PR Industry Conferences: Networking and Connecting

With the 2019 PRSA International Conference just around the corner, I have been thinking about all the Conferences (#PRSAICON) I’ve had the pleasure of attending over the past 15+ years. Professional Networking

At the same time, universities are now back in full-swing and PRSSA chapters are busy re-grouping, recruiting, fundraising and gearing up for their own International Conference (#PRSSAIC).
*Side note: As professional adviser to the PRSSA chapter at Southeast Missouri State University, I was the guest speaker at their first professional development event of the new school year, where I talked about how to leverage social media for personal branding and networking—and, of course, how important being an active member of PRSSA can help their future careers. (wink, wink)

All of this took me on a trip down memory lane—revisiting old photos, blog posts, and old handwritten notes. For the record, I wasn’t taking the ‘trip’ just for reminiscing’s sake (although it was definitely an enjoyable diversion!). I was trying to remember lessons learned that I could share with public relations and communications students.

Without a doubt, I can recall a handful of keynotes and quite a few breakout sessions stand out. However, I had to really force myself to concentrate and think about them.

What really jumped out in my memories were all the people I’ve met and the numerous new relationships that were formed, as well as old connections that were reinforced and strengthened over the years.

After the 2012 PRSAICON in San Francisco, I wrote that I “met nearly 20 people in real life that I previously had only known through social media.  As well as re-connected with a number of industry leaders that I only get to see that one time of year at Conference.” And from a business standpoint, it allows us (Burrelles) to solicit feedback on our services related to the PR pros’ business—to ensure we are offering what they need.

If I had to guess, that number (of IRL meetings from social media connections) has since quintupled. But it’s really not about numbers—quantity.  It’s about the quality.

You’ve heard the old adage, “It’s not what you, but who you know”? I’ve also heard “it’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you”. I wouldn’t completely disagree with either of those, but I tend to be more agreeable with Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder BNI (and referred to as the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN) who has a different take. Dr. Misner stated,

“It is not what you know or who you know but how well you know each other that counts.” 

In an Entrepreneur op-ed, he went further saying, “It doesn’t really matter if I have an amazing database of people with many phone numbers. What really matters is how many of them will take my call if I pick up the phone and ask for a favor.”

When it comes to connecting on LinkedIn, a Harvard Business Review contributor (Alexandra Samuel), said the more people we connect with on LinkedIn, the less valuable it becomes. I’m not sure I completely agree but I understand and appreciate the viewpoint.

Keep in mind that article was written a few years ago and the trend since then has been to connect and connect some more. I’m now re-thinking that position and am considering a purge of sorts.

The bottom line is that the networking opportunities are there—IRL and in social media—even better, both!

But it takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. You should have a goal in mind and come prepared.

For example, prior to the conference, I will review the attendee roster for potential new connections (as well as old ones that will be there) and connect with others I know in the official event app on my phone. This makes it a bit easier to reach out and try to pre-arrange a brief meet-up. Or, to simply remind me to “be on the lookout” for that person.

In addition, I’ll send out a few tweets (and monitor Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) for others attending the conference to connect with. I try to balance strengthening some relationships, while ensuring I make new connections as well.

.*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on October 16, 2019, on the Burrelles Fresh Ideas blog at https://burrelles.com/pr-industry-conferences-networking-connecting/ and is cross-posted here with permission. 

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!