The Hunt For A Job Is On!

With graduation season commencing (pun intended,) tens of thousands of graduates are looking for a job. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported this year that the outlook is positive for college grads. However, everyone knows that doesn’t mean a job will be handed to you.
Aside from sprucing up your resume and doing some extra volunteer work, what are other ways to hone your hunting?

Research, research, research – So you found a perfect job and want to forward your cover letter and resume. Not so fast – look up the company first and do a little sleuthing.  Something as simple as determining precisely where the company is located helps tremendously in tailoring your cover letter (“I look forward to sampling the apple pie your city’s famous for”). Employers like knowing that you went the extra mile to get to know the company beforehand.

Talk amongst yourselves – Informal interviews are a great source for finding out more details about the position or industry in which you are interested.  Do you have friends at similar companies or friends of friends? Or parents of friends? Soak this information up like a sponge! People “in the biz” can give you a great overview of the environment that you can’t learn in an hour long class.

Accept rejections gracefully –No one likes rejection, but it’s bound to happen and not every job will be suitable for you. With each rejection, take time to understand why the job wasn’t for you; learn what mistakes you might have made and move on to the next application.

Networking = net worth! – Let’s say you didn’t get a job you interviewed for. Do not criticize the company and/or interviewer; instead form a professional relationship with them. This position may not have been the one for you, but down the road the company may come calling because you stayed in the their good graces.


Three-Day Weekend With A Twist

Make this Memorial Day memorable.  According to vacations are important for more than just fun.  They help promote creativity, stave off burnout, keep us healthy, and promote overall wellbeing.

So this Memorial Day avert the ordinary and take the road(s) less traveled.

Embrace the odd. America is full of unique Americana. For example did you know Boston is home to the Museum of Bad Art? Have a hankering for chocolate shaped body parts? Muellers Chocolates in Philadelphia is a must-stop for you.  And if you are traveling to Florida for the long weekend and like chicken, have they got a store for you, all things chicken all the time at The Chicken Store.

Staycations stay popular. This holiday weekend make your house more like a hotel.  Here’s how.  Love a spa day at a hotel why not bring the experience home with a relaxing in-home spa treatment. Cherish the alone time while your kids go crazy in a video game truck parked outside your house. Top it off with “room service” by way of a personal chef and voila, vacation!

Take a walk on the wild side. Seriously, walk this weekend. There are dozens of wonderful walks in every city. Did you know that Central Park offers no less than ten different walking tours, all free?  Not wild enough for you, try the Chelsea Nightclub Tour. Every city has a spooky tour of some kind. Nearby try the New York City Ghost tour or Weird New Jersey or Haunted Staten Island.

Whatever you do this holiday weekend, try to take a moment to remember why we take Monday off. Check your local papers for parades and activities to honor local heroes.

This is just the beginning of wonderful summer weekends.  What are some of the more unusual ways you spend them?

How To Get More From Your PR Firm

Even the best and most productive relationship between a company and its PR agency can be tested by a poor economy.  For many businesses, a PR consultant or an agency commitment is a large investment, and one that’s increasingly under pressure to deliver against business and communications goals.  How, then, can you make your relationship as fruitful as possible?

Commit the time. Maybe you thought having a PR firm would actually save you time, but it’s not that simple.  A colleague told me about a boutique PR duo who always put a two-way time commitment in their client contracts. They would only agree to spend the requisite hours if the client did the same. Partly as a result, they were able to draw great things out of the client and translate them into powerful visibility.  The lesson here is:  your team is only as good as the information and access they’re given.

Communicate your goals and expectations. Everyone knows to do this but be aware of “expectations creep.”  Your firm should make clear and written goals the priority, but it’s important to update or clarify them when priorities or expectations change.

Challenge your PR team. I had a client who, when giving us creative direction, would constantly urge us to challenge ourselves.  His catchphrase was, “Be bold, be brave.”  He wanted big, risky ideas, and he got them.

Respect their time. Many firms bill hourly, which is a great incentive to use their time well.  But even if your team works on a flat fee basis, and you know they’ll eat the extra hours at month’s end, don’t abuse it because you may end up with a burned out group.

Ask for feedback. Media relations are no longer a one-way street.  Your PR reps should be communicating back to you about your brand’s reputation among customers, media, stakeholders, and even employees.  Part of an outside PR firm’s value is its relative objectivity.  So why not use it?

Be transparent. As much as possible, communicate your company’s business goals, not just the communications aims, to your PR team.  The more they know, the more they can help you reach them.

Manage expectations internally. Poor expectations management is probably the single biggest reason that client-agency relationships fail.  A good firm will try to manage yours, but when senior executives have a different set of expectations, everyone looks bad.

Give credit.  When you find those praiseworthy positives, make sure to include the rank and file team members who may not have a lot of face time with clients.  And publicly sharing credit throughout the organization reflects as positively on you as it does on your agency.

Be a partner. Yes, we throw that word around a lot in the agency business, but ultimately it means that the relationship goes beyond a transactional one.  It means you expect more from your firm than order-taking; you get ideas, solutions, and even pushback when warranted.  Finally, it means that the relationship is based on the mutual respect shared by players on the same high performing team.

This post was originally published by MENGBlend.

Organizing Your Digital Content

“Email, instant messaging, and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized.” — Marilyn vos Savant

But it doesn’t have to be!

In our “own little” digital worlds we get bombarded with vast amounts of information every minute of every day. That’s why we all need some easy, useful advice to keep it all together.  Most importantly, staying on top of your “digital life” will help you meet your “real life” deadlines. Here are a few tips that I find useful and seek to apply every day.

Make sure that you’ve read or skimmed through every email. It’s bad practice to have hundreds of unread emails in your Inbox. It is almost certain that some of those messages contain information that you need.

File or color-code your emails. We all work on different projects or clients, and if you have thousands of emails in your Inbox, it is hard to find the information you need at the right time. Creating subfolders and filing your read messages appropriately will help you manage the vast amounts of information.

Use Outlook Calendar. Some of us hate it, some of us can’t live without it, but ultimately creating meeting makers will save you from schedule mix-ups. Even if you don’t use Outlook Calendar, others can see when you are busy and can schedule meetings around that time.

Always have a to-do list. It is important to write your tasks down. It allows you to look at the overall workload and decide what needs to take priority and what should be delegated to another team member. Excel comes in handy here because you can create easily filter the columns by deadline or client, for example.

Have a cheat-sheet with information that you use often. Whether it is an account number or your freelancer’s cell phone, make sure that you always have frequently used information handy. I’m a big fan of the digital sticky-notes. They allow me to access useful information by just glancing at my desktop.

What Are Your Plans For Doomsday?

Here we go again – the world is ending tomorrow and, surprisingly, a lot of people believe it.  Throughout history, there has been an obsession with predicting the day on which God will unleash his wrath upon us humans and wipe us off the face of the Earth. For example, though Nostradamus predicted life-shattering events that never happened, there are many who still believe in him.

Today, we have Harold Camping, a preacher from California who started the rumor that on May 21, 2011, Doomsday (or as he put it, “Judgment Day”) will begin very conveniently at 6PM local time for each time zone around the world. I’d like to point out that his track record is not very good, either, because he predicted the same thing in 1994.

But just for fun – what would you do if tomorrow was Doomsday? I decided to ask my colleges and aside from the sappy “I’ll call my family” answers, there were a few really good ones.

“I’ll eat cupcakes all day long.” – Dorothy has the right ideas!
“I’ll stick to my original plans, I’m flying tomorrow.” – In case you didn’t know, Liz is an Air Force superhero.
“I would schedule all my household chores and errands for Sunday!” – Doug’s Sunday will not be a fun one.
“I’m still running the half marathon and then going out for drinks.” – No surprises from Sarah
“Maybe I’ll finally watch Forrest Gump?” – Really, Danielle?!
“I don’t know, but I’m scared!” – Aw, Briana! It’s going to be O.K.

Know A Good PR Firm? Burson Marsteller Needs One

Those giant PR firms just can’t seem to get out of their own way.

When Edelman was caught fake-blogging for Wal-Mart, it waited nearly a week before admitting it had hired bloggers to shill for the client while pretending to be just plain folks. This week, the PR world was buzzing after news broke that two Burson-Marsteller executives undertook a stealth campaign to place negative stories about Google without revealing their client, who turned out to be – wait for it – Facebook.

What bothers me about the Burson-Facebook mess isn’t just the lack of transparency.  These types of covert “black ops” campaigns still go on, particularly in politics, and some of the industry outrage is overdone. (“Gambling? I’m shocked!”)

The real shocker is that such presumably sophisticated PR operatives didn’t foresee that they’d be outed. And that Burson management handled the fallout so clumsily. Burson is supposed to be the Special Forces of crisis management. It’s lived off its skillful handling of the Tylenol tragedy for decades.
When the truth came to light, the firm did ‘fess up. It said it should have declined the assignment, – an admirable sentiment, perhaps, but one that lacks credibility and seems to put the blame on the client.

Not good. The offending executives won’t be fired or suspended, but they will be required to undergo “additional ethics training.” That’s lame and almost laughable.

And in the latest twist, Burson deleted negative comments from its Facebook page, – not unethical, but certainly not in keeping with best practices. When criticized, a firm spokesperson apologized and made a show of inviting one critic to repost her comment. Embarrassing.

The first rule of crisis handling is to get out ahead of the story, and the best form of client counsel is to advise against flawed, risky, or unethical communications. This latest little dustup proves just how important – and challenging – both can be. And it reminds us that the PRSA code of ethics that we point to is essentially toothless.

To be fair, it’s easy to throw grenades about the handling of the situation when it’s not your crisis. We in the PR and reputation field like to bundle advice in neat packages, but the reality is more like a battle – chaotic, confusing, and often bloody.

But it’s regrettable that the PR brand that should be the Team 6 of crisis management – the best of the best – not only dug a hole for themselves, but behaved like Keystone Cops, to use writer Dan Lyons‘ words. And that it makes everyone in our business look bad.

Can We Bench The Sports Clichés?

It’s hot dog and baseball season! Maybe that’s why I’m more conscious of sports jargon taking over in the workplace. Yes, we often end meetings with the sign-off, “Go, Fight, Win!,” and we talk about leveling the playing field. But some are just tired, and others don’t make sense. Take baseball. As much as I love the game, the announcers often use some pretty silly clichés. With the Subway Series right around the corner, let’s take a look at some of baseball’s most overused – and confusing – sports clichés:

“He’s a team player.” I certainly hope so! We’ve all heard hundreds of times that “there’s no ‘I’ in TEAM.”

“He came to play.” What else would he have come to do? Warm the bench? Read a book?

“We’re taking it one game at a time.” This could go both ways. While it’s important to focus on doing well on each game, individual wins are just a small part of the larger season.

“He leaves it all out there on the field.” This is one of the most inappropriate clichés out there. Enough said.

What are your favorite – or least favorite – sports clichés? Let us know below!

How To Break Into PR: Advice For New Graduates

This graduation season, I’m more aware than ever of the legions of freshly degreed young people hoping to break into PR or another communications field. This is due to the economic climate, but it’s also because of my recent experience with the New York Women in Communications Foundation. The Foundation distributes scholarship monies to deserving young women who plan a career in communications.

I was part of the group whose job it was to winnow the number of entries to the select few who would receive financial aid. Because there were so many outstanding and high-achieving applicants, the process was far more difficult than I dreamed it would be. And it made me think about what sets a candidate apart, especially in our business.

My conversations with a handful of the young women and my study of their entries and school records was a real lesson in what it takes to rise to the top in a very competitive year. Here are a few of the learnings that I feel also apply to landing that first job in public relations.

Stand out. Even if you have an excellent GPA, internships, and track record of accomplishments, you need to differentiate yourself. And if, like most students, you don’t have a perfect record, then display your creativity or initiative in other ways. Think about these and other attributes essential to success in communications and show how they apply to you.

Tell your story. PR is in many ways about storytelling. What influences shaped your outlook? What challenges have you met, and how did you deal with them? There was one candidate for the NYWICI scholarship whose application was very borderline on the GPA and other objective criteria, but her personal story was so impressive, and so well-articulated, that she made it through. A compelling narrative will take you far.

Be visual. This is about differentiating yourself within a sea of similar resumes, but it also fits with where PR is going, in its increasing use of multimedia to communicate a message or tell a story. Think about using video, infographics, or other means to express your personality and creativity.

Be entrepreneurial. Today’s crop of graduates are far more enterprising and risk-taking  than in the past, and I think this appeals to creative services businesses like mine. Show how you organized the basketball halftime fundraiser, or created a PR campaign for your a capella group, or helped start a social movement on campus. It can make a difference.

Be social. Clearly, the digital natives have a leg up when it comes to understanding the power and uses of social media. But that’s not enough. Be a content creator and curator. Develop your own point of view about social media and where it’s going. You need to not only walk the walk, but understand the role of social media and how it fits into the communications mix.

Understand business. As a literature major, I was at a real disadvantage when I entered the business world, but I was lucky enough to be mentored by an agency owner who taught me the importance of knowing  business fundamentals. Even in the creative services world, it’s crucial to understand how products get to market, how broader economic trends affect individual companies, and how communications is tied to business goals.

Be curious. When the competition is so close, curiosity can make the difference. Try to look at every interview or interaction in your job search as an opportunity to learn something. Never, ever sit down for an interview without a list of questions, and learn to think on your feet.

Be relentless. Success is often about timing. You can increase your odds of cracking an opportunity by making a spreadsheet of all your contacts and reaching out regularly – with a relevant tidbit, an update, or a simple question. People want to help, but you have to make it easy for them. And, showing determination always impresses a prospective employer, particularly one in the media relations business, where perseverance rules.

Be brief. Three brief updates beat one long-winded note that may never be read. Some of the most accomplished people in our business have perfected the art of being persistent without being annoying. You can showcase your writing skills and demonstrate your respect for an employer’s time with well-crafted communications that get to the point.

@#$% Our Mothers Say

It’s been a big week for world news, and as we slow down to celebrate Mother’s Day I have collected some “mom-isms.” At first glance, the wisdom may seem dated and quaint, but some aphorisms are worth a second look.

So, before you decide whether you’re going to see the latest Kate Hudson movie or debate the week’s Idol castoff, pause and reflect on some sage advice from the original expert – mom.

“You be the good one.” My mother preaches this philosophy when one feels blamed or wronged. When this happens, try to be the sane, rational party. While I applied it to high school relationships, there is a business context.  A client/media contact/co-worker/boss has flown off the handle over a seemingly innocuous offense. Do not embrace the crazy with them! Take a deep breath, sleep on your response and be the better person.

“When someone laughs at you, laugh with them.” From fitness pro Denise Austin’s mom Rita, the way to deflect criticism and deflate hurtful taunts. In the business world, it translates to “don’t take yourself so seriously.” Be prepared for an idea you love to tank in a brainstorm. Be prepared for a bigger ego than yours to reject a suggestion, or even take credit for it! Take these incidents in stride and show resilience by coming right back.

“They didn’t get this way because of you.” What my mother is saying here is, you cannot change people. Don’t take someone’s gruff or dismissive style personally. Instead, in business, adapt a little to that person’s style when interacting. Sometimes the best way to effect a change is to change a bit yourself.

“Think before you speak.” This one’s on nearly everyone’s list. All you need to do is substitute verbs like “post,” “tweet,” or “send” for “speak” and you’ve got a mantra for the digital age.

I’m sure you have a favorite quote of your mother’s. Send them our way. Doesn’t mom still know best?

What We Learned From The Royal Wedding

You’ve got to hand it to the Royals. They know how to work a room… or a universe, actually!
The days leading up to the wedding, William and Kate (WillsKate?) were everywhere. There was daily newspaper fashion speculation, 24/7 TV talking heads, even betting sites laying odds on Wills jilting Kate at the altar. It was a brilliantly orchestrated campaign, culminating with a very special, special event.

This got me thinking of some important learnings from the wedding of the year that we may apply to client campaigns.

A good story cannot be sliced too thinly. The media dissected every aspect of the wedding from how it would affect the future of the monarchy to which celebs were in attendance and what they would eat and drink. Of course, “the dress” was its own story. Your client may never have a story this big, but you can still analyze and pursue every conceivable angle.

Leave no social media stone unturned. YouTube streamed it live on The Royal Channel, The British Monarchy’s pages on Facebook and Flickr provided live updates.  #RoyalWedding was a promoted hashtag on Twitter during the days leading up to the nuptials. The Royal Wedding’s own handle (@RoyalWedding) had more than 29,000 followers as of Friday. For crying out loud, there were reports that the wedding was going to “break the internet!

Go viral IRL. Viewing parties were held all over the world! Otherwise normal folk dressed in tiaras and began sipping tea while tuning in as early as 1:00 a.m.!

Be prepared for the entire news cycle to turn on you. Journalists were just sinking their teeth into post-nuptial news nuggets when another compelling story took over. Even the newlyweds couldn’t compete when the U.S. had some news of its own – something about Osama bin Laden seems to have taken center stage.