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Tips for finding PR jobs

How to find a job in PR

It seems like every week I field a call from a desperate college student seeking my advice about how to break into public relations. I’ve answered their questions so often that I thought I would jot down a few tips that I’ve learned over my more than 20-year career in public relations.

  1. Think strategically: What is your end goal? How can you get there? Have a plan. Write it down just as you would a business plan and then work it.
  2. Seek internships: Be sure to have one; they often lead to jobs. Furthermore, they’ll help you to understand if this business is really for you. (It can be very stressful at times!) Treat an internship as if it’s a job. Be ready with a professional resume and photo. Be prepared with questions and skill sets you to have offer.
  3. Set yourself up for success: Have an outlet after your internship. Look for opportunities. Volunteer. Play up your accomplishments. Example: MarketingMel’s intern Sarah Williams was the top PR student at her community college.  That impressed me.

    MarketingMel with intern Sarah Williams

    MarketingMel with intern Sarah Williams

  4. Communicate with communicators: Communicate on their terms through their channels (and be sure to identify yourself.) Since founding MarketingMel there was only one time that a college student reached out to me in such an engaging way that I asked for a meeting with him. Yet that was how impressed I was with the abilities of David Ford. (Remember that name. I think he will go far in the advertising business!) If you want to see what the pro’s are doing listen to tweetchats like # soloPR and #journchat and say “Hello.”
  5. Study the thought leaders: Look who’s leading the way in your chosen field, in your community, and in the world. (I treasure my virtual friendships with my international friends. Judy Gombita in Toronto with PR Conversations is a great example.)
  6. Innovate: Use the latest tools and learn about new ones. The field of communications changes daily. Be sure you are running at all times to keep up with it. Is your Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn up to date? (Yes, I said LinkedIn. More than 80 percent of all headhunters are there so you need to be there as well.) Use YouTube to present yourself on video to a future employer. Skype is a another handy tool.
  7. Learn something new: Do you know a foreign language? Spend time abroad. Be open to opportunities elsewhere. There will never be a better time in your life to pick up and move somewhere and do something different. It will expose you to a new way of thinking.
  8. Show kindness: Put the phone away in class and share some real (not virtual) Facetime with your teachers and friends. This goes for our online behavior as well. Others can tell when you genuinely care about them.
  9. Follow journalists: Media relations is part of public relations. Follow your favorite journalists and engage with them. I often chat on twitter with our local morning news anchor, Josh Smith via twitter. He and I are both early risers and our friendship has deepened with our regular tweet banter.
  10. Know your strengths and weaknesses and focus on your strengths: (Now Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton is a book well worth reading with an easy-to-take online quiz that will help you determine your top strengths.)
  11. Create your Personal Brand: Put some thought into this one and again there are some great books available (see Tom Peters and Brand You.) Remember your personal brand will follow you from job to job throughout the rest of your life.

What suggestions do you have to add to this list? Please post your comments here. I’d love to hear from you!

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108 High Resolution Dark Denim Social Media Icons

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post written by Maria Peagler, a social media strategist and award winning author whom I met on twitter.

Small business owners: listen up! Before entering the social media landscape, have a strategy mapped out as to how you plan to use it. Here is your need-to-know primer on how to use social media to reach out to new and existing customers and grow your business:

  1. Identify your goal. Do you want to fill seats in your restaurant on slow nights, announce unused appointment times, or differentiate your brand from all the rest? Before you start in social media, know your purpose. That drives the rest of your decisions.
  2. Join a social network and listen. A client recently asked me what she should post on her local chamber’s Facebook Friday promotion, where local small business owners can share a short blurb promoting themselves. My advice? First, observe what other businesses are doing in that space, then improve on that. Why not shoot a thirty-second video and post it to the chamber page? I bet no one else is doing that.
  3. Learn how to use use social tools to communicate to customers regularly. If you’re posting on your Facebook page, ask for people to Like your business page or join your email newsletter. Asking clients to call you misses out on the opportunity to repeatedly communicate with them via social networks.
  4. Integrate your marketing, advertising, and social media. Include your URLs for your website and all social networks on your advertising, business cards, invoices, receipts, and door signage. And tell people about it. Social media is both an in-person and online relationship.
  5. Make your website social. Add a Facebook Like button to your webpage so people can connect with you in one click. Add your latest updates from Twitter to your webpage and add a YouTube video. Give clients the opportunity to get to know your business in multiple ways.
  6. Assign responsibility for social media. If you plan on doing your own social media, what will you give up or delegate to free up that time? Even if you are letting your staff handle social media duties, realize it takes time and you’ll need to redistribute their current workload.
  7. Set a schedule. You’re entirely too busy to remember to do it, believe me. Make a timeline to update your social media channels or meet with your publicist/soical media strategist. Stick to it. Even if you decide to do social media on your own, realize it’s wise to partner with a specialist for or special events or big promotions.
  8. Turn your challenges into opportunities. If you can’t afford TV commercials, shoot your own and post them on YouTube. Video has never been more affordable to small business, and DIY messages have authenticity slick commercials lack. Grab your Flip video camera and get creative.
  9. Have fun. Social media allows you to reach out and show your best self to your customers. Enjoy it and let them get to know you. One of my accounting clients plans on running accounting jokes on her Facebook page every so often to loosen up her firm’s image. She knows people don’t relish tax season, but her firm has a sense of humor and she wants to show it off.

Maria Peagler is the owner of Willow Ridge Media, a concierge publicity and social media agency specializing in small business. She’s an eight-time award-winning author and publisher, and writes about social media for small business at her Willow Ridge Media blog.

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Willie Sutton

Willie Sutton, famed bank robber

My father was an entrepreneur. He started his professional fundraising firm from the ground up and made an honest living at it. As a young girl I remember hearing him tell the story of famed bank robber Willie Sutton. Legend has it that Willie, when asked, “Why do you rob banks?” famously uttered, “Because that’s where the money is.” I suppose Dad was telling the story in reference to his top campaign contributors. In researching this blog post I see where that line may have been embellished along the way but the quote remains stuck to Willie like a good pair of New York state-issued orange overalls.

So what does this have to do with social networking you ask?  Well, everything actually.

I often speak publicly to business professionals and their organizations about the value of building one’s personal and professional brand online. As I show the growing statistics of small businesses using social networking in an age when creative marketing is a must, I re-tell the story of Willie Sutton. If a notorious thief robbed banks because that’s where the money was located isn’t it logical that business professionals would want to be online where their current clients and future prospects are spending their time?  If your customers are on Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, or some other social network wouldn’t you want to be there too? What are your thoughts? How effective has social networking been in growing your business?

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MarketingMel joined by Johnson City Rotary President Mike Mefford and attorney Lee Davis

MarketingMel presented “Why Small Business Should Care about Social Networking” to the Johnson City Rotary Club September 14 during the club’s regular Tuesday lunch meeting. Speaking to a crowd of 100 business professionals including several MarketingMel clients and many business associates, she touched on the business benefits of Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and YouTube. The audience was very participative and interested in the talk which provided  the highlights of social networking for business professionals. MarketingMel noted that Rotary International is already very active on Facebook with more than 80,000 people “liking” the service oriented page.

After the presentation club president Dr. Mike Mefford and Attorney Walter Lee Davis presented MarketingMel with a certificate noting that a book will be purchased in her honor for students in need.  “What a fantastic gift,” declared Miller, who was both honored and surprised by the book certificate. “As an avid reader myself, this book will provide a lasting reminder to some young person who may perhaps become interested in professional communications in the future.”

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I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell. The Tipping Point , Blink and Outliers are game changing books and must-reads for people interested in sociology and human relationships. Recently, Gladwell’s 2008 talk at TED about spaghetti sauce and human variability has been making its way across the twitterverse. It’s so important to any student of marketing that I thought I would post it here as well. Dr. Howard Moskowitz, whom Gladwell spotlights, says that fundamentally people don’t know what they want and often won’t tell you. The psychophysicist’s food studies led us to an understanding of human variability that carries through to cancer treatments today. Perhaps it’s why social networking has skyrocketed because a Facebook photo, an individual’s tweet, a resume on LinkedIn or a YouTube family video, each emphasize our uniqueness. What’s your take on Prego, Pepsi and pickles?

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Facebook is like dating

Some people just don’t get it.

They do not understand that social networking is all about building relationships.  I, like many of my friends, am a bit protective of my Facebook account (unlike twitter and LinkedIn which I view as far more open networks).  So I generally study the Facebook friend requests for awhile and decide whether or not I’m going to confirm this new friend. My general rule of thumb is I have to have met you at least once in order for you to be my FB friend. I realize that everyone has different boundaries and people across social networks should respect that. Some people are open to friending everyone, others of us are not.

But back to dating.

More than once lately I have had someone ask to be my friend on Facebook whom I thought was a real friend (or at least a business acquaintance) only to have me accept them and quickly regret it. Why? As quick as you can hit “confirm friend” they send me a request to “like” their business page. Ugh.

I’m thinking, “I’ve just been used to get your numbers up!”  To make that old baseball/dating analogy I haven’t gotten to home plate and you’re envisioning a home run!  Hold your horses friend. I’m still on deck!

Is there a lesson to be learned?  When it comes to social networking, please, oh please engage the person and connect with them as a human being. Don’t make them feel used. Be sure to chat with them a bit and show them that you care about them. The business will come later. Make comments on their photos and videos and show them you like what they have to say. After all, you have cared enough about them to ask them to be your friend, so be one!

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