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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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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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What’s the Best College Major for a Career in PR?

college degree What’s the Best College Major for a Career in PR?

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

Back-to-school season is in full swing and President Obama has finished up his tour to promote reforming the cost of college. Among other things, he is proposing a new college ranking system that includes schools’ track record in finding graduates jobs. Which got me wondering about how many of my colleagues in planned to work in PR while they were still university students? How many PR pros selected their major because they thought it would be the best choice for a career in PR?

Is it best to get a degree in PR (if it’s offered)? Yes, argues Staci Harvatin in her PR Daily article. She makes the case based on the availability of PR programs today that have strong curriculum and offer solid foundations to prepare you to handle everything a PR job in the real world can throw at you.

For me, PR evolved as a career choice – there were no PR or communication courses at my alma mater (I guess I’m one of the “veterans” that Staci Harvatin refers to); it was after a couple of PR internships that I actively pursued it as a career.

Like me, many PR pros are English majors. It has typically been deemed a good major for PR. The emphasis on writing and clear communication is critical in public relations and having a broad, liberal arts education can help in strategic and creative PR program planning. As, this Princeton Review entry explains,

“Though some colleges offer a degree in public relations, most industry professionals agree it’s unnecessary. Since public relations requires familiarity with a wide variety of topics, a broad education is the best preparation. Any major that teaches you how to read and write intelligently will lay good foundation for a career in public relations. Or, as one PR person put it “if you can write a thesis on Dante, you should be able to write a press release.” Internships are a common way to get some practical experience and break into the field.”

But times are changing, and this NY Times opinion piece explains that that reverence for an education grounded in the humanities is declining, as its most obvious manifestation: the ability to write well. The media has been reporting on the decline in liberal arts educations, which can be expensive and are becoming viewed as a luxury that’s not viable. The New Yorker tries to put an end to the discussion by addressing each argument for and against majoring in English, and settling finally on “just because” as the answer.

What about other routes to a career in PR? Lots of PR pros got to their position after studying other aspects of marketing and business management. Others switch over to PR after a more technical role in a particular industry, e.g. practicing healthcare PR after working as a nurse. The HR director at my former agency used to say that he prefers to hire account coordinators who’ve worked as waiters, because they adapt easily to the service business aspect of PR.

What was your college major? How has it affected your career in PR?

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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Do PR Pros Need to be Moneyballers?

Merge Do PR Pros Need to be Moneyballers?

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

The mega merger announced by Publicis and Omnicom last month is a big deal for a number of reasons.

One of the key messages that arose from the merger chatter is that Big Data itself is a Big Deal.

Entrepreneur saw the move as a way for the two firms to “be better equipped to participate in an industry that’s quickly become dominated by data analysis and automated ad buying.”

While others might argue that this mega merger isn’t the best or only way to equip oneself, no one would disagree that

“Advertisers now have the ability to deliver highly targeted ads to individuals over the Internet, using a trove of data collected about that person’s location, likes, age, gender and shopping preferences.”

And, that, therefore, has established a new paradigm of players in marketing: “All of that means the new giants in the field – and a competitive threat to Omnicom and Publicis – are those with plenty of user data: Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and even Salesforce.com and Adobe Systems.”

Patrick Morrissey at DataSift, a big data platform for social businesses, sees the Publicis/Omnicom deal as recognition of Big Data’s importance and a harbinger of changes to come in the advertising world. He predicts that agencies will double down on social data, they will get into the software game and the analyst/engineer will become the new AE.

It seems everyone from the largest advertising firms in the world to niche independent players is trying to convince clients and shareholders that they can establish a winning business model around data and social platforms.

As Phil Johnson, CEO of PJA Advertising+Marketing said to AdAge:

“Clients want agile agencies with an entrepreneurial spirit that can move fast and respond to change in real time. Small agencies have been selling this point hard for years. On the other hand, large brands also want global agencies that can reach every corner of the world, harness the power of new digital technologies, create every imaginable form of content, ride the wave of mobile advertising and tame the black box of media-buying algorithms… To be effective, we all need to make peace with that contradiction between agility and global scale.”

What does this mean for PR firms? Do PR pros need to be moneyballers skilled in the use of sabermetrics?

Not so fast, says Todd Defren who wrote on SHIFT’s blog:

Make no mistake, this merger was about Advertising, Technology and Media Buying more so than Public Relations. Even though the workaday practice of being successful in Social Media (e.g., community management, social customer service) belongs squarely in the PR camp, the Big Money is still to be made in the Paid Media arena.  There are a great many superb PR pros in those conglomerates, but they will always play second fiddle to the paid media masters of the universe.

And, Marketo’s Jon Miller is adamant that Data needs Creative just as Creative needs Data.

What impact do you think this merger will have on the PR industry? Will Big Data play a role in PR? What would it look like if you merged a traditional PR program with data analytics?

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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11 Habits of Highly Effective PR Relationships

puzzle 11 Habits of Highly Effective PR Relationships

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

It takes more than tactics and knowledge to succeed in public relations. Your career needs more than the ability to land clients in feature coverage in top media outlets. You also have to be a skilled salesperson, able to convince others that your communication strategy is the right way to go.

Think about it:

What good are your pitches if client doesn’t sign off on them so you can send them?

Your brilliant strategies won’t be worth anything if you don’t have “a seat at the table” and the ability to pitch your ideas to management and get them on board.

In other words, your role as a trusted strategic partner will be a bust if you can’t get your client or boss interested in what you have to say.

How do you do that?

Communicate regularly – As Jenny Schmitt tweeted in a recent chat about bringing team members together, “calendars…so simple, so often overlooked.” Do you have a regular, standing meeting to discuss PR updates and ideas? If not, get one on the calendar stat!

Don’t be afraid to mix it up – Call, email, text to get through to your contacts when you need to. Most of us find a preferred method for communicating and stick with that…unless you’re not getting the response you need. Tailor the communication method to the message – really important ideas that are more complex may be best explained in person or over the phone, while straight-forward status updates can be left to email.

Think before you speak – Before you jump into that great idea, think for a minute about what your counsel will sound like on the other end. Put yourself in the recipient’s position and consider how they’re likely to react to what you plan to say.

Ask questions – Open the door whenever possible to discussions that can reveal interesting background stories and help you learn more about the company, your client, their co-workers, their hobbies and interests outside of work. You never know when this information can inform a PR strategy!

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes – You know what it’s like to do your job, but how does your boss perceive your work? What does your manager or client need most from you? What do they do with the updates and status reports you send? If you don’t know the answers to these questions – ask!

Make sure you’re starting on the same page – Do your contacts understand PR? if so, what does PR mean for them? Who did they work with in the past and how has that shaped their understanding of what PR is and what it can do? What type of return do they expect from their PR investment?

Build a relationship – Take the time to get to know your client or boss and make an effort to develop a relationship that goes beyond that of a client and vendor.  This could mean sharing personal information (but not too personal) or it could simply mean getting to know their schedules and their assistants better so that you can get in touch faster and easier when you need to.

Set expectations – Everyone knows that getting buy-in on goals, measurement and timeframes is a PR “must,” but sometimes we get busy, people come and go, and priorities shift. Re-setting can be as easy as checking in again.

Offer counsel – You were hired for your experience and with the expectation that you’d apply that experience to your current job. Offer your perspective and illustrate it with examples of situations (your own or famous case studies) to make your point or underscore your recommendations.

Listen – Chances are you’ll work with non-communications professionals at some point in your career. If they’re not good at communicating their needs, you’ll have to listen for cues. Repeat what you hear, draw out deliverables and discuss them.

Be clear when budgets are concerned – It may feel awkward to bring up the question of budget, but it’s much worse to have to talk about surprises when dollars are concerned.

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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Will Email Pitches Become Obsolete?

not on email Will Email Pitches Become Obsolete?

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

David Gerzof Richard created some buzz last month when he spoke with several media outlets, including Fox, NPR and the Boston Globe, about the decreasing interest in email as a communication tool.

People gave multiple reasons for steering away from email: it’s full of spam, they favor real-time communications, younger people think it’s old-fashioned, it’s “one-to-one” in a time of “one-to-many” communication.

The discussions made me wonder what this means for PR professionals. As younger generations enter the PR workplace will they change the way we pitch and communicate? Will their preference for short, immediate communications – such as texting and tweeting – force us to accommodate those styles?

On the one hand, I can see it. We’ve witnessed the demise of pitching via fax (some readers may never have sent a pitch via fax in the first place) and one could argue that pitching via phone has become taboo. It’s become almost impossible to find a publicly listed phone number for some members of the media. Is email the next likely candidate for extinction?

When Vocus asked media for tips on pitching them , at least one writer suggested avoiding email. Freelance journalist Pam Baker responded, “My tip is to pitch me via Twitter or G+ and wait for invite to email me more. That way, pitch doesn’t get lost in email swamp.”

Freelance writer Menachem Wecker makes the point even clearer. In this Vocus article on reporter’s pet peeves about PR pitches, he says, If someone ever tracks down a reporter who prefers phone pitches to emails, it’d be worth creating a low-budget film documenting that person’s biography. (Perhaps she or he is based in a very small town somewhere, with poor Internet access? Or in a different century?) I happen to prefer Twitter, Google+, or Facebook pitches to email ones (my social media ‘boxes’ are less clogged than my email), and I never understand why spokespeople in training are taught it’s a good idea to send an email pitch and then follow up by phone immediately thereafter.”

On the other hand, the pragmatist in me feels that while email may be becoming obsolete for personal communications, it still plays an important role in business communication. Others have also made the case for email as a business communication vehicle citing its ability to convey and document complex thoughts, lists, action items, etc.

A few email alternatives have sprung up in the business world. As the Boston Globe reports, “the new generation of networking tools from IBM, Salesforce.com Inc., Yammer, and others (like @prsaraevans’ Tracky), go way beyond basic communication. They are, in essence, virtual workplaces that combine the functionality of multiple programs, from e-mail to logistics to content production. In these closed networks, employees can share files, show work in progress, and have personal and group conversations or communications using text, pictures, or live video, without switching back and forth among multiple programs. If users still can’t do without traditional e-mail, those programs can pipe in outside services such as Gmail.” In the PR world,  PitchEngine devotees swear by the power of this next generation press release distribution tool.

What do you think? Is pitching via email about to become extinct?

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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If Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg Worked in PR…

 If Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg Worked in PR...

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

If you’re reading this you’re probably aware of the PR ups and downs experienced recently by Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, two very prominent businesswomen. Sandberg is step-by-stepping her way through a case study on successful book launches, while Mayer ignited backlash and was perceived as setting family/work balance issues back a generation for ending Yahoo!’s policy of allowing some workers to telecommute.

I won’t get into the mixed messages that the media is communicating over whether Mayer and Sandberg are worthy role models for modern feminists or examples of how to ‘have it all.’ What they both are is terrific examples of how to be successful at work and in your career. And their examples translate well in the PR industry.

Picture Marissa Mayer as the new head of a PR agency, one that’s suffered in recent years due to the recession and needs an injection of fresh leadership to reinvigorate its client relationships and to amp up its bottom line to satisfy the bigwigs in its holding company.

PR agencies are in the service business, which means they must be accessible and responsive to clients and their needs. Agencies that are experiencing contractions in business and greater competition are more likely to call ‘all hands on deck’ meetings and stress personal accountability to meet these business challenges. In tight markets, firms may search for ways to combine or consolidate resources or they may try to establish new service offerings and revenue streams. The process innovations they come up with are most likely going to be geared toward helping each employee reach ultimate productivity levels and drive business results. (I realize not all PR agencies are the same; independent firms and virtual agencies, among other types of PR firms, may have different guiding values and different ways to achieve their desired results.)

Mayer gets it. She can talk the talk because she’s walked the walk. She was Google’s first female engineer and the 20th employee for the startup. During her career at Google, Mayer was an engineer, designer, product manager, and executive, and launched more than 100 well-known features and products. She was also in charge of some of Google’s acquisitions. She’s a Wal-Mart board member and angel investor. If anyone can right the ship, it’s her (we think).

Now picture Sheryl Sandberg as a senior vice president of corporate communications. She’s a great boss who brings a broad perspective to the role from her varied and impressive background of experiences. She knows what it takes to get PR a ‘seat at the table,’ too. Even better, Sandberg enjoys mentoring the next generation of internal communications directors with great advice on how to navigate the corporate career ladder.

I’ve written before about how the lines between PR and other functions in an organization can get blurred with PR increasing being measured for its ability to impact sales, customer service and other marketing functions. Sheryl’s experience as COO at Facebook is a good example of how to build inter-organizational bridges among various departments. At Facebook, Sandberg oversees sales, marketing, business development, HR, public policy and communications. She was a driver in uniting these functions to make Facebook profitable, one of her first major accomplishments at the company. Sheryl also understands the importance of transparency and authentic communications, which are essential to corporate communications and brand development.

And who better than Sheryl to shepherd PR through a period of massive change? Technology and social media are changing the PR role, complicating the way we work and measure our results. If anyone can teach us the importance of staying open-minded and encourage us to learn and adopt new methods, it’s the woman who is launching a cultural movement to get women to be better represented in corporate leadership roles.

Like the many places Mayer and Sandberg have worked in their careers, PR can be both hospitable and tough on working parents. I don’t think most working mothers are in a position to follow Mayer’s and Sandberg’s examples of balancing work and family, but both women offer lessons in how to succeed in the workplace.

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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Finding Work Life Balance in PR

5751301741 aa8463e472 Finding Work Life Balance in PR

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

Working in PR can be stressful. [Case in point: once again, PR made the ‘most stressful jobs’ list.] As PR professionals, we are providing a service to our clients or managers, and like other service providers, our work must cater to these clients. PR work is also opportunistic – meaning we have to stay on our toes, since opportunities can arise at any time.  The folks at MediaBistro’s PRNewser have five more reasons why PR is so darn stressful.

Sometimes the work we do is for a great cause – or our work gives us great satisfaction. However, most PR professionals (like other working professionals) seek “balance” between their work in public relations and other parts of their lives. How do we balance this stressful work with other demands and interests in our lives? Here are several approaches:

Forget the word “balance” – Really, it’s unrealistic to literally balance your time and spend an equal number of hours at work and at personal activities. Instead, experts at WorkLifeBalance.com advocate focusing on achievement and enjoyment. Their definition of Work-Life balance is “meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in each of the four life quadrants: work, family, friends and self.” Is this attainable? In an online interview, author Aliza Sherman said, “Stop using the word ‘balance.’ My co-author Danielle Smith and I like to say that ‘balance is a mythical bar that we hold over our own heads, and just when we think we’re getting close, someone moves that bar.’” Sherman prefers the word ‘juggle’ and says, “As moms with businesses, we juggle. We can’t be at 100% as a mom or as a business owner at the same time. We have to give ourselves a break, forgive ourselves for not being ‘perfect.’ It isn’t about balance, it isn’t about perfection, it is about doing our best and having the conversations at home to create the system that works for us.”

Just Do It – Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg made headlines (again) when she revealed that she leaves the office at 5:30 pm every day. We know PR is stressful (see above) and it can be tough to carve out personal time when the phone is ringing, but it’s also easier to do if you set a routine and make your schedule a habit.

Listen to your inner Buddha – Lori Deschene who blogs at Tiny Buddha offers these 6 tips for creating work/life balance so that we allow ourselves “sufficient time to create [our dreams] – while also allowing space for relaxation, spontaneity, connection, and the simple act of being.”

Take care of yourself – Exercise can help eliminate the negative effects of stress. It’s also a great way to clear your head for better decision-making. Although it can be tough to get started and/or to make time for regular exercise, investing in your health is truly the most important reason.

Learn from others – Is there someone you know who epitomizes work/life balance and seems to “have it all”? If so, take that person out for a coffee and ask them how they do it. Find a work/life balance mentor and build your own support network in the process.

Set boundaries – We’re really talking about time here, and how we spend our daily 24 hours. In order to reap the most achievement and enjoyment from those hours, we have to learn to say no to some things so that we can focus on and prioritize other activities.

Evaluate your work life balance – Measurement is a favorite topic in PR. Like some PR campaign objectives, our work/life balance goals can be tough to measure. Start by charting your accomplishments; don’t just look at what’s left on your to-do list – be sure to note the successes.

Any other tips for balance PR work with the rest of life?

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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Is PR a Good Profession for Parents?

mom child Is PR a Good Profession for Parents?

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

Advances in communication technologies, increases in virtual offices and the prevalence of flexible (round-the-clock?) schedules make it possible to balance the work with personal demands in life.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since listening to Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk about why we have too few women leaders and also since I’ve been approached by more than a couple of younger female PR professionals who want to know how they can prepare for work life when they start a family. (Having just crossed a milestone birthday and with a child in double-digits I guess I’m now a Buddha of sorts when it comes to work-life balance. Yikes.)

Sheryl Sandberg’s argument is compelling, made more so by her delivery and her backstory. (She went from being Larry Summers’ research assistant at the World Bank to being his Chief of Staff at the U.S. Treasury, became vice president at Google and is now COO at Facebook.) In her version of Women’s Lib, our daughters will have a chance not only to succeed but to be admired for having done so. To get to that day, she urges women to “take a seat at the table, make their partner a real partner and to not leave before you leave.”

Her argument is being heard in other industries too. In a NY Times editorial Dr. Karen Sibert argued that women who “want to be doctors should be doctors [and not get enter the profession looking for work-life balance].” Conversely, a colleague, Dr. Suzanne Koven, argues in response that maternity leaves and part-time hours aren’t just women’s issues and believes that Sibert’s “just say yes” approach risks discouraging women from pursuing careers in medicine.

Public Relations is similar to the medical profession in some ways. Our work is service-driven and we often work in response to the needs of our clients, which can include internal corporate clients. PR opportunities and crises can arise at any time. For these reasons, PR work can involve long hours and lots of stress. (Of course, our actions don’t typically result in life or death consequences.) Scaling back on clients or type of projects can make for a friendlier work-life balance, but could harm future career opportunities.

Since roughly 70 percent of PR professionals are women, many of us will or have had to deal with the mommy question. Many moms go on to have very successful careers in PR. Some heed Sandberg’s and Sibert’s advice and go “all in.” Others shape their work around their personal needs and schedules.

The answer, of course, is that there’s no one way to do things. Honestly, there’s no single definition for success either. Personally there are days when I think the answer is to just keep trying.

In that vein, here are a few of my picks for career advice for anyone who is trying to balance a PR career with their role as a parent:

What do you think? Is PR a good profession for working parents? What’s your advice for making it work?

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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