Posts Tagged ‘email’


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?

3 Ways Your Brain’s Negativity Bias Affects How You Communicate

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

3 Ways Your Brain’s Negativity Bias Affects Your Professional Life Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas Public Relations PR Media Monitoring Press Clipping News ClippingBrains can do a lot of things computers can’t, but they still do some weird things that work against us. Take the negativity bias: our brains are built to react more strongly to negative perceptions. This means we’re more influenced by comments, experiences, or interactions we (correctly or incorrectly) perceive as negative which can adversely affect our performance.

We can work around the negativity bias, but we have to be aware of it first. Here are three ways it affects your work, and ways to mitigate that effect.

Marketing or PR campaigns

Next time you’re wording a media response, crafting a tweet, or tweaking your messaging, consider whether your audience could perceive what you say as negative. When you’re crafting words for public consumption, keep positive words top of mind and use them as much as possible, and avoid negative words.

Sit down and consider what you wrote from another angle. Try reading it out loud to see if it sounds different, and have someone else – even if they’re not familiar with your project – read it and give you their feedback. Getting a range of opinions and thinking about what you write from multiple angles could help mitigate the negativity bias.

Emails

When we’re reading emails from someone, our brains interpret messages that are neutral as negative, and messages that are positive as neutral. Part of the reason email is especially vulnerable is that there is no way to discern body language or tone of voice through a computer screen.

When you’re writing emails you want to make sure you don’t sound negative, a lot of times brevity is not your friend. Example:

That’s not what we discussed. Let’s talk.

It’s concise, but it also sounds terse and stands a good chance of putting off your recipient. Revamp:

I don’t have that listed as something we talked about. Let’s arrange a quick follow-up to make sure we’re on the same page

That sounds a lot more positive. It took you longer to type, but softening your language will ease your recipients’ negativity bias, thereby making your communications more effective.

If you’re on the receiving end of what reads like a terse or harsh email, before you get put off, remember the negativity bias: what you read as negative the sender may have meant as neutral. Consider also who it’s coming from; if it’s someone with whom you regularly interact, imagine the email in their voice and see if the negativity still holds.

Professional life

The negativity bias is everywhere, from comments your boss makes about your performance to offhand remarks from colleagues. We can even interpret negativity in compliments, such as “That’s the most compelling pitch I’ve heard from you.” Automatically we think: Well, what was so bad about all my other pitches? even though that (probably) wasn’t the intent of the compliment.

In your everyday work life, it can be hard not to let the negativity bias get you down and influence your performance. Try to move your attention to put you back in a positive frame of mind; a great exercise is to write down the things you’re grateful for in that moment.

And don’t forget to remind yourself of the negativity bias; once you know it’s there, it’s a lot easier to overcome.

Pitching Tips from Washington, D.C. Assignment Editors

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

3/13/12 Know your subject, know the outlet you are trying to pitch and its audience, and have some “news” sense—that was the message from four of Washington’s top editors to over 100 public relations professionals attending PRSA-NCC’s “Meet the Assignment Editors” workshop at the Navy Memorial. Shown in picture are Lois Dyer, CBS News; moderator Danny Selnick, Business Wire; Vandana Sinha, Washington Business Journal; Steven Ginsberg, Washington Post; and Lisa Matthews, Associated Press.

Keep it simple and to the point and avoid jargon. This sage advice from Washington, DC assignment editors should not come as a shock to most seasoned PR pros, but listening to the panel at the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA-NCC) March 13 event, you might be surprised.

The panel was moderated by Danny Selnick, Business Wire, and featured  Lisa Matthews, Associated Press, planning editor; Vandana Sinha, Washington Business Journal, assistant ,managing editor; Lois Dyer, CBS News Network, futures editorand Steven Ginsberg, Washington Post, deputy political editor

Platforms for Pitching

  • Email: All of the panelists agreed email is the best format for pitching them. They suggested using a short subject line that highlights the story. They do not like it when the main subject is hidden and hate pitches that start with “A great story idea for you.”
  • Voicemail: Ginsberg does not check his voicemail, but Dyer does. Most said they would respond to your email or voicemail if they were interested (and sometimes if they were not), so the follow-up “Did you get my email?” call is often not needed. If you don’t hear from them, a call with a fresh reminder of the subject in a day or two is acceptable.
  • Twitter: Twitter can be an effective way to pitch your story according to Ginsberg. He said all the Post reporters are on Twitter most-of-the-time, and you can learn about their needs from their tweets. You should consider becoming an expert on Twitter for the subject(s) you pitch most often.
  • Multi-Channels: All panelists reminded the audience they have multiple platforms to fill with content. For example, the Washington Post is not just the print paper, but several websites and apps. Matthews says all the AP reporters write and shoot their own stories for various sites and platforms.  

Top Pitching Tips:
The PRSA-NCC audience actively shared many tips and highlights of the event. I’ve created a Storify of some of the top tweets and posts.

Do

  • Know your audience (the media outlet’s audience) – Sinha stressed the Washington Business Journal covers only local business news. They do not care about national stories.
  • Respect deadlines – Sinha also hates pitches coming in right before her Wednesday afternoon deadline for the print edition. Early Friday afternoon is an ideal time to pitch her.
  • Know what you are pitching and have answers for questions.
  • Give the editor or reporter access to your client (spokesperson). Offer experts who can speak around issues of breaking news
  • Include current contact information on the release.
  • Think about and pitch stories for future happenings or trends.
  • Understand the need and provide visuals which can enhance the story – Both Matthews and Dyer confirmed outside video content is only used in extreme cases, where there is no other place to get the footage.

Do Not  

  • Send pitches to someone else in the newsroom if you are turned-down by the editor.
  • Send multiple separate emails.(However, it is OK to copy relevant reporters on a pitch).
  • Say you just got coverage in a competitor’s publication
  • Sound like a commercial, you can bet your pitch or press release will be deleted.

Want more tips on writing effective messages and pitches? Check out the latest BurrellesLuce Newsletter: Writing Effective Messages – 5 Timeless Tips. And be sure to share your hints for contacting editors with  BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas readers.

Yes Virginia, There is a Company Brand in that Email

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

by Rich Gallitelli*

Yes, Virginia - CBSWe just concluded yet another holiday season full of new widgets which most of us didn’t even dream about a generation ago.  Yet, despite all these technological advancements, I am still drawn to the famous editorial that appeared in the New York Sun way back in 1897. “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is the famous line in Francis P. Church’s reply to young Virginia O’Hanlon’s question, a reply which has become the most reprinted editorial in history. 

The Sun was the main rival of the New York Times for more than half a century. Its famous masthead was featured in the Oscar-winning movie “The Godfather.”  It was even the first newspaper to hire a full-time fashion editor, Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd.  And its “Crime on the Waterfront” feature, by Sun writer Malcolm Johnson, won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting and became the impetus for another Oscar-winning movie: 1954’s “On the Waterfront.”  But, what is most synonymous with The Sun, more than anything else accredited to the newspaper, was that charming, reassuring editorial.

“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” inspired among other things, a 1974 Emmy-winning animated television special, the Virginia O’Hanlon Scholarship from the The Studio School in New York City, Macy’s 2010 Christmas campaign, and the countless hearts of our inner-children. In effect, the editorial became synonymous with The Sun’s brand. And that got me to thinking… In this age of emails, tweets, blogs, and general interconnectedness, client services and their interactions with their clients have now become their company’s brand and how it is conveyed to others. 

In my previous blog post, I extolled the virtues of product knowledge.  And, while product knowledge does instill the trust between the client and the client services representative, how you answer your emails and the questions posed to you over the phone is just as important. The manner in which you convey your knowledge through your speech and grammatical tone promotes and broadens or hinders the appeal of the company brand. In essence, employees serve as brand ambassadors. If you are armed with product knowledge, take ownership of problems, and convey ideas politely – you can easily take on the challenges of today’s interconnected business world and exceed the expectations of clients. Now, think for a moment, how many times you have dealt with not just a rude representative, but a curt representative, an unsympathetic representative, or someone who passed you along to various individuals. How poorly did that affect your opinion of that company? Not a company you want to deal with, right?  Yep, I would be dreading that phone inquiry too!

Anne Sauvé of Anne Sauvé Marketing Communications has stated, “I’ve always believed in the sheer power of ‘living the brand’ internally, which is where effective employee communications can play such a powerful role.” She goes on to say, “No matter how good a job you do at building your brand in the marketplace, it will all fall apart if your employees are not engaged and part of that brand – without them you have no brand.”

Perception is reality.  And the reality is that a company’s client services is an extension of the company’s brand.  It is not the first line of defense; rather, it is the arm of diplomacy after the company’s marketing and sales efforts have taken hold. Today’s companies have to be more than what they offer. It may sound insignificant, but a half-hearted email or a lousy tone on the phone becomes the reality by which the company will be remembered.  Yes, we all have bad days and we all suffer from stress.  Yes, we even deal with a client or two that we can’t possibly please.  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  But, the client isn’t just going to remember the bad or rude employee; they are going to remember the bad or rude employee from “company X.”

So the next time you reply to an email or phone inquiry, remember, you are not just an employee; you are the company’s ambassador for its brand. Take an extra five minutes to go over that email that addresses a difficult problem.  That response and the manner in which it is written is the company’s solution, not yours, and embodies the company’s brand when the client reads it. In essence, the brand takes a journey through cyberspace to build itself up further in the marketplace.  The same thing applies when addressing the difficult problems on the phone.  Perception of how warm you are is the reality of how you are as a representative and how a company is as a whole.  Because, “Yes, Virginia” … as the ambassador for your company’s brand, your actions greatly affect how your clients feel about the company. Simply put, would you want to speak to you on the phone?

***

*Bio: Richard Gallitelli brought a wealth of sales and customer-service experience when he came to BurrellesLuce in 2007. His outstanding performance as a sales associate and personalized shopper for Neiman Marcus (he also has worked for Nordstrom) earned him a nomination by Boston magazine as “Best of Boston” sales associate for high-end retail fashion stores. Rich’s talents also won him praise and a profile in the book, “What Customers Like About You: Adding Emotional Value for Service Excellence and Competitive Advantage,” written by best-selling business author Dr. David Freemantle. Rich majored in English Literature at William Paterson University, and is a published poet and short-story writer. Facebook: BurrellesLuce Twitter: BurrellesLuce LinkedIn: BurrellesLuce 

Is Your Press Release Guilty of Information Overload?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Working Hard resizeBranding and advertising messages can be both offensive and defensive – which may be why they seem to be everywhere these days.  Added to the barrage of news and posts coming in to your RSS feed, newsletters you’ve subscribed to, social news streams, your email inbox, not to mention your personal communications and – you’ve got information overload.  

According to a video based on the book Socialnomics™ by Erik Qualman, we no longer search for the news but the news finds us or, at least, it tries to reach us. I’ve heard there’s an average of 5,000 attempts to get our attention every day.  That was back in 2006 – the figures are probably even higher by now. But even so, 5,000 messages? Per day? Yikes!  No wonder we feel overwhelmed sometimes.

That’s the “average” person. Imagine how a journalist must feel. Journalists must be masters of information management. According to a Journalistics post, they are receiving hundreds of pitches a day. (Makes my head swim just thinking about it!) As The Media evolves, newsrooms are also switching to more hyperlocal formats and journalists are finding that they are wearing other hats, besides that of journalist, including business person and manager.

Seth Godin recently wrote on his blog that, “Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn’t free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.”

To stop issuing press releases isn’t really an option, so how do you keep yours from being lost in the thicket of information and simply adding to the fatigue of digital overload? 

  • Craft the perfect headline. It should clearly epitomize what your press release is about while including keywords (for SEO). Try to get it down to 10-12 words or less.
  • Lead with the hook. The lead (first sentence or “hook”) should be clear and concise.  The news in your news release has to be obvious.
  • Skip the fluff.  State actual facts – products, services, events, people, projects. Avoid jargon or specialized technical terms.
  • Set word limits. In a recent PRSA Tactics article, Ann Wylie writes, “The recommended length for the average press release has dropped from 400 words in print to 250 words online, according to Internet marketing strategist B.L. Ochman.”  The press release should not tell the whole story but simply an idea of what their readers need to know.
  • Timing is everything. The content should be relevant and fresh – not too far past and not too far in the future.
  • Target distribution. I’m not going to detail in this post, but if you want to revisit why this is so important, you can read about it here and here.

As Wylie states (in the above-referenced article), “The right length for each piece depends on the topic, audience, medium, budget and other factors.” The key is not “smothering your readers with information.”

How are you tailoring your media outreach to fit the ever-changing needs of journalists and bloggers? If you’ve given your press release a makeover, to keep up with the times, how successful have your efforts been? Please share your thoughts with the me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.