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Getting Started, Guest Post, Networking,

Guest Post: Networking in the Time of Isolation

Kelli’s Note: Kayla has been a rock star with the informational interviews, not only doing a lot of them, but approaching each very strategically. I asked her to share her advice here.

By Kayla Thomet

Everyone says that the most important thing you can do during this strange and difficult time is network, network, network. That’s all fine and good, but what does it actually mean? How are we supposed to network in a time when we can’t even leave our homes?

For the past month, I’ve been on a complete networking journey – researching tips and tricks, delving into different platforms, and, of course, practicing. I’ve learned there’s a whole network of strangers out there on my team; all I had to do was ask.

Cold-calling is a stressful and nerve-wracking process. I always worried: “am I bothering them?” But what I learned is that people are not bothered at all; in fact, they find joy in helping you. Many successful professionals got their start from networking, from the kindness of a stranger. From over 35 informational interviews, I’ve learned a few best practices along the way.

LinkedIn can be your friend or your foe.

LinkedIn can be one of the most useful tools in searching for a job; however, it can also be intimidating to the first-time user. Take the time to set up your profile and perfect it – make sure to include featured work, a professional headshot, a goal-driven “about” statement, and a detailed description of all work experience.

Use Youtube and other online resources to learn how to use the filter features to refine your search. You must have a quality profile to attract connections and impress potential future employers.

Utilize your alumni network.

There are alumni networks for regions and cities all across the country full of professionals willing to connect and help. Reach out to alumni leaders in the regions you want to move to and ask if they know of anyone in the industry you want to work for.

Additionally, you can use filters on LinkedIn to sort by school; the University of Oregon, in particular, has amazing alum willing to chat with any fellow Duck.

Search for individuals who work in your field or for companies that you want to work for and connect with them.

Identify companies and specific industries you want to work for. Reach out to people working for your dream company; even though you may not start out there, you can learn different paths to get in and put your name on the minds of the people who work there.

While searching, make sure to connect with people in roles you are interested in – you may find that the reality of a position is different than you thought. 

Be sure to customize your invitations to connect.

On LinkedIn, you have the option to customize a message with your invitation to connect. Always customize a message to whoever you are trying to speak to – it shows effort and sets you apart from random requests. Explain who you are, what you hope to learn, and express your desire to learn about the company and its culture.

Follow-up, always.

Be sure to send a follow-up email or message the following day thanking them for speaking with you. I’ve found that it’s helpful to include at least one piece of advice which they gave you that resonated with you. It shows you listened and genuinely took their advice to heart.

Questions to ask once you get the informational interview:(Not a question) but make sure you start with gratitude and humility – you’re here to learn.

  1. Can you share with me a bit about your journey?
  2. How did you figure out what you’re passionate about?
  3. What is one piece of advice you wish you had known at my age?
  4. Do you have any newsletters or blogs you recommend I read?
  5. The golden question: who else do you recommend I talk to?

My name is Kayla Thomet and I’m a graduating senior from the SOJC at the University of Oregon with a major in PR and a minor in business. My greatest passions in life are fine wine, sustainability, and, above all, people. In the future, I hope I can find a career that will allow me to combine my passions to better the world.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Bread Butter
Guest Post,

Eat, Drink, Traffic: Food PR in Los Angeles

Kelli’s note: This is a guest post from one of my faves. I’m so proud of Samantha, how hard she’s worked and all that she’s accomplished in her career so far. Samantha Luthra is a Senior Account Executive at Bread & Butter Public Relations in Los Angeles. You can find her on Twitter

samanthaI work for Bread & Butter Public Relations, a boutique hospitality PR firm with offices in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, San Francisco, and (my city!) Los Angeles.  Our tagline is “We Tweet. We Drink. We’re Merry.”, and I can confidently say that is the best company motto ever. My clients include Bravo’s Top Chef contestants, local restaurants, chain restaurant brands, and food product lines.

Our office is located in Downtown Los Angeles, and we have eight employees. We do it all for our clients, and we thrive on getting results and having fun while we’re at it. 

Bread & Butter PR LA is a girl’s club, and it’s not uncommon to hear us discuss a client’s event, The Real Housewives of Miami, and the latest Mashable article all within the same two minutes. I head up our social media division, Bread & Butter Bytes.

When I’m not battling traffic, my day includes creating social media strategies for clients, managing my team to make sure all social media activities are carried out, keeping up on emerging social media trends, and meeting with clients to keep up with their ever-changing menus, events, and developments. It’s a lot, but it’s a good time!

My entry into life in Los Angeles and a career in the LA food scene was a crash-course, but I’ve survived and have some takeaways:

Read It & Eat It – The only way to keep up on the ever-changing dining scene is to read, and try not to get too hungry. To keep up on food news, I subscribe to Tasting Table, Thrillist, Eater LA, LA Weekly’s Squid Ink Blog, and LA Times Food to get the latest. Then, I follow up on my research by making it a point to try new restaurants and go after new, slightly scary dishes. Uni, anyone?

Meeting Media – Sending an email pitch is fine, but having lunch with an editor is a much more fun and effective route to getting coverage for a client. Our PR account teams make a point to meet with media often, whether it’s for a lunch, drinks, or at events like Los Angeles Food & Wine. These meetings build relationships, and they always include tasty treats. Win!

Social Social Media – To stay in the know on social media, I keep up on emerging digital trends, use social media both for clients and personally, and have made a ton of friends in the industry. I’ve learned that bouncing ideas off of a friend is often where the best strategies come from.  My favorite campaigns were created sitting at tables, sipping cocktails, and brainstorming/daydreaming. It’s important to keep the social in social. For the best social media brainstorms, I head to lovely restaurants like Gjelina in Venice or Little Dom’s in Los Feliz. All strategy is better with cocktails involved! I also Tweet about where I’m eating and tag the restaurants I like, which has helped me build relationships with chefs, restaurateurs, and food media.

It’s PR, not the ER – There are days when I am stuck in traffic, my hair is flat, I’ve spilled my coffee and everything feels out of whack. The most important advice I’ve ever been given is to relax, breathe, and think. At the end of the day, this is PR, and not the ER. (Same goes for social media, too!)

Guest Post,

Internship Prepares This Duckling for a PR Career

Kelli’s Note: This is a guest post from SOJC alumna, Kelly Brokaw.  

What a crazy summer it has been! Since July 8th I have been an intern on the consumer tech team at the award-winning firm, SHIFT Communications!

When I was an undergrad at UO, I never thought I would start my professional career as an intern. I had always hoped to skip that step and go straight into an account coordinator position. Thank goodness I did not choose that path!

The knowledge and experience I have gained through  such a short period of time has been overwhelming, but so exciting. Here are a few tips I’ve learned that can help you with your current/future internship:

Be proactive – when you’re not building media lists or performing other timely projects, make sure to do reactive research that can potentially help your clients. You can look at their competitors, search for relevant articles, get updated on the news related to their fields, and so many more tasks that can help your team out.

Communication is key – no matter if your team has 2 or 10 members, make sure to always have instant communication with them. When a team member gives you a project, let him/her know your progress throughout the day. This not only will help eliminate distractions, but it also reassures your teammate that you haven’t forgotten about the project that was assigned to you.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you’re an intern, therefore people are not expecting you to be perfect. If you are unsure about a project or have general questions, speak up! Your team would rather have you ask a million questions rather than you complete a project incorrectly or inefficiently. Plus, it also shows them you want to do great work.

These are my three biggest tips! If you are a little nervous about jumping straight into an account coordinator position or can’t find one, definitely consider doing an internship.

About Kelly: I am a recent graduate of the University of Oregon. During my time at UO, I was a member of Kappa Delta Sorority, UORotaract and an account supervisor for Allen Hall Public Relations. Go Ducks!

Guest Post,

Guest Post: Why Should PR be in the Journalism School?

This post is from Paige Landsem, the firm director of Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run PR firm in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. Paige is responding to an editorial that ran in the Oregon Daily Emerald titled, “Bowers: Advertising, public relations need to leave the School of Journalism and Communication.” You can connect with Paige on Twitter at @plandsem.


Dear Jonathan,

As the Firm Director of the School of Journalism and Communication’s student-run public relations firm, Allen Hall PR, I wanted to respond to your editorial in the Daily Emerald from January 9 regarding your thoughts on how the public relations and advertising majors do not belong in the School of Journalism and Communication.

While I respect your opinion (you’re not the first person I’ve encountered who found public relations and advertising an odd fit for a journalism school), and I can’t speak for advertising, I ask that you take time to understand the role of effective, honest public relations before denouncing it as unworthy of a school for critical thinkers.

In my experience, public relations and editorial journalism can have a symbiotic relationship. Last summer, I interned in the communications department at Sports Illustrated, a publication that has long been recognized as a leader in sports journalism. Every day, I attended an editorial meeting with the staff of I wasn’t producing any of the content, but was responsible for identifying stories that could be well-positioned for social media engagement. SI’s writers were responsible for crafting the stories; SI’s public relations team helped make sure the right eyeballs found those stories, whether that was through news coverage in a major daily paper or through a tweet that sparked discussion among fans.

The role of a PR professional is not limited to media relations, however. The critical thinking skills we learn in our journalism classes help us understand the clients we work for and the customers (or donors or volunteers) they hope to reach. We provide counsel on how to best manage those relationships. When one of our Allen Hall PR clients came to us last year, hoping to increase student involvement with their organization, our team researched, planned and executed an event that not only allowed the client to meet and exceed their goals, but gave UO students an opportunity to express themselves through using sidewalk chalk to beautify the campus quad for an afternoon.

You said you “see the value of advertising and public relations in general.” If that is true, why create a turf war between the J-school’s various majors? The school is equipping all of us with the skills we need to make an impact through communication – whether we go on to be news reporters, social media managers or creative directors.


Paige Landsem

Firm Director, Allen Hall Public Relations

Feature photo by Kylie Keppler.

You can see other responses to Bowers’ editorial here and here.

saramaya weissman in chicago
Future of PR, Guest Post,

Guest Post: Bright Lights, Big City – UO Duckling Heads to Chicago

Kelli’s Note: I am thrilled to host this guest post from Saramaya Weissman. Chicago is that city that ‘in another life’ I would love to live in. So proud of her for taking this chance and making it work! Saramaya is a 2010 graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. She currently lives in Chicago and interns at Edelman Public Relations. You can reach her via Twitter at @SaramayaFaye.

Exactly three months after I graduated from the University of Oregon I started an amazing and ideal internship at Edelman Public Relations in their co-global headquarters of Chicago. I’m SO thrilled to be here, but the job hunting journey this summer and figuring out “what’s next?” was no easy path.

From a small town in beautiful north Idaho to wonderfully hipster Eugene, I was dying for a big city and had my eyes set on Chicago. After months of applying online, networking events in Oregon, and only a few actual interviews, my resume was unnoticed and I graduated unemployed. But with seven internships and numerous awards, I had confidence I’d be hired soon…right?

The summer flew by and I was still floating around in Eugene. Living off graduation gift money and honestly, feeling like a failure, I wondered when and if I’d ever get my foot in the door. I still had my eyes set on Chicago, but there was one minor issue: I’d never been there before and knew absolutely no one in the Midwest, let alone the Windy City. So, what did I do? Network baby, network.

So, I decided to just do it and do it now. I booked a ticket to Chicago for 10 days and started intense trip prep. I contacted everyone I knew from peers and professors to coworkers and family. “I’m going to Chicago in three weeks, know anyone I can set up an informational interview?!” From there, my trip planned itself. I took advantage of my current network and created one in Chicago.

My trip to Chicago included hours of exploration and meeting with amazing individuals (some fellow alum) in the communications world. After stopping by Google, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Cubs, and multiple PR agencies – I kept thinking, “This is great! I’m actually establishing my network,” and hoping to come back soon for real interviews. Little did I know, I’d be moving in two short weeks for an internship at one of the largest independent public relations firms in the world and recently named Advertising Age’s Top-Ranked PR Firm of the Decade.

Special shout out to Kelli Matthews who connected me with a fellow alum at Edelman in Chicago. I met with him, HR, and a junior employee (each individually) on a Tuesday, was asked to take the writing test on Wednesday, had a second interview with senior executives on Thursday, and offered a three-month paid internship on Friday! The day I flew out from Chicago was the day I started planning my move back (across eight states). I did it! I was aggressive with networking (both old and new contacts) and it was worth it! I felt (and still am) ecstatic!

My words of advice if you’re still on the hunt (or feeling like you are in the back-up plan) – don’t settle for anything (in my case, I needed a city and one not in the Northwest). Go for what you want and you absolutely will find it. Just remember to remain confident and even when you might feel like a failure (and I definitely did), know that you simply haven’t found the right fit yet. Just keep looking and you will absolutely find it.

Guest Post,

Guest Post: A Perspective on Required Social Media Participation

Kelli’s Note: Diane Gaines, an ’07 graduate was one of the first classes of students that was required to blog in my class. It’s been fun to follow her career and to hear her views on this topic. Pretty rewarding for those of us who think social media are important for you to learn. You can find her on twitter at @drgaines.

Recently, several students posted their concerns about being “forced” to participate in social media as part of their public relations coursework to a student website. As a recent graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, I feel compelled to share my insight and experience in the workforce.

Millenniums, please know that you are explicitly hired for your innate understanding of social media and digital technology—something your older colleagues struggle to achieve. Your understanding of social media is not only an asset in this industry, it’s an expectation.

The author of the blog post prompting mine said that she can’t imagine using Twitter ever again outside

of her required coursework. As a working adult, I use Twitter every single day. I don’t have much to offer to my followers, but I gain so much from the industry professionals whom I follow. I read industry-related blogs and articles; I watch podcasts and video interviews. In short, Twitter helps me be the subject-matter-expert my employer hired and depends on.

Thankfully, my public relations education focused as much on understanding social media as it did on learning how to write a press release. Not only did I learn how to blog, but I learned how to become a blogger. I learned about social media strategy, and produced a social media communication plan for a real company as part of my coursework. I learned how and why businesses use social networking to reach new demographics and expand their reach. I learned to think of the Internet as a two-way conversation. And guess what? I enjoyed it very much.

Since graduating, I’ve worked as a public relations coordinator for a Fortune 500 company and currently work in internal marketing and communications for a high-tech company. As a student, I interned for a public relations agency and a performing arts venue.

That all being said, I understand that school is school and forced participation is not the same as an organic, voluntary experience. But I would challenge you to really explore what working in public relations, journalism, marketing or communications actually means. Social media is at the core of each of these industries, and if that doesn’t excite you now, it’s probably not going to make you happy long term.

Guest Post, Listening & Monitoring, Media Relations, Professional Advice,

Guest Post: Simple Yet Savvy PR – Disciplined News Monitoring

This is a guest post from Jamie Szwiec, a PR colleague I connected with on Twitter. More about Jamie at the bottom of the post.

I can remember when I went client-side and my boss gave me the task of personally monitoring the news, daily, through Google news alerts and RSS feeds.

Something along the lines of … “Spend an hour a day, first thing. I’m not talking about those third-party monitors that charge an arm and a leg. Do it diligently, for competitive analysis, tracking trends and sharing ideas with the team. Most importantly, media relations.”

The internal dialogue in my head was along the lines of … “Dude, you’ve gotta be kidding me. Fine, I’m client-side and don’t have to worry about the lingering 0.25’s and billing my time now.”

At first, it was daunting. More than a dozen Google alerts to sift through every morning followed by 30-plus relevant publications in the RSS reader.

After about a month, I got it down to an hour worth of time. The internal marketing folks loved it.

And, in a short amount of time, the sea of headlines, news alerts and RSS began to generate tangible and intangible results, including:

  • Breakthrough with reporters – I’m sure many savvy media relations people can attest: it’s an awesome thing when you email a reporter with their recent story in the subject line, info and idea(s) for future reference.
  • Data – Pulled right from the news, saving time to dig up facts later and giving us hooks to support pitches. Some times, a single piece of data can hold a newsworthy angle together.
  • Better writing – Reading all that news, over time, will make you a better writer. As a PR pro, it will gradually show up in your work when you start to notice you’re writing like a reporter. And, it will give you plenty of story ideas. If a story has worked nationally, why not tie it to a client locally as well.
  • Media list building – Done right. Done organically.

The “I don’t have time to this everyday” dialogue in my head was turned off.

I quickly realized it was one thing to monitor the news on an as needed basis. But a whole different ballpark to do it with discipline.

Going agency-side again nearly two years ago, the practice continued. Spreading the news across industry pubs for the agency and keywords for PR clients. The benefits are still endless. From breaking the ice with national reporters to gathering story ideas for local media to establishing an organizational RSS feed and gathering solid Twitter material.

In more than five years, Jamie Szwiec has ventured with organizations across industries to deliver PR solutions and quality editorial coverage on mainstream Evening News with Katie Couric, the pages of newsstand magazines such as Cosmopolitan and People, the front of target daily newspapers, the cover of client wish list publications, online with major media outlets and on-air with 24-hour cable news. He currently lives and works in Milwaukee, Wis. You can learn more about Jamie at his site:

Future of PR, Guest Post,

Guest Post: Embracing the Next Phase

This guest post is from my Twitter friend, Kellye Crane. Kellye is one of those PRos that I always recommend students follow. She’s super smart and has good advice for PR people at all levels.

As the school year draws to a close, I’m sure many PRos in Training are thinking about the future, and pondering what Modern PR means today. Whether you’re on the job market, starting an internship, beginning a new position or just trying to keep up with the latest advancements, you’ve no doubt heard and read a great deal about the vast changes taking place in the approach to public relations.

As current students know, whether it’s called PR 2.0, New PR, or some other catchy label, it’s clear that public relations is moving into a new age. At the forefront of this evolution is PR’s incorporation of a more conversational approach to communications, made possible – and necessary – by social media.

All this change can feel a bit intimidating, but the good news is this is truly an exciting time! Those who stay abreast of the changes and adapt to the evolving climate will thrive. If you’re worried, I’m going to let you in on an open secret:

Today’s students are every bit as prepared as the more experienced PR pros to succeed in this fast-changing environment.

For most of the class of 2009, adapting to new technologies, conversing online and being authentic is second nature. Much of what my colleagues and I are trying to learn – from the social norms of texting to the unspoken rules of Facebook – is old hat to you. PR is going to look very different in the near future, and the truth is some of the experienced pros are set in their ways.

Of course, the fact that the methods of communicating have changed doesn’t alter the fundamentals of public relations we should all be practicing. This is where the PR veterans have much to teach new PR pros.

These circumstances create a unique opportunity for emerging and experienced PR pros to join forces for a perfect partnership of wisdom and new ideas. While it’s essential to give appropriate respect to your managers, at the same time you should feel comfortable to share your perspective. The best workplaces will welcome your input and – whether it’s used or not – you’ll be credited with thinking strategically.

Your fresh perspectives combined with the expertise of your senior colleagues will be a powerful alliance. Together, you’ll be unstoppable!


Kellye Crane founded Crane Communications, LLC in 1995, and has 18 years of experience in strategic public relations and marketing communications. Her blog is Solo PR Pro and you can find her on Twitter at @KellyeCrane.

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Getting Started, Guest Post,

Guest Post: Creating the Job You Want

This is a guest post from UofO alum, Sarah Essary. You can follow her at @ConsumingPR.

I like to think of job descriptions as simple suggestions. Coloring outside the lines is perfectly acceptable in the workplace, but only if your art becomes a masterpiece.

Not too long ago, I was hired as a Reservationist at The Citizen Hotel. My job duties included answering the phones, filling reservations, assigning room numbers and routing payments. After a few weeks, I offered to develop the hotel blog and Twitter account. Soon, I proved to be knowledgeable in public relations and took on more responsibilities. Before I knew it, I was launching a social media campaign and taking a dual position as Public Relations Coordinator.

Currently, I am the Reservationist and Public Relations Coordinator for both The Citizen Hotel and Grange Restaurant & Bar. My duties include updating and writing all social media content, handling media inquiries, working with our public relations agency, editing all press materials, coordinating local media outreach, media monitoring and brand awareness, as well as writing and distributing the restaurant newsletter.

Practicing public relations during a dodge ball game is the best way to describe my typical day. It is imperative that I stay on top of all public relations activities while answering the phones at first ring. I may fill 10 reservations while at the same time edit an entire public relations plan.

This dual role is the best way for me to understand the market first hand. I’m in the trenches and the lookout tower all at the same time! It’s fulfilling when customers choose to stay at our hotel after noticing our Web site, news coverage, blog posts or even our Twitter!

As a Reservationist and Public Relations Coordinator, I am able to pitch and position my business with a first-hand understanding of the current market. There is nothing like disseminating a message to media and observing the impact on the target audience. It’s a blessing to have both worlds at my fingertips.

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Guest Post,

Guest Post: Earn an Internship at MWW Group with 100 words

My name is Allison Blass and I’m a Digital Media Coordinator at a PR agency called MWW Group. Kelli invited me to write a guest post about an exciting initiative (as much as possible, don’t want to use the word “contest”) that we’ve launched this month to mark the first 100 Days of the new Obama administration. It’s called “100 Words for 100 Days” and we’re asking for people to tell us in 100 words “What Change Are You Ready For in the First 100 Days?”

Since FDR’s administration, the first 100 Days has been a time of intense scrutiny for a new administration, and MWW Group wants to know what kind of positive change you want to happen in the first 100 days of Obama’s administration.

MWWs President & CEO, Michael Kempner, had this to say about the contest: “The purpose of this initiative is to challenge America to think about how we can all make a difference. To do our own small part, we’re offering our services, free of charge, to help further the effort to enact positive change. And to help teach the skills of communication to further change America for the better.”

Two winners will be selected from the submissions – an individual and an organization. The individual will be given the opportunity to experience a 3 month long, $5,000-stipend internship at MWW Group. The organization will be given the opportunity to receive 3 months worth of PR support from MWW Group, valued at $30,000.

I have been working at MWW Group for a year and a half, since I graduated from the University of Oregon (where I had Kelli has a professor!). Working at MWW Group has been a great experience and I’ve enjoyed working with all of our clients. MWW Group has 10 offices in the U.S. and has been named for many awards, including PR Agency of the Year by the American Business Awards in 2008. Times are tough in the economy and this is an amazing way to get real-world PR experience if you’re a student or have a top notch agency representing your organization and its effort to enact positive change.

To submit your 100 words, head over to Thanks and good luck!

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