Thursday, 27 December 2012

Step 9: Adding Value to Your Future in PR

Filling in the Blanks 

This next post will cover some of the things that you might want to consider looking into at this point if you haven’t already. These are things that will compliment your existing body of work, that will round out your efforts to appear professional and that will help you stand out from a crowd in PR.

1) Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor is something that many higher-up PR pros will recommend to young PR newbies. The reason why is because as students we don’t have access to the inside of the PR industry unless through internships, so we need to insight and firsthand accounts from someone on the inside. Mentors will also help you find out about the hidden job market, make connections and build essential employable skills that you may not know you even need.

Finding a mentor can be done through existing connections or networks. Maybe you can send some messages or call someone you know in the industry from LinkedIn or maybe from a business card you collected at a social event. You can even try calling up a local PR professional and asking for an informational interview. A mentorship doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. You can have one mentor or several. They may play a large role or a small role. Either way mentoring will help you out. You can check out my post on my own mentorship.

2) Get and Give Networking Cards
Just because you are not fully employed doesn’t mean you should be carrying around those ever important business cards. As a student you may call them networking cards. These are basically cards that include your name, contact and industry. For instance, put your name in large and underneath write public relations. Then include your phone number, email, LinkedIn and even your Twitter handle if you want to flaunt social media.

Business Cards for Networking

Networking cards are great because it shows you are professional and that you take yourself seriously. In turn other people will take you seriously. This past month I went to a CPRS event and brought networking cards and got a really positive reaction. People said it was proactive and they admired it. It is also great to be able to complete the card exchange. Having a card to give makes it easier to ask for a card.

The cards themselves don’t have to be a fortune. If you have a decent printer you can design and print them yourself. Otherwise look up some printing companies like Vista Print. 

3) Be Online 
I was recently told that in PR, you need an online presence to stand out. This is because so much of the PR industry is digital. I was told to start a blog, build my Twitter presence and learn to use other social media platforms. Also use LinkedIn as this is predicted to be a very popular tool for PR in 2013.

When it comes to your online presence my one advice is to always keep it private or professional. Anything you say can be seen by others and will reflect on your character. I think it’s important to avoid slang, bad words, insults or spelling mistakes, because these could be the one difference between you and another job candidate. It also shows that the company that hires you can rely on you to be professional in representing their organization.

Social Media for Students

This step is sort of a mash up of some actions you can take when you have time among your busy schedule. They are things that aren’t necessary at this point, but that are additional if you want to get ahead. Every now and then I like to think of small things this that I can do that will add to my value, so stay tuned for more tips like these in future posts.

Next up: you can never be too prepared for graduation and the job hunt, so I will start with that in Step 10.

P.S. The count down for 2013 is on and this will be the year you make it in PR!

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Friday, 21 December 2012

PR Moment - Creatvity in PR

This far into my blog I have brought up the topic of creativity quite a bit. I feel naturally drawn to this topic and feel it deserves to be approached more in depth. In my Step 5 Blog Post I included a link on a study that assessed the current state of creativity in the PR industry (in 35 different countries!). This study led me to other sources that cover different aspects of creativity.  (By the way this under Mini Posts, but I apologize if it’s a bit lengthier than usual.)

1) The study that sparked this blog post
Apparently the PR industry is lacking creativity, which is considered a serious problem. The roadblocks to creativity include small budgets, lack of time and staff being overworked. The interesting paradox apparent in this study’s results is that the PR professionals surveyed for this study thought they were themselves were creative, but that the industry wasn’t. This shows disconnect and inconsistency (how can a high % of people surveyed be creative but the industry isn’t?). But maybe the most important finding from this study is that PR professionals think creativity is necessary in the profession. So what is the take-away? Creativity is something all PR professional should strive for because it is necessary and it may not be as nurtured or encouraged as necessary. This is definitely a challenge PR students should be aware of before starting a career in PR.Check out the Study.

Creativity in PR Industry

2) Can creativity be taught?
I love this post that argues that creativity cannot be taught. Why you ask? Because, creativity is something that distinguishes real PR pros from the rest of the business world. To recap the main argument of the article, creativity is elusive and not well-defined in the profession. This makes it challenging to teach as there is no benchmark. So what to do for those lacking in the creativity department? The author believes that creativity can be elevated in people who show a spark and it can be fostered in people who appear to be uncreative. Let’s remember creativity is subjective and dependent on the type of organization. For fellow PR students, I suggest that you express your unique type of creativity while adapting it to the industry that you want to work in. Don’t be afraid to show that you are creative even as a PR newbie, because it shows you have the aptitude and that you are worth the investment that will elevate you in your job. View the post.

Creativity Quote

3) Do creativity and strategy go hand-in-hand?
Super important point here: Creativity is not complete without strategy! You have a great idea? Nice. Now what? Have any ideas on how to execute it? How it will address your clients need? Does it fit with their brand? These are things that a lot of PR newbies don’t necessarily think about when asked to come up with a PR tactic. I know this because I have seen it. That being said strategizing is something that can be taught, whether it through a business program or a PR postgrad. For PR students, this is something to consider if you want to be successful in PR. Read the article.

4) The Creativity Paradox
The last point I will touch on creativity in this post is: Is creativity truly rewarded. The study above mentioned it is something that the PR profession needs, but do creative ideas win out over practical ones. There may in fact be a covert fear of creativity in that it can sometimes be rejected. But why? Namely because ideas that are tried and true are so solid that why would we mess with something that works? Well namely because those ideas came from creativity somewhere down the line and somewhere in the future they won’t be enough. It is always a good idea to strive for something new, even if only applying creativity to a solid existing tactic. For PR students this means we must be cautious not to overstretch our creative side and to always remember that PR strategies need to have tangible results even if they aren’t fancy. Read about it here.

Again all the links are here:

You may also like: The Creativity Index

What do you think is the future of creativity in PR? Why do you this is important? Let me know what you think by commenting below. 

P.S. I love PR

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Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Art of Baking - Holiday Cookies!

I don't know what it is about the holidays and food, but it is a thing that is so special that it deserves a blog of its own. There is something about this time of year and the massive amount of baking and cooking, and inevitably eating that fills our lives. It is a wondrous thing, but also a powerful thing, the way the simple act of baking Christmas cookies brings families together and creates memories.

For me the greatest part of this tradition is trying something new for the first time. As we all know there are those recipes that are classics that everyone looks forward to, but I love to learn, be creative and be adventurous so there is nothing more fun than trying a new recipe. Will it be good, or will it bomb? I can say I have had my share of both (though more on the good side, so I'm told). And even when a recipe doesn't work out, like a cookie is too crispy, or a macarons is too flat, you still learn something to help you improve for next time.

The next best part about this traditions is sharing with others. I love baking and my friends love eating, so it's a great fit. Just today I baked with my good friend, and a few days ago baked with my boyfriend. I shared some cookies with my friends and received rave reviews. There is one thing I've learned in PR (yes I know I'm crazy bring PR into baking). That is: evaluation is key. How will you know what to do better next time? How will you know what the response will be? That is why the sharing and feedback of Christmas baking is so important. It's how I find out my cookies rock!

Here are some of the recipes I made and I guarantee that I will be making more.

Christmas Cookies; Christmas baking 

1. Eggnog Snickerdoodles 
(The Hamilton Spectator)

Christmas Cookies; Christmas baking

2. Peppermint Biscotti 
(Taste of Home's
Holiday & Celebration Cookbook)
Christmas Cookies; Christmas baking

3. Cherry Pecan Icebox Cookies 
(Taste of Home's
Holiday & Celebration Cookbook)
Christmas Cookies; Christmas baking

4. Gingerbread Cutout Cookies 
(Anna Olson's Back to Baking)
Christmas Cookies; Christmas baking

5. Chocolate Shortbread Meltaways 
(Anna Olson's Back to Baking)

P.S. Enjoy your Holidays!

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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Step 8 Part 2 - What to Expect When Looking for a PR Internship

The Long Overdue Part 2

Finally I have the time to get to part two of the internship hunt (see Part 1). This is fitting as a lot of students will be looking for internships in the New Year, so I need to get this part done before I can continue.

So as I mentioned, I contacted different places and people and my email quickly became overwhelming. This is why it was so important that I kept track of the places that I contacted either on my computer or on a separate sheet of paper. This helped me keep tabs on who had contacted me back and who I should follow-up with. 

Most of the responses I got were very positive, which I think was a reflection of my professionalism in contacting them. Many people said yes they have internship opportunities and wanted to know when I was available. This was great! They seemed quite eager (who wouldn’t be, it’s an unpaid internship after all).

The downside is the way my program is structured. See I have classes Tuesday to Thursday and therefore only have Monday and Friday of each week to accomplish my 105 hour internship. This is very different than some of the other PR programs available and something any future student will want to consider. There is the opportunity to do an internship in May, but that was not an option for me. I wanted to find an internship that I could do throughout the semester to complete my credit so that April and May could be a time for another internship! Am I crazy? Well it can be done. My goal is to seek out a longer term internship after graduation that could lead to a real job. 

A side note here on how I followed up with these people. I definitely replied and assured them that I was available in April/May and I asked about their process in selecting interns.  I set up times to follow-up with them in the New Year, kept the emails, added them to my contacts and added some of them on LinkedIn to demonstrate that I was serious. This is something that I recommend as it will give you more opportunities for future internships and internships are fundamental in PR.
Back to some other responses that I got. Some of the places were willing to take me on with my availability and they ranged in location. But I got this one email that seemed especially promising. This response was immediate and the owner of the firm asked to meet with me ASAP. This was a good sign and it was in Hamilton. The location might not seem important at first, but I quickly realized that as a commuter with no car, accessibility and distance were relevant. So I had to prepare for a meeting that could lead to an internship.

I made sure I brought my resume and my A-game. It was essentially an interview. It was also an opportunity to learn more about the firm which offers services lie PR, advertising, design and marketing. So it was a great place. I think the key in getting this internship was being positive throughout the interview and following up after with a thank you. So there isn’t much to guess here. I got the internship and I start in January. Overall I am really excited that my hunt for an internship worked out. 

To recap some lessons I can share with you: Set aside the time you need to find an internship, because it does take time; ask people about opportunities, because though Google is awesome it doesn’t hold all the answers in the universe; and always be professional, even as a student; also, don’t expect internships to always come to you, seek them out. In fact, I think the reason I got the internship was because they were so impressed that I had sought them out and contacts them. It shows initiative.

The most important tip I can offer is always keep in touch with the people you contact. It shows you are professional, grateful and interested. Even if they straight up say no, thank them and be polite. Maybe the next time you contact them they will remember you and your proactive nature. This is what I hope for anyway, as January and February approach and the real internship/job hunt starts. That is another story altogether and one that has yet to happen. But you can be sure I will keep you posted on the steps I take to get there.

Internships: Are Internships Worth it?; Infographic

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Step 8 - Tips for Finding a PR Internship

How to be a good internThe Hunt for the Unpaid Job

This is it! One of the most exciting posts to date; because Step 8 is all about getting the elusive internship. That’s right I will share some of my experience in finding an internship. And this is so exciting that it had to be written in 2 parts. The first part will outline where I looked and how I contacted people. The second part will cover the responses I received throughout, the decision process and provide some details on the internship I landed.

First, I will explain that this internship is not the “first job internship” that I dream of having when I graduate. It’s the unpaid, credit earning internship that you do while simultaneously taking 8 classes. Sound a little crazy? From what I hear it is quite hectic; with classes 3 days a week and an internship 2 days a week, which only leaves the weekend to take on another full-time job… Job searching. How many copies of a resume to personalize, how many applications to fill out, how many emails to write, calls to make, follow-ups, dead ends, interviews… And moments of frustration will I be able to cram in alongside the busy overloaded semester? Luckily, I have dealt with work overload before, I have mastered my “dealing with stress techniques” and I am ready to take this on. But let us back it up to September and the internship search process.

So months ago when I started searching for an internship I used the trusty Google to search for PR agencies. I used search terms like “communications agency”, “PR agency” and “marketing agency” and got quite a lot of hits. I made a list of PR agencies and marketing firms ranging from Toronto, Oakville, and Burlington to Hamilton. This was time consuming and in retrospect, probably not the best approach for finding an internship where I could only go in on Mondays and Fridays for 105 hours. That being said it was not a waste of time because I still have this magical list and plan on using it for my job search for after I graduate.

What I have to say about this approach is that some firms are difficult to search for and aren’t as visible online. This eliminates some great opportunities. The solution: build connections. I never thought I would have connections that led to a position and my network did not actually get me my internship. I just spoke to people in PR and learned about places I didn’t know about and added them to the contact list, this is one of the advantages of joining a professional association liked the CPRS or IABC as a student.

I also used Twitter to look of PR agencies. I followed them and checked out their websites. The key is to always look where they are located. The firm may sound great, but that’s pointless if they don’t have an office near you.
Internships Word Cloud

So I made a list. My tip is to use Google Bookmarks to keep tabs on this list. This way you can catalogue information about each firm and organize the list how you like. You will also have quick access to all the places at once to look up each firm’s website. You will also have the date you added the link and you can label things by categories including where they are located, what type of agency they are etc. This also means you won’t lose the information should anything happen to your computer because you can access the bookmark list from any computer. It’s a great tool.

Then came the part where I researched the firms. This was intensive as I dug deep in each places corporate website to learn more about their body of work, their niche, their team atmosphere, their culture and their history. Then I wrote cover letters for each place that suited me. To make things easier I used a base cover letter that I made changes to when I needed. Then I took my resume and transformed it for every firm as well. I will not lie this took entire days to do and I strongly recommend setting aside designated time to do this.

Also time consuming, keeping track of the emails I sent out and the responses I received. I will go more in detail about this in the next post, but I will tell you I quickly learned that when you check your email multiple times an hour you are being obsessive. Be patient and don’t panic if you don’t hear anything the same day or even the same week. Sometimes they just take a while to get back to you. But to keep you interested I will save the rest for the next part.
Continued in Part 2

P.S. The effort is worth it if you love PR.

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