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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.


Consider Working Holidays to Gain New Experiences


This is a guest post by Matt Milstead.

Many people choose to spend their vacations relaxing somewhere on a beach or by the pool at their spa/hotel. Instead of going for the cliched holiday, perhaps it would be a good idea to experience a working holiday in a new country.

The idea of working through the holidays may not sound appealing, but working in a different country can often be the experience of a lifetime. Many individuals travel to places such as Australia and New Zealand to work during the holidays. Getting a visa for these job opportunities is very easy, and the experience can often be life changing.

Skilled Workers Needed

Areas such as Australia have a shortage of skilled workers, which is why medical recruitment is always taking place overseas. They are more than happy for people to travel from other parts of the world and spend a few weeks or months working in major cities. Areas such as Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne all offer many vacancies when it comes to temporary hospital jobs, as well as jobs in other industries requiring skilled workers.

Great Pay

You would be surprised by how well paid employees are in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Many people have spoken about how they earned more in one week in Australia than they would make in a month in the United States. That is a serious opportunity to make money, and one that should not be passed up. Their minimum wage is double that of the United States, and most skilled workers make two or three times that minimum amount.

Experience New Places and New People

Going back for another week of your usual, mundane job would not appeal to anyone. However, travelling around the world and temporarily living in another city sounds a lot more exciting. While you are working in the location of your choice, you would have plenty of time to explore different cities, check out tourist spots, and get a feel for a completely different culture.

In addition, the people you work with will provide further fresh experiences. You could make new friends, hang out with different personalities, and get a completely different take on life from the one you are used to. There are many advantages to taking a holiday work experience in a new country, but experiencing a new culture has to be right up there.

Work/Life Balance

The balance between working and having time off is outstanding in most jobs you will get in Australia or New Zealand. You will work from 9 to 5, but you will have the rest of the day off to enjoy yourself. In addition, your weekends will be entirely free for exploration and relaxing experiences.

If you want to experience something different in your life, it may be time to get a holiday job in a new country. Instead of doing the same things you have been doing for the past 20 years, this experience will give you a chance to be different. You can also witness first hand why so many people love living in Australia and New Zealand.


Top 7 PR Grad Programs in the U.S.

This is a guest post by Sam Peters, a blogger who enjoys writing about career development and education.

Public Relations has seen a recent explosion of new jobs within both the private and public sector. Whether you’ve trained to be a publicist, investor relations professional or public affairs officer, more companies are now seeing the importance of PR within their company, and have thus, opened positions to thousands of communications professionals in the workforce.

Although opportunities in this field are rapidly increasing, many employers still require its potential employees to have some form of specialized training through post-graduate studies.

If you’ve often thought about going back to school to earn your Master’s in order to move up on the corporate ladder or even to qualify for a coveted position, you should definitely only consider attending one of the best programs in the nation. To better help you research graduate programs, here’s a list of the top 7 nationally-ranked programs in PR.

Ball State University

Located in Munice, Indiana, Ball State University’s undergraduate PR program is one of the most popular PR programs in the country. The past few years, the graduate program at BSU has received an increasing number of applicants that wish to further their understanding of PR through a PRSA-certified program. BSU offers both campus and online classes, making it easy to attend classes remotely.

Columbia University

Looking to expand your understanding in strategic communications? Columbia University offers a program made specifically for potential-PR executives. Located in New York, the hub for all PR in the east coast, this Master’s of Science degree program takes about 40 students per year, which makes it one of the most competitive, and highly-sought after programs in the nation. Because Columbia University is one of the most expensive private universities in the U.S., you may need to consider a combination of loans, financial aid and college credit cards from NerdWallet to pay for tuition. It’s definitely worth having a name like Columbia University on your degree.

Emerson College

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, the strategic communications program in Emerson College is considered one of the best PR colleges because of its award-winning, professional faculty. Instead of learning from PR researchers and college professors, the classes at Emerson College are taught by actual, PR executives, making one of the PR practice-oriented colleges in the U.S.

Georgetown University

One of the oldest universities in the country, Georgetown University has been known to produce industry leaders, including pioneers in the PR field. The college offers a Master’s degree in public relations and corporate relations, ideal for those who want to advance within their current position. The program emphasizes strategic thinking, leadership and the use of ethics in the profession.

John Hopkins University

If research and theory in communications is your forte, then the Master’s of Arts in Communications could be ideal for you. Located in Washington D.C., the PR program at John Hopkin’s uses research-based tools to make strategic decisions in PR in order to certify desired results, skills that could be put to great use in consumer relations and public affairs. This amazing program is accessible online and on-campus, making it easily accessible to anyone who’s admitted.

New York University

Like Emerson College, the Master’s of Science in PR and Corporate Communications program revolves around executive PR-practices. In fact, the faculty at NYU’s PR program is also made up of industry professionals. This program combines theory and practice, which makes it unique among other PR programs in the nation.

University of Southern California

The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC offers professionals a Master’s Degree in Strategic Public Relations, ideal for those who want to gain intimate knowledge in specific fields of PR. The program is centered around PR trends and practices. The school also offers an international degree, where grad students can apply what they’ve learned in PR in countries like the UK, China or South Africa. Did I mention they have amazing financial aid coverage for tuition?

There’s no better investment than education. Education will never decrease in value, especially if they have the teachings of one of these amazing schools behind them. By continuing your education in public relations, you’ll learn what it means to be an industry professional.


Employee Wellness

This is a guest post by Sam Peters.

It is a fact that the US spends more on healthcare than any other country of its kind. The total estimate for national healthcare coverage is up to $2 trillion a year and with costs on the rise companies are looking for ways they can cut budgets without negatively affecting their employees. One such way is through employee wellness programs that get employees into exercise, and helps them to reshape their daily habits into a health conscious lifestyle. By offering incentives for employees to participate in these programs healthcare companies are working with employers to help lower costs more efficiently.

According to one report companies using wellness programs have revealed less absenteeism as well as a higher retention rate for current employees. Other benefits of workplace wellness programs were lowered rates of illness and injuries at work, improved morale and relationships between the employees, and an overall increase in work productivity. Healthcare costs were down between 20-50% and short term sick leave was reduced up to 32%. The participating individuals lost weight, improved their health and stamina, reported lower stress levels and overall felt better about their personal wellbeing.

Different ideas for promoting health within the work environment include allowing the employees to have access to a gym by having one on sight or offering a discount to a local club. Some businesses are starting sports clubs for their workplace which not only encourages health, but fun and team work as well as great marketing for any teams that might wear jerseys. Incentives are always a huge plus as well like running various promotions for weight loss, walking, or other healthy activities and then giving out gift cards, weekend trips, or other prizes that will motivate people to participate. Some firms are even partnering with companies like Keas who specialize in providing fun and enticing wellness programs that can get up to 70% of the workplace involved in healthier living.

Other great things enterprises are doing are to offer health screenings and classes for people to be more educated and aware. One case study showed 185 program participants who had not previously been heart patients of any kind, but tested as high risk through a cardiac screening at work. After six months of working with a wellness program almost 60% of them were retested and found to be low risk and normal. Another document showed a comparison of companies that did these programs versus those that did not and they saw that businesses that did the programs reduced healthcare costs by as much as $1,400 per person, versus the others who did not intercede that only saved $6 per person a year.

The reality is these work programs are not just saving money, but they are saving lives. In addition they are bringing morale back to the workplace and improving work quality and productivity. Any company, regardless of size can benefit from some type of wellness program for their employees. The long term will result in healthier happy employees and a stronger, better business.

Sam Peters is a writer who  enjoys writing about career development.


(E)mailing it In

Email, sucks.

This is a post by PR Columnist by Alison Kenney.

Lately I’ve noticed more and more reporters skipping the interview and “writing” their articles based on email interviews.

For a case in point, take this recent HARO query:

“Emails only, please, no phone calls. And please don’t email to arrange a separate interview, I’m just looking to hear some comments from all y’all. Thanks guys.”

While there have always been reporters willing to run with the verbiage PR pros give them – such as lifting a quote from a press release when covering breaking news – now, however, the practice is being used more often and not just for breaking news stories, but more frequently in feature articles.

A couple of well-regarded blogs have commented on this practice recently, although mostly from the perspective of the media.

American Journalism Review wrote about the practice from the journalists’ and editors’ point of view (which is well worth a read). The post expresses concern that email interviews “promote lazy reporting and the use of unreliable sources…”

PR Daily recently asked, “Is the phone interview dead?” and lamented the lack of color an email interview has in comparison with a phone interview, as well as the lack of natural “back and forth that comes from a conversation. Plus, there’s no personal relationship building, however slight, when everything is done in written form.”

In response to the PR Daily post, Clay Ziegler did his own experiment and called a dozen working journalists to quiz them about their interview method preferences. He concluded that the phone interview lives and why that’s a good thing.

Like most changes wrought by new technology (and social media, in particular), old practices may not go away, but new practices – including using IM, Twitter, Facebook and email to get information and quotes for a story – are becoming more and more accepted.

What can PR pros expect as email interviews become accepted practice?

Get with the program – if you need media coverage to communicate your, or your client’s, story, get used to the new way of doing things and accept that some reporters prefer to work this way.

Be prepared – don’t stop at the point of pitching a story; think it through; have your point of view fully vetted and your quote ready.

Enjoy having more control – the good news about email interviews is that there is less chance of being misquoted or of having a reporter pick up on the one throwaway line in an otherwise stellar phone interview.

Use email interviews to bridge distances – if a client is traveling in another time zone and phone interviews aren’t convenient, email interviews can save the day.

Realize that no one speaks like PR quotes in real life – if you email in a corporate-approved quote, and the reporter fails to use good segues or connectors, the result will be a string of presser quotes that fail to add real perspective.

Keep an eye on which outlets use email interviews judiciously and properly – sloppy use of email interviews, in which its clear the writer used email for speed and convenience above all else, can devalue the quality of the media outlet’s content, thereby decreasing the value of your placement.

What do you think? Have you experienced many email interviews lately?

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 You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.



The Power of Passion

purple passion FSOD

This is a guest post written by Jonathan Rick.

“We’re gonna make your logo pop! We’re gonna make the IPREX globe spin! And we’re gonna make the buttons beautiful!”

“A button can be beautiful?” asked a skeptical Susan.

“Oh yeah!” beamed a confident Jesse.

It was at this moment that Jesse had Susan. He’d been muddling through the meeting, but this burst of bravura, energy and passion was sincere and infectious—a gust of fresh wind that won him the contract to redesign

Similarly, when I myself interviewed with Susan, things coasted along for the first 15 minutes. She asked about my experience; I provided conventional answers. Then she deployed her pet question: “If you were an animal, what would you be?”

”That’s easy,” I grinned. “I’d be a dog.” It was at this moment that I had Susan. With great pride and obvious pleasure, I regaled her with stories of my miniature schnauzer, Wyatt.

One final example. I was one of three interviewing a potential subcontractor for a Defense Department project. It was clear this husband-and-wife team could do the job, but they lacked fire in the belly. And because it wasn’t clear that they really wanted the gig, it wasn’t clear if they’d be fun to work with.

Sensing this, my boss’s boss changed direction and pinged the pair with the following question: “Can you tell us about any of your extracurricular activities that relate to the military?”

The husband tilted his chair back, searched his memory, then tilted forward. “Sure,” Chris said, as he proceeded to uncork a heartfelt narrative about a recent weekend when he was home playing video games. When his wife returned, she told him about a veterans charity she had just read about. The story so moved Chris that he dropped his controller and stayed up all night voluntarily coding for the nonprofit.

“If these guys can sacrifice their lives for their country, I can sacrifice a night’s sleep,” he said with a gleam in his theretofore sleepy eyes. It was at this moment that he had us.

To an artist like Jesse, attention to the seeming minutia of Web design was no big deal. To a PR guy like me, naming five national reporters mattered more than discussing my dog. To an engineer like Chris, proposals ought to be won or lost on their merits, not on what the bidders do in their spare time.

Yet what all three of us failed to appreciate was the import of passion. Fortunately, we each were tossed a soft ball to rectify this. Not everyone is so lucky. It shouldn’t take prompting to light your fuse.

Passion, of course, isn’t a substitute for talent. It is, however, a key differentiator, revealing what makes you tick, what drives you, what you’re capable of achieving in the right circumstances. To exude such enthusiasm is to show character. To withhold it is to be average.

So, the next time you’re in an important meeting—be it an interview, a sales pitch, even a date—relax that uncomfortable façade, slacken your stilted smile, and unbottle your passion. No doubt, you’ll be more comfortable. And more successful.

Jonathan Rick, a social media strategist in Arlington, Va, blogs at No Straw Men and tweets at @jrick.

Photo courtesy: Pink Moose

Your Resume + Social Media Marketing Techniques

This is a guest post by Derek Pangallo.

Hi, I’m a political scientist in Washington, DC working on and writing about political new media and online advertising. Reach me: derek.pangallo(a)

Stand Out

No matter the industry you seek to get ahead in, you want a resume that makes a splash. In this post I’ll share some practices I’ve come up with that make you more appealing to the recruiter, and let you get some passive feedback from them. This isn’t an article encouraging you to add your twitter profile to your resume. In fact I’ll make a point to discourage it. The focus is leveraging technology to make your resume work better.

Every hiring manager has a different process, so we must acknowledge that some people read the resume before the cover letter. It’s also likely you’re resume will never be printed unless you get called in for an interview. For these reasons, the first overall impression of the resume is of utmost importance.

Micro-Managing Perception

The best way to control the first-impression experience of your resume is to use the PDF format. Word documents look messy with all the rulers and toolbars, plus on a foreign computer’s dictionary, your ethnic last name will get the dreaded red-squiggly underneath. No point in racial profiling yourself.

What’s really great about PDF: using Adobe Acrobat professional, you can set the initial view properties of a document point-by-point. I have my resume set to “fit to page” upon opening, so the recruiter gets a bird’s-eye view before ever deciding if I’m worth scrolling down for. Even though you can’t actually read any of my experience or skills, you have to admit it’s a damn sharp resume. Interest acquired, awe accomplished.

You can also set options on the document like “full-screen viewing” and “hide all controls”; don’t do this. When opening a PDF like this up, Adobe gives the warning “this document is trying to take control of your computer” or something — that’s not the first impression we’re looking for.

Link Click Tracking

There are a couple ways to get feedback once your resume is in the figurative hands of a hiring manager. The easiest is to shorten the links in your resume using Add the shortened URL as your link, leaving the display text as the actual destination. On my resume it looks like this:


If you hover with your mouse, you can see the link points to For the end user, there is no difference after clicking, but we can now track when and how many times the link was clicked. Just add a “+” symbol to the end to see a link’s analytics:

You can use this method regardless of where you are directing your visitors. Periodically checking the “all-time” clicks on your links will give you an idea of how many recruiters bothered to click through to your blog, Linkedin, or portfolio.

If you want even more data about outbound clicks on your resume, you’ll need to be directing traffic to a site you control and have a Google Analytics account associated with it.

Google Analytics

Using Google’s Free analytics tool, we can massage out even more data about the appeal of your resume. We can see exactly which job recruiter did the clicking, what city they were in, how long they stayed on your site, and much more. I’ll presume that you have a Google Analytics account and have it installed on your site.

This time around our desire isn’t to make links shorter, it’s to make them longer. You may have noticed longer URL’s with “UTM” codes in them. These are codes that tell Google Analytics where you were referred from. Organizing for America and Twitter both use this prominently in their emails.

For your first tagged URL, use the Google Analytics URL Builder. You enter the URL you will be redirecting to, then enter a campaign Source, Medium and Name (somewhat overkill for our purposes, but all three are requires.) I use one character, “r”, for source and medium, and change the “name” field for every resume I send out. Now you can  tell exactly which resumes earned you clicks, drill-downing into that data.

Intelligent Use of Landing Pages

A quick word about where you’re actually directing traffic: make it count. Have a custom page on your blog just for talent-seekers. Also, optimize your LinkedIn profile make an impression. One way to do this is to rearrange profile elements so your recommendations are at the top. And definitely make sure LinkedIn users outside your network can see your photo — this is not the default setting.

What I’ve found

I’ve been utilizing these techniques for a few months now, and here’s what I know for sure: most of the jobs that call you for an interview still only clicked on one of your links. The lesson is that your resume only needs one link. Make it count. Depending on the job you’re looking for, link to your LinkedIn, your blog, or your portfolio. Don’t make it your twitter account unless you’re applying to work at Twitter, or your last tweet is always the first thing you want a prospective employer to see.

Questions/Improvements? Leave a comment or reach me on twitter, @derallo.


Beware the Candidate Who Doesn’t Follow Instructions

Please do not sit here door swings out

A guest post by Jonathan Rick.

In the current edition of her e-newsletter, Claire Kittle, who runs the Talent Market staffing agency, recounts an anecdote that immediately rang true for me. With Claire’s permission, I’m reprinting the story, which I’ve edited slightly.

“I get dozens of applications every day, and you would be amazed to see how many seemingly intelligent candidates do not follow instructions. If I had to put a number on it, I’d estimate that 50% of applicants fail to send me what my clients request.

I used to give all candidates the benefit of the doubt. I would follow-up with them and ask for the information they neglected to send the first time. But I learned that those same candidates often still fail to follow instructions on the second (and third!) attempts, and worse—they frequently get belligerent about being asked for more information!

Here’s a sample scenario:

Me: “Are you free for a phone interview Friday at noon? If so, what’s the best number where I can call you?”

Candidate: “Yes, that will work!”

Sigh. Now I’ll only throw the life preserver to candidates with very strong resumes, but I still file away the fact they didn’t send the right information off the bat.

All this prompts the question: If a candidate can’t follow instructions for a job application, how will that person perform on the job? Will he take direction? Will his work be sloppy? How will he treat your customers? It’s hard to say for sure, but the initial data points don’t bode well for his future as an employee.”

Indeed, although I don’t work in HR, I encounter this bugbear routinely. A recent example:

Vendor: “Please provide profile details.”

Me: “Can you let me know if you can’t get this info from the document I sent this morning?”

The vendor’s response? Silence. Apparently, she could; it was just easier to ask someone than to find a previous e-mail herself.

I learned this passive-aggressive technique from an old boss. Rather than explicitly point out a mistake I had made, he would take the mistake to its logical conclusion. For example, if I wrote that a campaign would run from April-March (rather than March-April), he might reply, “When did our month-long budget get extended to a year?” While my first reaction was, Huh?, upon reflection I appreciated the humor—and gentle guidance.

So, what can we do to minimize these miscommunications? While people will always and forever be lazy, the principles of Web writing suggest separating out anything crucial from the body text. To wit: Any questions or requests should be put in (1) list (2) format, or  at least be bolded or highlighted. The extra time this takes upfront will save you from wasting time down the road.

Jonathan Rick is a social media strategist living in Arlington, VA. He blogs at No Straw Men and tweets at @jrick.

Photo credit: Richard Masoner

Content Still is King

This is a post by guest columnist, Alison Kenney.

I’ve blogged before about how content is king and I really believe this will become a major issue for marketers and PR pros in the future. The ability to create fresh, distributable content will soon become core to PR and communication plans.

To illustrate my point: Forrester Research recently announced that, while global adoption of social networking is still on the rise, content creation “experienced no substantial growth in the past year.” This “lack of growth in social creation translates into a lack of fresh ideas, content, and perspectives,” said Forrester Research Consumer Insights Analyst Jacqueline Anderson. “For example, one-third of online consumers in the US regularly watch user-generated videos on sites like YouTube. But, only 10 percent of US online consumers upload videos they’ve created to public sites. The traits required to create social content are unique, and at this moment, the consumer market interested in these behaviors has plateaued.”

While more and more people will be accessing social media to reach new content, fewer and fewer people will be creating that content, and thereby demand for social media content will increase.

This is a golden opportunity for PR professionals who are trained in promoting new ideas, changing the conversation, establishing brands, driving authenticity and attracting attention.

Are you fired up yet?

If so, visit these sites for more tips on creating content for social media:

HubSpot’s Blog Better with an Editorial Calendar and Style Bank

Social Media Today’s 40 Useful Things You Can Share on Twitter Besides Blog Posts

Ann Wylie’s Tipsheets on Writing, Communication

Blue Pencil Consulting’s Fight Writer’s Block with Talk

CopyBlogger’s Writing for the Social Media Everyman

Social Media Examiner’s 9 Ways to Use Social Media to Inspire Your Writing

USA Today There’s an Art to Writing on Facebook or Twitter – Really

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 You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.


Do you need to be accredited in PR?

This is a post by guest columnist, Alison Kenney.

It’s back to school time, and that has me thinking about PR courses and accreditation.  Most of the PR professionals I know majored in English, Communications or another liberal arts degree.  A few majored in Public Relations; even fewer have their masters in PR or Communications.  Clearly, you don’t have to major in these subjects to work in the field.  Many successful PR professionals switched gears or leveraged a degree in a different field.

PRSA’s Accreditation Program, the only certification program for our industry, is another story altogether.  It’s a certification geared to those who’ve been working in the industry for some time as it judges your aptitude in various PR knowledge areas, e.g. research, planning, implementing and evaluating programs, ethics and law, etc.  I know several PR professionals who received their APR, but overall fewer than 25 percent of PR practitioners are accredited.

Which leads me to wonder:  is accreditation worth pursuing?

The PRSA stresses the importance of a national standard for legitimizing the profession and building accountability.  Andy Beaupre, CEO of Beaupre & Co., agrees and blogged earlier this year on why PR accreditation makes more sense than ever.  And, while there are no hard numbers that show professionals with the APR mark earn more than their non-accredited colleagues, survey results show that PR professionals find accreditation to be a source of pride (91%), a help in developing professional skills (78%), provide personal benefit (75%) and help resolve ethical dilemmas (58%).  This blog from the PRSA member site underscores those reasons and highlights the satisfaction the writer got from earning her accreditation.

Others argue that an APR mark is not necessary as it only confirms the knowledge that can otherwise be ascertained by reviewing a PR practitioner’s work record.  SHIFT Communications principal Todd Defren blogged several years ago that accreditation is not the solution to the PR industry’s perception problem and not the benchmark for demonstrating competency.

What do you think?  If you have an APR, what made you pursue it?  And has earning accreditation improved your career satisfaction?  Please leave your comments 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 You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.


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