You dream of landing the perfect job at a public relations agency, working with the most interesting clients in the industry and getting them all sorts of public recognition. I’m always amazed at how some PR pros are brilliant at their jobs, but when it comes to selling themselves in a job interview, they crumble. Where did that confident, over-achieving, media rockstar go? Apply some media relations 101 rules on your job search will help pitch yourself as the perfect fit for your next job.
- Do Your Homework. It gets tiring sending cover letter after cover letter. You’ll be tempted to just use a template and be done with it. But spending just a little time digging into the company you want to work for will pay off. For starters, it’s impressive because you have already set yourself apart from 90% of the applications the company receives. Unfortunately, most people try to shortcut the job search. Making a tiny mention in your cover letter that shows you’ve read through the company’s website, blog, or recent news can show the hiring manager that you put thought into your letter, and that you really are interested in working for this company.
- Know Who You’re Pitching. Sometimes those “Dear Hiring Manager” generic openings are unavoidable, but if you do a little research (see #1), you may be able to get the name of the person who’s interviewing for the role you want. Look on the company’s site, and call if you need to in order to get this information.
- Customize Your Pitch. Both your cover letter and your resume should be tweaked slightly for each PR job you apply for. One might look for industry-specific experience, while another may want someone with a wider depth of experience. Play to what they’re looking for, and highlight your skills to match. If you are agency-side, a quick blurb about each client you represent helps set the tone and show how you are the security software PR expert they are looking for. Don’t make the reader think too much to connect the dots.
- Hesitate Before Sending an Attachment. Not everyone wants attachments. Read through the job description carefully to see whether it mentions how the hiring manager would prefer to receive resumes. If you have an online link to your resume, include it in the cover letter.
- Proofread! Nothing looks sloppier than grammatical errors in your resume or cover letter. Everyone in the world must know this rule by now. Yet I’d say at least half of the applications I receive have some glaring issue. Go over each carefully, and ask a friend to do so as well, to ensure its perfection. Then, just like with a PR pitch, follow up. Give it a few days once you’ve submitted your application, and then check in to see when the hiring manager expects to make a decision.
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 LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.