Posts Tagged 'Public relations'

Never Underestimate the Power of Networking

By Berenise Solorio

@bsolorio

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“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

This is especially true in the field of public relations. Simply put, networking truly is invaluable. Just how important is networking for us PR folk? I asked director at large for the SF Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) and diversity chair for the New Pros section, Carolina Madrid and here’s what she had to say.

1.       What value have you seen through networking (specifically in PR)?

PR is all about networking. Whether it’s for your own professional development or on behalf of your company or client, connecting with people on personal levels paves the path for work relationships that flourish in a way that’s critical to the PR industry.

2.       Have you found that networking has helped with recruitment to bring in top talent?

Of course. I have never personally worked in recruitment but have seen talent acquisition – especially for more senior positions – happen through organic conversations more often than I’ve seen it happen through cover letters and resumes. During a networking conversation, you are your own resume and cover letter and nothing conveys your professional competence better than yourself.

3.       Were you introduced to new job opportunities through networking?

Absolutely – it’s how I got my current job! To trace the opportunity to its original root, it was college friends from PRSSA that helped secure the position I now hold. Had I not networked at PRSSA events, I wouldn’t know them today nor had their recommendation for my post. Similarly, I have also helped friends land internships or jobs through strong endorsements or encouraging them to attend events where “so and so” would be present.

4.       What would you say are the top 3 benefits to networking?

1) The opportunity to expand and enhance your own professional rolodex;

2) The opportunity to practice your public speaking and people skills; and

3) The opportunity to make long-lasting friendships – you’re naturally inclined to befriend those with similar interests.

5.       How does social media play into networking these days? (Positive/negative?)

Social media will never take the place of connecting with someone face-to-face, but it will – and already has – transformed our ability to identify whom we should be connecting with and build deeper connections. For example, would you have known that a conference-goer in Florida lived in the same city as you had you not checked out their Twitter profile? Social media allows you to define and refine who you want to network with. It also provides an easy way to stay in touch with those connections that matter most (e.g. LinkedIn!)

6.       What advice would you give someone who is just starting a career in PR?

I have only had about four years of PR experience, but already I’ve noticed three core areas that have been invaluable to my success thus far:

Focus on how you can help others: It will always – hands down – get you farther than focusing on how you can benefit from them.

Read, read, read: Read the news, read books, read the back of your shampoo bottle. This will not only keep you abreast of current affairs but improve your writing, which is critical in our field.

Don’t be so afraid of failure: You learn most from mistakes and sticky situations that you’re forced to maneuver out of, so embrace that awkward feeling when you mess up and know that when it’s over, you’ve added one more lesson to your portfolio.

7.       Is there anything else you’d like to share about networking and its importance in our field?

Networking shouldn’t be looked at as something that is done specifically at a professional mixer or conference. You should always be networking and that’s not to say that you should always be selling yourself but rather always trying to establish genuine, kind, friendly relationships with others – even if it’s at a gas station! You never know when you’ll come a valuable connection. And lastly, networking should be fun!

More about Carolina Madrid

Carolina is a PR professional working in corporate practice. She has been involved with PRSA since January 2011, after graduating from college and jumping into the San Francisco PR scene. She was previously involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at Arizona State University, where she attended two national PRSSA conferences and held the Treasurer position. She became involved with both the student and professional organizations because she recognized the value of being part of an organization devoted to furthering her own profession as well as the industry as a whole. She is now director at large for the San Francisco PRSA chapter as well as the diversity chair for the new professionals section of SF PRSA.

You can follow her on Twitter at: @CarolinaMadrid

Confessions of a PR Intern: How To Spend Your Summer as a SHIFTer

By Lexie Bowser

@Wowser_Bowser

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For the past three months I have interned at SHIFT Communications in Boston, MA. If I were to describe my first day, or month, of work in one word it would be: intimidating. Seeing as this was both my first internship and first experience in PR, I was not sure what to expect. I was frequently dodging terms, such as b-doc, clipping, media list and other various jargon words, while trying to maintain my composure.

However, after learning from my remarkably patient team and the mistakes that I can’t pretend I didn’t make, I started to get the hang of things. I worked on a team whose clients were mainly tech and social tech. Three months ago, I would’ve had no idea what that meant. Even after conducting my own researching and scheduling a briefing session with my team, I wasn’t remotely close to being comfortable with what the clients do. If I had never immersed myself into this internship, I never would have known what phenomenon’s like BYOD and cloud computing were.

Most college students would be fine with never knowing what these tech-y terms mean and I have to admit that I was one of them! But instead of staying in my comfort zone and dealing with concepts and situations that I was familiar with, I was determined to master an entirely new set of skills, which is a critical take away for any intern experience. Whether it’s technology, finance or bio-chemistry, learning about a new space, and becoming comfortable with it, is an imperative life skill.

Before I knew it, I was monitoring for coverage and drafting clients’ tweets like it was second nature. I created and managed media lists, found potential events for clients and performed various administrative tasks. When I was asked to do research on a prospective client, I had the confidence to jump right in. SHIFT fostered an environment for me where I wasn’t scared to ask for help, but I was also assured that I had the ability to do the tasks asked of me.

As the summer comes to a close and I begin gearing up for school, I am realizing the impact this experience has had on me. Instead of being terrified of what the “real” working world has in store for me after graduation, I am excited for the options I can explore. I am so thankful for the opportunity that SHIFT gave me to learn the ins and outs of Public Relations and I can’t stress how much this real-world experience has helped me learn. I will miss being at SHIFT, but I would not have wanted to spend my summer any other way!

Pitching in a Summer of “Big News:” Cutting Through the Noise When Other Stories Seem More Important

It’s not even August and we’ve had enough headline news this summer to last several months. It all started with the Facebook IPO in May, which was followed by events such as SCOTUS’ healthcare ruling, the Diamond Jubilee, buzz around the Olympics, and the Marissa Mayer news. Oh yeah, we’re also in an election year.

News junkies might rejoice at this continual cycle of “big news,” but I don’t think I’m the only PR person who’s felt like they need a giant, “woe is me” cocktail. After all, when reporters are totally focused on the latest major story, and that story doesn’t involve your client, how can you cut through the noise to get the media’s attention?

I asked my colleagues to share the pitching tips and tricks that have helped them get through this summer. So stop drowning your sorrows and read on for some great insight on meeting coverage metrics and keeping your clients happy when it seems that reporters just don’t want to talk to you.

  • Make the big news YOUR news. Is there a way to tie your client to the big story that everyone’s writing about? Can one of your executives provide relevant commentary, or make projections about the larger industry outlook? Things like healthcare, the election, and even the Olympics are ongoing stories that will be covered again and again, and reporters are going to want new people to talk to and new story angles. So be creative. That said, do pay attention to what reporters are saying on Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs. You don’t want to be “that person” who offers expert commentary just after a reporter tweets that he doesn’t want any insight on the individual mandate.
  • Make new friends, but keep the old. If you aren’t making headway with your media friendlies, now is the perfect time to expand your contact list. Spend some time researching new contacts at your key outlets—is there a rookie reporter who seems to be getting the “leftover” (i.e. non-big news) assignments? Contributors or bloggers who have the flexibility to write about whatever they want? Also, don’t limit your research to just new contacts—be on the lookout for new outlets, too, whether it’s print pubs, newsletters, or blogs. Once you give yourself some time to see what else (and who else) is out there, you won’t feel like you’re beating a dead horse when your go-to contacts aren’t picking up the phone.
  • Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. One of the teams in our NY office had a client launch that essentially coincided with the Facebook IPO. They originally planned to do an NYC media tour with one of the executives, but the only CEO on anyone’s radar was Mark Zuckerberg. What to do? Accept that this strategy simply wasn’t going to work. Rather than push against an unmovable wall, the team focused on tactics that would create momentum, such as pitching relevant targets for launch coverage that weren’t preoccupied with Facebook. The team ultimately secured more than 22 million impressions in just 3 weeks, resulting from coverage in regional print/broadcast media, local search, and business outlets.

The Space Between: Digital and Traditional PR Look Really Similar These Days

By Dave Levy, @levydr

I have at least one or two media contacts with whom I rarely, if ever, email. It’s not that I’m not doing my job; it’s that whenever I have a pitch or want to soft-sound a story idea, I have to shrink the thought into way-less than 160 characters so I can direct message them on Twitter.

It will not surprise you to learn that most of these “Tweet First” contacts are bloggers. A few years ago, blogger engagement was a separate category from traditional media activities. In fact, during the growth of digital PR back six or seven years ago, we had two distinct teams with their own tasks related to either traditional pitching or blogger engagement. I was working in the latter camp, and by way of talking to people who blog, and who were some of the first on Twitter, it was kind of a natural progression to stop emailing each other and then just tweet.

Blogging looks a lot more like mainstream news these days (or mainstream news looks more like blogging, that’s a chicken or egg post for another day). Along with that, the space between what I’ve been doing in my career around online news sources and what colleagues who have filled more traditional media roles has gotten really, really small. Sure, my leading example here talked about how bloggers and I talked through Twitter direct messaging. But it isn’t only bloggers who rely on Twitter for everything from news to getting leads from sources. There are even reporters who have grown in their careers to join traditional outlets by way of being active online bloggers (and, again, plenty of writers who once wrote for large organizations have jumped to independent, online outlets).

When I got into this business, it felt different to be talking to a blogger, but maybe it shouldn’t have. I don’t know if I’m ruining some big secret, but there really isn’t that much that’s different in terms of what we do when we reach out to an online-only reporter. Journalists and bloggers alike are writing stories, and sometimes we as PR professionals have – or think we have – a tip that will help them create content. Ultimately, we have to take the time to get to know the writer, what they consider relevant and the best ways to reach them. That process doesn’t change on the basis of reaching out to either a blogger or a traditional journalist.

As a final bit of homework, I’ll challenge you to think about what pitching a story in a direct message is like. It’s really, really good practice to take your pitch and try and get all the important parts into less than a sentence. If you can do that, you’ll have a better sense of your story and what you are trying to say – no matter who you are reaching out to.

 

10 Things We Didn’t Know About PR

By: Rachel Huxley-Cohen

Entering the real world is scary. Something that’s even scarier is when you’re bombarded with weird, office jargon that leaves you feeling incompetent on day #1. We spend four years in college, preparing for the “real world” and learning the ins and outs of our chosen fields, but sometimes (okay, MOST times) that just isn’t enough. And you quickly learn that nothing beats real world experience.

Something I have found either insanely embarrassing or very hysterical are the simple things (buzz words, daily tasks, etc) that I didn’t know about PR before entering my first big kid job at SHIFT. So, in an effort to not feel like a total misfit, I reached out to my colleagues and together we have pulled together a “Top 10 List” of funny, embarrassing and sometimes insightful, things we did NOT know about PR before entering the field.

  1. I never realized how many people don’t understand what PR is. No I am not in advertising, living the life of Samantha Jones or lying on behalf of clients in order to get coverage. Other than that, PR can be just as badass and as fun as you think it would be. – Mallory Cloutier, Account Manager
  2. The PR world is small. Everyone knows everyone. – Katie Boucher, Account Executive
  3. The phrase “off the record” really means nothing. NOTHING is off the record! You can be quoted as a spokesperson for any client, any time. – Ann Marie Gorden, Account Executive
  4. I didn’t know that I would, in addition to various PR skills, become an administrative wizard. Scheduling calls, rescheduling calls, combing calendars for availability, setting up dial-ins, corralling people into conference rooms, and here and there, fighting the good Go-to-Meeting fight. Also, typing an email while looking at your colleague over your desk is like throwing a dart at the target while wearing a blindfold. If I don’t misspell something, I feel awesome. – Amanda Guisbond, Senior Account Executive
  5.  I didn’t know that I could get so many emails in the span of one bathroom break. – Emily Wienberg, Account Coordinator
  6.  I get to sign up for all the social sites I otherwise would be too embarrassed to admit using.  “Me on Pinterest?…ughhh yea, it’s only because I use it for work.” – Scott Baldwin, Account Manager
  7. Databases. Galore. – Denise Bertrand, Account Coordinator
  8. I didn’t know just how much jargon the PR industry has. You start off not knowing what’s in a client’s “wheelhouse” or how to “circle the wagons” and vowing never to use these phrases. And then one day you find yourself referencing “bandwidth” and “get your ducks in a row” in a team meeting…  – Sarah Bergeron, Account Executive
  9. I didn’t know I would require skills in psychology. So much of the work involves counseling, giving advice, and being a good listener.  – Danielle Mancano, Senior Account Manager
  10. My family will never understand what I do day to day. “No, Grandpa Albert. I don’t plan and attend parties every day.” – Ciri Haugh, Senior Account Executive

Why SHIFT Clients Rule: Pizza, Cookies & Praise

By Amanda Guisbond, @agbond

A couple of very important things happened this week at SHIFT’s Offices in Newton:

First, there was an unexpected delivery of baked goods.

Second, there was a just-as-unexpected delivery of Chicago deep-dish pizzas.

Why, you may be asking, were these considered significant events?  No, not because us SHIFT-ers LOVE free food (and we do) but because both were edible “kudos” from different clients wanting to congratulate their SHIFT account teams on a job well done.

First up the Rapid7 PR team delivered some INCREDIBLE media results as part of a rapid response pitching opportunity, resulting in coverage in the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Reuters (just to name a few).  As a “thank you” Rapid7 sent the SHIFT team a basket of cookies and brownies.  Mmmm!

The next day, the HIMSS PR team received a shipment of four individual Chicago deep-dish pizzas from their beloved client contact in – you guessed it – Chicago.  There was no specific reason for the delivery, per se, except that HIMSS wanted to recognize “all the great work” the team had accomplished over the past year and in lieu of being able to take everyone out to lunch in Boston.  Awww…

It’s no surprise – heh – that this kind of recognition makes our day as PR representatives!  When clients go the extra mile to make us pause and reflect on the great work we’re doing together it only inspires us to want to kick even more butt on behalf of our partners-in-crime.

Thank you to Rapid7, HIMSS and all of our clients who appreciate, encourage and support us and our PR efforts – and understand the fastest way to our hearts is through our stomachs!

Thank you Rapid7 for the basket of cookies and brownies!

Thanks to our Chicago HIMSS contact for the Chicago deep-dish pizzas! What a surprise!

Media Q&A with Real Simple’s Amy Bleier Long

Over the last few weeks, the brilliant Tumblr blog, “99 Problems But A Pitch Ain’t One,” has captivated us, entertained us, and yes, sometimes gotten us through the day. Some of the best posts are humorous observations of the relationship between PR professionals and media – refer to exhibits a, b, and c. Of course, in real life, no one wants to be an angry elf mid-meltdown, even though he gets to rock a sweet fur collar (see exhibit a). So, to help us avoid making any of Tumblr’s “PR vs. media” scenarios a reality, I asked one of our editor friends to provide some insight on how she likes to work with PR folks, and what we should keep in mind throughout the pitch process, from initial outreach to final fact check.

SHIFT’s Overstock.com team has had the good fortune to work closely with Amy Bleier Long, assistant market editor at Real Simple, on several occasions this year. She is sadly leaving the publication this Friday, but the thoughts she’s shared below are fantastic reminders about how to build mutually beneficial media relationships. After all, if we’ve learned anything from Dwight Schrute, you never know when you could get shunned. Hopefully, these insights will help you avoid it.

As an editor at a women’s lifestyle glossy, what is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to the PR community?

I am going to offer two pet peeves, if I can. First is lack of communication. Sometimes we ask a PR person to help us secure a product or get more information for us and we don’t hear from them for a long time. Then, too late for a meeting or run-through, we hear from them with either no explanation for the delay or they tell us they were waiting for their client to respond. I worked (briefly) in PR so I know that a lot of times, it’s a matter of getting information from your client. But we appreciate when you let us know that, let us know that you know we’re on a deadline but you are on it and haven’t forgotten. Or if you find out a product we’ve requested is unavailable, we appreciate you going the extra mile and looking for an alternative, but let us know you’re doing that – because otherwise we might think we’re getting something we need, when we’re really not. And, if you’re the only person that works on an account and you’re going to be unreachable – please put an out of office message up so we know!

Second to that is probably when someone gives the impression (or flat out states) that we can have a product by a certain time for a shoot and then right before the shoot all of a sudden cannot come up with the product. We go through several layers of approval on products to shoot, and when a PR person tells me something is available and that we can have it in time for a shoot, we start counting on that item, and sometimes base other items around it. So if, at the last minute, we can’t get that item anymore, it really throws off our planning. At best, it means we have to scramble to replace that item; at worst, it could ruin a planned shot.

Do you have many or few relationships with PR folks – i.e. people you go to again and again for product ideas or story angles? How were those relationships established?  

I would say I have built many strong relationships with PR people that I go back to again and again for products or information, or to pick their brains on a story I might be working on. Mainly those relationships have been developed by working with these people over the last several years and having the experience always be pleasant. The people I work with the most are quick, responsive, and come through with products 90% of the time or more, even with very short notice. It helps, of course, when their products are really well-designed and match our magazine’s aesthetic. And also, no matter how many times I’ve worked with certain companies, they always remain grateful for the support, which isn’t a requirement, but it is really nice to know that they appreciate our relationship, too.

What do you find is the best way to get to know about the topics you write about each month? Outreach to friends in PR? Individual research? What can PR people do to make the research process easier?

I don’t write much, I mostly do the market work, but every once in a while I will reach out to my PR contacts to see if they know someone else in the industry who might be a good person (in terms of expertise on a specific topic) to talk to about ideas, inspiration, or a specific story topic.

A lot of media contacts dislike phone calls from PR reps (vs. receiving email inquires). At glossies, would you say that’s the general sentiment? If so, what should PR folks keep in mind when writing email pitches to increase our odds of getting a response?

I feel similarly in that I prefer email to the phone, though some things just need to be done on the phone. One reason I prefer email is because it gives me a written record of products requested, status, and any pricing or details so later, if I’m told something different, I can go back and question/confirm it. I hope this doesn’t sound terrible – I think the main reason editors seem to prefer email is that people get to the point quicker. Everyone is so busy and I think with email, people just get right down to it, which frankly, I prefer. When pitching, please be sure you’re targeting me appropriately. Take two seconds to confirm what department I work in. I know my title can be vague, and when I started at Real Simple, I think some of the listing companies put me on the wrong pitch lists (i.e. fashion or food), but I get an enormous number of emails that are not for my area at all. And also, if you’ve sent me an email about a product or story idea, please, please do not call me literally 5 minutes later to see if I got the email. I probably did but am either in the middle of something or it doesn’t apply. If I see something that is right for the magazine, I will definitely respond, or I will tell you which department to contact if I’m not the right person.