Rachael Sacks: Why PR Pros Are Different Than Publicists

By Shawn Paul Wood This post can be found here

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Forgive the headline. This nitwit does not espouse the definition of why PR pros are different than publicists. Rather, she is the proof in the proverbial pudding splattered all over her dress.

I have often aforethought a contentious opinion on the said difference between PR pros and publicists.

Full disclosure, I — as well as almost 90 percent of the media — loathe publicists. And if you check my LinkedIn profile, I’ve been one to some major domos out there, so I can share this. Why the vitriol in the industry? The aforementioned example. They make PR professionals look bad. I have a theory, so kids, hold your ears. The difference between a PR pro and publicist is like a pimp and his ho. One works for it, strategizes the right area for it, and knows how to bring in ROI for it. The other…well, just shows up. Enough said?

That said, thanks to the New York Post, meet Rachael Sacks.

Here’s how self-avowed wealthy college brat Rachael Sacks responded Saturday after her online essay, “I’m Not Going to Pretend That I’m Poor to be Accepted by You,” earned her Page One notoriety in the best paper in town.
“I don’t even have a publicist yet,” exclaimed Sacks, whose doctor dad back home in Maryland is footing all her bills as she pursues a writing degree at the New School.
“Maybe I’ll get a publicist, I don’t know,” she mused holding up The Post and smiling as she flipped the bird to haters. “People are suggesting that to me.”

So, sans an introduction to celebrity fandom via the night-vision tape (Kim Kardashian, we see you), this pre-pubescent dolt thinks he answer to fame is having someone schlep around to get her on TV and radio.

And that’s what is wrong with PR — the publicist.

Any dolt with Mommy and Daddy money thinks being a publicist means you have arrived. No, a publicist means they haven’t arrived. You think what they do is work? They represent someone famous, and after fetching said starlet’s dry cleaning and sex toys, they call a local radio station and say, “Hey, I have this chick. Wanna talk to her?”

Of course the answer is a clamoring, “YES” and a PR-ish career is born. The minute PR professionals can stop confusing publicists actions to what we do, the better off we will be as an industry. And publicists, if you want to join the real world, call us.

Then again who could blame you? You get drive cars that aren’t yours. Fetch clothes you can’t afford. Shill for people who don’t deserve fame in hope you get a cameo on some dumbass ‘Bravo’ show.

Maybe being a publicist is the way to go after all. Hey, Rachael? Call me.

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Tips for PR pros planning a 2014 editorial calendar

By Carrie Morgan  This post can originally be found here

If you’re the kind of uber-efficient PR pro who organizes Outlook into client-specific folders, keeps client folders for years after they’ve evaporated, and alphabetizes books and CDs, this post is for you.

If you’re a new PR professional still learning the ropes, this might help.

It’s October. If you aren’t thinking about 2014 editorial calendars, it’s time to shift into gear.

I’m talking not about creating editorial calendars for your blog or social content, but about the traditional PR tactic of using editorial calendars created by magazines, trade publications, and other media for securing placement opportunities. Newspapers and broadcast media generally don’t provide editorial calendars.

Editorial calendar searches are a basic PR skill, but one that way too many pros gloss over, only do annually, or forget entirely. That’s a mistake, given how aligning your pitches to an editorial calendar bumps your success rate way up.

It’s time to kick off the process for next year. If you wait much longer, it will be too late to pitch January/February issues. You don’t want a client calling to ask, “Why am I not in this issue? It’s a perfect fit for what we do.”

For newbies

Magazines and many other media outlets, as well as the larger blogs, publish an annual calendar of upcoming articles or topics they’ll be covering. It’s a smorgasbord of opportunity and a foundational public relations skill. It’s also an opportunity for you to let your PR skills shine, because most agencies and PR pros don’t spend enough time with them to gain maximum benefit.

1. If a team is handling the client, ask whether editorial calendars have been collected, and what agency or department procedures typically are for handling this part of PR. You don’t want to re-invent the wheel if someone is already on top of it, but you do want to show everyone that you are getting the foundation in place for fantastic results, that you are covering the basics.

2. Assuming you’ve already built your client media list and/or a list of publications you’ll be targeting, check their website first to see if it is available for download, then contact every outlet on that list and ask for a media kit. Generally this includes the editorial calendar, demographic information about readership, ad sizes and specs, and ad due dates. Why is this better than asking for just the editorial calendar? Because the ad due dates tell you when the publication goes to press. It helps you plan the timing of your pitch so it isn’t too late to be considered.

3. Keep a spreadsheet so you can easily track whom you’ve spoken with, which ones you have, and which ones you are still waiting on. It also gives you a tickler file to get started on the next year.

4. Print out the editorial calendars, put them in a clearly labeled folder and keep it on your desk. Plan on referring to it often. Tuck a copy of your spreadsheet in the folder, too.

5. If you don’t already have a relationship going, contact each publication individually to discuss their print schedule. When do they typically close out their issue? How far in advance should you pitch them? What is too late? Do they prefer to be pitched via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or phone? Do they have special issues with different print schedules? If it’s a blog or e-zine and not a print publication, look at their website to see if they prefer post submissions that are ready to publish. (It’s usually an obvious page.) Note all this information on your spreadsheet.

Next steps for advanced PR pros and newbies alike

6. Spend time going over each editorial calendar and writing down story ideas to pitch. Match the ideas to the issue, and then schedule each individual pitch in Outlook. Don’t assume you’ll remember; schedule it as an appointment using the timing determined in No. 4.

7. You’re not an Outlook user, or you want a secondary tool to be sure important dates don’t slip your mind? Create your own calendar that flags specific dates and publications you should pitch, and look at it every Monday so you know what’s coming up in the next week or two.  Print it out and pop it in that folder with the printed editorial calendars; make it a habit to review it frequently.

8. Every time an Outlook alert goes off and it is time to pitch a specific issue of a publication, glance over the entire folder anew to see what opportunities you have for that month. This might seem too often, but it helps you get intimately familiar with these magazines and their upcoming topics. It also helps inspire creativity, because you’ll notice something new or gain fresh inspiration with every review. Many pros look at their editorial calendars once or twice a year, which isn’t nearly often enough. It also forces you to plan far in advance.

9. If you supervise a team, sit down and review the editorial calendars together. Brainstorm or review their story ideas that the editorial calendar stimulates, then don’t forget to look at the actual pitches. It seems like far too many agencies don’t supervise the team or work with them to improve their tactics—an epic failure for everyone involved. Pitches and the processes we all use are not a big secret; they should be continually improved and fine-tuned for optimal results. Don’t hesitate to get involved.

 

10. Start collecting next year’s editorial calendars in early fall. This helps you to avoid missing out on great opportunities early in the year simply because your timing is off and you start too late. Magazines, trade publications, large blogs, and e-zines—round ’em up and get those opportunities scheduled.

Time to share. What tactics do you use for editorial calendar searches? Any fabulous tips?

Carrie Morgan is a 20-plus year public relations veteran based in Phoenix, specializing in digital PR. A version of this story first appeared on the Rock The Status Quo blog.

Pros and Cons of Keeping Your Personal and Business Social Media Life Separately

Posted by  to Social Media

Somewhat recently I have been seeing a trend developing with professional accounts on social media sites. They have been becoming more personal, and that line that was once so clear between personal and professional life is being blurred. People are even inviting their clients, bosses, coworkers and professional contacts onto their personal social media profiles. Something that was extremely rare in the past.

Does this signal a change in how we view those two part of ourselves on the web? Is it becoming more natural to combine the professional and personal into a single world? Or is it just a coincidence?

For the most part, I believe it is a personal choice. So let’s look at some of the pros and cons of keeping your social media professional and person lives separate.

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Pro – You can be open without fear of offending a professional contact.

We are all more open with our views, likes, dislikes and opinions on our social media profiles when they are only personal. Some are a little too open, as a matter of fact. But that is your right, as it is your own space where you are free to discuss anything you find appropriate. When you allow people from your professional life to take part in that space, you are more limited.

You have to watch what you are saying and posting, and have to keep in mind that what you would say to your buddy isn’t the same as you say to a client. It also leaves you unable to rant, which is a good way of occasionally blowing off steam. After all, do you really want your boss knowing he made you angry when he spoke to you about proper image for having a crooked tie with a booger hanging out of his nose? Probably not.

Con – You have to have two accounts.

Let’s be real: maintaining more than one social media account takes a lot of time. Which doesn’t stop us, of course. I will bet you have a profile on several different platforms that you use on a regular basis. But that doesn’t stop it from being a bit of a hassle, and with a professional and private account each? Well, that just adds a secondary account to every social media site you sign up for. That means you will be twice as busy trying to keep track, unless you use a program like a social media dashboard. In which case, you have to be careful not to confuse.

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Pro – You won’t be held professionally accountable for your personal views.

Most of us like to be able to freely express ourselves on other sites. Sites which are generally signed into using social media of some kind. By having two separate accounts you can freely comment without it being linked back automatically to your professional persona. Of course, this isn’t always the case. We have seen many examples of people who have made offensive comments on the web under personal accounts and had it traced back to their professional one. But hopefully you won’t be trolling sites or saying anything outrageous or cruel anyway. As long as you are a rational human being, you will probably be fine.

Con – You are splitting your target audience.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had a personal friend or family member share out my content to their massive lists, with a personal recommendation. Which ended up bringing me much more visibility and a surge in visitors for the day. When you have two accounts, the likelihood of this happening is slimmer. Which means you are effectively cleaving your audience in half, and missing out on the opportunity for sharing through people you know face to face.

Meeting In The Middle

In my opinion, the best thing to do is meet in the middle – which is to say, I think you should choose what side works best for you, while recognizing the difference between social media sites. For examples, LinkedIn is for professional use rather than personal as well as Facebook is rather for your personal life (yes, many people won’t agree with me here). So sometimes you won’t have to figure if you need two accounts. YouTube is likewise a good one for professional use, as you are unlikely to need a personal account for commenting. Or Pinterest, which is a fantastic place to merge both the professional and personal with little risk.

How do you handle the separation between those two parts of your life on social media? Let us know in the comments!

PR DIARIES: TWEETING YOUR FEELINGS

by   The original post can be found here

In the world of PR, we juggle back in forth on what I like to call the ‘personality aspect’ of branding. As we all know, Twitter has become an every day essential for proper business branding. Not only has Twitter become one of the most rapid and effective ways to interact with your following, but it sets across your message to the public instantaneously. Whether you’re announcing a new story or showcasing a new product, our tweets speak to and attract an audience targeted to your brand. In our world, let’s just say Twitter is one of our best friends. And if you haven’t heard, the rumor is true. Personality does sell. But when managing Twitter accounts for numerous clients, how do you incorporate an individual message with a personable aspect for each brand? And when is personality too much personality?

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For one, before beginning social media management for a client, get to know the brand and who you are aiming to interact with. In example, if you are tweeting for a beauty brand, know your stuff! Research all aspects of your client’s products because people will ask! Twitter can be a highly effective way to transform words into sales and this is your pitch. As for the personality, utilize your tagline, if applicable, and research any fun images and quotes that may fall into the brand’s message for postings. Don’t be afraid to tweet to your niche! With our beauty brand example, you would want to maintain a ‘twitter relationship’ with beauty bloggers first and foremost! Join in on live chats and twitter conversations. Twitter is one big popularity contest and we are all aiming for the clique.

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Ultimately, we are after one goal. Connect your client to the consumer. How are you interacting with your consumer? To most effectively converse with your followers, you must learn to think like a consumer, a publicist, and a client all in one (And usually for ten different companies at the same time). As the PR Girl, what is your goal? To make the deal, the sale, or the relationship! As the consumer, it varies. Who are you targeting?! If you are live tweeting with single moms in business, then you better act like a single mom in business! What are those single moms looking for in a product? Learn the day in the life of a single mom beauty guru, and the mission is accomplished. Public Relations is all about relations after all and the capability of relating with ease is a necessity.

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Now to dig deeper: The personality aspect of tweeting. Your followers will easily relate to a company they feel that they know on a personal level. In addition to researching the brand that you are representing-thoroughly, take the time to get to know your client. Who is he/she? What do they stand for? If your client is philanthropic, interact with philanthropists on Twitter using the interest as a common ground. You want to show the person behind the brand because 9 times out of 10 it is the person that sells, not the company. Ultimately, they care about the company message, who you are, and what you are trying to do. Shine your client’s personality through a PR voice on twitter.

Use the personality aspect to your advantage, but please keep in mind the disadvantage. DON’T: Tweet about a client’s weekend adventures on their son’s soccer game sidelines. DO: Tweet an eye-catching picture of a client at an event. Be personable, yet effective! Showing a person behind the brandcan make a company or break it. Your followers want to see who you are and want to feel related to you and your company, just don’t tweet about everything you’ve had to eat that day! ;)

PR pro habits that journalists despise

By Kevin Allen | This post can be found here

Katie Burke has penned the post that many have been waiting for.

On the HubSpot blog, Burke’s post, “S%*t PR People Do That Journalists Hate” provides a fantastic indictment of all the lazy, annoying, and stupid things that PR people do to try to get journalists to write about their clients.

Among the complaints:

• Calling on the phone, ever.
• Pitching canned and boring story ideas.
• Using all caps.
• Spamming.

All the complaints are collected in the following SlideShare:

http://image.slidesharecdn.com/shitprpeopledo-130710113630-phpapp02/95/slide-1-638.jpg?1374087602

It’s begging for a response, so the challenge to PR pros is to offer enough material for “S%*t Journalists Do That  PR Pros Hate.

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.

What Do You Do When Your Venue Closes Days Before Your Event?

When the Children’s Book Choice Awards planners arrived for load in, they discovered a lock on the venue’s doors and had to act quickly to save the event.

By Beth Kormanik | This Post can be found here

<p>  The Children's Book Choice Awards switched venues at the last minute, but it brought along its bookshelf lectern.</p>

The venue for the Children’s Choice Book Awards changes each year, and planner Lizz Torgovnick of Sequence Events and her clients at the Children’s Book Council had carefully scouted locations before choosing the Liberty Theater for this year’s event in May. The historic facility—with its unique layout and original theater boxes—had even inspired the event’s red curtain theme.

When the load-in crew members arrived on Friday to prep for the Monday event, they found an event planner’s nightmare: a padlock on the door and a post detailing liquor and other violations. The team faced a quick decision: Hope the legal issues would be resolved by Monday, or change venues.

“The first hour was spent asking, ‘What the heck is going on?’ Was it still possible to have the event there,” Torgovnick said. “We couldn’t get our venue contact on the phone, so it became clear very quickly that we needed to find a new venue for our event. After a few semi-frantic calls to team Sequence, everyone was on the case. We called every venue we’ve ever worked with that could accommodate this event.”

They needed an open venue that had space for a cocktail reception, award presentation, and dessert reception for 300 people—without increasing the budget. Finding an open venue in a matter of hours, even in a city like New York with its numerous options, is no easy task. The first round of phone calls yielded no results. Liberty Theater’s audiovisual contact suggested a not-yet-open space called Stage 48, fewer than 10 blocks from the original venue. It was still finalizing details of its build out, but it was available, and the team scheduled a walk-through.

“Luckily, it was a pretty good fit,” Torgovnick said. “It was 80 percent of what we needed from a venue, and the rest was doable. It was kind of a miracle.”

With the client’s approval, they made the switch. But the crew still faced several hurdles: ordering a new menu without a tasting, creating a new floor plan and new seat assignments, and alerting guests to the change in location. Then there was the stage itself. Intended more for live music events, it did not have stairs for winners to climb to receive their awards.

So planners asked the chef to recreate as best he could the original menu and cobbled together a staircase from materials the venue had on hand. The Children’s Book Council emailed event guests about the new location, and the night of the event, a hired staffer stood outside of the old venue in case anyone missed the message.

Another challenge was the elevator. It was not operational, so guests had to climb to reach the third-floor reception site. To accommodate guests who couldn’t make the hike, staffers kept the bar open on the main level and brought in hors d’oeuvres.

Despite the change, the event largely stayed on budget. Stage 48 matched the original venue price, and there was no haggling with the Liberty Theater since it had not cashed the deposit check. The only loss was for a satellite truck that planners had hired for a live online broadcast of the show. Its signal, which had been tested at the former venue, did not work from the new one.

The Liberty Theater’s William Curran told BizBash that the violations were from the theater’s in-house restaurant at the time, Famous Dave’s, which was operated separately. Curran said the management took care of the violations in court that Friday and reopened in time for dinner service. (He added that Famous Dave’s had been replaced by the Liberty Diner under new management.)

“We could have done the event here, but they felt more comfortable moving,” Curran said. “In my 30 years I’ve never had something like that. I understood that the event planner was very upset to say the least, and that’s why I did everything I could to help them.”

Torgovnick said she was disappointed that her client never received an apology from the Liberty Theater, but the experience had taught her valuable lessons.

“Be prepared,” she said. “Be on top of all of the details. If you have all of the puzzle pieces, if you have to reassemble them in a different place, it’s possible. Expecting the unexpected is part of our job, and in a sick way is what we love about the industry. The biggest problem that anyone could face came our way, and we still had a fantastic event.”

 

The Most Influential Personal Style Bloggers Right Now

This blog can be originally found here

By: Lauren Sherman

Some say the age of the personal style blogger is over.

Today, the girl needs more than an outfit, a boyfriend, and a camera. Bloggers need to think about production quality, editorial strategy, and affiliate programs to really gain a foothold on the web. They are more like editors, creating publications worthy of a million-person audience than a few thousand super-fans.

Yet it still comes down to that camera. Nine times out of 10, the bloggers who move merchandise, who get people talking, who attract repeat advertisers, love to strike a pose.

So we say the personal style blogger isn’t going anywhere—-in fact, she’s more powerful than ever.

Fashionista’s list of the most influential personal style bloggers was determined by a strict methodology: We factored in Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr followers, monthly pageviews, press mentions, affiliate marketing successes, and industry sentiment. (Affiliate marketing, in this case, means the act of using trackable links to get a commission on products sold because you wrote about a product/linked to them. There are a lot of affiliate marketing programs: The most popular include Reward Style, Skimlinks and ShopStyle.)

To ensure the numbers we crunched were accurate, we worked with individual bloggers, affiliate marketers and Fohr Card, the new database for brands to access legit stats and information on thousands of bloggers.

We also took into consideration audience feedback about 2010′s list. You’ll notice that this group is tighter—any site arguably more about lifestyle than fashion or beauty was eliminated.

Like any list you read on the internet, our ranking is up for debate. And we encourage it! Let us know what you think. And feel free to Tweet me if you have any more questions about the methodology.

Click here to see who made it http://fashionista.com/2013/01/influential-fashion-style-bloggers-2013/2/

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.

5 things not to expect from an unpaid intern

Don’t be surprised if they come in late or don’t give their all. Without being paid, they have less motivation to do either and can damage your business, argues this PR pro.

By Hannah Stacey

 

 

Ah, the PR internship.

That much-maligned rite of passage for anyone hoping to make their way in the communications world.

It’s a bit like that inevitable bin-dunking you get on your first day of junior school (just me, then?) or learning to drive: Painful and a bit degrading at the same time.

Hopefully you emerge from the whole sorry mess a better, more enlightened person (or, alternatively, a sniveling shadow of your former self).

Those bewildering weeks spent shackled to the photocopier, the tea-making, the media-list compiling, the general skivvying—and without being paid—that’s all a massive favor, isn’t it? No, not on the intern’s part, silly! It’s an act of kindness from PR agencies, giving career-thirsty 20-somethings extremely valuable lessons in the workings of the illustrious communications industry (and hot beverage-making too, of course).

If anything, these interns should pay PR agencies for such an enlightening induction into public relations, right?

Wrong.

My cheekiness aside, unpaid internships can potentially be harmful to your business. At the very least, you’re probably not going to get the very best. And they could prove detrimental to your business.

Unpaid interns can’t do it all

Here are five things you can’t expect from an unpaid intern.

1. They get out of bed on time. We aren’t all morning people. It takes a wildly irritating alarm clock and the comforting reassurance that Starbucks will be open to get me out of bed on time each morning—and I love my job. If you’re not paying someone to get to work on time every day, chances are they won’t.

While punctuality may seem nitpicky to some, rocking through the office door at 9:15 a.m. just isn’t cool; it massively de-motivates everyone on your team. Hitting the ground running at 9 a.m. sharp is crucial if you want to maintain a professional working environment.

2. They give it their all. Okay, so your new intern might start out all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but anyone who seriously expects them to arrive with a smile on their face, ready to bust a gut every morning when they’re not getting a dime in return, probably needs their head examined.

If you’re not offering your intern money or job stability for their efforts, you can’t really complain when they dedicate some of their working hours to finding someone else who will. When you pay interns, it’s not unreasonable to expect they’ll put a decent amount of effort in. The result? You’ve got someone who’s genuinely adding value to your business rather than sitting twiddling their thumbs.

3. They’re a team player. Your intern might be as altruistic as Robin Hood, but working day-in and day-out with people who are getting paid when they’re not earning a cent isn’t going to make them feel like part of the team. No matter how much they smile and laugh when you give them another media list to compile, chances are they’ll resent you. When everyone’s hard work is recognized and remunerated, they’ll feel more team-spirited and you’ll be free of office bad vibes.

4. They’ll hit the ground running. Having an “extra pair of hands” around the office sounds nice, but an intern is another person to manage (this is particularly true if they haven’t been through the company’s full selection process). I’ve said enough about how paying your interns will encourage them to work harder. It’s inevitable any intern will cost you in management time. Why not invest this time in someone who brings value to your business rather than someone who doesn’t feel like they owe you anything?

5. They’ll be the best of the best. Unpaid internships make the PR industry silly and elitist. Effectively they say: “You can only work for me if you (or your parents) are willing to fork out for food.” That’s nearly as absurd as saying: “You can only work for me if your surname begins with Q and your dad’s called Nigel.”

You’re shooting yourself and your business in the foot because, as we all know, being rich or influential doesn’t make one good at managing public reputation. Justin Bieber is walking proof of this. Give your interns enough to live off and you’ll likely attract the talented ones—not the ones whose mommy and daddy own a home in the countryside and let them crash at the penthouse in the city rent-free.

Not paying your interns is tempting, but will ultimately damage your business and prevent you from finding those hidden gems who could prove to be your best next hire. What are your thoughts? Are you pro or con paid internships?

Hannah Stacey is an account manager at integrated B2B marketing agency TopLine Communications. A version of this post first appeared on Spin Sucks.