#EbookInADay: Rethinking Public Relations Learning & Development in Real-Time

April 1, 2014

#EBookInADayAs President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the professional membership organization for public relations professionals in the UK, I’m keen to create closer relationships between PR teaching and practicing.

To that end, this week, I had the opportunity to challenge a group of communications students at a university here in the UK to think about their future careers and hack traditional approaches to the learning and development of PR.

#EbookInADay, as this project is known, was inspired by an experiment conducted at Boston University’s College of Communications, in which a team of 24 students conceived, wrote and designed a book in just three hours. When I found out about that project I was enthused, and I called out to my network for ideas on how to build upon this concept even further.

Catherine Sweet, a lecturer at Southampton Solent University in the south of England, enthusiastically responded to my challenge, and together the #EbookInADay project was born.

We worked with 45 PR students and split them into eight groups focused on networking, crowdsourcing, co-creation, gamification, curation, visual mash-up, face-to-face interaction, and measurement. We asked them to run and report on a series of projects in each of these areas of modern public relations practice.

Each group wrote up their findings and contributed a 1,000 word chapter to the book, including images and references. Throughout the book, the measurement piece was critical. They integrated AMEC’s Valid Metrics Measurement framework in each chapter and as its own section.

#EbookInADay took a month of planning and was executed in one day. It has been published in beta for friends and family, and will be formally unveiled to the world by Solent Press on Wednesday, April 23.

Here’s a sneak peak at some of the things that I learned from the project so far:

1. Markets and organizations are networks. Seek out influencers and connectors. People are incredibly generous with their time if they believe in your purpose and know your specific goal.

2. Millennials have no fear, are digitally native and are highly engaged and motivated if they are challenged with a task and goal. The energy levels and drive of these groups was encouraging to watch.

3. We created a community. #EbookInADay isn’t a project anymore, rather it’s a movement of people rallied around a common vision and purpose.

4. The combination of thinking and doing, and applying theory in practice in such an intense way, seems to be a great form of learning and development. We’re exploring how we can use these techniques in our education programs at Ketchum, both internally and with clients.

5. If technology can break, then it will. Power supplies fail, devices fall over, web services go down (make sure to backup) and we’re pushing wi-fi broadband to the limit. Prepare for Murphy ’s Law on every project.

6. There is a gap, in both process and production, between publishing content on the web and presenting it in a book format. It is an area that will need to be bridged by software and tools in the near future

The #EbookInADay project was as much about the topic as it was about using agile and co-creation techniques to produce a significant piece of work in a short amount of time.

I look forward to sharing the final result.

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too.

Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds