his own on this topic that:

Blogging can be a creative outlet for many and a place of deep thought for others. It can be done to build skills or it can be used to show off skills. It can be the start of your career or it can be your full time job.

Maybe this could also be where your competitive advantage lies?

 

Featured image: Blogging by Salvatore Barbera (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

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