Why dismissing students can be dangerous

As a mid-life career crisis masters student, I’m realising the shocking truth about a certain class of established “professional” people, which I belonged to just 4 months ago, when it comes to deigning to deal with students… I’ve quickly learned never to say that I’m requesting an interview as a student as you can hear doors slam in your face from the far end of the Phoenix Park.

Take, for example, my recent encounter with a prominent speaker, author and commentator.

When I knocked on the person’s door asking for a maximum of 15 minutes  to contribute to an article about social media in Ireland, it was refused point blank. Having ascertained the background to the request, I was sent on my way with the following message:

“I am afraid I will need to decline – I get many enquiries from students for interviews and I have had to make a decision not to do these interviews at this time due to the volume of requests. Wishing you every success in your research.”

Never mind that there is technically no such thing as a student journalist. A journalism student is actually a journalist (member of the NUJ, and most importantly writing for publication – see what I’m doing here, it’s public!).

In this case, the student in question is also a fully qualified marketing professional, with over 10 years of experience.

Here’s a couple of tips from a marketer to any busy professional out there keen to dismiss a student:

1) Rule 101 of reputation management, brand building and marketing – whether online or not – is not how much of a guru you are at SEO and making people say how nice your product is.

Rule 101 is simply to have an open mind and a network of contacts that reads like the phone book. The student may have something you want. The student may become someone you may need in the future. The student may just have something interesting to bring you (and that you may make money from).

2) People want to talk to you? Well done, you have done your job well so far. How do you think you got there? That’s right.

The day you start getting picky as to what classes of people you will or won’t give time to is the day you descend the slippery slope towards believing your own hype. As an aside, if you don’t care about how you come across to students, how can you be trusted to build someone else’s brand on inherently studenty tools such as social media?

3) I was a marketing manager and PR manager for ages myself. I appreciate that you do not have a 37 hour day and that you are a busy person. But giving a student 15 minutes is not going to kill you. That’s what the hand-free set is for when you’re driving, that’s what the 8am or 9pm slot is for – the student can take it or leave it. Most likely, they’ll take it.

There is no such thing as the volume of student requests being out of hand and having decided that you do not do that type of thing anymore. Unless you’re Mariah Carey, in which case you are also requesting white Lilies and a string quartet every time you step outside your door and you’re past redemption.

If you still want to fob a student off like that, go right ahead. But as a marketing professional, I can only warn you that it’s a terribly bad move.

The student may not yet know that you’re dismissing them as unimportant but they’ll soon find out, and remember and if they’re a journalist, that’s not good for that whole reputation management thing.

And if the student just happens to know heaps about PR, marketing and all things brand and reputation as well as being a journalist, they know that you have failed on every level. And they will write about it. Ooops.

Beware, busy professionals. You’re not the only busy ones. It’s nice to be nice. Oh, and a journalist like an elephant never forgets…


About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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