I feel that I can speak from experience (and from the heart) on the topic of building a strong and supportive community. Building #PRStudChat with @valeriesimon is one of the most rewarding initiatives in my professional career. Interacting in the community gives me the feeling of strength, knowledge, certainty, support, guidance, and friendship, in an extremely nurturing and helpful environment.
As we near the end of 2010 and celebrate our December session, the 12 gifts of #PRStudChat, I wanted to reflect on how we built this amazing network. Valerie and I only thought of the idea. It’s our students, educators and PR/communications professionals, who have shared in the #hashtag discussion; they are directly responsible for building the community and for its continued growth.
Here are 5 reasons why I think our community grew to be strong and supportive:
Everyone knows that it’s a community of PR and communications students, professionals and educators. We have maintained a strong brand identity which is clear and consistent across all of our platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, PR 2.0 Strategies, The Examiner, PRStudChat.com). Each live session has a theme and purpose that align with our goal of helping to bridge the gap between academia and professionals in the PR industry.
The community is comprised of individuals who care and have a supportive environment in which they can voice their opinions. Our chats are lively, open, honest and filled with varying opinions. I’ve seen professionals with years in the business tell it straight to students, and I’ve witnessed students disagree with professionals. Of course, I’ve also seen many professionals who agree to disagree. Our environment values different viewpoints and great new perspectives.
The community takes networking to the next level. I’ve seen so many friendships develop over the past year and half. We all talk about how the virtual networking should lead to the physical meetings, and #PRStudChat is a very good example. We’ve had our own tweet ups for members, but mostly I’ve seen people bond with other people, and meet on their own. It’s always refreshing to see members inviting others to meet and get to know one another in person. I always enjoy when I’m able to travel to different cities and finally get to meet my new friends IRL.
#PRStudChat took a steady path to growth. We listened to the community and strived to identify special guests and programming that could help further their goals. We learned what resonated with the community and used those lessons to guide the development of the community. We managed our growth by focusing on Twitter and the LinkedIn Group. Valerie and I have supported those networks by posting information about the sessions on our blogs. And, now, we’ve branched out to have our own PRStudChat blog with #PRStudCast co-hosted by students Harrison Kratz and Ashley Funderbunk. You’ll also see some other folks involved in #PRStudChat in 2011, but I can’t quite disclose that yet. Just know that more news is in the near future!
Our community does not exist in a universe unto itself. We work with other industry chat sessions and organizations such as PRSSA to cross promote efforts. One of the best ways to grow your community is to work with other groups. We see this in the physical realm when PR associations co-host programs, partly to share the cost of the program, but also to network with new potential members. #PRStudChat loves working with the other PR, social media, marketing, entrepreneurial groups. Sharing programs, hashtags and finding cross networking opportunities is beneficial to all. One of my favorite chat sessions was #ChatMixer, where many groups came together for an incredibly dynamic session. We all met new friends and based on the numbers, our #PRStudChat community grew considerably as a result.
There are more reasons why #PRstudchat experienced growth and support and I hope that if you have any thoughts on the topic, you will share them! Most of all when I reflect on the success of the community, I know it’s the people; our members who tweet, blog and chat about #PRStudChat, whether it’s an organized session or not.
Thank you all, and we look forward to more growth in 2011!