A Year-Long Plan for Senior PR Undergrads

[Updated September 2014]

 “When should I start applying for that internship?”

“Where do I start with my job search?”

“Do I need to be sending my resumes out now?”

There’s a point of recognition where the senior public relations major realizes that yes, barring any major gaffes, chances are good that they’re going to graduate and need to find a job. And then the panic sets in.

Senior year both flies by in a blink and seems to drag on forever at the same time.  Benchmarking a few key activities may help you create your own plan for prepping for graduation.

A quick note: University of Oregon is on the quarter system – we start the last Monday of September and finish mid-June, so this calendar may vary based on your University.

Continue reading “A Year-Long Plan for Senior PR Undergrads”

Protected tweets? I won’t hire you.

I get it. I really do.

There’s a desire to have conversations, interactions, silly back-and-forths with a specific and “controlled” community — your friends. It’s nice to feel some sense of control about who sees or does not see your content. You don’t have to filter or self-censor.

In class last week, I made an off-handed remark that I wouldn’t hire someone who had a protected twitter account. When I said it, I heard an audible gasp in the room. What?! Why would she say that?

So here’s why:

When I hire, I need people who are smart and savvy about social media. For most entry-level professionals, the greatest indicator is how the individual uses their personal account. If your account is protected, I can’t see how you interact with people and what kinds of things you share (obviously). But what it also says is, “I don’t get how to use this tool as a professional. I’m just a student and the world revolves around me.” That’s fine. And your prerogative. But I won’t hire you. 

I know not everyone wants to manage social media and spend their days on Twitter. The entry-level professionals I work with do, so that’s important to me and to my clients.

However, there are plenty of other reasons you might want to reconsider protecting your tweets:

  • You’ll miss connections – plenty of people (including me) won’t follow people back with protected accounts. 
  • People won’t see things you might actually want them to see. Doesn’t do much good to share that portfolio piece or get job search advice if you’re not casting a wider net.
  • Your tweets aren’t searchable (and by the same measure, you can’t participate in tweet chats… just because you use the hashtag for a class, or a chat or a conference doesn’t mean everyone else can see your stuff. Only those people who are already following you can).
  • You can’t connect with new people and build your personal or professional network.
  • It’s not REALLY all that private – Screenshots, retweets and favorites make it really easy for others to share your stuff even if you don’t want them to.

Don’t take my word for it:

What do you think? Do you protect your tweets? If so, why? If not, why not?

Six Pieces of Media Relations Advice for the Newbies

Heart racing, palms sweating… no, you’re not having a heart attack. You’re pitching your first story as an intern or entry-level pro. Whew! it can be nerve wracking, for sure. Through a good process, you can feel prepared and confident in your delivery.

  1. Know “why.” What’s the point of the media relations effort? What’s the big picture? How does this release, this pitch fit into what the client/company wants to accomplish? It’s ok to ask. You’re not just “smiling and dialing,” asking why can help you craft a better pitch, but also helps you understand the business of public relations and the media relations function.
  2. Know the story. Understand not only the primary story, but all the potential angles. You may not be able to pitch the primary story to every editor (in fact, you probably can’t).
  3. Create, refine and refine again your media list. An awesomely targeted and strategically refined media list is your golden ticket. This part is pretty freaking tedious, but it’s so important. Don’t let the tedium deter you. Tools like Cision and Vocus can help a lot if your organization has a subscription. If they don’t, there are a bunch of free or almost free tools… including your eyes and brain. If you understand the “why,” (see #1), you can be reading, watching and listening to the right sources and you’ll get to know who will be interested in your pitch. This takes time, so the computer-aided-search-tools are a nice boost, but don’t lean on them too hard. Know your organization’s industry.
  4. Write the pitch. If you’re emailing it, make sure the grammar is pristine, the message clear and that it’s SHORT. If you’re calling, make sure the grammar is pristine, the message clear and that it’s SHORT.
  5. Practice the pitch. Have colleagues read and listen to your pitch and give you feedback.
  6. Make the call! (or send the email). But really, you’re going to have to make the call at some point, even if your first pitch is via email.

I asked my friends via Twitter what advice they would give to newbies and, boy! did they have advice. Check it out. And follow these super smarties – some are vets and some are newbies themselves.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Bookgirl96/statuses/106815124261703680″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/JenJAshley/statuses/106816028138422272″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/mculpPR/statuses/106815993988386816″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/mculpPR/statuses/106815639099949056″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/JulieMa/statuses/106812944096047105″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/jpitts/statuses/106817252728389632″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/RACHELkoppes/statuses/106816629446410241″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/jenna_levy/statuses/106819096561192960″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/behindthespin/statuses/106831502993657856″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/KellysDavies/statuses/106832108646965249″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/ztzinthecity/statuses/106820662022250496″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/jamescrawford/statuses/106832389141037056″]

See James’ blog, too.

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/kevinkennedy320/statuses/106833121214865408″]

For even more tips & advice, check out my Delicious tag on media relations. And I’d love to hear what you think? What would you add?

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

saramaya weissman in 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.

Not Afraid to Fail

The real world doesn’t have very many rules. There’s a lot of stuff you have to figure out all on your own and you have to love (or learn to love) jumping… and falling.

Glenn Cole of 72 and Sunny gave the commencement address this year for the School of Journalism and Communication and this idea was his main point. Not being afraid of failure will allow you to stretch yourself far beyond you ever thought was possible.

It’s not comfortable. In fact sometimes it downright sucks. Because you will fail and sometimes you’ll fail spectacularly. But overcoming that failure is really the only way to know, and appreciate, success.

Learn to learn from failure because everything will not go smoothly.

  • Chill out! You can’t learn without making mistakes. And making mistakes doesn’t mean you’re not smart, talented, creative, etc. In fact, quite the opposite.
  • Build a good relationship with your manager, your client, etc. Being allowed to fail, and learning from it, takes a team and takes support.
  • Be honest about your failure. Conduct a post-mortem of the project or situation and figure out what went right and what went wrong.

Being an entrepreneur has been meant that I’ve learned many, many lessons through trial by fire. What tips would you give? What lessons have you learned? Leave your comments.

Results are the Bottom Line

measuring tape wrapped around the word success

At the end of each term, the students in PR Campaigns, our capstone PR course, present their portfolio of work to a panel of professionals. It’s an exciting day, with lots of great energy and terrific feedback from our talented professionals who give anywhere from 2 hours to 8 hours to share their expertise with our students.

I had a chance to speak at some length with several reviewers this term at the end of the process and at the top of that feedback was that the students need to focus on the results of their work.

This is often hard to do for students (it’s often hard to do for anyone, let’s be honest). If you’re dropped into the middle of a campaign at an internship, for example, your work is often task-oriented – write this release, compile this clip report. But having a results-oriented brain will help tremendously and set you apart in the job search process.

Of course, to measure, you must have clear objectives.

Based on my students’ questions and reviewer feedback, here are some common “tasks” and how you might measure them. I would love to get your feedback and I’m hoping some of the reviewers will drop by and share their thoughts.

  • Scenario: I compiled media clips for my internship all summer. Clip books are not glamorous, but it’s a very common entry level activity and if you know how to do it (and why!), that’s important.
    Measurement: Media clips are an evaluation method in and of themselves. Talk to your account supervisor and ask what the goals of the campaign are/were. When you describe your clip-compiling activities talk about how this was a crucial piece of reporting to the client and were proud to help showcase your agency’s or department’s success.
  • Scenario: For a class assignment, I wrote a release/fact sheet/FAQ [insert tactic here].
    Measurement: Even for an assignment, you can still include information about how you would measure a particular written tactic. Think about how you would see that particular tactic through. The point of a release is usually to get media coverage, for example. Include a short blurb at the bottom of the release you include in your portfolio that describes how you’d measure.
  • Scenario: I created a blog.
    Measurement: Make sure you have some analytics available. WordPress.com has built in site statistics, Blogger and WordPress.org can run Google Analytics. It’s important to understand what these basic statistics mean, so do your homework. If you can dig a little deeper than per-post viewers, that will show a more complete understanding of the tools.

There are a thousand scenarios, of course. I think I’ll dig in a bit on a few in future posts and explore some more ideas about measurement and evaluation.

Remember that regardless of which stage in the process you got involved with a project or how little you had to do, you can always think about how you would measure, even if you didn’t have the opportunity to do so. Kaye Sweetster from University of Georgia suggested creating an executive summary report or a metrics report for any project. You can even do this if (gasp!) it wasn’t required! Focus on – what was the opportunity or problem, what was your approach and how did/how would you measure.

Repairing a reputation: Interview on KVAL News

I was interviewed by KVAL news about reputation management and crisis communication this week. Our Duck athletes have been having some trouble staying out of trouble and the reporter wanted to talk to me about what they should do. I declined to comment specifically on the story – I don’t have enough “inside” information and because I both teach and have clients at the University of Oregon, I wanted to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest.

But I did agree to talk generally about how an organization in a tough spot might respond and think about repairing. This is the short version of the story. If the longer version gets posted, I’ll update.

Blogging: Creating a Window to Your World

From My Apartment Window in Tuscany by Foto Iervolino
From My Apartment Window in Tuscany by Foto Iervolino

When you’re ready to launch a blog, rather personal or professional, it’s important to think beyond just “what am I going to blog about?” Your blog is a window into your professional life and what people see and how they see it is up to you.

Have a strategy: Even if you’re creating a personal blog, have a sense of what you want to accomplish with it. Do you want your blog to be informational, to help you to define and explore your thoughts & ideas about working in public relations or maybe show your interest and expertise around a topic or issue?

Think about functionality: Think about what you want the experience to be for your readers. Making your blog easy on the eyes and simple to navigate is the first step. But remember that window analogy – what do you want your readers to see? Do you want to share photos? How about a Flickr widget. Also think about including things like a Twitter widget, recent comments, videos, etc. The possibilities are vast. It may seem like simply window dressing, but think about what a blog tell you about its author. And then, in turn, what you want people to know about you.

Create a schedule: Know how often you want to blog and stick to a schedule. Most blogging software will let you blog whenever and then schedule your posts, so you don’t have to necessarily blog on a schedule – hey! life comes up. I usually blog on the weekend and schedule posts to update during the week.

Develop a ethics & comment policy: This may seem silly, but it’s important that you think through what your policies are and how you will handle tough issues when they come up (not if, but when). You can check out my policies for this blog and feel free to borrow.

Include an “about me” section with a picture & bio. People connect with people and being the real and authentic you is an important part of blogging. You don’t need a boring headshot and overly-scripted bio. Be yourself!

Include a blogroll: I love the way WordPress lets you organize links. Being able to categorize them allows me to think through what topics I want to discuss and frame my blog appropriately. Regardless of your platform, however, don’t take your blogroll lightly. It’s important to think about what your choices reveal about what you want to say.

Just spend some time thinking about your blog and what role you want it to play in your professional life. By doing so, you’ll be able to design the best window into your world that you can before you invite people over.

I’d love to hear other tips. What lessons have you learned as a blogger along these lines?

Building a Strong Mentor-Mentee Relationship

My mentor has been an important part of my professional life and, over the years, a trusted friend, confidante and adviser in many aspects of my life. She’s given me opportunities to earn experience in areas of public relations that I might not otherwise have had and is always ready with advice if I ask. If I don’t need advice, she’ll just listen.

We met when I volunteered for a nonprofit organization as an undergrad where she was serving as the communications director. We had a chance to work together on maybe a project or two before she left. I continued to volunteer for the organization and frequently asked my mentor for her advice on projects.

It wasn’t long before she asked me to help her with a client project – doing some basic media relations work. That was 8 years ago.

I am not exaggerating when I say that my career would not be where it is without her guidance and advice (and trust!). I’m a better person and a better PR professional because she’s in my life.

I think I’m pretty lucky. But how did I build this relationship and how can you seek out and develop one that works for you? I also asked my twitter network. I’ve noted their advice with a twitter ID after each point.

Being a mentee.

Being a “good” mentee has to be a part of figuring out a mentoring relationship. From the very beginning, think about this relationship as two-way. As a mentee, you have responsibilities:

  • Know yourself. Know what you’re looking for in a mentor and can identify the qualities that you want to grow in your own life. Think about your values and priorities. For example, for me a mentor without the same family-focus that I have would’ve been a problem. I need someone who understands, and encourages, work-life balance (mostly because I can forget the “life” part). (@AmandaJones)
  • Talk about your goals. Being clear about your goals and aspirations will help your mentor be clear about what you expect. (@sarahannelilly)
  • Do outstanding work and be enthusiastic. It’s rewarding to mentor someone who is learning and growing and doing work that you can both be proud of. If you’re seeking career guidance, show that you’re actively working toward those goals and making progress. (@krhodey)
  • Listen. Listen to what your mentor has to say. Only you can make the right decision for you, but good advice is valuable. Showing that you’re listening can strengthen the relationship and encourage your mentor to continue sharing his or her insights and experience. (@RichBecker & @aplambeck)
  • Reciprocate. Everyone has something to offer. Figure out how you can give back to the relationship.

Finding a mentor.

  • Set some goals. Be clear to yourself about what you’re looking for in a mentor relationship. A mentor can be helpful in many ways, and often more than one mentor is necessary and appropriate.
  • Consider logistics. Do you need a mentor who works at your company? or would you like (or need) someone from outside the organization?
  • Be proactive. Just ask! I was flattered to be asked to be a mentor recently. It really only took an email and I was on board. I also recognized that she and I would be a good fit and so it was easy to say yes. (@ntindall)
  • Ask for referrals. Ask friends, your peers or family to help identify a good mentor. You may be able to extend the possibilities far beyond your own personal network.

Being a mentor

As I mentioned early on, the mentor-mentee relationship must be two-way. The mentor also has some responsibilities besides just sharing what s/he knows. Two important “duties” stand out to me. My mentors have excelled in these areas, and that has truly benefited our relationship.

Listen. Listen to what your mentee says and needs to meet his or her goals. Clearly s/he respects you and your work, but everyone has a different life path. So your path might not be the right path. (@RichBecker)

Be genuinely interested. It is flattering when you’re asked to be a mentor, but it must be more than an ego boost for you. You need to be genuinely interested in your mentee’s life and career and eager to help meet the goals he or she has set.

Setting expectations.

Women for Hire has a great list of questions to consider at the outset of mentor relationship. I don’t know that something this formal will work for everyone, but it’s worth considering these questions and determining if the answers are important to creating a functional relationship. A few of the questions worth considering:

  • How often will you meet? Before you approach your mentor, have a good idea of how much time you’d like from her. Do you need to meet once a month or once every other month?
  • Under what circumstances will you meet? Coffee shop, home, office? Morning, lunch, evening, weekends?
  • How you will stay in touch? By phone or email? Ask what is easiest for her and be willing to accommodate that.
  • Confidentiality. This is a must on both sides, especially if you work for the same company or know many of the same people professionally. You’re likely to discuss work situations and professional relationships in the course of your work together, and you must agree to keep all information just between you.
  • Honesty. If you can’t exchange ideas freely there’s no use in getting started

So what are you waiting for? Just ask! It won’t cost you more than some time and a cup of coffee and the rewards can be tremendous.

If you have (or are) a mentor, I’d love to hear your tips and stories! Please share in the comments.

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Nice Overview of Media Strategy for Social Justice

Marie Clarke Brill of AfricaAction.org recently conducted a workshop on media relations with the Oregon Peace Institute and social activists with the Portland Genocide Awareness Coalition in May 2006.

For “non PR” or entry-level PR or students of PR… or even veterans who may need a media relations refresher that’s specific for social justice issues, I thought this was clear and pretty interesting.

The video is 45 minutes long, so hang tight.

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