Q & A with Paige Jepson of Allison + Partners Scottsdale

Kelli’s Note: I recently (re)connected with Paige Jepson (’15) and asked her if she’d be willing to share a bit about her experience as an account coordinator at Allison + Partners in Scottsdale, Arizona. Huge thanks to Paige for taking the time to respond and offer her advice. By the way, if you would like to participate in a future Q&A, let me know! 

Tell me about Allison + Partners in Scottsdale. What’s your role, what clients do you work on? 

Located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, the Phoenix office houses close to 30 employees and is the third largest Allison + Partners office in the world.

Our team works with clients big and small, spanning such industries as automotive, healthcare, hospitality, sports, technology and consumer goods. Our office is home to the agency’s Research + Insights team and Hispanic marketing group (Nuestra Voz), working with clients such as Toyota and Dignity Health.

My role as an Account Coordinator is to provide general support to my team. It really depends on the account (and the day), but my work consists of taking the first draft at media relations materials, managing client’s social media pages, participating on internal and client meetings, staffing events, managing influencer relations, reporting, staying up-to-date on local and national media trends and industry trends, and presenting speaking opportunities for spokespeople to name a few!

My accounts have changed throughout my year and a half at A+P. Especially as an intern, I would touch accounts that I wasn’t a main member of to gain experience in different industries, but my current clients are below:

  • Toyota
  • StrataTech Education Group
  • Superfly’s Lost Lake Festival
  • Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Partnerships with Native Americans

What activities were you involved with at UO? Any big “lessons learned” from those activities? (ex: AHPR or a sorority)

I was involved with a sorority at UO – Alpha Phi! I helped organize our annual philanthropy event, which gave me event planning experience that has proven to be helpful.

The biggest lesson I learned would be time management. In college, I had to work on my time management when it came to balancing my workload (I graduated a year early so I was consistently taking 18+ credits per term) and my sorority.

In an agency setting, it is crucial you know how to prioritize and communicate with your teams. Deadlines are a real thing, they aren’t often extended, and with announcements that come at a drop of a hat, it is important you know what to move around and who to communicate with so nothing falls off the radar.

What assignments or projects from your classes have been most valuable in your career so far? 

So many! Our research course was incredibly valuable. Sometimes there will be a period when your client doesn’t have any new news, so it is important that even if you aren’t the one conducting a survey, that you can make suggestions as to what facts and tidbits would be interesting to a reporter and know what types of questions you might need to ask in order to get the information you want.

Our strategic writing class (J352) was probably the most valuable. It forced me to memorize AP style and taught me how to write press-facing materials.

Strategic communications allows you to see an entire plan built out and understand how it all works together.

The weekend portfolio class. In this class, we learned how to be storytellers, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell our own stories. In an interview or a new business pitch, the way you talk about yourself and your work is important.

You’ll stand out if you get in the habit of using the STAR approach (which you’ll learn in that class). Additionally, when a candidate comes in with examples of their work and can talk to it, it really makes them stand out.

As an account coordinator at an agency, what advice would you give juniors and seniors thinking about their post-grad life? 

  • Take the time to refine your skill set.
  • Keep up-to-date on media trends and start to form relationships with journalists.
  • Get in the habit of solving problems. People will appreciate when you offer solutions right off the bat and would much rather listen to someone who has ideas on how to solve problems, rather than someone who just simply presents the problem.

I understand you’ve been participating in internship interviews! Any big takeaways from that experience that you’d share? 

I’ve been sitting in on internship interviews to answer any questions candidates may have about what to expect from the internship and agency life in general. A few things I would suggest are:

  • Bring a portfolio or examples of your work: Showing an example of your work and telling the story with the situation, tactics, action and results is important
  • Writing samples: It is always good to be able to showcase your writing
  • A notepad: Come with questions and take notes during the interview. It shows you are genuinely interested and passionate.
  • Thank you!: Everyone appreciates a thank you!

What is the Scottsdale PR community like? Are there opportunities for young professionals? 

Scottsdale doesn’t have any societies or local chapters that I am aware of, but Phoenix does have an IABC and PRSA chapter which represents all of the Valley!

I am actually planning to attend the 14th Annual Valley Publicity Summit in Phoenix next month! The Society of Professional Journalists presents the event, bringing together a roomful of locally based journalists who will share insights, give their story pitch preferences and industry updates with area public relations practitioners.

Anything else you want to share? 

I think informational interviews are so important. I moved back to Arizona after I graduated, and knew not one person in the industry. I heard about the internship opportunity through an informational interview I had done at another agency who was not hiring at the time 

 

Make the Most of Your Summer

Rubber ducks floating down the water in the summer

We’re about mid-way through summer break at the University of Oregon. With just a few weeks to go, I’ve been starting to think about how to make the most of my time before we’re back in class. I have a light schedule, but a long to do list with class prep, personal projects and catching up on family time.

If you’re a student or recent grad, how can you make the most of your summer? I have a few suggestions:

Update your resume: I’ve had to update my own resume this summer and I wish I hadn’t waited so long! Spend some time this summer adding your recent experience, making sure to focus on accomplishments and results. Make sure you update your LinkedIn profile, too. While you’re at it, why not update your online portfolio?

Do some informational interviews: Regardless of where you are in the world, spend some time doing informational interviews. Find a PR pro near you and ask if you can buy them a coffee and talk about their path and what advice they have for a young professional. Informational interviews lack the stakes of a “real” interview, so you can just have a conversation. You never know who you’ll meet that can help you find your next internship or first job.

You could even spend a day doing this if you’re traveling this summer — what a unique opportunity to spend an hour with a PR pro in Italy, Israel, Greece or Mexico!

Need some help figuring out what to do? Figure out how to set one up and what to ask.

Read: Read newspapers, read books, read magazines, read blogs… just read!  Need some inspiration? 25 books for  your summer reading list from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog; 12 blogs you should be reading; 20 people you should follow on Twitter (most of whom write things you can read!).

Attend a professional association meeting: Find your local PRSA, IABC or American Marketing Association chapter and attend a meeting. Most offer student discounts and often have great speakers. Another opportunity to learn something and do a little networking.  Note that some areas don’t have official national chapters, so you may have to look for a local option.

Learn a new skill: We can’t possibly cover every tool, app, tech thing or concept in classes. But there are plenty of options for learning new skills — and in some cases, even coming away with a certification. My colleague Karen Freberg has a wonderful list of options from Hootsuite, Hubspot and Google Analytics (and more). Or take a stroll through Lynda.com and find something that piques your interest. (Remember that UO students have free Lynda.com access.)

Volunteer: TBH, this is my favorite piece of advice. Volunteering can not only fill your time, but also help you make great connections and even build your portfolio! If you have a favorite cause or a favorite nonprofit, contact the volunteer coordinator or development department and ask if you can help a few hours a week writing web copy, contributing to social media or supporting an event. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at a site like VolunteerMatch — search by city or by cause or by skills. You can even find remote opportunities that could have you working for a global NGO.

Oh, and if you’re a senior, make sure you read my year-long plan for senior PR undergrads.

I’d love to hear your ideas! If you’re a student, how are you spending your summer? If you’re already a pro, what advice do you have for your up-and-coming colleagues?

 

No Social Media Plan Puts Your Company at Risk

“Build it and they will come” is Hollywood fantasy, not social media reality. To grow and engage an audience, build relationships and create conversations takes sustained focus, constant attention and a strategic plan.

Social media are not free. This mindset is a barrier to creating an effective social media strategy and leaves an organization vulnerable to all sorts of problems. Managing, maintaining and evaluating social media channels takes time – a lot of it.

One of the biggest risks of not having a plan is that an organization isn’t able to allocate the right resources.

I totally get it. In small business and nonprofits, particularly, resources are tight. It’s common for an employee (and often a junior-level employee) to be given the responsibility of managing an organization’s social media channels on top of other responsibilities.

So what happens if that person doesn’t have enough time – or the support, or the skills – to manage the organization’s platforms?

Questions may go unanswered, negative feedback or reviews may go unnoticed, content is low quality or inconsistent and the results are (at best) mediocre.

Languishing social media channels – abandoned Facebook Pages, dried up Twitter streams and deserted blogs – are almost always the result of lack of time and budget for social media management.

All of the great things that social media can bring to the table quickly become lost opportunities that can actually hurt your business. If social media is a priority, it’s crucial to identify and allocate resources to effectively manage, maintain and grow the channels.

Concept of fake threat when businessman float in paper ship and sharks in water appear to be goldfish

A solid plan won’t magically add time to the day (I wish!) But it can help budget resources that align with the internal capacity of staff or find the budget to outsource help.

Ready to create a plan? I found a few resources that will get you pointed in the right direction:

 

Photos are important but you should relax

This week I took about 80 staff portraits for a couple of different websites – the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) is a client and I’m managing the launch of a shiny new website and I’m a long-time volunteer at HIV Alliance.

Taking that portraits in such short time frame brought up a couple of things that I thought I’d share.

My takeaways:

  • Man, we are uncomfortable in our skin. Too this… not enough that… “hope you brought an extra camera because I’ll probably break it.” Taking pictures always reminds me how beautiful people are. We have warm smiles and beautiful eyes, we’re friendly and genuine. Sure, we have a little gut, and our noses look weird at that angle, but who cares? 
  • It makes me very, very sad when say people haven’t had their photo taken in years. Biz portraits aren’t so important, but family/friend/life photos and capturing memories is. Your family and friends want photos of you. You will want photos of you. Document your lives! It’s nice to hire a professional once in a while to capture the great above-the-mantel portraits, too.

Continue reading “Photos are important but you should relax”

Ask Good Questions and Listen to the Answers: A Source’s Plea to Young Journalists

I get interviewed quite a bit. Once every couple of months or so I’m asked to speak as an “expert” about PR, social media, technology, trends or any other random number of things, mostly by student reporters and TV reporters. I love to talk, so if a reporter shows up prepared, listens and asks good questions, I truly enjoy the process.

Regardless of what kind of content you’re creating (doing journalism, writing e-newsletters or blog posts or feature articles for the company magazine), being a good interviewer will help you tell a better story.

Continue reading “Ask Good Questions and Listen to the Answers: A Source’s Plea to Young Journalists”

Celeb PR Not All Red Carpets and Paparazzi: Ask Scarlett Johansson

I can’t pretend that I don’t respond with amusement (and bemusement, for that matter) when a student says that he or she wants to do “entertainment PR.” I know it comes from our celeb-obsessed culture and they hope it means working on red carpets, setting up press junkets and coordinating with the personal stylist to ensure the dress and jewels are fierce.

I know that there’s plenty of that for the select few who rise to that level (and we’ve all seen the awkward publicists hovering and herding on the red carpet at awards shows).

Continue reading “Celeb PR Not All Red Carpets and Paparazzi: Ask Scarlett Johansson”

What Applebee’s Should’ve Done: Armchair Quarterbacking a Social Media Crisis

The armchair quarterbacking as to how Applebee’s should’ve handled their total social media meltdown last week has begun. “They should’ve…”, “If they were smart, they’d…”, “Oh, you never do that!…”

First of all, if you’re not up-to-speed on the disaster that Applebee’s created, this is an excellent recap. You should read it.

As in most cases like this, the variables are hard to track and you’ll find speculation and rumors galore (not to mention rantings and rationalizations). So, for the sake of my argument, let’s start with a basic assumption: the server violated company policy by posting the image of the customer’s receipt.

With that in mind, here’s what I see as the problems with Applebee’s responses:

  • Firing people has a greater chance of making you look like a big, stinky jerk than not firing someone. This is especially true when the “facts” are in question and the violation is something that a lot of us have done (or can certainly understand why one would do so).
  • Not having a crisis plan with a social media component is stupid. Of course, not having either a crisis plan or a social media plan to start with is also stupid. Considering the shallow, promotional blather on the Applebee’s Facebook Page prior to this incident, I’m guessing it had neither.
  • The Applebee’s response on Facebook – from the contrite posts to the verbose comments to the time stamp of the responses (3 am? Drunk Facebooking anyone? This was an unfair comment based on time stamps reflecting time zone differences.) – violated social media management 101. But when you have no strategy and you don’t know how to talk to people, that’s what happens.

Awesome photo by Decoded Science, which has a nice recap, too. 

So, what should Applebee’s have done?

  • Not fired the server. I’m sure the company panicked, was trying to “set an example” and any number of knee jerk responses. Likely the action was taken by the franchisee and not the company (indicating the franchisee experience with social media and access to it is totally divorced from the corporate presence), adding a layer of complexity. But not firing the server would’ve saved a lot of headache. 
  • Issued an update early (as early as possible!) that said something like, “We value our relationships with our employees and our guests. We wouldn’t be here without them. We feel compelled to share our view on the photo shared by one of our servers. At Applebee’s, we’re committed to doing the right thing for everyone involved. We have apologized to the guest. In addition, we will immediately begin social media training with all our employees across every Applebee’s franchise, starting with the one in St. Louis where this occurred. We want our employees to be smart about risks not only to our business, but to their customers and to themselves. We also want employees who are empowered to share.”
  • Created a social media policy, which could be shared on social media channels.
  • Been transparent, authentic and, yes, human, in all its interactions.
  • Followed up with social  media training and demonstrated the company’s commitment in tangible, visible ways. Like maybe sharing photos featuring and taken by employees?

By responding quickly and framing of the discussion, rather than letting it get completely out of control, Applebee’s gets to come out looking like the good guy instead of the big, stinky jerk. By treating everyone involved – the server, the guest, the Facebook fans – like people, the conversation would’ve stayed civil and “on topic.”

Taking a longer-term view, Applebee’s clearly had no social media policy that was relevant to employees, had very little strategy in place (how many photos of food & promotional nonsense can you post?) and does not appear to have a crisis communications plan that included social media.

As with most things like this, there were a lot of things Applebee’s should’ve been doing well in advance of any incident occurring to build goodwill and provide a culture in which something like this wouldn’t have happened (because employees understood their role) or if it did the company could’ve activated a plan to minimize damage and maintain relationships.

Come sit in the armchair with me and do a little quarterbacking. What would your advice to Applebee’s be?

Shining the Spotlight on the Best of Student Posts from Winter Term

The term has come to a close and we’re all off on spring break at the University of Oregon. As usual, in J452, our students blogged twice a week for seven weeks. It’s so fun to watch students find their voice and really get into the groove of blogging. This term was no different. The students did a fantastic job. I was consistently impressed with the quality of their posts.

Special note: This term, I had the pleasure of team teaching this class with Mandy Drakeford, our newest adjunct instructor. So the list is a bit longer than normal (we had 32 students between the two of us). But I hope you’ll take the time to check some of them out.

Photo via flickr by /dam

Finally, a New Conversation!

I am beside myself. I’m so excited about my spring term Strategic Social Media class that I think I am starting to annoy people. My reasons for this enthusiasm are threefold:

  1. I get to design my own class about a topic that I love.

    I love social media. I am not so good at the technical stuff, that’s not what I mean. I love the idea of social media. The visionary philosophies and the challenging discussions that go on every day about the whys and the whens. I love the potential of social media and I am fascinated by the drawbacks.

  2. The level of discussion is not about how-tos and technical aspects with a dash of strategy, it’s a whole new level. That means that we’re ready for a whole new level.

    The first time we talked about blogs in my principles of PR class, I invited a guest speaker. I had the sense blogging was important, but didn’t know much about it (this was 3 years ago). The next term, I tried the lecture on my own. The looks were glazed over and the response was tepid. I often get a similar response on day one in Advanced PR Writing, but by the end of the term I have a roomful of evangelists. That’s exciting to me. It’s these evangelists that are ready to take the next step with a class like this one.

  3. I get to challenge myself with new ideas and new conversation with a roomful of students who are interested and excited about this topic. People who register are doing so on purpose. I expect great dialogue and look forward to new connections.

If you’re interested in the course, or just following along, you can check out the blog (in progress!). If you’re a UofO student, the class details are in the schedule. It’s a J4/512 class on Mondays and Wednesdays at noon. I hope to see some of you there.

Waggener Edstrom Staffing Launches Facebook Page

Amybeth Hale (aka Research Goddess) announced this week the launch of the Waggener Edstrom Staffing Facebook page. From Amybeth:

I am happy to announce that the Waggener Edstrom Staffing Facebook page, Careers with Waggener Edstrom, is live! If you are a Facebook member, I would encourage you to add this page to your Favorites, become a Fan, and/or share the link with your Facebook PR contacts – check it out!

Some of the items featured on the page include:

  • A photo album introducing the members of the Staffing Team
  • A listing of upcoming events at which various staffing team members will be in attendance (viewable once you log in)
  • Our WE Connect blog RSS feed, showcasing several of our Waggener Edstrom bloggers
  • Notes listing some of our current agency openings
  • A list of our agency awards
  • Several quotes from our candidates complimenting our Staffing team
  • …and more to come.

We have lots of duckies at WaggEd in the Northwest. Check out this Facebook page and get in the know.

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