Networking tips for the college student

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

This past weekend I spoke at the Minnesota PRSA Leadership Retreat held at Padilla Speer Beardsley. About 30 go-getting public relations students gave up their Saturday (that’s impressive right there) to hear tips and tricks about getting starting in the industry.

I was asked to focus on networking and how it can lead to internship/job opportunities along with connections that will benefit their respective PRSSA chapters.

For those who asked, here a couple points I talked about:

Network to meet people — not to find a job. You’re not going to walk out of a networking event with a new gig. I mean, typically speaking. It takes time and effort to build genuine relationships with people that will be mutually beneficial down the line. Just like real life, right? Be prepared to make time for meeting with people even if they won’t be able to help you immediately.

Know what makes you different. There are a ton of graduating PR students with similar interests. That’s fine and all until you need to stand out. Figure out your differentiating qualities before you head out to a big networking event. It doesn’t have to be PR-related. It could be you’re working to be a yoga instructor. Or you’re a karaoke champion. Or you’re passionate about volunteering. Find something that makes you memorable.

Blog! Showcase what you know and prove you can structure a sentence. Your name will be Googled if you’re out and about meeting people. Having a blog is a great reference point for people to get a sense of who you are.

One business card is sometimes better than 20. Don’t worry about meeting every person at an event. If you walk away with one solid contact, I’d say you did your job.

Focus on how you can help others. We all have a network and we all know people who could potentially help out someone else. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be setting yourself up for some positive networking karma.

Follow up and engage. Email, tweet, write a note or send a LinkedIn request to those you connected with. The more personalized the better. And don’t disappear. If you enjoyed talking to someone make sure you set up another time to meet or interact on other platforms.

So those are just a few nuggets of advice.

A lot of the students there reached out and connected with me right away which tells me that (I think) they were paying attention. And for that, I’m flattered! Being around students who are so enthusiastic and excited to learn is really contagious. Thanks for having me, PRSA!

So what is your top networking piece of advice you’d give to college kids?

7 tips for PR pitching from the other side of the fence

Monday, April 18th, 2011

As some of you may know, I took a job at KARE 11 last October handling marketing, events and social media for their entertainment site Metromix.com. It’s a fun position because I get to wear not only a public relations hat, but also one of a media professional. On a daily basis, I get to sift through media requests, press releases and coordinate with PR professionals both locally and nationally. In a way, I’m now that person I was trying to reach everyday when working as a publicist at my previous gig.

Since sifting through pitches from PR people is now part of my everyday routine, I’ve noticed that certain best practices I thought were common knowledge throughout the industry don’t always shine through. So here are a few tips I’d like to pass along to folks looking to improve their pitches to members of the media based on what has landed in my inbox.

1. The newsroom really does operate on a last-minute basis. I always thought when a producer said, “We’ll get back to you,” it was their way of saying no. It’s not the case. Oftentimes what gets included in a newscast is decided on at the last-minute. But don’t be afraid to follow-up once or twice (maybe three times depending on how far out you pitch). And don’t take it personally if your story gets scrapped at the last-minute. That’s just the way it goes.

2. Personalize your pitch. You’ve heard it before, but take the time to personalize your message. A pitch addressed to my name will get my attention over one titled “hello” or something generic.

3. Most important details first. Put your pitch and event/product details in the body of the email. It sounds simple, but it can make a world of difference for whether or not your press release gets looked at. I’ve received a handful of pitches where the e-mail message reads, “Hey – we’ve got an exciting event coming up. See the attached press release for details.” That’s just plain lazy. Lay out all the important details up front.

4.  Speak the language. Not all stations, publications, blogs are treated equal. For example, Metromix  is aimed toward a young, social, sometimes edgy demo. Our language is different from what you’ll read in the Business Journal. Make sure your tone matches the pub you’re pitching.

5. Learn the lay of the land. College kids: if your goal is to work in PR and you have an interest in media relations, an internship at an agency is great — but an internship at a media organization is even better. Talk about giving yourself an edge in terms of making contacts and learning how media organization operates. Bringing that experience with you back to a PR company is invaluable and will inevitably help you pitch stories in the future. Which leads to the next tip…

6. Know your terms. I won’t go into this because Bridget Jewell just wrote a great post listing common terms broadcast journalists use in everyday lingo. They’re important to know when working with journos (I even learned a thing or two!).

7. Network! I can’t tell you how many times a potential story was looked at more closely because the reporter had a personal connection to the person pitching. Heck, I’ve even got some stories on air that were pitched to me by people I know. It really does make a difference if you know someone in the news department. Knowing someone doesn’t guarantee your story will make it on air, but it certainly helps.

Those are my tips for now. Are there any others you’d add to the list?

Create the experience you don’t have

Monday, December 27th, 2010

For all you PR/comm folks, there’s a new blog in town to add to your reader if you haven’t already done so: PRevolution. It’s run by Arik, Dave, Kasey and Lisa and should be a good source for finding persepectives on all corners of the industry.

I was happy and excited to be asked to contribute, so I wanted to direct you all to the post I wrote for the young professional and job seeker called, You Don’t Have Enough Experience For The Job – Now What?

Check it out and let me know what you think!

High Risk, High Reward

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

It’s that old saying: everything will work itself out. Sometimes when you’re in a moment of anxiety and distress that’s the last thing you want to hear from someone. But when it’s all said and done, it’s funny how things usually do just fall into place.

Two weeks ago I gave my notice at my employer, Scarletta Press. No, I did not have a Steven Slater moment. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. In fact, I didn’t sleep the night before. The thing that made it so hard was that I’ve had a great experience working there. The people I worked with were smart and fun. The responsibilities I had taught me so much about project management, self-discipline, and not being afraid to bring new ideas to the floor. I had the opportunity to take on a lot as my first real job out of college and I’m so grateful for my time there. And after two years of finding my groove and taking on my position, it hit me that it was time to move on.

It’s crazy what you can learn about yourself in two years. The people I’ve met, the projects I’ve worked on — they’ve all played a part in helping me figure out where want to go. And after two years, I realized my direction had changed a bit from when I first moved back to Minneapolis from Milwaukee. Reasonable thinking led me to believe that leaving a job before I had something else lined up was not smart, especially in this economy. But based on my new outlook, I decided to take the risk.

And that’s where that old saying came into play. I barely had a chance to tell the people around me of my decision to leave when an opportunity popped up in my inbox for a social media position at a health and wellness organization. It sounded perfect, I sent in my resume, I interviewed, and I was hired.

Umm, what? I’m kind of in shock. But more excited than anything. It just goes to show that sometimes you need to do what doesn’t look good on paper to make something happen.

Starting this week, I will be working for iMobileWellness as their social media manager. iMobileWellness is a community based site launching next month focused on providing helpful information for physicians, patients, and their families.

While I’m sad to leave Scarletta, I’m excited to get started in this new role and put to use what I know about the social sphere and building a community online. Not to mention experience a completely new industry.

Also, I’m looking forward to being able to add my two cents to the conversation when I get together with all my Marquette girls next. Hey, it’s rough being the only PR girl at the dinner table with a bunch of nurses, speech pathologists, and audiologists ;)

To those who have offered their advice and support the past couple weeks (you know who you are), thank you. Really.

Now on to the next!

In defense of the press release (the paper kind)

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

I love social media just as much as everyone else. And as someone who works in public relations, having the ability to connect and listen to people in your market with a few clicks has really changed they way I and many professionals approach PR.

But it’s easy to get caught up in all things social media. There are so many tools to work with, the scene is ever evolving, and people are constantly coming up with new ways to make use of it. But social media is not the end all be all. It’s not the only way to broadcast your message or connect with an audience. I’d like to think of it as an extension of what we already know.

I have been guilty of forgetting this at times. I think because this is all so new and exciting to be a part of. But traditional PR strategies are not something of the past.

I’ve been to a couple conferences and panel discussions recently that have had people question traditional PR practices –  like creating hard copy press releases. Many were to surprised to hear they still exist. While in an ever growing digital world, paper press releases still serve a purpose. For example, in the publishing industry, many publishers, distributers, and media outlets require them. There’s something to be said about having a tangible copy of a document. Believe it or not, I’ve dealt with many editors and store owners that still prefer them.

Of course, this isn’t the case across the board. But trying to dismiss “old school” PR would be to ignore a large sector of the industry. I often struggle with the fact that the community I am a part of is not the norm when it comes to embracing the digital scene. While it’s certainly the direction marketing communications is headed, not everyone is there yet. And that is why I believe it’s still important to make use of the foundation traditional PR has set up for us moving forward.

Work in PR? What have you noticed about the integration of new media with traditional strategies? Do you still place an emphasis on the basics?

A YPCTC wrap-up

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Two days after the first Young Professional Communicators – Twin Cities event and I’m still on a high from how well it went.

Great location. Green Mill in Uptown was a perfect spot to kick off our first event. The banquet room was set up beautifully and our server, Michael, was working hard to bring drinks and food to over 40 people that came through. Special thanks to Jess for helping coordinate everything with Green Mill. I would love to have another YPCTC event there in the future.

Great prizes. Who doesn’t like free stuff? A $25 Green Mill gift card was donated along with two tickets to the U of M vs. Colorado College hockey game on February 19. Another shout out goes to Batteries R Us for donating the tickets (thanks, Dad!).

And most importantly, great people. I was pleasantly overwhelmed with how many people showed up. But even more so, I was so happy to watch people make new connections and offer advice to those looking to get started in communications. To be really cheesy, it warmed my heart. And it only confirmed how great of a community we have here in the Twin Cities.

If you haven’t seen them already, check out the Metromix site for pictures from the event. There are also a few more posted on the Facebook page.

Thank you to everyone who offered advice and helped promote YPCTC’s first event. I’m excited to continue working towards building this community. And stay tuned for information on another event happening next month!

Ribnick Furs’ luxurious direct marketing

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

The other day my mom received a package in the mail from Ribnick Furs and passed it along to me to check out. Inside the gold foil packaging it came in was a flyer and one leather glove. Not a cheap, flimsy glove – but one that looked like it was taken right off of their rack. The flyer explained that this was their way of introducing my mom to Ribnick Furs and if she came into the store with this glove, she would get a match for free.

My first thought? Whoa, this must have been expensive to execute.

My second thought? This is a creative way to generate buzz around their store. Here you have people in the Twin Cities receiving unsolicited leather gloves from a high end retailer. It kind of reminds me of the “golden ticket” idea (especially because of the gold wrapping, of course): Not everyone is so lucky to receive one of these in the mail so you should feel special and see what Ribnick Furs is all about!

While I can’t knock them for coming up with a creative way to reach out to potential customers, I’m wondering if this was the smartest strategy coming from a public relations standpoint.

Minnesota is in the midst of one of its coldest winters. The homeless and those who cannot afford proper winter clothing are feeling the effects of this the most. As a luxury retailer with a budget to give away quality winter gloves to people who can probably afford to buy their own, I think they could have used this opportunity to better their name in the community. For example, how about instead of coming in to redeem your own pair of gloves, the redeemed pair would be donated to a charity that distributes winter necessities to those in need?

Just a thought.

Were you one of the selected to receive a free pair of gloves? How did you react? And you are you going to stop in to redeem their offer?

PR folks: What do you think about this? Smart? Not so smart? What would you have done differently, if anything?


One week until YPCTC’s first event at Green Mill!

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Are you getting excited for the Young Professional Communicators – Twin Cities first gathering next Wednesday? Because I am!

If you are someone just starting out in the communications industry and looking to connect with others in the same boat, make sure to stop by and introduce yourself!

Wednesday, January 13th, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Green Mill – Uptown (2626 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN)

Happy hour specials will be offered until 7:00 which include:

$2.50 Classic Drafts
$2.50 House Wine
$2.50 Rail Drinks
$1.00 Off Preferred and Superior Drafts
$4.99 Appetizers
Wednesday Daily Drink: $3.00 ABSOLUT (selected) All Day Long

______________________________________

A couple YPCTC updates…

  • We’re getting a logo! I am excited to say that Twin Cities designer Marcus Baysinger has donated his time and talent to create a logo for YPCTC. It’s still in the works so stay tuned. And be sure to check out his portfolio – he’s super talented! Thank you, Marcus!
  • Have you become a Facebook Fan of YPCTC? If not, visit our page here. And while you’re there, be sure to RSVP to the Green Mill event next week!
  • Don’t think I forgot about LinkedIn. Connect with other young pro’s by joining the YPCTC LinkedIn group here.

That’s all for now, folks. Looking forward to meeting many of you next week!

Young Professional Communicators – Twin Cities event

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Mark your calendars!

Based on the response from previous posts, a date has been set for a get together and networking opportunity for young professionals in the communications industry here in the Twin Cities. The idea is to give those starting out in their careers an opportunity to connect with others in the same boat and learn about all areas of communications.

Wednesday, January 13th – 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Green Mill – Uptown (banquet room)
2626 Hennepin, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Happy hour specials will be offered until 7:00 p.m. which include:

$2.50 Classic Drafts
$2.50 House Wine
$2.50 Rail Drinks
$1.00 Off Preffered and Superior Drafts
$4.99 Appetizers

Wednesday Daily Drink: $3.00 ABSOLUT (selected) All Day Long

For all you Twitter people who want to start a conversation around this, let’s try using the hashtag #YPCTC for Young Professional Communicators – Twin Cities.

Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested – the more the merrier!

This is sure to be a fun night and I’m looking forward to connecting with so many of you.

And thank you to the ever-so-helpful Jess for helping coordinate this with Green Mill :-)


Blog of the Week – Sydney Owen: Unfiltered

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Sydney OwenThis week I decided to talk about the girl who really got me turned on to blogging in the first place. Though she’s not from Minnesota, she is a close neighbor living in Chicago. And her blog is too good not to share – regardless of where she’s from!

Sydney Owen is the author of Sydney Owen: Unfiltered which I have read religiously for a number of months now. I think what has made her so intriguing to me is that we have a lot of basic things in common. She’s my age, she works in public relations, she loves to network and integrate social media into her personal and professional life.

I first started reading her blog when it was called Sydney Owen: On New Media. Her focus was her documenting her progress towards landing an internship (and then full-time job) in public relations. She was basically doing everything I was trying to do – except better.

Along the way, she wrote about the risks she took, the people she met, and the things she learned that would ultimately lead her to accomplish what she set out to do. It has been really fun to watch her learn and grow through her blog.

After reading her posts for so long, it got to a point where I thought, “Okay, this girl is smart. Why am I not following in her footsteps?” And that’s when I decided I might want to take a stab at blogging myself.

Now that Sydney is working in the big leagues as an Assistant Account Executive at Weber Shandwick in Chicago, her blogging has taken a slightly different focus as well as a whole new name.

On Sydney Owen: Unfiltered, she still writes about some of her original topics (I mean, they’re all still an integral part of her life!), but now she’s taken a more personal approach to her writing. While slightly different, I still love her writing style and getting to know a different side of Sydney.

Sydney is definitely one of those people I can expect to make it big in this industry. I mean, she’s already found herself on a speaking panel at 2010’s SXSW convention in Texas. Not to mention her blog is wildly popular and generates about 500 comments per post (okay maybe not that many – but a lot!). And she’s only 24. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

Her writing is smart, sassy, and innovative. She is full of great insight that someone just starting out can really relate to. That’s why I’d encourage any college student or young professional to follow her blog.

Great posts:

SXSW – My trip to self-discovery – part one

How to: Find a Mentor

From A to B: Part Four – network your face off


About me:

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