Week 10 public – Final project reflection – Natalie Bennon

Our class project, Portland Picks, was fun to work on, and I learned a lot. I learned that I can use WIX to make a simple website if I have no budget to hire a professional. I learned a lot about Twitter, and  was encouraged to realize very few people in class knew any more than I did. And I learned that personal contact and relationships are important in outreach. This is consistent with what I’m noticing generally about public relations: no matter the technology employed, be it high, low or no tech, the goal is always a personal connection of some sort.

The challenges were a lack of time needed to develop those relationships, suboptimal website design, the name of the site, and a lack of clarity about best use of social media. I needed more time to reach out to the hostels and cultivate the relationship to get them more engaged, and to listen to them and learn what they would need if they were going to really use the site. Our site also would have had more traffic if we had had the time and foresight to cultivate relationships with the featured businesses, and listen to them and see what would meet their needs so the relationships would be mutually beneficial.

We set a goal from the beginning of driving traffic to the site and getting visitors to create itineraries. Yet, the website design only had itineraries at the top, and the majority of the page was categories and photos. Changing it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, so we lived with it.

Thanks to Lauren, we had decent success reaching local businesses via Twitter. However, we failed to realize that if indeed website traffic and itinerary creation was our goal, then the Twitter tool, and also Instagram, should be driving people to our website (and I do think the goal was appropriate; simply having Twitter followers doesn’t get you much for our project; if this was a business, the ads would be on the website, and we would need people to visit the site to see the ads). So it was only at the end that we realized we should push the actual website in the tweets, and maybe ditch the hashtag. In general, this is also something of a fault in Twitter: When presented with links, you have to click them, which takes you out of Twitter to view the link (unless you use another platform to view Twitter, like Flipboard, which is a bit more seamless but not totally). When I use Twitter, this is rarely something I take the time to do. I would click on them more if I could get the full content within Twitter, without waiting for a new page to load. Sometimes, news sources and others seem to have more info if you click on their tweets, like a preview, which is useful and I would like to learn how to create that.

Finally, I experienced firsthand the value of a name, and search engine optimization. Several other Portland Picks exist. And when you google Portland Picks, ours doesn’t even show up. That was a lesson! In future, I will be more careful about choosing a name, and I will integrate search engine optimization from the start.

This was a really valuable project. I learned a lot by doing and trying. I learned from the successes and the mistakes. I know that this was the first time the Turnbull Center has experimented in a hybrid online/in-person class, and I sincerely hope they find it to be a success. I found your approach incredibly valuable, and I learned things I didn’t even know I needed to know. I expected to learn something, but I learned unexpected things. You opened my horizons. I hope that they continue to offer this class, taught by you, to future students because I really do think it offered a lot of value (and I said as much in my evaluation). Thank you!

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