So Long, Farewell

I would like to take this post to say goodbye, for now. The blogging part of my class project is over, and I only have a few other things to do before I turn it in for the final grade.

I was nervous about doing this, but it’s been a good experience. The last eight weeks have gone fast, and I’ve enjoyed writing and researching for the blog. It’s a good way to connect with others in the industry, and I learned a lot. Writing and promoting a blog is a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

I am by no means an expert at this like some of the others on my blogroll, but I would like to try my hand at it again someday. I’d do it again after I’ve gained more experience in the PR industry. I would feel more comfortable talking about public relations once I’ve learned more about it myself.

I want to thank those of you who read my blog, especially those who left comments. I hope I have been able to help you in some way, and that you’ll look for me in the blogosphere in the future!

November 25, 2007 at 4:50 pm 2 comments

Putting it all Together

Thanksgiving, and believe it or not, winter break, is fast approaching. I will be spending time putting my portfolio together. I have to admit, it’s a little intimidating. There is this huge pile of work from the past four years that I have to put in some type of order.

Getting Started

portfolio.jpgPortfolios allow you to expand on your resume. Instead of just talking about your skills, you can show someone. A portfolio provides proof of your abilities.

What you’ll need:

  • A good quality portfolio case. You can get them at Staples or Office Max.
  • Dividers
  • Professional-looking paper.
  • Sheet protectors

What to include:

  • Table of contents 
  • Samples of your work
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A copy of your resume and cover letter
  • References and contact information

Organization

papers.jpgIt all depends on what works best for you, but here are a few ways to organize a portfolio:

  • Chronologically
  • By function or skill 
  • By theme
  • Around the items listed on your resume

Keep in mind the last piece they see will leave more of an impression than what’s at the beginning.  Once you’re finished, go through the portfolio checklist to make sure your portfolio is perfect. It’s not a bad idea to have a faculty member look over your portfolio before you present it.

Karen Russell, a professor at the University of Georgia, offers some good advice for putting together your first portfolio.

Tying it together

rope.jpgYour portfolio will be top-notch of course, but it still can’t speak for itself. You have to be prepared to talk about what you’ve done, answer questions and possibly hear some criticism.

You should always rehearse before you go for your interview. Have a family member, friend or classmate listen to your presentation. They can offer advice and give you a chance to practice answering questions.

When the time comes to present in front of an employer, as always, dress professionally and present with confidence. Adobe.com offers some additional advice on presenting your work.

Make a lasting impression

When your interview is finished, it’s always a good idea to leave behind a sample or two of your work as a reminder of your talents. Make sure it’s some of your best work and something you have multiple copies of because you probably won’t get it back.

And remember, a portfolio, as important as it is, is still just a tool. You have to be prepared to sell yourself as well.

November 14, 2007 at 1:29 am Leave a comment

Research, Research, Research

As a public relations practitioner, being able to do effective research is a key element of your job. You have to get to know your client inside and out. How else can you do that but research?

You have to research your client’s industry, its audiences, its competitors and key players. But it seems many PR practitioners are failing to research one important thing: the media outlets and reporters they pitch to and it’s becoming a problem. I don’t know if the cause is a lack of training and time or just plain laziness. Unfortunately, I think it has more to do with the latter.

E-mail has made it much easier and cost effective for PR people to send pitches and news releases to media outlets. Instead of using the efficiency of e-mail to do the job better, some practitioners are using it to mass pitch the media without putting any thought into what would interest a particular outlet. And the media is getting tired of it.

While there are plenty of PR practitioners who don’t do this, the ones who do have been doing it for awhile. The Bad Pitch Blog , which was started in response to this problem, has been going strong for almost two years now.

But last week, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, took it a step further. He posted the e-mails of all the PR people who sent him bad pitches in one month. It’s a long list, and it includes people from some well-respected PR agencies. Now, any editor or reporter can add those names to his or her blocked list.

The post caused a lot of controversy. Some people said he went too far. Maybe. But at the same time, PR people needed a wake-up call. Mass pitching is a bad thing, and we as PR people need to do the job we set out to do, which is get our client in the news. You can’t do that if your e-mail address has been blocked by every media outlet.  

How can you keep this from happening to you?

  • Research and get to know the reporters and publications vital to your client.
  • Read, watch or listen to the media outlet you want to pitch to so you can learn what kinds of stories it covers.
  • Know what beats the reporters cover, know their deadlines and how they like to be pitched.
  • Know the media outlet’s audiences, style and circulation.
  • Respect the reporter and they will respect you.

So, as students who will soon be moving into the real world, remember this incident. Remember your role, and most important, remember to do your research.

November 7, 2007 at 1:16 am 3 comments

Job Hunting

The time has come, at least for me, to start the job hunt. In my case, I’m looking for an internship, but the same rules apply. It can definitely be a stressful time, but there are some things you can do to make it a little easier.

According to Warren Allan Johnson of the Unsolicited Marketing Advice blog, the first thing you need to know how to do is get your foot in the door. This includes knowing who you’re trying to contact at a company and being persistent when trying to reach them.

Another important tool in the job hunt is networking. Many universities have a PRSSA chapter. The Kent State chapter holds a networking event at least once a year. This is a great way to meet professionals in your area. They can offer some great advice and possibly a future career opportunity.  If your school doesn’t happen to have a chapter, talk to your PR professors. Trust me, they know people.

Once you have made contact at a company, you won’t get much further without a stand-out resume and cover letter. The journalism program at the University of New Hampshire offers some advice:

  • Use inverted pyramid style in your cover letter. Keep it simple and to the point.
  • Always list experience before education on a resume. Almost all applicants will have a degree. The company is looking for someone with the skills and experience to meet its needs. This means you will also have to tailor your resume for different companies.
  • When writing your resume, keep it simple and neat. Use a standard font, avoid italics and boldface.
  • PROOFREAD! If an employer finds an error in your cover letter or resume, he or she won’t read any further.

If you do get called in for an interview, it’s your time to shine. First of all, you have to prepare yourself. Here are some suggestions from allbusiness.com:

  • Learn all you can about the company beforehand and showcase that knowledge during the interview.
  • Get directions ahead of time and make sure you look the part. You can’t go wrong with a suit.
  • Rehearse, practice your handshake, prepare answers to common questions and prepare a list of your own questions.

Monster.com suggests always bringing a portfolio with you. It also suggests marketing yourself well. I’ve always been told as a PR major to sell myself the way I would a client. Talking yourself up can be uncomfortable, but it’s important. Also, always follow up an interview with a thank you letter. This shows the employer you are genuinely interested in the position.

The job search can be nerve-wracking, but take a deep breath, be confident and go for it. If you don’t get the first job you go after, don’t get discouraged. Regroup, refocus and try it again. You never know, the next job opportunity might be better than the first.

November 2, 2007 at 11:43 am 2 comments

Mind Your Manners

At some point in your career, whether it’s for an interview or a meeting, you will have to attend a business dinner. I took a dining etiquette class awhile ago, but I know I need to brush up, and I’m sure you do too.

First and foremost, a business dinner is not about the meal. It’s about the conversation. If your job interview is over dinner, it’s because your potential boss wants to see what you are like in a social setting. The main focus is on what you say.

Having said that, there are some things you need to know so you don’t make a mistake during the meal.

Beginning and ending the meal

  • The meal begins when your host unfolds his or her napkin. You should then do the same. Most of the time you will place the napkin on your lap, but follow your host’s lead if he or she does it different.
  • If there is a dish you are uncertain about, ask your server. That way, you know exactly what you are getting.
  • The dinner is finished when your host places his or her napkin on the table.
  • When finished, do not push your plate away from you or stack the plates. To alert the server you are done, lay your knife and fork so it is as if they are pointing to the numbers 10 and 4 on your plate. Also, never place used utensils back on the table.

During the meal

confusion-on-dining.jpgIf you are confused as to which bread plate or glasses are yours, always remember all food dishes are to your left, and your drinking glasses are to the right. The amount of silverware in front of you can be intimidating too, but most of the time if you work your way from the outside in, you’ll be fine.

Worldroom.com, a global travel site, offers 10 points for proper dining etiquette. Here are the ones I found most interesting:

  • Never cut bread or rolls. Break off one piece at a time, butter it, then eat it.
  • When in doubt, always use a utensil, even for foods you would normally eat with your fingers at home.
  • Use the edge of your plate to twirl pasta, not a spoon.
  • Never ask for a “doggy bag.”

More tips:

  • Always pass to your right, and don’t help yourself first.
  • When eating soup, draw the spoon away from you and sip from the side of the spoon.
  • Always pass the salt and pepper shakers as a set, even when only one is requested.
  • If you have to get up for any reason, place your napkin on your chair and quietly say “excuse me” to those sitting next to you.
  • Don’t stab your food or hold your silverware with your fists. Don’t gesture with your silverware.

Also, watch your alcohol consumption. If you feel you are expected to drink, order only one and sip it slowly throughout dinner. Too much alcohol can be a very bad thing.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Farquhar.If you want more tips, pick up an etiquette book. It would probably be a good investment. Also, see if your school offers an etiquette dinner so you can practice. For example, the PRSSA chapter at Kent State puts on an etiquette dinner during the spring semester.

I know some of this etiquette stuff seems unnecessary, but it’s important. Business dinners, especially for a job interview, can be nerve-wracking enough. Knowing proper dining etiquette will make it easier.

October 26, 2007 at 12:25 am Leave a comment

Basic Office Rules

In class, my professor brought up the internship evaluations she was getting back about students. She said the main problem areas were in students’ dress, demeanor and punctuality. She also said students were saying they wish they would have been taught how to talk on the phone.

Punctuality should not be an issue. Arriving to work and getting projects in on time should be a no-brainer, but there are areas that we as students don’t always get trained in.

gt00031.jpgOne thing I have never really been taught is proper phone etiquette. A mistake I see a lot of people make is not putting a caller on hold when someone else walks into the office. Instead, they cover the receiver with their hand or press it against their chest. There is a chance the caller could still hear you.

Also, don’t forget to mind your manners while on the phone. Treat the phone call as if it were a face-to-face meeting. Concentrate on the caller. Don’t shuffle papers or eat, and cut down on background noise if possible.

E-mail is now the main source of communication for a lot of people, in and outside of the workplace. If you are sending an e-mail to your boss or another professional, don’t write it like you’re sending it to a friend.

Make sure the subject line summarizes the point of the e-mail, and address the recipient formally unless you are told otherwise. Also, write the e-mail with the professionalism you would any other document. Be aware of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

kis-trenduk-clothes-330x220_jpg1.jpgAnd what about dress code? Everyone knows not to dress like you’re hanging out with friends, but when you’re told to dress “standard business casual,” what does that really mean? Do I still have to where a suit, or are khakis okay?

Every organization is different, but according to a CNN article, business casual, or mainstream casual, for men includes khakis or other dress pants, pressed cotton shirts, polo shirts or sweaters. For women, the article recommends dress pants or skirts paired with a matching blouse, sweater, cardigan or pullover vest with coordinating accessories. If you still aren’t sure what to wear, simply ask somebody. It’s better than getting in trouble for it in the long run.

So, when it comes to working in a business setting, remember to be professional in your dress, your demeanor and your actions. It can really make a difference.

October 19, 2007 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

Jobs in Public Relations

Unfortunately, public relations has been given a bad rap, so when you say you are majoring in PR, expect some people to roll their eyes and groan. They only know the bad side of PR, the side that is portrayed as “mouth pieces” for the government and big, bad corporations. But PR careers offer a lot more than that.

True, you can work for the government or in a corporate setting, but there are other options in a variety of areas. And if you do want to work for the government or a corporation, that’s great. Many of them do great work, but it gets overshadowed by the problems of others.

More and more PR students are looking into full-time event planning as a career, and some companies do just that. For example, Eventco Productions, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, creates events ranging from weddings to corporate meetings all over the United States. Careers in this area give PR practitioners a chance to use their creativity and the chance to travel.

Many students also choose to work at a public relations agency. PR agencies take on many different clients. An agency can be specialized in one area, such as McCullough Public Relations in Canton, which specializes in the after-market auto industry. Most agencies, such as Marcus Thomas in Cleveland, have a variety of clients.

Agency life can be hectic, but every day will give you a different experience. You will never be bored working for an agency, and they can offer great opportunities for advancement.

Another area of public relations to consider working in is the non-profit sector. Smaller non-profits don’t always offer great pay, but they give you the chance to be involved in a cause you are passionate about. Many non-profits put on events to raise money, so you’ll get to put your event planning skills to work here too.

These are just a few of the many areas you can choose from when looking into a PR career. Consider what your other interests are and search for a career in that area. Almost every career field uses PR in some way, so research your options and I’m sure you’ll find something that suits you.

October 12, 2007 at 10:50 am 2 comments

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