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.

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Convergence Journalism: How Does it Affect PR and Media Relations?

Convergence Journalism: How Does it Affect PR and Media Relations? Tressa Robbins BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasThe oldest school of journalism in the United States (and possibly in the world), University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, added its first new major in 50 years when it added Convergence Journalism back in the fall of 2005. Over the past several years, news consumers have witnessed a revolution take place whereby we consume news stories via multiple platforms (traditional, digital, social) and in various formats such as long-form, short-form, textual, auditory, visual, formal/professional reporting, citizen reporting.

I recently attended a convergent media panel event (hosted by PRSA St. Louis) which featured Kelsey Proud with St. Louis Public Radio, Caryn Tomer with Techli.com, and Perry Drake (formerly of NYU) now with UMSL.

Proud started off with showing a perfect example of media convergence in a story they’ve just produced on chronic absenteeism in schools across Missouri. In this series, they utilized audio (radio), research/analytics, data, dynamic visuals and text.

Tomer discussed tailoring the story presentation to what their readers want. The staff likes (pertinent) press releases but may also use video, audio, text, social, linkbacks and even gamification to enhance the user experience.

All seemed to agree on how they decide what content makes it. Of course, it has to matter to their audience but beyond that—it’s all about emotion and reactions.

As the late Maya Angelou said:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

How does this affect PR pitching/media relations efforts?

By now, most savvy PR pros know multimedia storytelling is no longer optional—it’s a necessity.

  • We must adapt and be flexible. Stories need to be told in different ways depending on the medium.
  • PR is no longer just accountable for the message—we’re now depended on for choosing the most effective modes and channels.
  • Effective public relations outreach does still include traditional media pitching (newspapers, magazines, television, radio) but may also include social media marketing, blogs, content marketing, web development and analytics, graphic design, SEO, and emerging technologies we aren’t even aware of yet.
  • Don’t be afraid to partner and/or collaborate as necessary. If you are ill-equipped in a certain area, take advantage of the opportunity to learn and expand your skill set!
  • This new media model is dynamic – making it fluid and spontaneous, requiring PR pros to be quick on their feet and adept at managing communities, not just a message.

How do you see multimedia journalism affecting your job?

This post originally appeared on June 2, 2014, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2014/06/convergence-journalism-how-does-it-affect-pr-and-media-relations and is cross-posted here with permission.

Your Public Relations Career May Start With a Post-Grad Internship

Photo credit: flickr user Ian Norman under CC BY license

Hats off to those PR students who recently graduated, and to those who are about to walk—in your commencement ceremony and into the next chapter of your lives! You are likely now focused on the job search.  Many grads will quickly realize that they don’t have what it takes to get that entry-level job. Yes, I know entry-level would seem to indicate just that—no experience required, but in PR (and some other industries as well) things work a bit differently.  Most entry-level public relations jobs ask for at least one year of experience. In some cases, they may also ask for additional skills such as graphic design, publication layout, web coding—ones that are historically outside the realm of traditional PR or summer internships. While it can seem frustrating that to get work experience you need work experience, there is a way to get that: the post-graduate internship. Through various touch points, including being professional adviser to PRSSA-SE over the past few years (and previously PRSA-St. Louis’ PRSSA liaison), I have had occasion to talk with students, graduates, new pros, faculty and hiring professionals.  Post-grad internships seem to be a trend so I did a little digging, and to my surprise, found it wasn’t exactly a new trend. I stumbled upon a post from 2009 on PR Channel’s (now abandoned)  blog, which quoted Meg Carosello (nee Fullenkamp), who heads up PR at Captiva Marketing in St. Louis, where she said, even if you’ve graduated without internship experience, it’s not too late.

First, don’t be afraid to do a post-grad internship. My first internship was after graduation at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. It was for 2 months, not much pay, but I learned so much and got to work with major editors at publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and more! This internship gave me valuable experience that made me more attractive to employers. Secondly, don’t be afraid to do more than one post-grad internship. After my time was over at Opera Theatre, I landed a position as an intern in the marketing communications group at Fleishman Hillard. I had applied at FH twice before and didn’t even get an interview. My internship at Opera Theatre made me extremely attractive on paper and I landed the job. While my six months at FH were crazy, it was great having such a large agency on my resume.”

I reached out to Meg to see how she felt about that quote today (and to ask permission to use it). She noted the PR world has changed a lot in the past several years and by adding web and digital marketing skills, she’s not only keeping relevant but it has made her a much better resource for her clients. She said, “By taking chances on something new and continuing to learn something new every day I have found my niche even though it was not necessarily my original plan when I graduated and I am much happier now because of it.” As if to punctuate the point, I found a recent post by Nicole Bersani, who had plenty of undergrad experience between a couple internships and her work for ImPRessions (Ohio University’s nationally-affiliated student-run firm) but still chose to take another internship after graduation. She did this to get her foot in the door at a globally recognized agency, and successfully leveraged that internship into a full-time job! Whether you’ve been told you need additional experience, want to check-out a new city (or country), or are simply trying figure out what you want to do, there are plenty of reasons to take a post-grad internship. You should expect to be paid, be committed to the job that you accept, and be willing to work beyond “normal” hours. Be inquisitive. Be open to all opportunities. Most of all, don’t feel bad if this is what you need to do. The job title doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are moving toward your next goal—which is to find a job that is satisfying.

This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on May 8, 2014, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2014/05/you-public-relations-career-may-start-with-a-post-grad-internship/ and is cross-posted here with permission.

Building Your Personal Brand

As promised in my last post, here are more tips from the St. Louis PRSA Career Development Day. Digital marketing maven and Director of Marketing at Cantor & Burger Staci Harvatin gave the luncheon keynote on building your personal brand.

To demonstrate why your digital personal brand matters, Harvatin quoted a few statistics from a 2013 Jobvite survey:

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  • 94 percent of recruiters use or plan to use social media to recruit and vet candidates
  • 78 percent of recruiters have made a hire through social media
  • 42 percent have reconsidered a job candidate based on their social media activity

That certainly got the audience’s attention—pros and students alike!

She went on to say that an active brand is the best brand. Many recruiters use Twitter to vet candidates for their style, attitude and communication aptitude—soft skills, things that are difficult to determine from a traditional resume. Her tips to building your brand online included:

  • Use consistent profile pictures across your various platforms
  • Claim vanity URLS on all profiles that you’re able to
  • Pay attention to your bio—this is your professional “elevator pitch” to sell yourself, but should also include some insight into who you are as a person
  • Create and use vanity email and professional signature blocks
  • Cross-promote public profiles so they are tied together
  • You can’t be everywhere so pick a couple social networks or other digital outlets and put all of your efforts into making an impact in those areas
  • Invest time participating in LinkedIn groups, Google Plus communities, and industry-related Twitter chats
  • Connect –follow, friend, and like other professionals
  • Share posts (socially) and other content created by companies you are interested in
  • When you comment on blog posts or online articles, make sure you use a consistent name and link back to one of your public profiles.
  • Participate in the blogosphere by reading and commenting or asking questions on pertinent blog posts

Harvatin suggests Googling yourself often—remembering to turn off “private results” so you are seeing what someone else would see. She even suggests setting up a Google Alert with your name so you can keep track of any mention of you (aka your brand).

Personally, I use the free version of BrandYourself. It tracks my search results and alerts me (via email) whenever the results change. It even offers a “search score” based on how many positive versus negative results are on my first page of Google search results.

Harvatin wrapped up her presentation saying that if you want your personal profiles (like Facebook) to be private, then lock them up! Check and double-check your privacy settings.  If you are commenting on something that you don’t want to be associated with publicly/professionally, use a different email address and alias and do not link back to your professional persona.

In addressing why this matters, Harvatin concluded there are two major advantages( and I’ve added a third of my own):

  1. You’re leaving breadcrumbs of content with which you want to be associate
  2. You are building a REAL network of professional contacts
  3. The more professionally active you are online, the more those activities push down less desirable search results

What additional advice would you offer? What strategies do you use to remain visible online?

This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2014/03/building-your-personal-brand and is cross-posted here with permission.

PR Career Tips: Get Screened IN, Not OUT

For the fourth year in a row, I had the pleasure of participating in the annual PRSA St. Louis Career Development Day (formerly known as Pro-Am Day) on Friday, February 28. PRSSA chapters, as well as PR, communications and mass media students within a few hours’ drive, were invited to join us for this phenomenal professional development and networking event. Of the more than 100 attendants were students representing 11 different universities from both sides of the Mississippi River—and from as far away as Murray, Kentucky!

Prior to the luncheon and the afternoon PR pro industry roundtable discussions, the day kicked off with a panel of PR talent and recruiting professionals:

The panel was moderated by Sandi Straetker, APR, who posed some basic but essential questions before taking questions from attendees. There was a ton of good information and I was writing so quickly that my notes are nearly indiscernible, but here are some highlights.

  • Agency and corporate recruiters alike are looking for real world experience. This can be in the form of internships, student-run firms and volunteer activities.
  • Gerli advised researching and knowing the company’s culture so you may follow the appropriate path. For example, a publicly held corporate environment or large global agency atmosphere are going to differ from creative shops.
  • Duke advised clear, concise but effective explanations on resumes. She also stated there should be NO typos, and good use of white space—not too ”busy.” This is especially important where an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) is used.
  • Cockrell suggested focusing on accomplishments and results versus just descriptions.
  • Wolford added that your results should be metrics-driven. She recommended you build a bridge between what you’ve done in the past and the position for which you’re applying.
  • Sargent stressed that both your cover letter AND resume should be customized to each position. NOTE: This is especially important when ATS is utilized—your resume should include the key words/phrases from the job description, where appropriate. Never lie!

Many PR students choose to double major or minor in journalism, mass media, advertising, creative design and other communications-related areas, so we asked Cockrell to briefly discuss how students and pros alike may showcase samples of their work. There are so many sites and tools out there it would be impossible to name them all but he suggested WordPress, Wix, Blogger and SquareSpace as relatively simple options with pre-created templates to choose from. However, if you’re leaning to the creative and design side, Behance offers the most customization (no templates). Cockrell suggested CodeAcademy as a great resource to learn basic coding. He noted that this skill will also give you a leg up on those candidates who have no coding knowledge.

Even if you have no real-world experience, you have options. You could create a made-up campaign and build a portfolio around it. (NOTE: Always disclose if it’s made-up work!) However, Sargent suggested an even better option would be to volunteer for a non-profit organization in event planning, media relations, social media, marketing creative, digital content—wherever you can get some relevant experience.

Finally, all job seekers should be aware of what can be found about them online. The HR professionals on the panel stated they do look at LinkedIn profiles but not a candidate’s Facebook page, as people are entitled to their personal lives—and they are prohibited by law to access any information that could be used in a discriminatory way. However, they admitted that personal and professional lines are now blurred so be careful and use good judgement about what you’re posting, and be very cognizant and diligent about your Facebook privacy settings. On the other hand, many hiring managers do vet job candidates through social media and indicated that business-appropriate Twitter (and Google Plus community) sharing and participation is encouraged.

Do your job hunting experiences jibe with our panelists’ advice? Do you have additional advice to offer?

This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2014/03/pr-career-tips-get-screened-in-not-out and is cross-posted here with permission.