MarketingMel joined Nancy Williams' Milligan College P.R. class for mock job interviews.

MarketingMel joined Nancy Williams’ Milligan College P.R. class for mock job interviews.

With graduation just around the corner (my present intern Kristen Pierce will graduate May 11 from ETSU) many recent college graduates will be looking for that first job.  I had the opportunity to “mock interview” Milligan College upperclassmen, including one graduating senior, this week. The setting was Nancy Williams’ Public Relations class. I commend Nancy for providing these students with some fantastic real world experience. The students are fortunate to have Nancy, a veteran of FedEx P.R., who even brought the small class home-made chicken salad on their last day!

Here are a few questions you can expect from any interviewer and some that I asked these students:

  1. Tell me about yourself. This one is generally the opener of most all interviews so be prepared to show the interviewer some of your personality and goals.
  2. Tell me about your strengths? Your weaknesses? (Your strengths should be easy. If not be sure to read Now Discover Your Strengths and take the Strengths Finder internet quiz by Buckingham and Clifton. As to your weaknesses, be sure to phrase them in such a way that they can be turned into strengths. Nancy gave a great example: “I am challenged by giving out grades (and then how she works to overcome that.)
  3. Why do you want this position? This gives you an opportunity to exhibit some knowledge about the company.
  4. Why should we hire you? This is a classic. I recall one of my first boss’s pointing to a stack of other videos (our TV resumes were on videotapes back then!) and saying “All these other people want this same job. Why should I hire you?” I must have been convincing because I got the job!
  5. What do you do for fun? This is a slight inroad into your personal life without being too nosy. Be sure you have some “fun” answers ready. (You’re national shot-put champion for example. One of these capable students really was!)
  6. Why  did you leave your last job? (This may not be as applicable to college students but it will come up from your first job on. Be sure you never burn any bridges and treat your last boss/job with respect.)
  7. Do you have any questions of me? Be prepared for this one to come at the end of your interview. This is an opportunity to ask intelligent questions of your potentially future employer and show your knowledge of the business. It’s also your chance to learn about company training opportunities, etc.

MarketingMel Bonus tips:

Writing is right: Be sure you have a cover letter, resume and list of references ready for the interviewer. Customize the cover letter to the person and to the specific job (skip the “to whom this may concern.”) One of the students provided an excellent online portfolio that gave me great insights into her blog writing, video and journalism work before I met her in person.

Say thanks! Be sure to thank your interviewer afterward. Even a simple thank you email is appreciated and a hand written note will absolutely make you stand out from the crowd.

Final thought: Like many of you reading this, I graduated college during a down economy. One of the best pieces of career advice I got was “Just take a job in your field, even if it’s part time. It will become full time.” Sage words for today’s graduates as well!


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Editor’s note: Copied below is the news release from last week’s Tri-Cities PRSA Awards. Once again MarketingMel was competing against large industries  and public relations firms throughout the Tri-Cities region of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. 

MarketingMel team at PRSA awards: Mary Ellen Miller, Kristen Pierce and Sarah Kinsler.

MarketingMel team at PRSA awards: Mary Ellen Miller, Kristen Pierce and Sarah Kinsler.

(Johnson City, Tenn.) MarketingMel, an innovative marketing, public relations, and social media strategies firm led by professional communicator Mary Ellen Miller, recently received top honors at the annual PRSA of TriCities TN/VA awards. The awards recognize excellence in media campaigns and products. Work is judged by a panel that evaluates winners based on impact, creativity and visibility. The MarketingMel team, including ETSU intern, Kristen Pierce was recognized for successful campaigns during the 2012 year.

Miller took home two Awards of Excellence in two different column writing categories Her award winning article “How to Get a Job in PR: 11 tips from a P.R. Pro” was first published in Out N’ About Magazine and recently featured in Ragan Communications’ PR Daily. Her other winning article was published in Out N’ About Magazine and featured her dog Lucky. It was called “Lucky Lends Us His Life Lessons.”  A similar article had also been published in Happy Tails.

Jenny Brock and Turkey

Jenny Brock and Turkey

Pierce, an ETSU Senior public relations major, was honored in the student category for her work on the Johnson City Turkey Trot campaign with an Award of Quality. Pierce, Jenny Brock and Mary Ellen Miller received the Community Relations Award for the Johnson City Turkey Trot and Pierce, Phil Scharfstein of One Stop Wines and Liquors, and Miller received the Award of Quality for Public Service for the “Spirits of the Season Gala” benefit for the American Cancer Society of Northeast Tennessee. In addition, former MarketingMel intern Sarah Rowan’s video about her experience working with MarketingMel captured an Award of Merit.

“I am really grateful to have such superb clients and business professionals to work with and for,” said Miller. “Being honored as a boutique Public Relations agency alongside some of the major institutions and P.R. agencies in our region is very exciting.”

Headquartered in Johnson City, Tenn., MarketingMel assists business professionals with their marketing, public relations, and social media needs. The firm works across the political, lifestyle, entertainment and manufacturing industries in launching their brands to the top.

Miller blogs regularly about social networking for business, public relations, leadership and marketing at http://marketingmel.com. Her thoughts on these topics can also be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/MarketingMel.

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(Editor’s note: This article is co-authored by Mary Ellen Miller and Sarah Kinsler, a recent ETSU Public Relations graduate and assistant to MarketingMel.)

Sarah Kinsler,MarketingMel assistant and intern Kristen Pierce.

Sarah Kinsler,MarketingMel assistant and Mel’s intern Kristen Pierce, leaders in the next gen social networkers.

The once great love affair between America’s youth and Facebook  is over.  The social network, once the “craze” for teens a few years back, has slowly turned into a ghost town when it comes to high school aged kids.


Why you ask? It’s simple. Now that Facebook has become the chosen network for the middle aged and even seniors, teens are feeling a little “crowded.”  Now they aren’t sharing info, updates, jokes with just their friends, but with Grandma too! Another reason of course is teens are all about chasing new trends and being involved in the newest networks. So adios Facebook and Hello Snapchat, vine and Tumblr.


Snapchat, a mobile app sharing service, lets users take short video and photos, then allows users to send as a message.The unique thing about this app however is that once the message is seen, for a very short amount of time, it self destructs (or so teens believe). This is huge right now because teens find it fun that they can live in the moment and not worry about the consequences of a photo/video being taken for a permanent record.


Another popular app right now (number one on iTunes actually)  is called Vine. The is app was created by Twitter to take short video clips and mash it into one looping six second short video.  (Sarah and Mary Ellen created this video on Vine while waiting to be interviewed about recent youth trends at WJCW radio last week.)


Tumblr is also very big right now. This app is for photo blogging and creating fun profiles that represent the user. It provides teens with a since of creativity without the extended family watching their every move.

To listen to more of our discussion on youth and social media trends please listen to our podcast.  Prior to the podcast Mary Ellen posted on both her Facebook business and personal pages about youth leaving Facebook and got a resounding “yes” from parents who agreed. What trends are you seeing in social networking and youth communications these days?


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Ross Action ShotEditor’s Note: The following is a guest blog post written by  student, Ross Stallworthy, whom I met while I was guest teaching a marketing class at Virginia Intermont College.

I am an international student from a small town in the middle of England currently studying Sport Management at Virginia Intermont College in southwest Virginia.

Why did I find myself in this location you may ask? Well growing up in England, soccer is the dominant sport which is embedded in our culture. Having played the sport at a high level, most notably winning a national title with my school team in 2005, I had the opportunity to continue playing and earn a degree at college. At the age of 18 I thought to myself can I really do this? Was I able to pack all of my life into one luggage bag and live by myself in a country I had never visited before half way around the world? At that stage I was scared, terrified of leaving of home. Three years later I am captain of my soccer team who finished second in the conference, part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, taking on a Business Administration minor, and searching for that one chance to gain experience in the form of an internship in the sporting industry.

Along the way I have encountered many obstacles that I have to jump over, knock down, and physically run through. Adapting to a completely different culture, even though the language is somewhat the same, was a challenge that I enjoyed with the help of my teammates. As a student-athlete managing my time was essential, previously I had been given a schedule to follow; now I had to create my own and make decisions for myself. I had to find a direction and fast, luckily my love for sports have been my driving force to want to give back to something that has given me a tremendous amount of pleasure.

Throughout my sporting career and studies it has become clear that a certain mix of characteristics make the ideal future employee or intern in my case. Knowing how to talk to different people and recognizing their level of expectation is the most important thing I have learned in the past 3 years. This is how Mary Ellen Miller (Mel) gave me this opportunity to be a guest in her blog. The interaction that was present when we first met couldn’t have gone better. As she was giving her presentation on marketing I was thinking critically and asking questions to further understand how she became successful. People remember how you respond to what you say and how you say it, you never know who could be your future employer.

Tips to make you that desirable employee or intern:

1. Be organized, plan ahead, and be flexible

2. Recognize your goal and be determined to make it a reality

3. Build positive relationships

4. Go the extra mile to get what you want

5. Identify your strengths and utilize them

6. Always be willing to learn

I think that many employers are looking for that individual who stands out in a crowd and has something interesting about them to add to their workforce. As I continue my search for the right internship, which has been going on for a while now, I am as determined as ever to be successful. You are going to get knock backs and a lot of ‘No’ answers, but it is how you respond that separates you from the crowd.

Once again I cannot thank Mel enough for giving me this chance to share my experience of being in the U.S. and trying to start my career here, for that I am extremely grateful. 

Ross Stallworthy

Ross Stallworthy


Ross Stallworthy is a student at Virginia Intermont College studying Marketing.

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MarketingMel and Kristen Pierce

The MarketingMel team, including intern Kristen Pierce, worked on the highly successful Johnson City Turkey Trot.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to February, a month where we think about the wonderful relationships in our life! On that note I am showcasing several guest bloggers starting with Kristen Pierce, my wonderful public relations intern.

I am an intern with MarketingMel. Mary Ellen Miller (Mel) chooses one intern to mentor each school year. The amazing opportunity was awarded to me for the 2012-2013 academic year.

My time with Mel started off a little differently than most internships. Yes, I sent her my resume, headshot and several writing samples like most hopefuls do when applying for a job. What was different about Mel was that she requested me to complete an assignment before our interview and before we had ever met! She had me research personal training marketing strategies. I was confused on why she needed this information but was determined to impress. At the time I had no idea the “trial-run” would turn into one of the tasks I would be working on with Mel.

As you know, I got the position as her intern! My time with Mel has been crucial to my growth as a young public relations professional. She has taught me how to apply the skills I learned at East Tennessee State University to real world situations. Some of my responsibilities include: meeting with Mel and her clients, accompanying Mel to Chamber of Commerce events, writing news releases and stories for the student newspaper for Mel’s clients, compiling agendas, helping her enter awards programs and so much more.

To elaborate on my responsibilities, I would like to talk in depth about my work with the Johnson City Turkey Trot. During this project, I was able to work with another fabulous mentor, Jenny Brock. Some tasks I was to complete included: writing a Turkey Trot article to run in the East Tennessean, ascertain quotes for yard signs and banners, link sponsor logos to their websites on the Turkey Trot webpage, create the sponsor appreciation flyer that was in every race packet and distribute promotional posters on the ETSU campus. It was a great learning experience to be a part of such a huge event in the Tri-cities area. This year the event was the largest ever with over 4000 participants!

Another venture I worked on is Mel’s Personal Branding How-To Webinar. As I mentioned earlier, I was confused on my pre-interview assignment. This project is where it came into play. I learned how and where to send press releases for a national project. That’s something I did not learn in Writing for PR! I was able to see how much work it really does take to launch such a huge product. I saw first-hand how to promote and sell products. Overall, this is something I think I’ll be able to implement in a new job when I graduate.

Tips to getting an internship:

  1. Clean up your social media
  2. Research the company before applying
  3. Check with your schools advisement offices to learn of new opportunities
  4. Polish your resume and cover letter
  5. Dress to impress. Make sure you are completely put together.
  6. Relax and be yourself in the interview

Mel has given me a wonderful opportunity and I will forever be grateful. Among teaching me the ins and outs of public relations, she has given me the gift of confidence. If it weren’t for Mel’s encouragement and belief in my abilities, I would not be the young professional I am today. I owe it all to my amazing mentor and am eager to continue with Mel this spring semester! 

Kristen PierceKristen Pierce is a senior public relations major at East Tennessee State University. She is active in the Public Relations Student Society of America. In her spare time she studies Chinese. She loves traveling, fashion, big jewelry and dogs. Connect with her on twitter @kristen_pierce.

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