Archive for ‘Career Advice’:


Confession of a Social Media Consultant

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

By Brad Wester

secret-1142327_960_720 I’ve been a freelance social media consultant for several years, and I have a confession to make.

The power of social media is a myth.

You know that great idea you have for your next Facebook post? It’s probably worthless. I’m not trying to be harsh, and I’m not saying you have terrible ideas, but take a moment to think about it. How many people are going to see that post? Hint: not enough.

In 2015, Facebook organic reach dropped from an average of 12% to under 6%. This trend has continued in 2016. Facebook’s organic reach is low and continues to drop. Reaching less than 6% of your audience isn’t powerful. It’s time to stop posting and hoping for the best. It’s time for a plan.

The power of social media has always been a myth. The true power is in the planning – it’s in the development of a social media strategy.

Posting on social media without a strategy means your posts may be missing your targeting audience. You may be posting at the wrong times, creating the wrong content and using the wrong call to actions. You could be using improper tracking methods or relying on the wrong metrics to show success. Without a social media strategy, you’re at risk of wasting time and energy that could be spent more effectively on other parts of your business. You may even be hurting the future success of your Facebook page due to poor performance now.

Having a fully developed social media strategy is essential and should include the ability to track and analyze data in each step. Tracking data will allow you to determine what social networks you should focus on, what type of content is most effective, if it’s more effective to create a wide variety of content, simply promote high performing content to a larger audience and even how much you can afford to spend on promoting your high-performing content.

More social networks, including Instagram and Snapchat, are creating algorithms to determine what content to show users. These algorithms will continue to decrease organic reach and increase competition, driving up the cost of effective social media marketing. Developing a social media strategy will help you rise above your competition.

It’s time to stop posting and start planning.

 

Byline

Brad Wester is a freelance digital marketing consultant specializing in helping small businesses create engaging online experiences that generate leads and drive sales. Follow Brad on Twitter: @wester_brad.

New Resource (Book) for Millennial Job Seekers

Thursday, March 31st, 2016
Photo Credit: Bolla Photography

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 …” and 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.

 

Do you have an example of how you’ve done this effectively that you’d care to share with our readers? Or additional thoughts to offer?

Changing the World One PR Professional at a Time

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
Gini Dietrich PRSSA SIUE BurrellesLuce Media Monitoring Public Relations PR Software Press clipping

Dietrich snaps a selfie wtih PRSSA SIUE students

by Kiley Herndon*

As a future public relations professional, it is my imperative to kill the infamous “spin doctor” stereotype that has so infested the truth we all know of public relations. Friday, September 19, Gini Dietrich, author of the blog and book Spin Sucks, spoke at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), where I am president of our PRSSA chapter, about how to disassociate “spin” and PR.

Dietrich first talked about our favorite celebrity, Miley Cyrus, and the brilliant case study she presents with her transition from Disney’s Hannah Montana to the Miley we all know today. Hannah Montana “was murdered,” Miley Cyrus explained on Saturday Night Live, like we must murder negative stereotypes of PR.

Gini Dietrich Spin Sucks BurrellesLuce PRSSA SIUE Media Monitoring Public Relations PR softwareCyrus’s intentional transition from child star to sexualized pop icon was the exact kind of marathon PR that professionals try to emulate. As Dietrich explained, “we are not wizards, there’s no one behind the screen.” Although a client might want to be on the front page of The New York Times tomorrow, we know that, even if we get that front page, it is not the end of the story. As professionals, we must strive to finish their story and help our clients to become transparent and lasting. Like Miley, we have to know our audience, our mission, and the most effective way to accomplish our goals with lasting impressions.

Dietrich also spoke to our crowd of eager future professionals about ethics, fitting for the month of September with PRSA, since September is dedicated to discussing ethics in PRSA. We learned that using fake accounts to post positive comments about our organization is unethical. Further, she challenged us to decide if it is ethical to write op-eds for executives and not state that a firm produced all the content.

Dietrich suggests we may be moving to a time when executives are forced into a state of actual transparency. This would suggest that future practices will require op-eds and other PR-produced content to state whether or not a firm authored the piece. Though the concepts of “spin” and media manipulation seem to plague our every move as PR professionals, it must be our mission to defeat that tyrant of a stereotype and get the first and most accurate story. Dietrich quotes TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington who stated, “Getting it right is expensive, getting it first is cheap.” Such remarks are exactly what we must combat to prove the ethical standards we hold ourselves to.

As I walked away from Dietrich’s presentation, I felt heightened vigor for public relations and knew the passion I have for the field is what can rid “spin” from outside definitions of PR. Consciously working in an ethical manner is the first step to achieving this transition. I do believe Dietrich was correct; we can change the world. Haven’t we already begun?

Photos by Kiley Herndon

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About the author:

My name is Kiley Herndon and I am a senior English major at SIUE. I am the SIUE PRSSA chapter President, Marketing Officer of Student Government, and social content intern at Robust Wine Bar. I love to travel, read, and, oddly enough, research. I cannot wait to graduate in May!

Five Back-to-School Tips for Public Relations Students

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Back to schoo tips public relations students Tressa Robbins PR Public Relations Press Clipping Media Monitoring

flickr user katerha under CC BY

Mentoring, advising and otherwise helping PR students is a passion of mine. You may know that I’ve previously written about what public relations students should do during their summer break, what PR students can do to build their personal brand, and more. If you are an underclassman, you have the advantage of time; however, if you are entering your senior year, there is no time but the present.

Here is a mash-up of those tips (and some new ones) to help put you on the right path to becoming a new public relations professional.

  • First things first, clean-up and refine your online presence—including your social media accounts. Google yourself (be sure to hide personal results by clicking the globe in the upper right)–and don’t forget Bing and Yahoo!. If the first page results do not represent you and who you are, immediately begin digital damage control. (This is even more important if you have a common name or have a dubious doppelgänger out there.) There are free tools to help you keep an eye on your online reputation –personally, I use BrandYourself.

Human Resources professionals will likely tell you they look at LinkedIn profiles but not a candidate’s Facebook page or other social media, as they are prohibited by law to access any information that could be used in a discriminatory way. However, they will also admit that many hiring managers do vet job candidates through online/social sleuthing. Proof in point: According to the 2013 Jobvite study, 94 percent of recruiters use or plan to use social media in their recruitment efforts.

  • Read, write, repeat. Reading exercises your brain. Writing is a skill that requires practice. But it’s more than that. Reading improves your vocabulary, makes you a better conversationalist, gives you a broader understanding of language and improves your storytelling skills (a key component of public relations). Sure, industry-related content is important but also read general news and (try to) read for fun as well.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~Stephen King

 

  • Volunteer. Get involved with an on-campus pre-professional organization (like PRSSA, AMA or AAF). That doesn’t mean show-up once or twice a month and sit through a guest speaker or meeting. Run for office and/or lead a committee (demonstrates leadership). Head-up a fundraising event, volunteer to be part of a team, work in the student-run PR firm (if there is one). If you have free time, volunteer at a local non-profit organization and offer to help with public relations, marketing, social media, blog content creation, special events. Do something that’s going to give you experience and help sharpen your skills—it all counts!
  • Network—virtually and IRL. Seek out and follow industry leaders on Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and blogs so you can learn from the pros; but don’t just lurk—participate! Attend industry events (not just those for students but where there will be pros as well). Research agencies, organizations, companies that you would like to intern with or work for.  Develop and practice your elevator speech; you should have a 30-second spiel that is memorable and opens a window to your personality, your passions and your mindset. Not a laundry list of skills, rather what you can offer to a potential employer. Use your smartphone to record yourself so you can play it back and make improvements. Then, reach out to your targets and request an informational interview. If face-to-face isn’t an option, Skype or Google+ Hangouts are good alternatives. 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. Doing this NOW allows you time to make a quick change to a more pertinent elective, audit a course or self-teach additional skills.
  • Create an online portfolio if you haven’t already. Gather writing samples from internships, volunteer gigs, blog posts, class assignments. Be sure to include any public relations or marketing plans you’ve created, press releases, anything written in AP Style, newspaper/media clippings, presentations, creative design samples, reference letters, special certifications, etc. (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.) PR professionals must view themselves as “brands”—it’s a very competitive industry. Your online portfolio, business cards, blog, resume, etc. should all present one cohesive message.

What else should students be doing to prepare for their PR career?  If you are a student or recent graduate, what have you done (or are doing) that’s helped to progress your career?

How to Re-Engage With Your Work

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Engage Work productivity press clipping media monitoring public relationsWe took a few opportunities this summer to remind you about the importance of unplugging and taking a break or vacation. It’s summer – that’s what it’s for. But the quickly dwindling days of August mean that summer is just about over, and that means it’s time to re-engage with your work.

Why re-engage?

It’s sure tempting to stay in summer mode all year long, but let’s face reality: you’re going to be at your job for a number of hours each day. Unfortunately, only 30 percent of employees are engaged in their work, and only 36 percent of white collar workers in a survey said their work had a level of meaning and significance.

Engaging in your job not only helps you excel professionally, but can also make your personal life richer. A healthy work-life balance makes people more satisfied in their jobs and encourages professional motivation and productivity.

And even if you feel you’re not in the best place in your career, approaching projects with a more ambitious positive attitude can help you build your portfolio and ignite passions for your current work..

Take breaks

To re-engage, you need to be more focused. To be more focused, you need to take breaks. That may sound counter-intuitive, but those who take a break every 90 minutes report levels of focus 30 percent higher than those who don’t take breaks, and also report a greater capability to think creatively.

Shorten meetings

If you’re in the position to change the length and structure of meetings, you should (and if you’re not in that position, consider making a few thoughtful recommendations to your manager). Most meetings are a waste of time. Good meetings need a specific purpose and a hard time limit. I used to work at an office where planning meetings were limited to 30 minutes; while they could have easily gone on for 45 or 60, awareness of the limit meant we often finished in 25. That meant everyone knew meetings would be quick, and we wouldn’t walk into the room dreading a giant time suck.

Fred Kofman suggests holding meetings only “to decide and commit” to something. No meetings for reviews, updates, evaluations, or reports. Those things can be done in ways other than meetings. While it may seem strange to go from lots of meetings to only the occasional meeting, doing so frees up a lot of time for you and colleagues to think creatively and get things done.

Recognize your talents and utilize them

Feeling underused makes it easy to disengage from work, but if your strong points aren’t part of your work, it’s up to you to make them part of your work. First thing is to identify your strong points, and that doesn’t necessarily mean your task-driven talents; strong points can be how you think or solve problems. Then, identify a challenge you’ve had in your life or observed in others that you want to help others solve. Putting your strong points and challenges together can help you find more fulfillment in all your work.

If this means taking the reins and reworking your job description, do it, but start small. You can’t change everything overnight. Start with taking on extra projects that speak to your sensibilities, then grow them and find more opportunities to help your colleagues, your manager, and your company grow.

Be willing to break your non-engaged habit

Think of your non-engagement as a bad habit that needs breaking. While you might have to continue working on projects that don’t challenge you, find a way to make them better and more rewarding leveraging your strengths. Taking that approach will raise your profile and the awareness of your profile and other teams to want to use you in a more diverse way.

Remember that being engaged at work is a habit and a skill. And once you get engaged with your work, don’t forget to take a vacation or digital holiday. It can only help you be more engaged.

How do you get engaged with your work?