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”

Leadership & Life Lessons from an Investor Relations Pro

ir futuresI’m not going to lie, as an undergrad, the idea of doing investor relations would’ve given me the heebie jeebies. Math? numbers? all those regulations? Blech.

As a professional, I’ve learned that not only are numbers and math your friends, they can be a lot of fun. And regulations? Everyone’s got ‘em. Communicating complex info in a clear, persuasive way while navigating the rules and regulations along with company culture and politics is pretty much what we do.

Had I had some mentorship or just some instruction in financial communication, I might have taken a different path. Or I’d at least had some sense of all the options for a career in public relations.

So I was pretty excited when, this spring, the PR sequence at the SOJC launched IR Futures, an investor relations-focused student club. We have a couple of stellar faculty who have expertise in investor relations and financial communications and this is a growing area of focus for the PR sequence.

Continue reading “Leadership & Life Lessons from an Investor Relations Pro”

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?

Following my Heart, Sharing My Philosophy

Today I formally accepted a full-time instructor position at the University of Oregon in the School of Journalism and Communication. What, you say? You thought I already did that? Not quite. For the last six years, I’ve been an adjunct instructor. Full time, yes, but not permanent.

Tactically, the position won’t be much different. Philosophically, it’s a world away. But accepting this position is really putting a stake in the ground – this is who I am and where my priorities lie. I will still do consulting and speaking and Verve lives on. But this position marks an important milestone for me and one that I’m pretty excited about.

Thanks to many, many people who have supported me, trusted me, pushed me, challenged me and helped me get here.

As part of the application process, I revised and updated my teaching philosophy (thank you, The Professor is In for all your feedback!). I thought I’d share it with you here. I’d love to hear what you think! If you’re an educator, what is your philosophy? If you’re a student (or former student), what do you expect from your teachers?

***

I didn’t plan on being an educator. I had a whole world to save, and those world-saving-type jobs wanted a job candidate with an advanced degree. So, I applied to the SOJC’s graduate program and began Fall 2002 with a schedule full of classes and a GTF in J202: Information Gathering.

The teaching bug bit quickly, and it bit hard. I relished the time I spent in the discussion sections with the students helping them navigate the labor-intensive requirements of the course. I was honored and a bit terrified when Dr. Van Leuven and Dr. Steeves sat down with me after my master’s defense to tell me that the school wanted me to start teaching the very next month.

Some of what fuels my philosophy and my approach comes naturally. My personality is well suited to be part educator, part therapist and part cheerleader. But ultimately, the desire to create capable, talented, strategic young professionals drives my course content and the work the students do to fulfill course objectives.

I’m quite serious about this work and my mission. Today’s students must be better and know more than previous cohorts. The rules are changing, and it will be their job to stay on the cutting edge of communications. I push them hard; I have high expectations. I know what they are capable of (even though at times they don’t), and I stretch them to reach their potential.

Whether it’s navigating the chaos of twitter and learning how to manage it for the sake of creating conversations or wrapping their heads around an international crisis communications issue and creating a strategic plan, I am committed to finding new ways to engage students in my classroom. I love to try new things. I work to understand my students and my clear vision of course objectives enables me to try innovative approaches to find the best path.

I have seven “be-attitudes” that I share with every student on the first day of every class that encapsulate my philosophy and what I hope every student will take away from my classes.

  1. Be Curious: Read, ask questions, find out everything you can about your chosen profession. In public relations that means reading the industry blogs, paying attention to industry news, talking to local professionals in your community and being an avid consumer of media.
  2. Be Engaged: Beyond curiosity, engage your mind. What are the greater implications of what you’re reading, listening to or talking about?
  3. Be Empathetic: To succeed in public relations, you must be able to put yourself in another’s shoes. Practice now! How did your teammate come to that conclusion? If you were a member of a particular target audience, how would a company or organization reach you? As a client, how often would you want a report and what information would be important?
  4. Be Active: Active involvement in pre-professional organizations is an excellent way to be involved on your campus and in your community and make connections for your future at the same time. At the University of Oregon, public relations students are involved in PRSSA and Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency. Start your own blog, make connections via social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Find a new site like Google +, Last.fm, LinkedIn or Instagram.
  5. Be Responsible: Your actions, your education and, yes, your grade are your responsibility. Your instructors (hopefully) provide the direction and the tools. But if you’re serious about your education and your future career, personal responsibility is essential. If you need help, get it. If you have a question, ask.
  6. Be Confident: As you mature into a young professional, trust your instincts and your ability to find a great internship, offer counsel to your brother’s friend’s start-up company and generally do good work. The balance, of course, is to be confident and humble. Know when you are in over your head and get help.
  7. Be Passionate!: The beautiful thing about choosing a career in public relations is that you can find the industry that makes you passionate about communicating. Maybe it’s performing arts? Or high-tech? For me, it’s nonprofit work and social change. Find your passion and shout it from the rooftops!

I might not be ridding the world of evil, but my reward is seeing students develop into thoughtful, ethical, engaged and empathetic professionals. Education has given me a way to contribute a better world through empowering my students.

Setting New (School) Year Resolutions

January, schmanuary. The real “new” year for those of us who are students and teachers is September. So as we all gear up to head back to the classroom, it’s time to set some new (school) year resolutions.

SWOT Yourself

Take an objective view – well, as objective as possible – about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Strengths and weaknesses are internal.

Strengths: What are you good at? What kinds of activities are a natural fit for you?

Weaknesses: What areas are more difficult for you to master? I’m not going to say “what can you improve on?” because that’s not always an effective use of your time. But are there specific skills that you need to add to your repertoire? Particularly tactics or skills that you want to learn?

I highly recommend a book called StrengthFinder 2.0. Take a little online quiz and get back your top 5 strengths. We did this last year with AHPR and it was eye-opening. You can read about it here.

Opportunities and threats are external.

Opportunities: What activities, events, programs can you take advantage of? Where can you gain the experience you need?

Threats: Where are the potentials for time sucks? What external factors can diminish your ability to achieve your goals?

Threats are tricky when you’re looking at yourself as a students. It might be a heavy class schedule, for example. You can’t really do anything about that, but you can be aware it’s coming and plan accordingly.

Thanks, @CBLangev for this suggestion.

Make a Plan

 


Now that you understand what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are, make a plan for making the most of the good and minimizing the impact of the not-so-good.

Some tips:

  • Start with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish? And what does that “end” look like?
  • Be realistic, but ambitious. You can’t do everything. You have to make strategic decisions about where your time will be best spent. Where is the best return on your time investment.
  • Have a good planner. Whether you need a written planner or an electronic version, make friends with your process and use it to stay organized. About.com has some nice (basic) tips for collge student calendar management.
  • Find tech tools that support your goals, and focus on those tools.  I’m a little bit notorious for giving a new tool or app a try, but not spending enough time with it to really integrate it into my schedule before I get distracted by the next shiny, new thing. Don’t do that.

Find Balance

You have to be able to balance school/academic work, extracurriculars, internships, volunteer opportunities and your social life (more on that in the next point). In a professional program like public relations, you really do have to look and think beyond the classroom – even in your in the honors college… even if you know you’re headed to grad school.

The challenge of course, is figuring out how to fit it all in. Refer to the aforementioned planner/calendar system. Find your process! It is possible to create balance when you know what your goal is and how you plan to get there. (Oh, look at that! All these fit together…!)

Thanks, @ColbyReade for this resolution.

Have Fun

You’re in college. Have fun! Find time to make what you do fun and to have a social life outside of the books and the work. I went through a goal setting process for myself recently and found that I was conflating “have fun” with “have a hobby.” I don’t have time for a serious hobby, but I do have time for fun.

And I have fun all the time. I think life is fun! And I find the fun in work, family time, vegging out in front of the TV… all those can be (and usually are) fun. So it doesn’t have to be BIG fun. But make sure you’re including time for you.

So there’s my list. They are all “big picture.” Tell me about what you have planned this year. What are your new (school) year resolutions?

Special thanks to my Twitter & Facebook friends for offering their suggestions! 

PR Sucks and Other Fallacies.

“…PR people are ruining social media…”

“…P.R. people drive me crazy…”

“…PR sucks…”

Okay, that last one is more of a paraphrase than a quote, but you get the point. PR has taken a bit of a lashing recently.

Beyond being tired, cliche and trite, the “PR Sucks” meme is an informal fallacy – a straw man argument. The assertion of  most of these pieces is that because much of PR (particularly agency work and especially over the last 20 years) has been focused on earned media (media relations), that PR people are not suited/incapable/really bad at social media strategy and implementation. That media relations models don’t work in the social world, so clearly we’re ill-suited.

But media relations of course is only one specialized function – this argument reveals more about the respective writers’ (lack of) experience or limited view of PR and its role in management than it does about the nature of the public relations profession.

The “PR Sucks” argument doesn’t get at the actual discussion we should be having. I would love to see the discussion focused on creating understanding what PR is and what it is not. Limiting public relations to any singular function – whether it’s media relations or event planning or speechwriting is not productive. The authors of such posts are being incendiary on purpose, of course. “If we flame them, they will come and comment and link back! yay!”

But in the process, the broad brush with which they paint is not flattering to them or to those they caricature. And disclaimers like, “some of my best friends are PR people…” doesn’t help.

Defining public relations is complicated to say the least. The nuance and context within which a public relations professional works is hard to pin down and even the scholars don’t agree. However, since this is my blog, I’ll offer that the best definitions of PR have three things in common:

  • The importance of research
  • The primacy of relationships
  • The central requirement of listening and responding

One of my favorite definitions is from Rex Harlow:

Public relations is the distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and sound and ethical communication as its principal tools.

Another from Carl Botan:

Using communication to adapt relationships between organizations and their publics.

Finally, from the Encyclopedia of PR (which I didn’t know existed), Robert Heath offers:

Public Relations is a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization’s ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values.

“Beneficial” relationships are not necessarily positive or the relationships that you enjoy building and maintaining. In fact, stakeholders may be the readers and viewers of media outlets, but they may also be employees, vendors, investors, neighbors, activists, government agencies, etc. Our focus in PR is not exclusively on the customer.

Creating a shared space for dialogue and feedback has been part of our job all along. Those “shared spaces” have taken real world shapes in the form of town halls, open houses, public comment opportunities, trade shows, desk-side briefings, CEO tours, and so on. But the online equivalents are a natural fit.

The problem, it seems, is the lack of understanding and “world view” of communications management by the PR Sucks crowd. Oh, and there are plenty of PR people who also lack understanding and “world view.” They’re the spammers, the bad pitchers, the flacks, the “smile and dial” publicists. But they are also not the norm.  Nor are they public relations professionals.

I lectured this week on the history of PR and I’m always invigorated by Arthur Page’s position on the role of public relations. Every time I get to this part of the lecture, I’m struck by how clearly his six principles often resonate with me and the work that I do as a public relations practitioner.

  • Tell the truth: Let the public know what’s happening and provide an accurate picture of your organization’s character, ideals, and practices.
  • Prove it with Action: Public perception of an organization is based on 90% doing and 10% telling.
  • Listen: Understand what the organization’s publics want and need. Keep top decision makers and other employees informed about company products, policies and practices.
  • Manage for Tomorrow: Anticipate opportunities and challenges, eliminate practices that create difficulties. Generate goodwill.
  • Conduct PR as if the whole company depends on it: No strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public.
  • Remain Calm, Patient and Good-Humored: Lay the groundwork for PR miracles with consistent, calm and reasoned action to information and contacts. Cool heads communicate best. (my favorite)

I would love to hear from you. What do you think?

photo by Richard Sunderland

Somewhat Snowy Linky Love

We had a little mini snow day here in Eugene today. It’s 1 pm and all the snow is melted, which makes those of us who cancelled class feel a little silly. But I’m enjoying the day, nonetheless.

Some good stuff this week for you to enjoy reading today, too!

You can learn more info about these “linky loves” and the background on the students’ assignment here.

Stay warm!

What a Dilemma! Ethics in the Modern Age

50s style, modern tools

I’d argue that we all face ethical dilemmas every day, particularly in and with social media channels. They may be small (should I say this or that on Facebook) or they might be bigger (no, I can’t pepper the web with positive reviews of that client’s product or service).

As you probably know, I’m working on a book with my friend and colleague, Michelle Honald. We’re focusing on the ethics of social media in one of the chapters. I’d love to hear your stories and examples of ethical dilemmas that you’ve faced working in public relations (or any type of communications).

You can leave actual or hypothetical examples in the comments or email me.

I’m not (necessarily) looking for case studies, I just want to make sure I cover the reality of ethical decision making for those of you working in social media.

photo by yewenyi

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.

Freshly Scrubbed Linky Love

After a three term hiatus, I’m again teaching the advanced writing class – now call Strategic PR Communication. As part of that class, I publish a list of my favorite posts from the week for students to choose from and respond to on their own blogs. While the list is specifically for the class, I hope that other visitors will enjoy, too.

Why Should I Work for You, Dude? (Council of PR Firms): In a tight job market, it’s important to hire good talented. How do you as soon-to-be grads look at your opportunities and how can organizations retain you for the long term. Interesting article on a really interesting topic (and one I study, for what it’s worth).

The Community Manager Role Unplugged (Buzz Canuck): Our class is doing a little community management this term with PROpenMic during the first week of May, so I found this post interesting. It’s also a  good look at best practices for this increasing important role in organizations.

Is Social Media a Requirement for PR Pros? (Social Media Today): Interesting debate by two smart people about whether social media is a requirement for our profession. Complement the Social Media Today post with one on PROpenMic by a student not pleased with having to learn social media and well, we have ourselves a little trend. What do you think?

Build a Stronger Network (Journalistics): Building your network can feel intimidating – and do so in public settings can be uncomfortable. But, it’s important. These tips are great and worth considering before you head out to Portland Paddle or a mixer/event.

13 Ways Your Resume Can Say “I’m Unprofessional” (The Ladders): It makes me a little sad that a site like The Ladders (which posts positions that have $100K+ salaries) would have to post such a list. Shouldn’t their audience know better? I’m guessing not… Great advice.

Journalistic Sodbusting (Occam’s Razr): This is a fascinating look at astroturfing. Not sure what astroturfing is, take a look at this case and see what you think.

9 Ways to Breathe Life Into Your Blog (Altitude Branding): You’re just getting started with your blog, but Amber (as always) has some terrific tips that are relevant for newbies as well as those of us who have been around a while… and should be blogging more. What can you take away from Amber’s advice?

Related Posts with Thumbnails