Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post written by MarketingMel associate and recent ETSU public relations graduate Sarah Kinsler. 

College graduates: MarketingMel's 2012-2013 intern Kristen Pierce with MarketingMel associate Sarah Kinsler.

College graduates: MarketingMel’s 2012-2013 intern Kristen Pierce with MarketingMel associate Sarah Kinsler.

As a recent public relations graduate, I entered the workforce excited and eager to take on the PR world by storm. However I soon realized there is much more to Public Relations than what is taught in the classroom.  During one of my first official client meetings I found myself at a rush to write an on the spot release and pitch it to the local media. I remember thinking, “Wait, this isn’t how I learned PR.” I soon came to the realization that the “due dates” for a release and planned timelines, were no longer part of my PR ways.

While I do think I learned some valuable skills during my college career, I feel you cannot fully comprehend applied public relations without being thrown into the real deal. I have narrowed down my top three tips in adapting to the “real” world of PR.

1.   Sharpen your Writing:

Train yourself to write quickly, yet effectively and clearly.  Many times you will be caught in situations that forces you to write on the spot. Make sure you have the ability to provide sufficient details in a timely manner.

2.   Stay Calm in Stressful Circumstances

PR can be very stressful, don’t allow yourself to get frazzled. Use your youth as a positive and keep your cool.

 3.   Be Open to Learning New Things and Getting Advice

Lets face it, you are a newbie, but the good news is there are lots of people that want to help you succeed! Be open to their advice and ask questions. Some of your best resources are closer than you think!

4.   Network Network Network

Being in the PR world means meeting lots of people. Between events, meetings, and clients you will have a plethora of opportunities to establish new professional relationships. Take advantage of this and be sure to follow up with new contacts! You never know who can help you in the future.

5.   Always Present your Best Work

You will often find yourself working on unsupervised projects. Don’t freak, you can do this! Just remember that you should always present quality work because it’s a reflection on you and your company. If your boss assigns you to a solo project, they trust that you can do it. Make sure to put forth your best effort and meet deadline!

Sarah Kinsler is a member of the MarketingMel team and creates marketing, public relations and social media strategies for clients. She is a December 2012 graduate of ETSU where she studied public relations. Her dream job would be to work in Nashville in country music PR.

Sarah Kinsler

Sarah Kinsler


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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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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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Amanda Littlejohn and MarketingMel

Amanda Littlejohn and MarketingMel met in D.C. to plan our Personal Branding talk for SoloPR Summit

Next month I’ll be presenting about the Power of Personal Branding with SoloPR colleague and personal branding guru Amanda Littlejohn of Mopwater P.R. at the first ever Solo PR Summit in Atlanta.  When Amanda and I met in Washington, D.C. last weekend to talk about our presentation I shared the story of how having a personal brand helped me when I found myself suddenly unemployed for the first time in my life. It was early 2009 and the job market was tanking. My employer, an interactive, digital development firm, supplied web based products to Lexmark. Lexmark in turn supplied to Circuit City, which went belly up. That led to pay-cuts,  a first round of layoffs and then the second round that caught me and several of my colleagues in the cross hairs. But I was in a position quite different from many of the people who found themselves unemployed in the recession. Thanks to the power of social media and in particular twitter, I had a strong personal brand. In an age when Tom Peters says we are all “Me, Inc.'” and CEO’s of our own brands, I had created the MarketingMel presence on twitter. It was strong enough that a search on “MarketingMel” landed me several spots ahead of Mel Gibson in Google Search. I didn’t need to look any further for the name of my brand new public relations firm! If social media presence put me ahead of a famous actor then what can it do for you and your brand? No matter how secure you feel in your corporate job today, times could quickly change. Remember to build your brand both online and  in-person through face to face networking no matter where you are in your career.  It will pay off for you in the long haul. (If you’re and independent P.R. pro and haven’t already registered be sure to sign up now to get the early bird discount and save more than 20%. Hope to see you in Atlanta!)

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The MarketingMel team: Intern Kristen Pierce and Mary Ellen Miller at a recent client event

Since I’ve started my communications career I’ve believed in the value of internships. First, MarketingMel was a TV news intern, at my hometown television station (WKBW-TV) in Buffalo, N.Y. Ever since that great educational (and unpaid) college internship I have tried to pass on the benefits of mentorship to those who come after me. Last week I was honored and humbled to win an award sponsored by CenturyLink and the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce called “Faith in the Future.” My company, MarketingMel, was one of two winners in the Entrepreneurship Category.  Here is an excerpt of the comments I presented to the illustrious group of business professionals gathered at the luncheon.

Winner in the Entrepreneurship Category: Faith in the Future Awards

Century Link and the Chamber, thank you for hosting an awards program called Faith in the Future. How honorable to reward businesses for making an investment in our community.  To me there is no finer investment than mentoring the next generation. Since starting my business nearly four years ago, I have invested in the future workforce most notably through an intensive mentoring program with rising ETSU public relations students. My former intern, Sarah Rowan, has already gone on to great success as Director of Sales for the Chamber of Commerce. My current intern, Kristen Pierce, would be with me now but she is in class. Young professionals are where we seasoned veterans need to spend our time for they are the future and I have a lot of faith in them!

I want to thank my clients for making all this possible and having faith in my communications abilities. They too have encouraged Sarah and now, Kristen.

(Here, I went on to thank my family and finally….)

MarketingMel’s strategic plan has a personal mission statement written above the company’s mission. It says, simply, “to glorify God in my work and in my family life.” Thank you for this award as it helps to fulfill that mission today. 

Do you have faith in the future? Please share your stories of lending a helping hand to the next generation.

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If you’re trying to find a job in today’s job market take time to Google yourself! This advice was given on CNN Monday morning after an NFL referee found himself set to ref. a New Orleans Saints game when whoops! There were New Orleans Saints photos all over his Facebook page. (Wonder which way the close calls would have gone in that game?) CNN Anchorwoman Christine Romans talks about someone who lost out on a $200,000 per year job because he wasn’t aware of his personal brand. Don’t get caught losing out on great employment opportunities because you’re not aware of your personal brand!

Coincidentally, this is the *exact* advice Maria Peagler of SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com and I recommended to our Personal Branding webinar listeners during two live sessions last week. The action item, “Google Yourself” is one of 15 bricks in a pyramid of action steps we created with advice on polishing personal brands. You can still watch our free personal branding webinar here. You can also join those who’ve tried and loved our personal branding  toolkit that Maria and I have created.  Just Monday I used one of the tools in the tool kit in a brainstorming session with a client and he loved it!  Follow our easy steps to personal branding success so you don’t miss out on a $200,000 job opportunity!

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MarketingMel gets asked daily “How do I find a job in public relations?” Since I can see that this is such a popular subject on this blog, I thought I would start making and posting some videos here to help out those seeking communications jobs. Please feel free to comment and let me know if these tips help you. I would love to hear how your public relations job search is coming along. Let me know when you land that great future job in P.R.!

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