9 Things Every Public Relations Student Should Be Doing Over Summer Break

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Those who were seniors this past year are now graduated and moved on, leaving room for the next class of future PR professionals to fill their shoes—to take next steps on the path of their PR student career.  But you’re still a student, so what should YOU be doing during summer break? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Set short-term goals. For example, attend at least one professional industry networking event over the summer. And, read industry blogs and/or articles and comment on at least one each week.
  • Set long-term goals, write them down and number them in order of importance. For example, attend at least one industry professional networking event per semester. And/or get involved with on-campus pre-professional organization (such as PRSSA or AMA).
  • Work on your portfolio. Gather writing samples–or create some by volunteering to write a guest blog post, or better yet, start your own blog. Be sure to include any public relations or marketing plans you’ve created, press releases, anything written in AP Style, research papers, newspaper clippings, presentations, creative design samples, reference letters, special certifications, etc. If you haven’t yet created an online portfolio, do so. The earlier you begin, the more prepared you will be come graduation time. NOTE: If you are including any work that was done as part of a group, be sure to notate this and identify which part you actually did.
  • Develop your elevator pitch. You should have a 15-second blurb that is memorable and opens a window to your personality, your passions and your mindset. Not a laundry list of skills but rather what you can offer to a potential employer–why would someone want to hire you? Practice OUT LOUD. Use your phone to video yourself so you can play it back, listen, observe, and make improvements.
  • Clean-up and hone your online presence—including your social media accounts. Check your privacy settings (and check them again). Google yourself  (be sure to ‘hide private results’ by clicking Settings)–and don’t forget Yahoo and Bing (yes, some people actually use Bing). If the first page results do not represent who you are, immediately begin digital damage control. This is even more important if you have a common name and can easily be confused with a dubious doppelgänger. Seek out and follow industry leaders so you can network and learn from the professionals, not just fellow students.
    –   Not sure what “digital damage control” is? Here are some tips from Forbes.
    –   Don’t think employers are using the Web and social media to research job candidates? Read these recent stats from Career Builder.
  • Participate in industry-related Twitter chats and take advantage of free webinars or Facebook Live professional events–especially explore topics that are not covered in the classroom or an area of specialty you’re considering.
  • PR professionals are, in themselves, “brands”—it’s a very competitive industry. Your business cards, resume, online portfolios, etc. should present a cohesive message. Work on ensuring that all these match your “brand.” Your reputation is one of your biggest assets.
  • Research agencies, organization, companies that you would like to intern with or work for.  Reach out to them and request an informational interview. Face-to-face is best, of course, but live video chat works, too. Ask what (coursework, degrees, activities, skill sets) they are looking for when hiring. Ask, given identical academic backgrounds, what makes some candidates standout above the rest–and what makes some of them instantly get weeded out.
  • Volunteer at a local non-profit and offer to help with public relations, marketing, social media, blog content creation, special events. This is experience—it all counts!

If you are a student or recent graduate, what have you done (or are doing) to progress your career? If you are a PR professional, what else would you advise students (or young PR pros) to be doing in preparation for their career?

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A version of this post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on June 3, 2013, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2013/06/what-public-relations-students-should-do-during-summer-break  and is cross-posted here with permission.

Public Relations Today

past-present-futureI was recently interviewed by Sword and the Script Media founder Frank Strong (via email) for his blog.  Normally, I wouldn’t make a point of mentioning it or posting here but in this case it’s apropos to a speaking gig I have coming up. The key topic of the interview was how PR has changed over the years. Has PR become harder in the digital age?  I posit that the entire communications field is rapidly evolving, and tactical options seem to multiply faster than one can keep up with, but at the core are still the same, solid PR strategies. [Read the full post here: http://www.swordandthescript.com/2016/09/modern-pr-different]

I will be speaking more about this at the PRSSA 2016 National Conference, the largest congregation of public relations students in the country, next month. My session is entitled, “Public Relations in the Digital Age,” so you can see how the two are related!  I will discuss more on keeping up with all those rapid changes at the conference.

Stay tuned. I’m sure to write a wrap-up post 😉.

 

New Resource (Book) for Millennial Job Seekers

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Photo Credit: Bolla Photography

As a PRSSA professional adviser and PR student mentor, I often get questions about job searching, professional networking etiquette, cover letters, interview preparation and follow-up, and résumé writing (as well as personal branding).  Those questions are typically prefaced with “how do I …” followed by “will you read what I wrote and give me feedback”.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I get incredible joy and satisfaction from helping and mentoring PR students and gladly do so; however, I can’t count how many times I’ve thought that I should write this stuff down so I could just send a ‘canned’ response to some of those frequently asked questions—just to save time.

Last Fall, I was contacted via Twitter by Danny Rubin who had just completed a book called, Wait, How Do I Write This Email? and subtitled, “Game-Changing Templates for Networking and the Job Search”.  He knew (from my bio and various social media activity) that I do a lot with PR students and thought it might be helpful. A free book? Um, yes, please! Then I completely forgot about it until a couple months later when the book arrived in the mail along with a personal note from Danny. After skimming through, I knew within minutes that this book is as good as GOLD to, not just students but young pros or really anyone—especially those who’ve been out of job search mode for some time.

Around that same time, I was planning the PRSA St. Louis annual Career Development Day and thought this would be the perfect opening keynote topic. Fortunately, we were able to bring Danny in for the event to speak and do a mini-writing workshop and it was so helpful I wanted to share with you a few takeaways.

Use the power of storytelling in your cover letters , bio, etc. (even during the interview) to make you stand out from the crowd.

  • Lead with a compelling personal story—an anecdote that you can relate to the job skills required.
  • Stories, told properly, will capture the reader’s attention and keep them reading.
  • Unique details matter!
  • A personal story will leave a more lasting impression and makes you more memorable.
  • Starting and ending on the same story (a technique that professional journalists use) demonstrate that you “get it,” and that you know how to apply these tactics in a real-world setting.

So how do you do this? I’ll share an excerpt from Danny’s book (Chapter 9: The Power of Stories) where he steps the reader through the six parts of a storytelling cover letter.

Danny’s outline for the storytelling cover letter:

  1. Open with a line that places readers into the story. Grab their attention and make them think.
  2. Include concrete details about the story. The more specific you are, the more colorful the anecdote, the more memorable you will be. Quantify your results—provide hard numbers when appropriate.
  3. Demonstrate how the story applies to the job by referring to the job description—making sure the anecdote reflect the person the company is looking to hire.
  4. Show you did your research and understand how the company fits into the marketplace by explaining how you will help the company grow its business and make it more successful.
  5. Share more of your qualities as they relate to the story. Again, referencing the job description, touch on qualities you know the company admires and show how you would be a good cultural fit.
  6. Mention your story one final time and bring the cover letter full circle.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, Danny offers up more than 100 templates demonstrating various scenarios and taking the guesswork out of applying these techniques.

*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on March 31, 2016, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2016/03/new-resource-book-for-millennial-job-seekers/ and is cross-posted here with permission.

How can PRSSA help you?

PR, Communications, Marketing Students: This is a GREAT post by Stacey Howard, SIUE PR instructor, with excellent points on how PRSSA can help you.

My Causerie

Photo Credit: brainpicker via Compfight cc Photo Credit: brainpicker via Compfightcc This image has been cropped.

Not interested in a career in public relations? So maybe you think there is no reason to join a professional student organization like the Public Relations Student Society of America? Think again. Membership in a professional organization like PRSSA can help you enhance your education, broaden your network and launch your career…and that’s not just marketing mantra talking!

According to Stacey Cohen, founder of Co-Communications Inc., personal branding is critical for college students, CEOs and everyone in between.

Cohen says, “In a sea of sameness, the need to develop a strong point of difference to progress to the next round is non-negotiable.”

The job market is fiercely competitive, and as I have often reiterated to students, you have to do more than just get the piece of paper. Everyone who crosses that stage on graduation day is doing…

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Preparing for and Networking at Conferences

As the annual PRSA International and PRSSA National conferences approach, I’ve been getting a lot of questions (primarily from students) about how and what to do to network. I’ll be presenting/speaking about this at Southeast Missouri State University’s PRSSA chapter meeting tomorrow and wanted to share a round-up of articles I’ve found insightful over the years. Some of these are a few years old so you please ignore any geographic or time-specific references–the content itself provides valuable tips.

Recommended reading, in no particular order:

Have additional thoughts, tips, suggested reading? SHARE, please!

Resources / Blogs in my RSS Reader

10925476_10153078320512118_5811918647681445635_oWhen I spoke at the PRSSA Regional Conference “PR Elevated” hosted by Utah Valley University earlier this week, I was asked what some of the news sources, blogs and other resources I am tapped into to stay relevant. Because I subscribe to so many (via my RSS reader), I promised to review the list and post my top recommendations. The ones I am listing here are ones I read but also ones that I would recommend for young PR professionals. (There are others that cover higher level issues that you may find “over your head” and are not included here.)

Obviously, you can’t possibly go to all these sites every day (or even every week) so that’s where the RSS Reader comes in. I use Inoreader but there are others available. In addition to these industry-related blogs, I also check headlines from local/regional newspapers (online) USA Today and Gawker and tune the TV into CNN Headline News (HLN) in the morning while I’m getting ready. HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade program essentially repeats the headlines every 30 minutes so no matter when you tune in, within 30 minutes you’re in the know! In this business, that’s a must. If you have questions, suggestions, feedback, please comment or contact me. Hope this helps!