MOOCs for PR, marketing and …

One student who binged on his MOOC described it as being 'as good as Breaking Bad'.

One student who binged on his MOOC described it as being ‘as good as Breaking Bad’.

MOOCs are short, online university courses that provide a magnificent and cost-free means to sharpen skills or pursue a passion. They are changing the way we learn!

It makes sense to continue your professional development with high quality training but sometimes it is hard to find the time or money to do so. In that case you might like to check out what is on offer in the world of MOOCs (massive open online courses). They are open to anyone, the content is university level and they don’t cost a penny.

Compare that with online provision by the key professional associations. Short webinars from the Chartered Institute for Public Relations and the Public Relations Consultancy Association cost respectively £30 and £120. A CAM Diploma in Marketing Communications upwards of £2,200. Find out more: Online Training: PR & Marketing.

I have researched seven MOOCS (below) covering brands, marketing, digital analytics, research methods, story-telling, public speaking and negotiation. Some of them have imminent start dates, others you can do when ever you wish. Most have an option to be verified and gain a certificate. All of them should stimulate professional development.

So what is a MOOC?

MOOCs are university level short courses with a beginning and an end, delivered entirely online. They are open to anyone and they are free. The MOOC providers are not household names but the content creation and delivery comes from top universities worldwide and there are offerings in every subject area from sciences through to art and business.

I’ve taken half a dozen MOOCs on subjects ranging from song writing through to a history of soul beliefs. One of the joys is to be taught by great lecturers at some of the best universities in the world. My first and still best course was Buddhism & Modern Psychology at Princeton University – you can check that out on YouTube and below.

Done well, these courses can be very powerful. Typically they consist of lectures broken down into digestible chunks, which you can view when you want. There’s links to associated reading and viewing, quizzes to embed learning, discussion forums, and often a twitter feed and Facebook page to engage with other students. And you can do the work on any device – laptop or smart phone.

The content tends to be carefully constructed to get information across in a clear and engaging manner. And there is an interesting way of marking whereby you submit your work for peer review and in return mark four papers from your fellow students. Its really interesting to see other peoples’ work and marking it reinforces your own learning.

The downsides are minimal. One of my course provided interesting content but was just a selection of lectures posted on line. And you don’t have the same personal interaction with fellow students nor the live performance by a good lecturer; it’s more TV than theatre but still a lot more interesting than book study and knowledge spreads life wildfire.

MOOCs for PR & Marketing

Coursera Home PageCheck out some of the key MOOC providers and see what you can find to tickle your intellectual taste buds. This article The Best MOOC Provider: A Review of Coursera, Udacity and Edx is helpful  and you can search across all providers on MOOC List.

And now, here are seven MOOCs that may give you an edge in your professional life.

The Secret Power of Brands

What does your brand stand for? Understand the role of brands and brand management with a course based on the University of East Anglia and design agency Wolff Olins’ joint MSc in Brand Leadership. Starts June 1 for 6 weeks x 3 hours per week. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/the-secret-power-of-brands

Storytelling for Change

Develop practical skills as a storyteller, using the elements of story to bring you closer to your audience. Acumen and The Ariel Group: From May 8 – June 26, 3-4 hours per week.  https://novoed.com/storytelling-change

Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Theory

Learn the introductory theory and strategy behind marketing analytics. The brands, companies, and marketers who are going to be successful are those that know where the data is and what to do with it. University of Illinois: Starts May 25, 4 weeks x 10 hours per week. https://www.coursera.org/course/dmanalyticstheory

Solid Science: Research Methods

Does your thought-leadership have integrity? The course is comparable to a university level introductory course on quantitative research methods in the social sciences, but has a strong focus on research integrity. University of Amsterdam: Starts August 31, 6 weeks x 4-8 hours per week. https://www.coursera.org/course/solidsciencemethods

Introduction to Public Speaking

Get accustomed to public speaking with a programme that lets you examine speeches through interactive practice; work through the unique traits of oral versus written communication; and prepare speeches that are easier to deliver and understand. University of Washington: Free and always open, 18 hours videos, quizzes, and peer assessments. https://www.coursera.org/learn/public-speaking

Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills

Course notes report that a student who binge watched this course said it was as good as Breaking Bad. Covers four steps to a successful negotiation: Plan Your Negotiation Strategy; Use Key Tactics for Success; Create a Contract; The End Game. University of Michigan: Free and always open 8.5 hours of videos https://www.coursera.org/learn/negotiation-skills

Introduction to Marketing

Covers branding strategies, customer-centric marketing strategy, and new market entry using a combination of lecture videos, quizzes and discussion. Wharton, University of Pennsylvania: On demand, 6 hours per week for 4 weeks. https://www.coursera.org/course/whartonmarketing

Ten Top Tips for PR Research

Whoops! How did we end up here?

I had a bad week trying to produce a research report  and I wanted to share some tips to those that travel this path after me. If you do these ten simple things you may produce a report that has editorial legs and at no  point will you feel out of control or overwhelmed by the process. Then again …

1) Define the 0bjectives

If it’s for PR, you will probably be looking for data that provides an opportunity to do thought-leadership PR. So your research needs to address an issue that is topical and relevant to your target audience, while playing to your businesses strengths.

2) Check media appeal

In developing your research project you will be quite focused on ensuring that the results indirectly lead people to your door and position you as someone who can help address the challenges and opportunities identified. But make sure that you also come up with results that excite the editor and ensure press coverage. You could give him or her a call and ask if there is a question that needs to be asked.

3) Platform for PR messaging

Check back with the client once you have the final questionnaire and make sure that the ‘hoped for outcomes’ provide a good platform for them to provide thought-leadership and putting across key messages about the industry, market, or whatever you are surveying.

4) The final report

Before you proceed have a crystal-clear idea what the final report will look like. Agree not just the visuals but also the document template covering:

  1. Number of pages
  2. Contents: Introductions, Executive Summary, Research Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations, About the Sponsor
  3. Word count and content criteria for writing each section
  4. Style and tone of voice
  5. Use of visuals

5) Shared vision

If the research agency knows what you are looking to achieve, they can tailor the results to meet your requirements. One of the mixed blessings of today’s technology is the power to dice and slice the data in lots of different ways; to the point where you are overwhelmed results. Beware information overload and go for just the right amount to make a compelling research report!

6) Say what you want

Clarify with the research agency how you want the results presented and to whom. Specifically, to make analysis and report writing as easy as possible, ask for a results report that enables you to write your report without the distraction of data levels that are not relevant to the immediate task. You can come back to that later.

7) Define results format

Sometimes questions have so many cross references that they cannot be presented in a diagram and come to you in an Excel spreadsheet instead. Oh dear! Avoid these if possible because they will make you go cross-eyed. If you do have to deal with them, ask for the decimal points to be rounded up and the charts formatted so that they fit on one page.

8)  Answer to open questions

The quality of answers to an open question depends on the quality of the question – i.e. is it easy to answer in a few words – and the quality of interviewer. Will he or she probe correctly and then record the answer in language that is comprehensible. Just beware! And if you are doing European surveys you will have to get these answers translated which will be an added cost.

9) Be SMART

When you set up your research be smart and put together a schedule that allows enough time for each of the component parts to be done thoroughly (SMART as in Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). Don’t scrimp on the planning, nor on any element of the process because everything is interdependent. If you get one thing wrong, the rest will begin to wobble. And yes, this should have been the first tip …

10) Report and PR

Think twice before deciding to write up the research results yourself. Maybe this is best left up to someone who is experienced in the art of drawing out and presenting data in a way which is easy for the reader to digest. If you are client-side or the PR person, you can add value when it comes to writing up the Executive Summary and developing the press briefing materials.

So that is what I learnt this last week or so. Its been a good lesson because its done just what that old China man said about learning: ‘I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand’. Phew … and do I understand!

And now, if I have missed anything out please post a comment and give us your tips to make a success of PR research projects.