7 underrated skills every PR newbie needs

By Jessica Malnik| This post can be found here

 

In an ideal world, nascent PR pros and neophyte journalists should know how to do a variety of things before they walk across the stage and get their diplomas.

 

There’s no need to be an expert in everything, but it helps to have some familiarity with a variety of tasks and programs. As someone who’s been in the workforce for a few years now, I offer seven underrated skills that all aspiring PR pros and journalists should have:

1. Basic HTML knowledge

By this, I mean basic. There’s no need for PR pros to know how to code websites, although it could be helpful. There is a need to know to how to post a blog post using WordPress, Blogger, or Posterous. Knowing simple HTML commands for headlines, body copy, bold, italic, and bullet points is HTML 101.

 

2. Video editing

This can be daunting to learn. I’m not saying everyone should be fluent in Final Cut Pro or Avid, but there is no reason that a marketer or PR pro should not have some familiarity with iMovie, Animoto, or Jaycut. These are simple programs that enable you to upload and edit videos, often in minutes.

3. Excel

Creating simple spreadsheets and tasks in Excel can be difficult for newbies. Though it may be a tough program to learn, there’s no excuse to do so. You will use it more than you think.

4. Proper grammar

Writing well is a staple of just about any career. Good grammar and spelling are at its root. Channel the advice of your middle school English teacher whenever you construct a sentence, paragraph, white paper, presentation, or blog post. Good grammar matters.

5. Basic math

Whether you’re analyzing statistics, comparing percentages, or helping prepare a budget, simple math skills come in handy more often than you might think.

6. SEO

Understanding how SEO affects your site’s search rankings is important. At the very least, you should know to craft an SEO-friendly headline and keywords for site content. Any added knowledge is gravy. For additional SEO resources, check out SEOMoz blog, a phenomenal resource.

7. Social media familiarity

It’s mind blowing how many marketers and PR pros handle “social media tasks” professionally when they have no or little experience using those platforms. You don’t have to be super active on Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc., but you should at least be on the sites and know how to use them.

 

What other skills should marketers and PR pros have? Please leave them in the comments section below.

Jessica Malnik is a PR/marketing coordinator, social media specialist, videographer, and an avid Gen Y blogger. A version of this article originally appeared on her blog.

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Should PR pros get accredited?

By Matt Wilson| This post can be found here

 

Of the Public Relations Society of America’s 21,000-plus members, only about 3,800, or 18 percent, hold the organization’s Accredited in Public Relations (APR) certification. The number of professionals seeking the accreditation is on the decline, too, according to PRWeek.

That’s likely why the PRSA is re-examining the APR. In a Monday night email to members, Mickey G. Nall, chairman and CEO of PRSA for 2013, announced plans to work with a consulting firm and the Universal Accreditation Board to “enhance the profile and prestige of the APR credential” for the 50th anniversary of the credential next year.

“Rest assured, abandoning accreditation is not an option that PRSA is considering,” he added.

Yet plenty of PR pros have clearly decided accreditation isn’t something they need. To find out why—and whether they’re mistaken in that assumption—PR Daily talked to a handful of accredited and non-accredited PR professionals.

The reasons why 

Brian Lee, president of Revelation PR, Advertising and Social Media, says he got his APR credential in 2011 for a very simple reason: It “helps distinguish the contenders from the pretenders, to put it bluntly.”

“You can only earn the designation after you have proven mastery of areas such as research, ethics, media relations, crisis communications, and management,” he says.

Bad apples, such as the PR firm that helped Facebook plant negative news about Google back in 2011, can give the PR field a bad name, Lee adds. Accreditation can help separate those bad apples from the bunch.

“I’m hopeful that no APR-trained practitioner would ever agree to do something that unscrupulous, and that’s reason alone for the need for more accredited PR professionals,” he says.

Crystal Smith, director of integrated media for public relations at Strategic Communications and president of the Central New York chapter of PRSA, says it’s tough to explain to people outside the PR industry what PR professionals actually do.

“I relate the APR to a CPA for accountants,” she says. “You don’t need a CPA to do business as an accountant. But if a business or consumer has a choice, they’ll pick the CPA—especially for their more serious and significant accounting needs.”

Philip Chang, partner at the PR firm Carbon, says firms benefit from managers having APR credentials, as a shorthand way to prove the company means business and cares about PR and its history.

The reasons why not 

Chang says he can see the other side of the coin, though. To the untrained eye, one certification—APR—isn’t all that different from any other, such as the Business Marketing Association’s Certified Business Communicator credential.

“Where there are competing organizations, there are competing credentials and consequently, it diminishes the value of the credential,” he says.

Jenni Gritti of branding firm Wyatt Brand says she had every intention of gaining accreditation after graduating from college in 2009, but it’s become less and less important to her over time.

“APR at the end of my name doesn’t make anyone open my emails any faster, get back to me any quicker, or approach me with ideas and business any sooner,” she says. “My hard work makes a name for itself, and I personally don’t need the three letters at the end of my name to prove it.”

[RELATED: Hear how top companies adapted to the digital PR industry changes at this August event.

Josh Cline, president and CEO of The Cline Group, seems to confirm Gritti’s suspicions.

“I find no need for anyone to be accredited,” he says. “Anyone can pass a test, but work experience, accomplishments and understanding how PR is only a subset of marketing and marketing needs to map to business objectives.”

Is it worth it? 

PRSA hasn’t explicitly tied APR to higher earnings for professionals, though the organization has done surveys that found the accreditation has been beneficial to those that have earned it. Most, 91 percent, view their APR as a source of pride, and large majorities have used theirs to develop professional skills (78 percent) and resolve ethical dilemmas (58 percent).

Even so, Bob Birge, director of marketing at Blue Pillar, says accreditation seems to have simply gotten buried under other priorities in the past decade or so.

“Those in hiring positions often are looking for the best people available, with the right background and at the right price,” he says. “Whether or not APR appears after their name is somewhat irrelevant.”

Smith, who earned her APR as soon as she was eligible—which is after one gains five years of experience—says the roadblock she sees most PR pros encounter is the cost involved in becoming accredited. An application fee, an online course fee, and the cost of textbooks are all part of the deal.

For that reason, she’s starting a scholarship program for professionals in Central New York.

What do you think, PR pros? Is there significant value in having APR after your name?

Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.

20 pieces of advice every young professional should follow

After 30 years in the working world, a onetime ‘big-haired career rookie’ offers tips and tactics for surviving and succeeding in the workplace.

By Reba Hull Campbell This post can be found here

May 23 marked the 30th anniversary of my first day in the working world.  Photo  credited to PRSSA 2012-2013 National Committee

That day in 1983, I started my job as a receptionist on Capitol Hill after a local congressman hired me, sight unseen, over the phone three weeks earlier. I had a head full of big permed hair, big expectations, and little idea of what I was supposed to do as an employed and responsible adult.

Looking back, I didn’t have specific career goals in mind at that point, but I did know what I was good at and the type of work I wanted to pursue. Here, 30 years later, I’ve been fortunate to have a rewarding career that gave me 10 great years on Capitol Hill and took me back to my home state of South Carolina for jobs that combined my love of writing, communications, and politics with my curiosity about people and places.

In 1983, I never dreamed my work would give me the chance to travel with a congressional delegation to Taiwan; raise money for causes I believe in; lobby the legislature and Congress for millions of dollars; ride in a fire truck; bike the Golden Gate Bridge; get published in national magazines; pick tobacco; work with great South Carolina mayors; have my picture taken with famous people like Tip O’Neill and Mister Rogers; visit 38 states; work on national, state, and local campaigns; stand at the podium in the White House press room; or be in the State House dome the day the Confederate flag came down.

I’ve figured out a few things along the way that I wish someone had told that 22-year-old with big hair walking into her first day on the job. Maybe the thoughts below will help others just starting out. I write this with huge thanks to all the bosses, mentors, friends, family, and colleagues I have had the privilege to work with and learn from over these 30 years.

1. Establish your personal brand. Decide what you want your reputation in the workplace to be, and let your actions define you. Keep promises, and make deadlines. Under-promise and over-deliver. Avoid behavior in your personal life that could hurt your professional life (even more true today with all the risks of social media in the mix). Remember that details count, especially when getting the details right sets you apart from others. 

2. Seek out a mentor. I’m guessing many busy professionals may say, “I don’t have time to be a mentor,” but most mentor relationships happen naturally rather than being established formally. Be on the lookout for them. I bet my best mentors probably don’t know they even served in that role.

3. Keep up with the news every day. Read the paper, check news websites and blogs, listen to NPR on the way to work. Know what’s in the news about your organization or industry before your boss or client asks.

4. Get away from your desk, and walk outside. Even if it’s just to walk around the block or grab a sandwich, at some point during the day your brain needs natural light and a whiff of fresh air, and your body needs to stretch.

5. Plan the work before you work the plan. Having no plan gets you nowhere. Plans will change either by force or circumstance. Be flexible, but have a plan regardless of whether it’s a work project, a trip, a major purchase, or an important life decision.

6. Don’t pass up a chance to learn. Find out what your boss or leaders in your profession are reading (books, professional publications, websites, etc). Seek out professional development opportunities; pay for them yourself, if necessary. Join professional organizations, and get involved.

7. Go to your boss with a solution, not a problem. Your boss is solving problems all day. Make her life easier by presenting a solution when you present a problem. Even if it’s not the solution that ultimately solves the problem, it keeps your boss from dreading the sight of you at the door.

8.Write thank-you and follow-up notes (handwritten, not emailed). Collect cards from people you meet at events, in meetings, or just out and about. A handwritten “nice to meet you” note will set you apart and help the people you meet remember you. Technology is good, but the personal touch still matters.

9. Travel any chance you get. Travel to small towns and big cities across the country and around the world. Don’t put off travel. You’ll never tell your grandchildren about that great trip you didn’t take because you were too busy at work.

10. Be interested and inquisitive. Ask good questions, and ask them often. Young professionals have a great deal to offer a work environment. Speak up when you have something to offer, but remember to balance your enthusiasm with senior-level colleagues’ experience.

11. Remember that everyone carries their own sack of rocks. You never know what type of personal issues the co-worker who missed a deadline is dealing with at home or with his family.

12. Create your own personal style. That doesn’t mean wearing flip-flops in a formal corporate environment. However, you can set yourself apart from the pack with a twist on the ordinary. To each his own, but just find your own.

13. Stay in the loop, but avoid the gossip. Be a “boundary spanner”—someone who is respected and trusted by people in all parts and at all levels of the organization.

14. Look for “reverse mentoring” opportunities. You can be a resource to your older colleagues. Seasoned professionals can learn a great deal from their younger peers.

15. Looking busy doesn’t equal being productive. The co-worker who crows about his heavy workload and long hours is probably much less productive than the one who is organized and prioritizes his days.

16. A good editor will make you shine. Don’t look at having your writing edited as you would look at a teacher correcting a paper. Editing is a collaborative process, and there’s always room for improvement in your writing.

17. Don’t come to work sick. No one appreciates the stuffy-nosed martyr. That’s why you’re afforded sick days.

18. Cultivate contacts outside work.
 Your next job will probably come from someone you know through church, nonprofits, alumni groups, friends, and professional organizations.

19. Take risks. It’s OK to mess up occasionally. No one can expect perfection. You can often learn more from mistakes than successes. Yes, really, you can.

20. Strive for work/life balance. The “balance” will probably fluctuate daily, but creative outlets, exercise, and hobbies make you a more valuable (and saner) employee.

Reba Hull Campbell promotes the interests of South Carolina cities and towns as deputy executive director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina. She can be reached a rebahcampbell@gmail.com.

Photo  credited to PRSSA 2012-2013 National Committee.

How To Get An Internship That Will Launch Your Career

by 

 

A good internship can be more valuable to your career than a college degree. Bold statement, I know, but it’s the truth. A college degree is simply a credential that  proves you can focus and dedicate yourself to a goal, are able to build a strong network and have diverse interests. Luckily, you can do all of that with a really great internship.

Here is how:

1.   Don’t ever apply to internships.

Every company has internships and all of them suck.

In the past internships were created to help you stand out when applying to jobs after college. Today internships are a bad tactic to help you stand out because everyone has an internship on their resume and the people who hire you know how internships work and it probably won’t help you find a job. On top of that, Internships are generally managed by junior employees giving you very little chance of having access to senior managers that could actually help you further your career.

2.   Find the future you and have lunch with them

Throughout my career, mentors have always told me that I remind them of themselves when they were younger. Why? Because I choose mentors that I want to be “when I grow up” and I build relationships with them so I can learn what I need to do it successfully.

Find someone more senior in their career that has a job you dream of.  Invite them to lunch, ask them about how their career started, share your aspirations and (here is the deal closer) find some way for you to help them on a regular basis. Maybe they need someone to come into the office once a week to file papers? Do it. They need someone to pick up their dry cleaning? Do it. They want help starting a blog? Learn how and then do it.

Why should you take on these menial tasks but not apply for a traditional internship? The experience that person has and the contacts that person can introduce you to are more valuable than having an internship in your work history.

3.   Intern for a blogger

Bloggers are busy and they are always looking for interns and it is really hard to find quality interns because very few intelligent college students are knocking down doors to work with bloggers. (but they should be)

What can interning for a blogger offer you? Access to industry leaders, insights into the worlds of social media, content creation and digital marketing, opportunities to work on interesting projects and work experience that will actually translates to skills you will need in your career.

4. Freelance

You do not need a college degree to freelance.

To become a freelancer, you just need to do good work and then find people who will pay you to do it. Not only is this a great opportunity to make extra money but you have the flexibility to take on projects that are fun but might have too small of a budget to hire a more experienced freelancer.

When I was a junior in college I saw a popular blog announce they were hosting their first ever blogging conference in Las Vegas. I DM’ed the Founder and asked if I could help organize it. She didn’t have a budget so we worked out a commission structure and I sold sponsorships. I ended up making a little over a thousand dollars and getting a fully paid weekend trip to Las Vegas.

5.   Master an industry 

Every industry is changing from publishing to healthcare to roofing. The problem is that senior professionals in those industries don’t have the bandwidth to study what shifts are happening, what trends are popping up and how that will affect their business.

What do college students have plenty of? Time.

Launch a newsletter that aggregates news and trends about that industry and distribute it to companies you want to work for. Make a name for yourself as you are learning about the industry and you will be set for a great career.

I want to hear about your internship experiences. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Any horror stories?

 

Cassie Boorn is a writer, social media specialist, entreprenuer and PR girl who has built digital programs for Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, small businesses and bloggers. You can find her shelling out PR and career advice weekly at AskaPRGirl.com 
Read more: http://www.thegrindstone.com/2012/09/25/career-management/how-to-get-good-internship-167/#ixzz2Kiro9vRx

Do You Need An Internship to Get a Job in PR?

Do you really need an internship to get a job in PR?

It seems like you can’t get a job (let alone an interview) in PR without a couple of internships under your belt, yet many students opt to skip the internship process until the last minute, squeezing one in right after college in hopes of turning it into a full time job (or never interning at all).

Let’s answer the question – I’ll address both the “yes” and “no” options…

Yes, You Need an Internship

Employers want to know you have the skills to pay the bills. Internships demonstrate to a potential employer that you can do the work expected of you in an entry-level role. The more-impressive the internship experience, the better your chances of landing your first gig.

For starters, make sure you pick an internship that is going to give you real-world experience. If your interning in public relations, make sure you’ll get plenty of opportunities to produce written materials you can take credit for. You’ll need to demonstrate that you can write in PR, so real-world writing experience in an internship is a must.

It’s also a good idea to look at PR internships where you will be able to work with the media. The best internships are those that allow you to work on real client campaigns and secure real coverage for clients. Just make sure you’re going to get the mentoring and development guidance you need to get started on the right foot. If your employer hands you a media list and a press release and tells you to hit the phone, push back on them to train you some more on the right and wrong ways to approach media relations. Have them do a dry run with you on the pitch – you’ll have a much better experience.

While the number of internships you complete is important, the work you complete at those internships is more relevant. Make sure you leave the last day of your internship with examples of work you’ve completed – for bonus points, get a letter of recommendation from your internship supervisor.

If you play your cards right and intern each summer through college, your chances of getting a decent entry-level job are much (much) better.

If you’re already done with school, but having a hard time getting an entry-level job, consider trying to work as a paid intern after college. This gives you a little money to live off of, while giving your employer a low-risk option to give you a trial run. More often than not, this will turn into a paying gig.

My internship leading up to my final semester in college resulted in a job offer. I was able to work through my last semester while I finished my degree. Once graduation rolled around, I had already been working for six months. This is the ideal scenario and not outside of the realm of possibilities when you get started early.

No, You Don’t Need an Internship

Believe it or not, everyone working in PR today did NOT intern before getting their first job. Some didn’t even major in PR, Advertising, Journalism or Communications. How did they do it? Here are the most common scenarios (with some off-the-beaten-path advice sprinkled in):

  • Family and Friends – if you’re fortunate enough to have family or friends that own a business, consider approaching them for your first job. This is your best chance of getting a first job, and an opportunity to gain real-world experience. You may stay in this job for years, or you may be in better shape a year from now to get a higher-paying junior-level position.
  • Start Your Own Firm – more and more students start student-run PR firms while they’re in school. This is great experience for students and often serves small businesses and non-profits in the community. Do the work for dirt-cheap and build up a portfolio.
  • Build Your Own Portfolio – as an alternative option, start a blog while you’re in college. Write about public relations, journalism or social media topics. Write about your love for plants, BBQ or classic cars. Whatever your passion is, show that you can produce engaging content on a regular basis, build and audience and wield social media tools with ease. Showcase for potential employers that you have the discipline, knowledge and experience they look for in potential hires. Self-starters and entrepreneur-types are often welcomed into the agency environment. If you can build an audience for yourself during school, it’s safe to assume you could do the same thing for clients.
  • Network – as I pointed out in my recent post on networking, it’s important. Attend local public relations and media professional association groups. Get to know people in your industry and build a network of potential employers. Many of these relationships can turn into your first interviews, often leading to your first job. It’s much easier to get an interview at a company where you already know somebody than to approach the pursuit blindly.

Is it harder to get a job in PR or journalism without internships under your belt? Yes. Is it impossible? No. What’s my advice? If you don’t have an internship lined up for this summer, and you want to get a job after college, pick up the phone and start calling around to see if anybody is looking for an intern. 

What advice would you like to add for interns? Do you think internships are important? Can you get hired without them? Share your advice and tips below.