Career Advice

As an intern at the Arthritis Foundation and Baylor Event Services I have learned so much. Not only was I given many responsibilities, at the Arthritis Foundation I worked directly with the Central Texas Branch manager. She was in charge of the whole Central Texas area and I was her second hand.

At first, I felt extremely overwhelmed and scared. This was my first public relations job ever and I didn’t realize that I was going to be taken so seriously. It was very intimidating, and I didn’t know if I had enough experience.

I expected to make coffee runs, get lunch and run errands. I had heard so many internship stories that I went into my first job assuming that is what I would do.

If I have any advice it is to not settle for just any internship. I am so glad that my job duties directly related and helped the organization. I hope that none of you have taken pointless internships and were taken advantage of. I have heard many times friends complain about sitting at the computer all day feeling not only useless but bored, and I think this is a horrible way to prepare for a real career.

Recently I read an article that said to never take an unpaid internship. I can’t remember where I read it, but I think this is important sometimes. My internship was unpaid but I was extremely lucky.

I think that if you are an unpaid intern there is more of a chance that an employer may not take you seriously and give you pointless tasks. I know I would never want to be in a situation where I was wasting my time.

I found a really good article about unpaid internships. Anyone looking for an internship or skeptical about the process should read this!


Study: Women are more responsive to online reviews

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly reading product reviews for just about everything. From cosmetics to automobiles, I just can’t make a purchase without assurance of the product.

Especially since I’ve gotten older, I have become more price conscious. After all, I will soon be on my own and spending my own hard earned money. I think it’s a good plan for me to get used to being on a budget considering most entry level college graduates aren’t rolling in the dough these days.

I think this aspect of myself is a good quality, but at sometimes I may go overboard. I can research for hours, make a decision and then totally convince myself I’ve chosen wrong. It can sometimes be a never ending process.

I am so glad I found this article, because I feel it directly relates to me in a way.

Alan Pearcy, editorial assistant at Ragan Communications has some good facts about this topic.

Research from software supplier Postcode Anywhere suggests that of 1,000 U.K. consumers surveyed, 36 percent more women than men rated customer reviews as “very important” when it came to making online purchases.

Postcode Anywhere sales and marketing director had this to say in a press release:

“The poll agrees with a number of recent studies implying men prefer to read product descriptions and specifications than pore over online reviews. It has also been suggested that men respond less well to interaction in the buying process and are less concerned about the overall experience than women.”

The poll is among several exploring the demographics, habits, and opinions of people who read online reviews. For instance, a study released in May found that negative reviews—when well written—can have positive effects for a brand. Meanwhile, a study from June said that negative reviews do hurt a company’s image.

So, if you combine these reports, the gender of a person most likely to read an online review is a woman, and, if the review is negative, chances are it will negatively influence her opinion of the brand—unless, of course, the review is well written.

I find all of this pretty interesting. I always thought everyone would find reviews hurtful or helpful, but as it turns out some buyers aren’t all that concerned. They just may be more interested in how the product works than feeling assured about their purchase.


Why participate in a Twitter chat?

Last week, I participated in a Twitter chat for the first time. I had no idea what to expect, and I wondered how informational it would be. I was hesitant to introduce myself because I didn’t really know what I was doing, and was nervous to comment. Now that I am familiar with the process I feel comfortable being active in the conversation next time.

The chat was with PR professionals and students had the opportunity to ask them specific questions. I thought it was really cool that professionals took time out of their busy schedules to help students aspiring to be successful in the field. Getting feedback about their experiences was so inspiring, and it is a great way for students to network with them.

There was only one thing I really did not like and found extremely distracting to the conversation. As people joined the chat after it had begun they would continue to introduce themselves instead of contributing to the conversation. Every few seconds getting an update saying, “Hi!! So and so from Delaware!!” was VERY annoying.

Misty Belardo, a Digital Sr. Project Manager at Barefoot Proximity, is a Twitter fanatic. She believes that if you haven’t participated in a Twitter chat, you need to!

Here are here five reasons why:

1. Your opinion will be heard – Twitter chats allow you to voice your opinion on different topics. Just follow the hashtag of a particular chat that interests you, watch for the questions asked, and send a reply tweet with the hashtag. Most chats are also documented, so if you participate, people will also learn from you that way. Your opinion will definitely be heard.

2. You will learn from people who have more experience than you – Most people who start the chats have vast knowledge on the topic being discussed. Joining chats will enable you to learn from the experts in that particular field.

3. You will gain friends – Most chats are informal, and you will notice that they are people you have seen in your Twitter stream for quite some time but have not had the chance to interact with very much. By joining the chat, you get to interact with people in a deeper conversation and have fun in the process too. The best part is that if you continue the conversation even after the chat, you will gain more friends in the process.

4. You will gain insight on topics far beyond what you can read online – I always believe that experience is the best teacher. People are encouraged to share their personal experiences when they respond to questions in Twitter chats.

5. You can use it as a poll – Aside from joining chats, you can organize one too. Use it as a personal or business tool to get opinions from people you interact with everyday. Get their views, share with their experiences, and get valuable insight on topics relevant to your brand or personal endeavors.


Maintaining a good online reputation

Now days there are so many ways to ruin your online reputation. Since there are so many social media sites you must be extra careful about what you post on any of these. Anything you post can be detrimental to your job search, current career or overall reputation.

It is extremely important that you monitor your online sites because once you put something out there it cannot be removed. Many employers looking to hire, will look at your Google CV. If you have any photos or articles written about you, they can find them.

A survey found that 45 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates (more than double from the year before). Industries that specialize in technology and sensitive information are most likely to screen job candidates via social networking sites or online search engines.

The survey also reported the top reasons why an employer did NOT choose to hire certain job applicants:

  • Posted inappropriate photographs or information – 53%
  • Posted content about them drinking or using drugs – 44%
  • Bad-mouthed previous employer, co-workers or clients – 35%
  • Showed poor communication skills – 29%
  • Made discriminatory comments – 26%
  • Lied about qualifications – 24%
  • Shared confidential info from previous employer – 20%
  • Emoticon usage – 14%

The majority of these social media blunders are common sense, but you can avoid getting into trouble by making most things on your profile only visible to friends. You should monitor what other people write on your wall though. Don’t be afraid to delete a post if it is questionable. Just explain to your friend that potential employers could be looking at your profile. Look at everything that is visible to others through the eyes of an extremely conservative CEO.

The main thing to remember is to never vent about work via social media. It may be easy for fellow co-workers to figure out what you’re talking about. Overall, just be smart! Make sure you control all of the content put online and continue to monitor it twenty-four-seven.

Meeting public relations needs of nonprofit organizations

I recently interned at the Arthritis Foundation, a nonprofit organization, for eight months. I can honestly say that it wasn’t easy raising money in this economy. I dreaded picking up the phone and calling people for help because the usual answer was, “I’m sorry we just don’t have the funds right now.”

Even though it was a struggle, my efforts helped so many people, and that motivation helped me get through the slow days at work. I am proof that you can achieve your tasks in a nonprofit as long as you put the cause before yourself, but don’t forget that you will always need a strong public relations strategy too.

The Arthritis Foundation is only one of thousands of national nonprofits. So one might wonder, how can my organization stand out from the crowd?

Stryker, Weiner & Yakota Public Relations Inc. has tips for your nonprofit public relations strategy:

1. Make sure your public relations plan is in line with the organization’s long-term strategies.

2. Keep your volunteers, staff and donors well informed of your organization’s activities.

3. Maintain a clean and updated donor database.

4. Have a key volunteer and staff person trained as a media spokesperson.

5. Create or update a crisis communication plan.

6. Become an information resource for the media.

7. Pitch story ideas about your cause.

8. Clearly define and communicate the organization’s objectives and results.

9. Create co-marketing opportunities.

10. Spend time getting involved in your organization’s programs and its recipients. This will stimulate creativity and provide you with direct experience that you can translate to external audiences.

Remember: Donors are spending their money to help fund a good cause, not to receive an immediate personal benefit. This is why the public relations strategy is different than a for profit organization.


Alternatives to sending a press release

Many times I have felt that a full press release may not be needed in certain situations. Depending on the event or time issues, sometimes it is just easier to get your message across in other ways. With the way technology is advancing, the press release may sometimes even seem “old school” in today’s society.

Claire Celsi, Editor at Ragan’s PR Daily believes that list-building-services have created a generation of lazy PR professionals.

She says, that “arguably, the worst part about being a PR professional is facing that list, breaking it down, and digging in to pitch to those reporters. But the most important thing is not writing the press release and blasting it out. First, you have to back up and say:

What is my message, and who would appreciate hearing it?

“Challenge yourself to never send another standard press release again.”

Celsi says that the best alternatives to use instead of a press release are:

1. Pitch email. Put your pitch in the form of a story, with bullet points emphasizing the most important details you want the reporter to know.

  • Google the reporter’s name. After ensuring that she still writes for the news outlet, click on one of her recent articles. Make sure it is within the same genre as your pitch.
  • Write a one-paragraph personalized intro for every email you send. Show some interest in the reporter’s work.
  • The remaining portion of the email can be the same for every reporter. This is your brief opportunity to capture the reporter’s interest with your pitch. Make it short, and make it interesting.
  • Write a subject line that gets attention and describes your pitch.
2. Make a website posting (preferably a blog post). 
3. Send a tweet. 
4. Send a Facebook message. 
5. Pick up the phone. 
6. Offer to meet a reporter for coffee.
Personally, I like the idea of not sending a press release for everything. Human contact can go a long way, and having a reporter hear your voice can usually be more persuading than a letter. Social media’s purpose is to help you complete tasks with more ease and efficiency, so why not take advantage of it? You might actually impress someone with how you go about contacting them for a story.
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Public Relations and Research

Throughout my internship experiences, I have learned that research is always the first step before doing anything. You always need to have reasoning as to why you are doing what you’re doing, and facts and figures to work with. Your credibility is crucial in the business world, and without it no one will trust your judgement.

Why should PR firms use research?

This article states that there are generally two type of circumstances that strongly recommend marketing research.

1. Research the environment. For a PR firm to be successful, it is very important to understand the economic, political, legal, public opinion, social, cultural, technological, marketing, and financial components of your organization. This kind of research can take place before a pitch, or in conjunction with a major repositioning with an existing client.

In both cases, it helps the PR team make better decisions about major or subtle directions, and makes the PR firm look like it knows about the client’s business problems and its marketplace.

Your PR firm may be “talking the talk” about evaluating your clients’ and prospects’ business environment, but are you “walking the walk” by actually budgeting and conducting the necessary research?

2. Research for ink. The most successful PR firms are the ones that get the most out of media support and favorable exposure to their clients. A creative and effective way to capture the media’s attention and “get out the good news” is to feed the media with your message through public opinion polling.

Newspaper, radio, and television content editors are on constant prowl for targeted, incisive information that not only defines some of their subscribers, but is also interesting to a broader audience. What better win-win solution than a market survey that reveals the consumer or business sector’s opinion about what’s important to them about the products or services that your client just so happens to provide?

This article makes some great points. The only way to know what a target market wants is by asking them. Hearing their perspective on products might be totally different than your ideas, and going through with these studies will ensure your product’s effectiveness. Wouldn’t you want to gather as much information as possible so you won’t make a huge mistake and risk your job?

This post is a series of my thoughts, and a summarization of “Tips on Using Marketing Research for Public Relations,” by Gregory Kohs

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