Podcast: “Meghan’s Take: Everything PR”

Click here to listen to the pilot episode of my podcast, Meghan’s Take: Everything PR.

The podcast begins with a short introduction of the podcast and the topic of social media’s advantages for all types of business. (0 -22 sec)

Next I give a quick background of social media and the huge role it plays in our society at the moment. (23-1:09 sec)

I briefly discuss a conversation I had with my father about social media, and how he didn’t believe in the benefits of social media. I talk about an experiment I conducted with him to prove otherwise. ( 1:11- 2:36).

I then discuss the main point I am trying to make in my broadcast, social media is good for everyone, big or small (2:39- 3:10).

Next I discuss an event I did the PR for called “Behind the Veil” for Savannah Magazine and how social media was implemented for the publicity. (3:12-3:57).

I then go back to the story with my dad and inform the audience that changes have been made for his corporations social media presence

I finish up with my final thoughts on the matter as well as thanking those who helped create my podcast (4:48-5:25).

This was a really fun project and I plan to do a podcast each month on various things public relations related. I’ll keep you all posted! Thanks!

March 31, 2010. Assignments, Social Media Monitoring. Leave a comment.

My Interview with a True P.R. Pro

Michael Altfest is an Account Supervisor at Edelman Public Relations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mr. Altfest has been with the company for over five years and received a B.A., in Business Administration from the University of Washington Business School in 2000. As most of you know, Edelman is the largest Public Relations firm in the country, so this interview was incredibly exciting. You can go to Edelman’s website to learn more about the company! Here is Mr. Altfest’s public linkedin profile also!

My father’s company, Transamerica Retirement Services, is represented by Edelman and they provide a close personal relationship with their CEO’s and Mr. Altfest was very generous to spare a few minutes to speak with me. Here is the transcript.

1.)What’s a typical week like? (If no week is typical, then what was last week like?)

The one guarantee working for a PR agency is that there is no such thing as a typical week! I think the best way to give you a “typical” week is to start with a description of my role.

I’m an Account Supervisor that oversees day-to-day management of three accounts at Edelman. The position I’m in could best be described as “mid-management,” so I do a bit of everything: account planning and strategy, tactical execution, staff management, and new business (researching and pursuing new clients). Many employees also have broader corporate roles. I’m our office Quality representative, which means I’m the go-to person for our company’s larger “Quality” initiative and am responsible for anything related to that.

Last week alone, I probably drafted 4-5 press releases or media alerts for upcoming announcements that my clients are making, supervised my teams on outreach pertaining to another 3-4 announcements (ranging from new store openings to new services to new executives), finalized the monthly reporting (what we did in March) for all three of my clients while also finalizing the activities that we’ll be doing for them in April. I spend a considerable amount of time all week reading the news to stay on top of my clients, their competitors and industries. I also have at least one internal team meeting and one client check in meeting for each account, every week (so that adds up to 6-8 meetings).

And that’s just the proactive client work! Since last week marked the end of the month, I also processed all of the billing for each client. Basically this entails reviewing and approving all of the items that they get billed for (both the hourly fees they pay us, and any expense incurred during the month.)

Lastly, I also spent some time doing some research on a company as a possible new business prospect, which entailed researching the company and what they do and then reaching out to a contact there to see if they’d be interested in chatting with Edelman.

I can’t speak for everyone who works for an agency, but it’s the constant variety and fast pace that attracts most of us to this sort of job.

2.)Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.
(**I’m not using this example because it has to do with your father’s business, what I’m about to explain is honestly the work I am most proud of in 5+ years at Edelman**)

As part of our work for Transamerica, we do the PR for the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, which is a non-profit research company that examines trends and issues in the retirement space. Last year we re-introduced The Center, so to speak, after it had officially registered as a non-profit and conducted a major media campaign on it’s behalf. Although we’d had a lot of success on this part of the business in the past, last year’s results were unprecedented. We secured coverage for The Center in virtually every major media outlet – Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Associated Press – that matters to them. Ultimately, the visibility of the issues that we raised for them spurred a special session in the U.S. Senate.

But while the results are great, I’m most proud of how we accomplished this. Honestly, it was years and years of work to build the status of The Center that paid off in one enormous year. It was a great example of how hard work pays off, how valuable media relationships are, and how approaching a program with the right combination of strategy and effort can generate great results beyond simply media impressions.

3.)How important is writing in your career?

Extremely. Arguably it’s the most important, and certainly one of the handful of skills that are absolutely necessary. And it’s not just the ability to structure sentences and tell an interesting story that will result in media coverage. Good writing is essential, but so is versatility in writing. Yes, I write a lot of press releases and media pitches, but I’m also constantly writing client communication documents, messaging, strategy, and everyday emails. Good writing is necessary in each and every one of those instances.

(And please pardon this document. I wouldn’t recommend it as a “good writing sample” – I’m just rushed!)

4.)What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?

1. Get agency experience, and a lot of it. There are a lot of “PR” jobs out there, but agency life is some of the best work experience you’ll ever get. Even if you learn that PR isn’t for you, you’re getting experience that will help you in any line of work. On any given day you are working for 3-6 companies, including your own. I’ve done legitimate, strategic communications work for retirement plan providers, brokerages, software companies, employee benefit providers, fitness providers, electronic retailers, high end audio equipment, and an owner of a professional sports franchise (among many others). I’ve worked directly with the C-level of some of the world’s most recognizable brands. My work has appeared on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. You simply won’t get that type of experience working in house.

2. Intern!! One of the most difficult things about PR, especially when you start working, is how foreign so much of the work actually is – and how much of it there is. The learning curve when first starting at an agency is quite steep, so rolling up your sleeves early on and learning how an agency works (before you ever get that first “real” job) is invaluable.

3. Stay up on media. Many times a day, every day. Keep tabs on traditional media, but also on the growing space of online. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Take note of what companies are doing, what’s working and, most importantly, how people are responding to and interacting with the information companies are putting out.

5.)What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?

See #3 in the last question. Read, read, read. I wouldn’t say I keep current on the PR industry so much as I keep up on my clients and their industries. But by reading many sources of media and seeing how companies are getting covered, that is telling me what is working in terms of PR.

6.)What has surprised you the most about working in PR?

How strategic it is. Over the last 5 years there has been a noticeable shift away from paid media (aka “advertising”) into more strategic public engagement, so to speak. Most marketing used to be heavily driven by advertising, and now its becoming opposite. PR is driving the communications strategies of so many companies, and it’s doing so from so many areas beyond traditional media relations.

7.)What do you wish you would have known before starting your career in PR?

I wish I’d had a better grasp on the versatility it takes to succeed. Saying I work for 3-4 different companies is simplifying it. Each client has at least one client contact; often more. But on the agency end you have very complex reporting structures depending on the client and who owns each project. …and keep in mind, your clients might be VERY diverse, so you’re constantly involved in multiple industries.

8.)How does technology affect your daily work?

I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without technology. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that technology is WHY PR is so successful now. The process of disseminating information pre-internet was rather archaic. Now, it would take me a couple minutes to determine who the right media contact is at a little newspaper across the country, contact that reporter, and get a response back.

Keep in mind that if I put out a press release now, it’ll be all the way around the world before I can blink. The Internet and social media have totally changed the way we do business. Even though it’s been very beneficial, we need to be more cautious as well. The wrong message can spread at a speed that makes it virtually impossible to control. But if done correctly, any company can leverage technology to its advantage.

9.)When your company is hiring for an entry-level PR position, what makes a candidate stand out?

Experience (see what I said about internships), personality (we’re in the business of interacting with the media), writing skills, an ability to demonstrate that their in touch with the media landscape and business work, and an eagerness to roll up their sleeves and LEARN!

Thank you so much Michael for all your insights! This will be a huge help to me as well as my classmates!

March 29, 2010. Assignments, Public Relations Practicum. 4 comments.

Internship Advice

This semester I have been lucky enough to obtain an internship with a fantastic company, Savannah Morning News. I work for Savannah magazine specifically, and even though it is an unpaid internship, I am having the most amazing experience with working with the best in Savannah in journalism and public relations. My boss and editor have been giving me great feedback and I feel, that after several months at an internship, I have some tips to share with those who are about to embark on their internship journey.

One of the compliments I receive the most is that I have a great attitude. So, the first tip I would give to an intern is to always be gracious and be willing to work. Let’s be honest, internships, no matter where you are, are not going to be highly glamorous. I often find myself making phone calls and running errands but I always do it with a smile on my face. I also make it a priority to thank my boss and editor for giving me this opportunity. Georgia Southern University student, Kelly Rowen, recently graduated with her hotel and restaurant degree. She finished her internship in Florida last summer. She was working at a hotel in St. Petersburg and she absolutely  hated the job.

“It was the worst job I had ever had,” Kelly said. “I was constantly being yelled at by customers and my peers, but, that never stopped me from doing my very best.”

When Kelly left her job she received a great recommendation letter from her supervisor.

Another tip I give is to act professionally and not cross the line with off-colored jokes or dressing inappropriately. Laura Callahan, a junior at Georgia Tech, worked at an engineering company in Atlanta where she was often working side by side with construction workers.

“These guys would often curse and talk about really gross stuff,” Laura said. “I made sure to never give into the casual nature of my environment though.”

Laura’s boss was impressed by her tact and professionalism and got invited  back to work at this company next semester.

Internships, although they can be a lot of work, are really fun. So my # 1 tip is to get one and get excited about it! Enthusiasm shows through and it makes the people you’re working with happy to be around you.

March 11, 2010. Assignments, Public Relations Practicum, Topic of the Week. Leave a comment.

“Full Frontal PR” by Richard Laermer

visit slideshare.com to see the notes for my slidecast!

March 10, 2010. Assignments, Social Media Monitoring. Leave a comment.

“Read This First: The Executive’s Guide to New Media – from Blogs to Social Networks” by Ron Ploof

March 3, 2010. Assignments, Public Relations Practicum. Leave a comment.

What to wear? PR Edition

As a woman, everyday outfit choices may seem difficult, however, when it comes to choosing the ensemble to wear to a job interview, this task can be nothing short of frightening. “Does this make me look smart?”, ” Do I look too risque with this color lipstick?”,  “Is this shirt too ‘something’?”  The questions and doubts are endless. This is precisely why I decided to put together this post to rid you of all uncertainty around this important decision. I searched the web and put together the tops finds I retrieved. Here they are!

Celeste Mitchell from the blog, Mediabistro, gives some tips for those applying for media related jobs including public relations. She suggests getting some information on the company before deciding on your outfit. If you still can’t really tell, a suit is most likely the best option, however, Mitchell says to wear a fun colorful shirt to show a bit of your personality. Also, “you want to show an understanding of the audience” Mitchell says. Know the organizations client-base and make sure your outfit choice reflects those people.

You Can’t Wear That to an Interview!Or can you? In a changing employment world, some job-hunt truisms are becoming old-fashioned myth ,by Julie Gordon, from the business week blog, says to pay attention to the small details as well as the overall appearance of your ensemble. Many kids right out of college usually overlook important touches like making sure your zipper is up and that your shoes have no scuffs on them. These little aspects of your outfit speak loudly to interviewees. So, do not forget to paint those chipped nails!

Finally, watch this video to get a professionals opinion on the matter and after you watch this video compare it to other YouTube videos on the subject and pull the ideas that are repeated!

Happy job hunting!

February 27, 2010. Assignments, Public Relations Practicum, Topic of the Week. 2 comments.

Pro’s and Con’s of Social Media for Job Seekers

It is clear that social media has penetrated almost every field. A very important area(especially to a graduating senior) is for the aid of employers to find and evaluate potential employees. After doing a little research on the web, I found there were many advantages and disadvantages of social media to the job seeker. In this post I have compiled the most valuable tips from various sources listed at the end of this post.

  1. Connecting with Organizations on a Personal Level- Websites like monster.com are not very legitimate anymore. Using job search websites can be frustrating and disheartening because you are constantly being bombarded by scams. Adam Schwabel, author of Me 2.0, says that instead of searching the web for jobs, search the web of people who work for the companies you desire to be employed by. However, it is vital that you develop an online relationship with someone before inquiring about a job position, only let them know your interest and knowledge of the company.
  2. Marketing Yourself as a Brand- The best way to accomplish this is to become a content creator instead of a consumer. Blogging is a great way to advertise yourself to future employers.
  3. Constructing a Digital Resume on YouTube- This is really cool way of separating yourself from the pack because so few people have built this inventive asset. It’s important to keep this video short and to the point without seeming too rehearsed.
  4. Negatively Portraying Yourself with Past Photos- I think it is safe to say that we’ve all been there when referring to “embarrassing” pictures on Facebook/Myspace/Flickr. Whether it be something minor like holding two alcoholic beverages at the same time or a picture incredibly inappropriate with nudity in it, these can be incredibly damaging to your job search. Take my advice on this one and go “clean up” your facebook page pronto!

Social Networking Don’ts Careerbuilder.com lists some potential pitfalls of social networking and the workforce. A bit of sound advice, that may seem obvious, is to never badmouth a company you have interest in working for. Anything on the internet can be found and this is not a risk a job-seeker wants to take. Also, if you are currently employed but in the meantime are looking for a better job, do not say this online. Again, something written, can be read.

I wish everyone happy job hunting and will keep you posted with all my interviews when I graduate!

Thank you to Adam Schwabel, Frank Reed @ Marketing Pilgrim, and careerbuilder.com

February 16, 2010. Assignments, Public Relations Practicum, Topic of the Week. Leave a comment.

Cover Letter Tips for the Public Relations Majors

The anxiety that occurs before and during writing that three to four paragraph letter in which you ask potential employers to “buy” you in a sense, can almost be too much too bare. What should I include? What should I leave out? Does this sound to pretentious? Are my word choices attractive to the right types of people? Plus a dozen more questions that flood one’s mind before writing their resumé cover letter.

We have all been, or will be, there and when searching the internet for help the information overload is truly outrageous. In this blog I have compiled some of the top tips I have gathered when it comes to writing the perfect cover letter for the PR professional.

  1. First, take the time to recognize the fact that this cover letter is your foot into a very important door, your potential employers. In fact, jobbankusa.com says that for a public relations position, the cover letter is, in essence,  your interview since public relations is based on communication. What is a better gauge of someone’s communication skills than how they sell themselves in a cover letter?
  2. DO YOUR RESEARCH AND PLAN for crying out loud! This step is so vital because it shows the companies you are applying to that you are committed to it’s overall goal. jobbankusa.com suggests a few questions you should consider before/while writing your cover letter:
  • – What is the company’s mission statement and what are                        their areas of expertise?
  • – What specific position are you applying for and how are you adept to perform the tasks of this position?
  • – Who is going to read your letter?Know their specific title and (for God’s sake) spell their name correctly. This could potentially, not only, aggravate and offend your interviewer but, suggest that you do not pay attention to detail and are sloppy.
  • – What is the first, second, and third most important business problems that your position will be expected to solve? Which strategies and tactics would you implement? And, why do you enjoy solving these business problems?

3. Familiarize yourself with Netiquette- a term coined by Virginia Shea   in her book, Netiquette, which is a list of ten rules corporate Americans should follow when communicating with each other over the web. In this day and age you are no doubt going to be e-mailing your cover letter and resume to potential employers and you should be very sure that the e-mail accompanying these is suitable. GOOD WRITING IS KEY.

4.Be brief and direct. Worktree.com says this is important because the people who are reading your letter are inevitably busy and do not want to sort through descriptive words upon more descriptive words.

5. Edit and proofread your cover letter – TWICE. Maybe even three times. Allow someone you trust to read your letter and make notes. Than read through it a few times and read it out loud to make sure it is phonetically appealing.

These are the tips I found most useful and also most widely recognized among many sources. The specific sources I used for this blog are: jobbankusa.com, rileyguide.com, and worktree.com.

Happy job hunting!

January 26, 2010. Assignments, PR Connections, Public Relations Practicum. 2 comments.

Top 5 Things I learned in Public Relations Research

Public Relations research has definately been a one of the hardest courses I have taken in college, however, it has also been the most helpful and skill building. I learned a lot in this class and I have listed the most important things I learned in the class below.

5.)KNOW YOUR CLIENT: This semester I had the privelege of working with a real client and pitching them ideas about how to help a certain cause in their organization. My group and I took it upon ourselves to personally visit the client, Center in Excellence in Teaching, two different times simply to get a feel for the workplace and the people in it. We also made it a priority to meet and greet the head of our organization so when it came to the day we were to present, he would recognize our faces, and we would in turn have a familiar face in the crowd. Knowing your client well gives you a huge leg up on the competition and ensures you do not do any work/research that has already been done.

4.)GATHERING DATA IS HALF THE BATTLE: Obtaining raw data through surveys and focus groups proved to be quite the challenge. Our group had a very low return rate on e-mail linked surveys and only 2 individuals indicated they would participate in a focus group. Basically what I am trying to say here is that do not fret if gathering data seems tough, it is. Knowing this going into it will help alleviate stress.

3.)DESIGN OF SURVEY SHOULD BE STRATEGIC: When designing your survey, the layout is incredibly important. You want to start with easier questions at the beginning and leave the more difficult questions for the end. You want to make sure your questions are easily understandable and lend themselves to answering. Also make sure you are using the correct question formatting for the correct questions. Know the difference between a likert scale, open-ended questions, multiple answers and so on. Put yourself in the questionnaire taker’s shoes and see which type of format works most effectively.

4.)PLANNING IS KEY: I cannot stress this point more. Plan, plan, plan, plan, and then plan some more. Throughout public relations research projects you are going to have a million different balls being thrown your way all the time (especially if you are in the team leader role). Also, more than likely, you will be working in a group and while individually you may be able to pull something together last minute, trust me when I say, in a group arena this is NOT possible. Organize your work and plan far ahead in advance to make sure everything will be done with time to spare.

5.)BE ETHICAL AND CHECK TEAMMATES WORK: This is by far the most important thing I learned while in Public Relations research. Ethical public relations is so important and a big part of this is using your own work. I know this seems like a no-brainer but I unfortunately had a woman on my team this semester who found it completely “ethical” to copy and paste paragraph after paragraph of someone else’s work, which brings me to  my next point – DO NOT BLINDLY TRUST ANYONE. This is your job, your income, your reputation on the line and someone else can ruin it for you with a drop of a hat. Check their work and do not sign anything unless you are 100% sure nothing is plagiarized.

Like I said earlier, a tough, tough class, but completely worth the life lessons it taught me. Thank you Ms. Nixon for treating us all like adults and as though we are in the real world, because that phase in our life is just around the corner!

December 9, 2009. Assignments. Leave a comment.

Pet Peeves

When asked to blog about my pet peeves my immediate thought was, “how much time do you have?” No, I’m just kidding but I do have a few pet peeves. I suppose my biggest pet peeves are hypocrites. Yes hypocrites really grind my gears. I also really dislike when people feel the need to speak constantly. These are the people who love to hear themselves talk and the thing about people like these is that no one else really cares to hear what they are saying. I don’t like when people on their cell phones speak so loudly about personal things in public places. I do not care what your boyfriend did last night. I don’t care how drunk your friend got and the fact that she puked all over your car. And, I certainly do not care one bit what your doctor’s update is. Really people, keep it to yourselves. OH and i HATE when girls pull out hand held mirrors in class to re-do their make-up. You are in class and no one cares about how thickly your lipgloss is applied.

October 16, 2009. Assignments. Leave a comment.

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