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Which Matters More: Your Aptitude or Your Attitude?

WTF Computer woman Which Matters More: Your Aptitude or Your Attitude?

This is a guest post by Jonathan Rick.

You can tell a lot about a person from the way he emails.

Who would you want to have a beer with?

That question kept racing through my mind as I read the replies to a solicitation I recently sent out. The emails, which within an hour numbered more than a dozen, ranged from the pedestrian to the eloquent.

I’m publishing a representative handful to correct a widespread misperception among consultants in every industry: from publicists to painters to pet-sitters, what ultimately separates the winning vendor from the runners up isn’t the quality of your work. It’s whether people want to work with you. In other words, your likability.

Indeed, according to outplacement experts, in evaluating potential employees, employers value personality, passion, and proficiency in that order. The classic example is Charles Schwab, who in 1901 became the first recipient of a million-dollar salary. He earned this distinction not because of his expertise in steel, but “largely because,” Schwab recalled, of his “ability to deal with people.”

Keep this maxim in mind as you eyeball the below emails. After all the interviews and case studies and estimates and reference checks, most decisions in life come down to a single sensor: one’s gut. So before firing off your next pitch, think like the client and ask yourself that quintessentially American question: who would I want to have a beer with?

The Cut to the Chaser

1. “Do you have budget?”

It’s a legitimate question, but as the leadoff one, it’s a turnoff. Just as you wouldn’t ask a woman about her bank account on your first date, so your icebreaker to a prospective client shouldn’t be about money. No one wants to work with someone whose immediate—and seemingly only—concern is what you can do for him.

2. “My firm probably could do this. If you’d like to chat I’m at [redacted]. Website is [redacted].”

Love the confidence: we “probably could do this.” Equally inspiring: the description of your firm and a reason for its relevance to this project. No, wait…

3. “[Redacted] based out of Austin, TX is a great choice! Fast, quality work. Not sure of their schedule, but it can’t hurt to check.”

While the tip is intriguing, it’s incomplete. Care to make an introduction? How about identifying your contact here? At the least, give me an email address.

(If you’d prefer not to introduce me in your initial email, maybe offer to do so once I reply affirmatively? See reply #8.)

The Lou Avery

4. “[Redacted] emailed me that you may need a short video project. I am [redacted] from [redacted]. Let me know if we can help. Our demo reel is at [redacted].”

These straightforward sentences call to mind Lou Avery, Don Draper’s replacement in Mad Men. The new creative director is immortalized with this faint praise: “Lou is adequate.” So is this pitch, which is perfectly fine if you’re comfortable with average work.

5. “[Redacted] forwarded this to me. [Links to his videos.] What’s the project? Short turnarounds are rarely a problem (although I do have a current video for another client and a shoot with [redacted] to work on this weekend). Would love to know more, though.”

I appreciate your honesty. It’s admirable. At the same time, letting me know I won’t be your top priority isn’t the best way to commence a relationship. Reserve any potential problems until you’re asked or have established a rapport.

The Storyteller

6. “You might try [redacted]. He was at [redacted] and has his own business now. I know [redacted] has also used him. Everyone that I know who he’s worked with has been super pleased with the results. His email is [redacted].”

Solid. A strong recommendation coupled with a couple of name drops. And an email address is provided, so I can simply forward the message.

7. “Hey [redacted], Wanted to introduce you to Jonathan Rick. He is currently looking for a production team to help him with a video that needs to wrapped in the next two weeks. The budget is also fixed at $12K. Mentioned some of the details to [redacted], but Jonathan can fill you in on the rest. Know the budget is tight but hopefully you and Jonathan can figure something out.”

Excellent. Introductions like this reduce my workload—a surefire way to win my wallet. As a result, the burden now falls on the other party to follow-up.

One suggestion: tell me something about the other party.

8. “I can suggest an utterly brilliant award-winning filmmaker and producer, with a very quick turnaround and ridiculously affordable rates, who has won numerous awards for his professional filmmaking prior to his turning his attention to work for the [redacted] movement. Problem is, he’s in Australia. If it’s something that can be arranged off location though, let me know, and I’ll put you in touch…”

“Utterly brilliant”? “Ridiculously affordable”? Sold! Even though the location is a deal-breaker, I still want to meet this superstar. You never know when another opportunity will arise.

Six Principles

Fielding the above “cover letters” made me feel like a recruiter receiving rounds of resumes. Amid this deluge, six principles of salesmanship quickly took hold:

1. The early bird gets the worm. With a tight turnaround, the first few replies will attract maximum interest. With each subsequent email, my attention wanes.

Similarly, the further away you get from the initial request, the less the client remains in buying mode. If you can’t reply within 48 hours, what does this say about your responsiveness?

2. Follow instructions. The quickest way to eliminate yourself is by ignoring instructions. If a Word doc is requested, don’t send a PDF. If I ask for a one-paragraph description of your firm, don’t refer me to your personal LinkedIn profile.

My friend, recruiter Claire Kittle Dixon, shares this story: “If you think I’m a stickler, you should talk to my clients. The most common reaction I get from clients is, ‘If the candidate can’t follow simple application instructions, how will he perform on the job?’ They also say, ‘If the candidate doesn’t care enough to read the instructions, he must not be very interested in the job.’ It’s hard to argue with either point.”

3. Tell me about yourself. I don’t need your bio, just your elevator pitch or a memorable detail. Do you specialize in a certain facet of the field? Did you recently win any awards, get some nice press, or finish a particularly exciting project? Do we have any mutual friends or interests? (I may not recall your name, but I’ll remember that we both worked in the Bush White House.)

4. Offer advice. One reply I didn’t reprint contained this pearl: “I especially like the fact that [the video] is scripted and not documentary-style, and that they want to turn it around quickly. There are too many projects that drag on forever.” When every pitch is basically the same, demonstrating your expertise (showing rather than telling) goes a long way. Also, flattery never hurts.

(What happened to this pro? He failed principle #2—instructions.)

5. Make it easy for me. This is my biggest pet peeve. If you’re recommending someone, it’s best to gauge that person’s interest and availability beforehand. Once you’ve prequalified him, then introduce us via email. (See reply #7.) This saves me the trouble of repeating the project parameters.

6. Get excited. There’s no better way to stand out than with enthusiasm. If you’re confident you could knock this assignment out of the park, find an appropriate way to say so. Just as we remember a receptionist who greets us with a smile, so we remember the emailer who expresses eagerness and exudes enthusiasm.

A Master of All Trades

Some will accuse me of being persnickety, of foregoing a talented producer because of a lackluster initial email. If the guy can deliver a killer video, does he also need to be Shakespeare?

To this charge, I plead guilty. I want to work with people who are not only great at their job—be it videos or vehicles—but who can also communicate their thinking in a clear and logical way. I want to work with people who not only think creatively, but can also elucidate the principles behind that creativity to a nonexpert. I want to work with people who make me smarter.

Perhaps no one grasped this philosophy better than Steve Jobs. Whether the thing before him was a glass of juice or a potential employee, he refused to degrade his standards. As he told a pair of interviewers in 1997,

“The dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream … A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

Years later, regarding his cofounder at Apple, Jobs added: “What I saw with Woz was somebody who was 50 times better than the average engineer. He could have meetings in his head.”

Is this a lot to ask for in a mere introductory paragraph? Sure is. But when the competition is stiff and the pay is good, don’t give anyone an excuse to pass you over. Give them a reason to look you over.

Jonathan Rick is a digital communications consultant in Washington, DC. The above lessons result from seven years of running the Jonathan Rick Group,, where he’s written and responded to more RFPs than he cares to remember. Tweet him your pet peeves of pitching a prospect at @jrick.

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Earned, Owned…and Paid? It’s all Part of PR

 Earned, Owned…and Paid? It’s all Part of PR

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

PR first moved into the ‘social space’ by creating and promoting content. ‘Content is king!’ And, ‘if you build it (i.e. deliver great content) they will come (i.e. audiences will flock to your brand page).’ Now the writing is on the wall (to use another trite expression) and it’s no longer enough to post great content on social. It’s become a pay-for-play world for brands that want to get their messages heard on social networks as this Social Media Explorer post explains.

How do PR pros bridge the paid and earned media services in their PR programs?

Although there is still a lot of education to be done, most clients are already integrating paid social media strategies in their PR programs. As this AdAge article puts it, PR firms that integrate paid media with social media are demonstrating a “natural extension of their evolving content-marketing strategies.”

George Snell, SVP, digital at Weber Shandwick, says that virtually all of the clients in WS’s Boston office have content marketing or digital/social marketing strategies in their programs. Snell says there are also a few WS clients that don’t have any traditional PR tactics in their programs.

According to Snell, the key to getting your message heard is building the right distribution plan. And, while the paid opportunities you pursue might include creating an ad for a social network, they can also include promoting or sponsoring a post to distribute your content.

As Snell puts it, “It’s really no different from the way PR has been working in the past; it’s just that now there’s a paid component. PR pros have always been in the business of distributing content through earned and owned media. Now, we’re doing the same thing but with some new components. Content is at the center of the strategy – we can pitch that content to reporters (earned media) or promote it on our blog, site or newsletter (owned media) or look at the many paid opportunities to distribute it.”

Digital communications consultant Arik Hanson says his clients are excited by the targeting and measurement capabilities offered by paid social media tactics. Even brands that aren’t experienced with paid social tactics see the light when Hanson walks them through comparative strategies. “I’ll ask them how their last ad buy with print media went – how much they spent and what the results were. The total number of impressions may be larger with print, but you’re not sure who those readers are. With Facebook ads or promoted or sponsored posts you can target the reach to an exact person. Social advertising will kill you with numbers.”

Both Hanson and Snell say that keeping up with the rapidly changing aspects of paid social opportunities is a big challenge. “I use it every day and, in the beginning, I had a question every day,” says Hanson. “But there’s no one you can call at Facebook. Anyone who isn’t a Fortune 100 company isn’t getting any customer service there.” (He says Twitter is much more customer-friendly.)

How do PR pros incorporate paid opportunities in their PR programs?

“Talk to the right person,” says Hanson. He says his clients aren’t always PR people – in one case he works directly with a community engagement manager. And Snell agrees that there are more than just PR people in the room these days. His agency finds itself up against advertising and interactive agencies when they pitch new business.

Let the numbers speak for you. “You can lay claim to a lot more than you could ever get with traditional advertising or PR,” says Hanson, so use the digital nature of the media and its ability to track metrics to your advantage.

Don’t forget the basics. No one should tack on social media strategies that aren’t tied to overall goals for reaching specific audiences. To determine what tactics are right for you or your client, consider your goals, your audiences and where they are and their communication preferences, as well as how social media can bolster your other marketing communication strategies.

What other strategies do you use to integrate paid media in your PR program?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.comLearn more about Alison Kenney.


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Recap of 2nd Annual Solo PR Summit

 Recap of 2nd Annual Solo PR Summit

This is a post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

If you think professional development is different for independent PR pros than it is for agency or in-house staff — think again!

Sure, independents aren’t likely to have access to corporate training and development. And their budgets for professional development might be smaller than other PR pros’. But solo PR pros have the same need for conferences and events that can help them stay on top of trends in the PR industry, learn from expert case studies and bring them together with other practitioners in their field.

Luckily, there’s now an established resource for independent PR pros: Solo PR Pro held its second annual conference last week in Atlanta. Approximately 80-100 solo PR practitioners attended to learn new skills, network with other independent PR pros and find inspiration.

What was it like to attend?

Speakers at the Solo PR Summit were selected for the expertise they could share. Conference attendees heard from PR measurement expertShonali Burke; SEO guru Jenny Munn; and former broadcaster and video expert Dan FarkasArik Hansen used client case studies to showcase his experience with Facebook Ads and David Griner underscored the changes in PR by encouraging and showing the audience how to incorporate paid media opportunities in our work. Lauren Vargas detailed the path she has taken to help Aetna become a social business.Mary Deming Barber, a PRSA Fellow and APR, shared best practices for strategic planning.

Other speakers covered topics unique to the life of an independent PR pro – such as Diane Rose’s session on sub-contracting; Jenny Schmitt’s and Kellye Crane’s joint session on managing difficult conversations; Daria Stegman’s talk on partnerships; and Kami Huyse’s andFran Stephenson’s session on how they worked together to make investments in their own practices.

Inspiration was everywhere, including Chris Craft’s talk about pursuing entrepreneurial excellence and Shelly Kramer’s butt-kicking talk about using content marketing to promote your brand. Jason Falls wrapped the conference up with pointers for optimizing solo PR practices.

Throughout the conference, solos had the opportunity to connect, share and build relationships. The community that Kellye Crane started six years ago with a blog and built up with a weekly chat on Twitter and an active private group on Facebook, was alive and thriving in real life in Atlanta.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.comLearn more about Alison Kenney.


 

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PR Agencies in 2014

shutterstock 124525963 300x204 PR Agencies in 2014

This is a post from PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

Last week I attended a Social Media Breakfast Boston event called “The Evolution of PR, Marketing & Digital: What’s Next for the Agency World?” It featured panel speakers from big PR agencies (FleishmanHillard and Racepoint Global), a small virtual PR agency (PerkettPR) and an ad agency (Mullen).

So just how have these firms “evolved”? Here’s what I took away from the discussion about what’s it like to work at a PR agency in 2014:

Agencies today offer a mix of disciplines

As FleishmanHillard’s Seth Bloom pointed out, it used to be that no matter what client they were pitching or what the business objective happened to be, agencies primarily offered some flavor of media relations as the solution. There was talk about integrated marketing campaigns, but those rarely came together unless you were working with a very large brand that had a budget large enough to grab the attention of multiple sister agencies and could afford the massive amount of coordination work. As an example of how this has changed, Bloom ended his presentation with a short video his team created to tease the launch of a new, waterproof Samsung phone. I couldn’t help but think how the launch would have been teed up ten years ago, most likely with a focus on media pre-briefings.

Now agencies offer lots of different services under one roof. A typical corporate CMO wants a mix of paid, owned and earned media and PR agencies are more and more frequently offering it, rather than just a piece of it. I wonder if this means the new business teams at PR firms find themselves going up against new types of competitors and having to position themselves against different types of agencies? Tom Foremski thinks now is the time for PR agencies to go after ad agency business.

What does this ‘new agency look’ mean for staff? Employees at PR firms are expected to understand the ins and outs of each discipline — as Racepoint’s Dan Carter said, “you need to know what a creative brief is.” Account teams need to know how to package and sell different program elements and also, importantly, how to report the results in a way that a CMO can appreciate and understand.

Account teams touch lots of technology throughout the day

Without fail, these types of events always feature a question about what tools are most useful. I think everyone just wants to make sure they’re not missing anything. The panelists didn’t disappoint – they rattled off a laundry list of technology used by their firms to monitor, manage and report on work being done. The names included tools for tracking sentiment, cross-channel posting, listening, content creation, analytics, email marketing and social marketing. Skyword, Netbase and Hootsuite all got shout-outs, and the bigger agency representatives mentioned the proprietary platforms and software they use, such as FH’s Blackbox, as well as a social media task force (at Racepoint) that evaluates new technology as it comes along.

Employees are more diverse

Although one of the perks of working at a PR firm is being surrounded by co-workers who do the same type of work you do and understand what you’re going through, that may be starting to change. As agencies branch out with a wider array of service offerings, they’re hiring workers with different skill sets. Mullen’s Eric Fulwiler, who has worked previously at VaynerMedia, Forbes.com and the Clinton Foundation, advocates hiring the right talent, which you should identify by gut and then train internally.

The panelists settled on some core skills that remain important for agency hires, including writing skills, media savvy, judgment (empathy), an entrepreneurial spirit, the ability to learn and to work with others who have different perspectives. As always, PR agency pros are expected to dive deep into their clients’ cultures. Today they’re also expected to be savvy about indirect competition like pop culture.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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What’s In & What’s Out in the PR World for 2014

 What’s In & What’s Out in the PR World for 2014\

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

Happy New Year! If you’re like many of us, you’re probably eager to see the last of some of 2013’s industry trends and welcome new, better habits for 2014.

 

Here are a few to look forward to:

IN:

Social Media Tracking – Most PR pros I know use a mashed up manual method for tracking social media metrics. It works like this: you start with the metrics your various tools give you, then manually add metrics that are important to your campaign or client to come up with a way to show progress (or not) toward meeting your goals. The last few years have shown us that the data and technology are there, perhaps this will be the year we’ll have customizable apps to help us track and measure social media efforts.

Tear-jerking videos – I’m betting that we’ll see a few more of these this year. Some of 2013’s viral videos were stellar, like WestJet’s Christmas Wishes Granted and Dove’s Beauty Sketches. But some tried to marry their brand with a serious issue and didn’t quite pull it off (IMHO), like this one from Special K.

Budgeting for formerly ‘free’ social media plays – In the second half of 2013, Facebook made some changes to encourage brands to pay to promote their posts. Now that Twitter is a public company, expect to see a push for ad dollars on that platform too.

Female empowerment – Topics like ‘Lean In’ and ‘Having it All’ peppered the headlines in 2013. Will the buzz build or fade away in 2014? Brands are reflecting our interests in the topics, as we’ve seen with the Dove and Special K ads mentioned above, plus Pantene’s Labels Against Women ad, which pretty much rides Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In messaging.

Native advertising – Formerly known as advertorials, expect to see more PR pros pitching media partnerships in which their clients or brands contribute regular content or sponsorship to a media outlet. Even the venerable New York Times is preparing for more native ads in 2014.

Long form journalism – There may be fewer examples of this type of reporting, but the good ones will blow you away – as evidenced by this list of 2013’s best longform writing. The New York Times was so successful with its “Snow Fall” project (a Peabody award-winning feature story about surviving an avalanche told in print, video and multimedia) that the Times created a new position to edit ongoing similar projects.

Tweeting responsibly – This is IN, right folks?

OUT:

Traditional Media Business Models- By the end of 2013, we learned that hyperlocal crowdsourced news wasn’t the answer (see The Fatal Error that Doomed AOL’s Patch). I doubt 2014 will be the year that everything changes for newspapers although I wish Jeff Bezos the best. Sadly, I think we’ll continue to see newsroom cuts and media consolidations in the year ahead.

Marquee reporters on staff – 2013 was a doozy of a time for top-of-the-pack journalists to leave their long-time jobs. David Pogue departed the New York Times for Yahoo; Dan Lyons left Forbes to work at HubSpot and theWall Street Journal said goodbye to Ben Worthen (who joined Sequoia Capital) and Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher (who moved to NBC).

Social Media Faux Pas – It’s not a new lesson (see my 2011 post, Is Tweeting Hazardous to Your Job?), just one that we seem to re-learn each year. Justine Sacco is 2013’s Tweeting Before Thinking poster child.

Critical online reviews – In this criticism of BuzzFeed’s new policy not to publish negative book reviews, Maria Bustillos suggests that BuzzFeed will therefore become a source of “mere publicity” -or even worse – “a tool for monetizing everything and erasing the line between advertising and editorial content.” Other online review sites – Yelp, Amazon, among others – have faced this issue in the past and consumers have adjusted their expectations for perspective and credibility accordingly when visiting these sites.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.comLearn more about Alison Kenney.


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More Real-World Stories on Getting Hired in PR

 More Real World Stories on Getting Hired in PR

Last month I brought you several stories of folks who had unique ways of getting their jobs. Here are even more!

Telling a Story at Your Own Expense

When Brad Hobbs interviewed at Max Borges Agency, a tech PR firm (where he is now Account Director), he surprised the President with his answer to a question about what gadgets Hobbs used daily. Hobbs’ response was “Just my iPhone.” When Borges was confused how someone interested in tech PR could subsist on only one piece of technology, Hobbs dove into his story about how all his other gadgets burned in “a fantastic blaze of glory,”  as they were all in an RV that burned to the ground.

Naturally, Borges wanted to know the full story, and Hobbs told him:

“I went into the full story of how I came about owning a 1978 RV, how I drove it across country with a friend, broke down multiple times, went through 5 car batteries, slept at a gas station, a Cracker Barrel and across the street from a mobile home that was unrelatedly on fire, got 4.9 miles to the gallon, was pulled over in Alabama and accused of smuggling drugs…..and on and on…..just to get it to Florida, fix it up and take it on its inaugural camping trip where it proceeded to light on fire with me and five friends inside.”

Not to worry; Hobbs and his friends were fine, but the RV wasn’t. Borges enjoyed the story so much, he hired Hobbs within days.

Hobbs said what helped him get the job can help anyone: “Don’t be afraid to show some of yourself, of who you really are in an interview.

Being Open to Serendipity

Sometimes despite all the resumes you send out, your perfect job is waiting for you where you least expect it. When Boomer Beam attended his mother’s 25th high school reunion in her stead, he met many of his mother’s classmates. Among them was Elizabeth Nickol, whose family founded All American Clothing.

“The conversation led to an interview, then an internship and eventually a job that I absolutely love. Enjoying a little spontaneity throughout your lifetime can sometimes lead to good opportunities. Keep an eye out for your opportunity. You just never know.”

Beam is now the Director of Marketing and Communications for All American Clothing.

Sharing Your Personal Passions

It’s not always possible to work in a field you’re passionate about, but when your interests align with your job, you stand out to hiring managers.

Kateri Wozny, who has a background in journalism, was looking to break out of the field and move into public relations. She wanted to work for a company that she could identify with on a personal level. She applied with Consortium Media as a PR Specialist, which turned out to be the perfect fit. One of the company’s major clients was a foster service.

“Although I was never a foster child, I was adopted and understood the personal connection that all children deserve a loving family,” Wozny said, “I made sure I emphasized that in my cover letter and my then boss even mentioned in the interview that she was impressed that I could relate to one of their clients and had some ideas for it.”

Her advice to college grads applying for PR jobs is: “make sure you can in some shape or form actually relate to the client/brand and are passionate about it. If you can see yourself having a fun time pitching the brand/client to the press and can bring fresh ideas to the table, you’ll have a shot at getting hired.”

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Newsjacking – the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

newsjacking 300x209 Newsjacking – the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

Newsjacking is a somewhat negative-sounding name for a real-time marketing technique that can be quite successful.

To make newsjacking work, PR professionals have to be alert, well-read, creative, and thoughtful in order to inject their ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for themselves or their businesses.

How will you know your efforts have succeeded? David Meerman Scott, the inventor of the term ‘newsjacking,’ says that good newsjacking leads people directly into the buying process.

Before we look at the good, the bad, and the ugly examples of newsjacking, I want to clear one thing up: there is a difference between newsjacking and commemorating. For example, the September 11 tragedy means that news organizations will plan to cover news about the event on that date – e.g. events in honor of the tragedy, updates on those involved, etc. It also means that many people and brands want to commemorate the date by issuing sentiment or offering something special. Sometimes the ‘special offer’ becomes part of the news, but in general, brands shouldn’t try to generate “news” from their commemorations.

Wondering how to get started? First, you need to be on top of the news. This means using technology like TweetDeck, Google News and other monitoring techniques to follow what’s happening in your industry. It’s also helpful to plan ahead with tools like AP Planner that can help you build out your editorial calendar.

The New York Times recently wrote about Gary Vaynerchuk’s VaynerMedia and his efforts to help clients exploit topics that are trending on Twitter.

Vaynerchuk says, “Creative today is more about breaking news. We need clever, funny and quick. If orange juice trees burn down in all of Florida, is there a play for our Tropicana client?”

And the NYT writes: A “play” in this context means some kind of post that pivots off the news, most likely on Facebook or Twitter. Three weeks ago, a team of employees gathered with Mr. Vaynerchuk in a conference room to discuss a brand they oversee, a cookie that the client did not want named. The team spent much of the meeting trying to figure out how this brand could exploit topics trending on Twitter. They call it “riding the hashtag” here.

In this Entrepreneur article, Scott Smith and Jeana Anderson recommend asking these questions before newsjacking:

  • Does the event directly affect your brand or its consumers?
  • Is this largely self-promotional?
  • Could anyone say it?
  • Have you reviewed your scheduled content for that day? More important, has anyone else?
  • Is your post really better than saying nothing at all?

Lewis PR offers some other tips for getting going and recommends thinking about your spokespeople and the topics they are qualified to talk about.

Content Rules co-author Ann Handley recommends hiring a brand journalist to help you capitalize on news opportunities.

Intel’s Jamshed Wadia offers similar tips and shows how his company is leveraging news and trends in Asia Pacific.

Now, for a few newsjacking examples:

Banana Republic successfully capitalized on attention for Twitter leading up to its IPO.

Mixing in political messages or referencing scandals usually isn’t a recommended tactic, but Bertolli pasta pulls it off.

Unfortunately, the Golf Channel doesn’t pull it off.

When it comes to commemoration, I love this commemorative post by Devils Tower National monument on Veterans Day (click on the arrow keys to see additional photos of other military aircraft flying by the monument)

But the line between appropriate and inappropriate is a thin one, as these commemorative 9/11 gaffes show.

Share your newsjacking examples and experiences below!

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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How I Got My Job: 4 Real World Stories from Successful PR Pros

cover letter opens doors 300x200 How I Got My Job: 4 Real World Stories from Successful PR Pros

When it comes to getting hired in public relations, mainstream job hunting efforts sometimes will not do. These stories, coming from PR professionals at all stages of their careers, highlight some of the innovative ways people have gotten the attention of their future employers, and provide insight to help you score your next job.

Working on the Other Side of the Fence

Susan Coulby, Media Relations Manager at Camden County College in New Jersey, found her way into media relations by starting out in journalism. She majored in journalism and then worked as a general assignment reporter and editor at a daily newspaper. From there, she already understood what she needed to know to be successful in PR.

“My background has served me extremely well because it made me learn how to write like the journalists to whom I’m pitching and gave me understanding of the newsroom/deadline experience. This, in turn, gives me a level of credibility with the media that is unavailable to those without my background: I speak their language AND I get where they’re coming from in terms of challenges to do their job.”

Coulby, who has worked as the Media Relations Manager at her community college for 14 years, encourages those interested in PR to serve on the communications committee of Junior League to get real-world experience promoting an organization.

“I would give the same advice to anyone trying to break into the field that was involved with a nonprofit: do volunteer work helping out with communications and learn the ropes for real-world experience,” Coulby says.

Being Open to Opportunity in Unusual Places

Sharon Rosenblatt, who works in IT Accessibility Services and Document Remediation at Accessibility Partners, LLC, never thought she’d end up with a job when she took on part-time work as a personal trainer. As she helped a woman named Dana get in shape, she lamented her lackluster results of finding a full-time PR job.

Rosenblatt’s client offered to review her resume and help beef up her professional writing portfolio by assigning her press releases for the company Rosenblatt’s client ran. Rosenblatt wrote a couple of award nominations and pitched some articles — not for money, but for experience.

“Needless to say, I wowed them and began volunteering my time to improve her company’s PR with her over the summer, “ Rosenblatt recalls, “I gained more responsibilities and as the exercise portion of my employment waned, my business writing portfolio grew. In the fall of 2010, they made me a full-time offer. I’ve been with the company now for over three years!”

She says the best career advice she’s been given came from her mother: carve a niche out for yourself, and make yourself indispensable in whatever role you’re in.

Networking for the Big Picture

Everyone knows that networking is key to scoring a great job, but many job seekers don’t realize how long it can take to reap the benefits.

When Charles B. Henderson, who now serves as National Director of Communications for the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, was between engagements and looking for a full-time job, he met a gentleman who had served as the national president of Henderson’s current employer through a volunteer fair. This man also happened to be a member of Henderson’s church.

The meeting may have been uneventful at the time, but years later, Henderson opted to attend his church’s earlier service, where a representative from a nonprofit organization would speak about getting involved with the group. Guess who the speaker was? Yes: the man he’d met at lunch years before.

After the service, Henderson sought out the speaker, set up a networking meeting later in the week, and was rewarded when his contact put in a good word for him for an open position.

Henderson says the key to his success was smart networking: “Keep a log of the people you talk to. Don’t just get names and contact information of the people to whom they re-direct you. Ask them to make a personal introduction for you, either by phone or email.”

Henderson also offers advice to break into PR:

“If you want a job in PR, learn to write and think like a journalist.  That means you have to know correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.  That would seem self-evident if you’re seeking a job in public relations, but writing skills in this nation are deteriorating and some of the most egregious examples I’m seeing are from PR and journalism students.”

Using Social to Your Advantage

All networking doesn’t have to be done offline. Logan Stewart got her job as Community Manager & Public Relations for OrthoCarolina through Twitter, where she met her current boss.

Both had marketing roles for large organizations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and each knew who the other was on Twitter.

“For quite a long time, we’d just exchange conversational, often humorous tweets – we talked about sports teams, work, local news, whatever the topic of the day was. After getting to know each other on Twitter, we eventually met for coffee several times and discussed social media strategy for our individual companies as well as potential ways that our organizations could partner. Our personalities fit well together because we’re both extremely social and knew a lot of people in the community, and were willing to share those relationships to benefit each other.”

At the time, Stewart wasn’t looking for another job, but when her contact created a new position that was a hybrid of public and media relations with a new community manager-type role, Stewart was at the top of the list, and is now happily managing PR for the company.

Stewart says that networking, offline and on, is invaluable in the job hunt: “Twitter is a goldmine and a valuable resource when it comes to networking. Follow those in your industry in the city you want to work. Reply to their posts regularly without being overbearing. Be funny, be engaging and be relevant. Eventually people will notice you.”


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How to Burn Bridges and Hurt Your Career

BURNING How to Burn Bridges and Hurt Your Career

When you’re unhappy in a job, it may be difficult to imagine you’d ever want to interact with the people you work with again. And yet, if you don’t handle professional relationships appropriately, you end up burning bridges and making it harder to be hired by another employer.

Here are the biggest no-nos employees make that can drastically affect their careers.

1. Quit Without Notice

It can be tempting to storm out of the office, never to return, but you don’t do yourself any favors this way. You put your coworkers in a bind because they’ll have to handle your work themselves without any transition period, and you certainly don’t leave your former boss with a good impression. And said boss will be more likely to give a recommendation for you if you provide her, even if the job wasn’t right for you, with the appropriate amount of time to hire your replacement.

Even if you don’t use your former boss as a reference, it doesn’t mean you might not be checked up on. The PR industry is tight-knit and it’s likely there is some connection at the next company where you are applying for a public relations job. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to engage in “back door reference checks” without your knowledge.

2. Don’t Show Up for an Interview

Here’s an example from my own experience: after setting up an interview and preparing for a job candidate last year, she didn’t show up for the interview or have the courtesy to call with an explanation. She wouldn’t even answer the phone or return an email after multiple attempts. A year later, out of the blue, she reaches out through social media, emails and calls, conveniently not mentioning her unexplained disappearance and now wanting help to find her next position.

I understand things happen and sometimes people have a change of heart mid-process. Not wanting to work with this person isn’t grudge-holding, it’s an expectation of basic professional courtesy. That strike will keep me from presenting her to clients for future searches through our PR Staffing Firm.

If something comes up and you’re unable to make an interview, call the hiring manager or recruiter and apologize with an explanation. It might not be possible to reschedule, and perhaps you don’t even want to, but you’ll open the door to being able to work with these people in the future.

3. Lie on Your Resume

It’s understandable: if you lack expertise in an area that you need to get a job, you’re desperate to find a way to still qualify. But never lie on your resume. It’s surprising that 46% of resumes include all sorts of lies. Keep it honest, even if you’re lacking in skills. It’s easier to gain new skills than wipe away the shame of lying on your resume. Those lies will quickly reveal themselves when put to the test.

4. Behave Inappropriately Around Coworkers

Whether you share a bit too much over drinks with your colleagues after work or are a known office gossip, removing that boundary of professionalism can get you in trouble, and can alienate you from others. Even if you think you’ve made great friends at work, keep it tame and don’t divulge anything that could jeopardize your position or question your ability to maintain professional limits.

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When Did Desk Jobs Become So Dangerous?

6a00d8341bf67c53ef0163024523d9970d 800wi When Did Desk Jobs Become So Dangerous?

This is a guest post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

It used to be the biggest workplace health risk us office workers faced was ergonomic injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. HR sent experts to talk to us about the correct chair height and the right hand position for typing, and we tried out special chairs, including the kneeling chair, or sat on inflated balls.

But like everything in life, workplace danger has amped up and PR pros who work at a computer (which would seem to be all of us; heck, 70 percent of us regularly eat lunch at our desk) are now prime candidates for “Sitting Disease.”

It’s very serious. According to a study by the American Cancer Society, men who sit for six hours or more daily have an overall death rate 20 percent higher than men who sit for three hours or less per day, i.e. they are 20 percent more likely to die of any cause than more active men.

In her U.S. News & World Report article, Lindsay Olson describes the effects of sitting disease.

…“Prolonged sitting increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and even death. Here are other shocking statistics:

  • People who sit for more than 11 hours a day have a 40 percent increased risk of death in the next three years, compared with people who sit for four hours or less.
  • Workers who have held sedentary roles for more than 10 years have twice the risk of colon cancer.
  • The longer people sit, the shorter their lifespan, even if they exercise regularly.
  • Sitting for long periods may also affect the development of musculoskeletal disorders.”

Olson recommends that PR pros become more active. Although she says there’s a caveat: “even if you consider yourself active now (meaning you spend 30 minutes or more a day engaging in physical exercise), you’re still considered high risk if you spend eight to 10 hours a day sitting.”

Her advice:

“If possible, aim for more exercise, especially on the days you’re sitting for work. Walking, hiking, biking and swimming are all excellent forms of exercise that counter the effects of sitting.

Also, look into standing and walking more at work and at home. Rather than call or IM a co-worker, walk over to her office. Park farther away in the parking lot so that you have another opportunity to walk. Invest in a FitBit or other pedometer device and aim for 10,000 steps a day. Stand up while watching TV, or at least during commercial breaks. Build activity into your day, even if it’s in five-minute bursts.”

Other options include getting a treadmill desk. Susan Orlean wrote this piece for the New Yorker about her experience with a treadmill desk and the compulsive step count-checking she does with her Fitbit (may need to subscribe to read the entire article).

Of course, there are times when all you’ve got is a chair. If you want to make the best of your situation and ensure you’re practicing the proper posture, perhaps you’re a candidate for the LUMOback, a belt-like device that vibrates if your posture slumps.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.comLearn more about Alison Kenney.

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