The Key to Success: Loving What You Do

Love My Job Mutually

Valentine’s Day is a day of celebrating love…what better time to remind ourselves what we love about public relations?

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This popular adage, most often attributed to Confucius, was reiterated a few thousand years later by Steve Jobs, Apple CEO and perhaps one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, during his Stanford University commencement speech. Jobs expanded upon the original sentiment, saying, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Chances are you didn’t just fall into a job in public relations. You chose to enter this field for a reason – its diversity, the particular skill set required to excel, or the constant evolution of the industry, which has enabled PR pros to advance from the traditional role of storyteller into digital marketers, multimedia content developers, digitally savvy web managers and social media gurus.

With the changing industry comes an increased demand for professionals who can adapt easily to change, remain calm under pressure and problem-solve at a moment’s notice – no wonder online career site CareerCast named public relations as the sixth-most stressful career (event coordinator came in at number five). Sometimes, the draws that inspired us to enter the field can be clouded by the demanding projects and deadlines that often accompany it.

Passion breeds success, so if we want to continue excelling at what we do, we should continue to remind ourselves why we got into the profession in the first place, especially when things get stressful. In an effort to reignite the flame that once drew you into public relations, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, here are five perks of the public relations industry that will help remind us why we love our jobs.

Diversity. As one of the only fields that enables its practitioners to experience any industry in which they’re interested, the opportunities to pursue your passion are endless. If you like science, check out opportunities in health care PR at hospitals, pharmaceutical companies or non-profit health associations or organizations. Those interested in law and politics may want to look into opportunities at lobbying firms, state departments or government agencies. From Fortune 500 companies to mom-and-pop shops in your local town, you can put your PR skills to good use virtually anywhere.

Knowing what’s going on in the world. Knowing what’s in the news is an essential part of your job, and being tuned-into real-world issues can translate well into our personal lives. We’re also growing our knowledge base and exposing ourselves to new information every day. In order to effectively promote a client’s or organization’s message, you have to become well-versed in the subject matter at hand. As PR pros, we’re constantly learning something new – about a product, a procedure, a theory and more. All this knowledge makes us well-rounded conversationalists and enables us to breeze through networking functions, dinner parties and awkward encounters with acquaintances.

No two days are alike. While you may come into work with the best intentions and a to-do list, you’ll likely end up doing a hundred other things and having to reorganize and re-prioritize your day. While it can sometimes feel stressful to juggle so many responsibilities and conflicting priorities, coming up with a successful solution and finally being able to cross something off your list is so rewarding – and it keeps us on our toes.

Access to the public. Want endless access to interesting people? Become a public relations professional. Whether you’re interviewing an entry-level employee in your organization, chatting up the highest-level executive at a company your firm represents or pitching a reporter at a national publication, being a public relations pro means you have unlimited access to professionals up and down the corporate ladder and can build relationships with people from all walks of life.

The rush that comes with a big media placement. You probably remember the first major media placement you helped secure. If you’re lucky, the same rush you felt then is the one you still experience when you see your client or company in print or on television or hear them on the radio. Your non-PR friends and loved ones may not understand why you get so excited seeing client coverage (“Where’s your name? Are you going to be on TV?”), but you know a good media placement is a huge victory in our world.

Still not feeling the love? Stay passionate about the work you do by networking – meet other people involved in similar fields and share tips, ideas and best practices. Read up on the latest industry-related trends and issues. Find new ways to expand upon your skills and learn how to implement those things in your daily life. Whatever your means to get back in touch with your passion, it’s important to do so to be happy – and successful – in your work.

What do you love most about public relations? Do you think loving your job helps yield success? Let us know by commenting.

Jen Micklow is an account executive at Thomas/Boyd Communications, a leading woman-owned public relations firm specializing in strategic communications for clients of all sizes in a variety of industries. When she’s not communicating clients’ key messages to tailored audiences, securing media placements or writing carefully crafted content, Jen can be found hunting down a big sale or cozying up with a good book. Connect with Jen on LinkedIn, like Thomas/Boyd on Facebook or follow the company on Twitter @thomasboydpr.

Although You’ve Mastered Pitching, Can You Pitch Yourself into a New Role?

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Stories about company mergers or acquisitions are daily news in today’s headlines. Journalists love these stories because they usually have the potential to be juicy. Customers, clients, employees, competitors and stakeholders may be heavily impacted. Plus, these mergers can make for a good story over a lengthy period, anywhere from one month up until a full year until the merger is a done deal.

If your company is suspected to merge or be acquired, remember there will be a long time period of merger talk  internally, eventually an official external announcement, followed by a period of working normally,  while aware of the merger effective date.

After recently living through this series of events, I would like to share my recommendations on how to work smart, pitch yourself successfully and be realistic throughout this merger. Hopefully you will never have a reason to implement these suggestions but just in case you do…

When I first learned about this pending merger, there were a few key steps I took (round one) that helped me make a job move six months later.

Round One

Inform your network
Inform all of your professional contacts with whom you have a positive business relationship that your company is in merger discussions and as a result, you are exploring your options.

Refresh Your Resume
Make it perfect. Ask several people you trust to review it. Mark your calendar consistently to update your resume each month as there will be key responsibilities or projects you may forget later on.

Create Your Target List
Consider what companies you would like to be employed at. Make a list of these companies, noting who you may know there or who you may know who knows someone there (second level connections). Start working these contacts. Ask to meet or speak to them at their convenience, before work, at lunch, after work or even on the phone in evening hours.

Get Pitching!
Craft your homerun pitch and become comfortable with it before launching your network conversations. Where do you want to work? What is the work you want to do? What size company? Where should this company be located? What level should your next role be? Why are you searching? Simple: you are not sure how this merger is going to shake out for you. Write down your final pitch and review it daily. You are now married to your pitch so stick with it.

I took all of these steps initially in June, four months leading up to an October merger. I did not learn my job was being eliminated due to this merger until two months after the merger had occurred. That is why it is key to continue working your network with your new pitch before, during and after the merger. If and when you do learn your role is going to end, you will be well prepared for round two of your search. The better you managed round one, the easier round two will be.

Round Two
Reconnect with the contacts that you initially informed about your pending company merger. Share with them your job status change and that you are on the market. Before reaching out, review their company websites for potential job openings that interest you. Even if none of the current postings are right for you, continue informing them of your new undesirable job status and awesome pitch.

Maximize all of your job leads by consistently following up on each one. Never EVER sit tight thinking that you are guaranteed any particular role until you have received an offer letter.

After landing successfully in your new role, it doesn’t hurt to continue practicing to pitch about your background and future interests (within reason!) to your new colleagues.

Karen Toner is a PPRA member who works in professional services marketing/communications. She recommends reading The @ Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton to ramp up your search.  Karen is happy to assist any fellow PPRA members whose companies may be merging with their search and pitch strategy.

The Art of Honing your Craft

primgThe new year is underway and if you’re like me, you’ve been bogged down with roadmaps, SMART goals and KPIs that are on deck for the next 300 or so days. You’ve mapped out every PR campaign or event you’re going to execute from now until the end of the year and you’re ready to strike (if you haven’t already done so). But where does professional development fit into the picture? If it doesn’t, then it’s time to refocus.

As much as traditional PR tactics are still in play (press releases, media pitching, brand building), PR isn’t exempt from the rapidly changing world around us. This year, make time to nurture your craft, further develop and broaden your industry knowledge.

Brandi Smith-Gordon, Senior Manager of Integrated Marketing Communications, Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association and PPRA member, says to stay relevant, she turns to influencers on social media and PR events. “I follow influencers on Twitter, attend as many industry events as possible and research best practices shared from my colleagues throughout the country,” she says.

Twitter is a great tool for tracking PR news and trends. Check out PR-focused accounts such as @PRNews, @PRDaily, @PRWeekUS and @RaganComms. Also, you can follow key influencers and PR pros right here in the Philly area. For a quick list of names and PR accounts to get you started, browse through my PR Pros list on Twitter (and feel free to subscribe!). I also find the list helpful for scouting industry events and conferences around the country that’ll help me enhance my knowledge base.

Are you already up-to-speed on PR news and trends? Don’t let your professional development stop there! As the lines between PR and marketing become more and more blurred, some PR pros are taking it as an opportunity to learn more about marketing.

Brandyn Bissinger, an Emmy award-winning journalist turned PR pro, is doing just that. The PR Manager at AWeber says, “Working on AWeber’s marketing team of 16–the majority of whom are marketers and digital marketing experts–has been extremely eye opening for me. This year, I joined the Philadelphia chapter of the American Marketing Association (PAMA) to continue to educate myself on new marketing strategies and tactics that will strengthen the PR team’s collaboration with content marketers, performance marketers, etc.”

Kent Holland, a Managing Director at ASGK Public Strategies in Washington, DC has a similar outlook. “The visual aspect of communications has gotten increasingly more important in the past two years. At ASGK Public Strategies, we hired an in-house designer to help us with infographics, listicles, proposals, creating brand logos and taglines, and online videos. Advertising and marketing firms have had this capacity for a while, but mid-sized and smaller firms may not. Being able to learn from our designer how to think visually has been incredibly important to my professional development — people don’t read as much as they used to, and an interesting visual display of information is now mission critical.”

By nature of our profession, it’s an unwritten part of our job descriptions that we stay up to speed on…well, everything! From current events and hashtags, to trending news and hot topics, we must multitask and have our finger on the pulse of our client’s or company’s industry. In this new year, don’t let PR industry trends and your professional growth fall by the wayside. Take advantage of professional development opportunities that’ll make you even more knowledgeable and marketable in your craft.

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a certified news junkie and an aspiring world traveler. Check out Andrea’s back story here then follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carterandrea/.

Developing a Career as a Freelance Publicist

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When I graduated college with a degree in both fashion merchandising and communications the market was less than stellar. Despite having interned at multiple agencies around the area, great grades and a full portfolio, I didn’t have a job lined up after college. I interviewed but no one was hiring. Instead of giving up I decided to take matters into my own hands and began freelancing. First with a politician (2012 was a huge year for politics) and then with a fashion brand. A month into this I received my first full time agency job but continued to freelance on the side, after hours. Eventually through networking, hard work and lots of late nights I was able to take my freelance clients (I had a handful now after about a year) and start Piqued PR. Here’s how I started freelancing;

Rates & Services
Businesses often chose to work with freelancers over agencies and in-house positions because freelancers are either more budget friendly or require less of a long-term commitment. Keep this in mind as your developing your services and rates to attract clients.

Portfolio
Just like any other business, an important tool for a freelance publicist is a portfolio to show your past clients and work. In your portfolio be sure and include different clients to portray that you are well versed in the field and can understand the messages and markets in various realms.

Network
The best way to get your freelance business out there is to network both in person and through social media. Use platforms like Linkedin to connect with businesses and potential clients. Attend various events in your area and always have business cards in hand. Eventually the goal is to obtain future clients from existing or past clients through recommendations but networking should always be part of your weekly schedule.

Do you have experience as a freelance publicist? Please comment and share your top tips and advice.

Patricia Maristch is a graduate from Immaculata University and a young entrepreneur. She is the founder and principal of Piqued PR, a boutique lifestyle public relations agency, piquing the interest of press and consumers. Her years of retail experience, shopaholic tendencies and constant desire for all things luxe, provides a unique viewpoint to public relations and social media. She understands her clients’ audience because she IS their audience. While she works and plays on the Main Line her client list extends across the nation. In addition to Piqued PR, Patricia serves on the Wings for Success board, is the Main Line Fashion Week and Her Main Line founder as well as a frequent guest blogger for various publications.

This is a great career path. Now what?

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With the continued steady growth of the public relations industry – up 11% in 2013 according to The World Report and anticipated to grow 12% over the next 8 years by the US Department of Labor – this is a great time to be a PR professional.  But just because companies are spending more time and resources on their reputations, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be the one reaping the benefits.

Just as you wouldn’t want a dentist with bad teeth or an unfit personal trainer, your clients won’t feel comfortable with you if you don’t have a clear brand of your own.  While early in your career, your goal may be to gain as much broad-based experience as possible, as you mature, you probably want to narrow your focus and become The Go To Person for something.

Pinpoint your value.  Identify exactly what it is that sets you apart as an expert in the field:  Do you serve a certain type of client?  Do you know how to cater to specific demographics?  Do you offer a depth of knowledge regarding a given industry?  Are you known for helping startups define their place in the market or for helping established organizations revamp their images?

Make a name for yourself.  In addition to whatever bio your employer maintains on you and having a strong presence on LinkedIn, you should have a place where potential clients can get a feel for who you are.  A website with your own blog, digital portfolio, and clear contact information is key.  Be sure your online footprint reflects your PR style and speaks to your target audience.  (A WordPress site isn’t going to impress major multinational corporations; a complex site with an ultra-sleek feel isn’t going to put small locally focused organizations at ease.)

Be careful to separate your work and your personal life.   It’s not simply a matter of making sure your clients don’t find those less-than-professional pictures you couldn’t help but post of inappropriately hilarious things your kids have done – it’s also a matter of being able to dedicate yourself to the task at hand.  If you never disconnect from work, you’re much more likely to burn out on both fronts.  With the increasing expectation of connectivity and the blurring of personal/professional, it’s more important than ever to set boundaries for yourself.

Manage your calendar.  Just as you wouldn’t send out an email blast or slap together a press release on a whim for a client, you shouldn’t let the pacing of your career go with the flow or be another item on your to-do list.  This works on both the micro and the macro levels.  Defining clear blocks of time each week as “personal” and “professional” can help enforce those boundaries.  Setting bigger picture career milestones or checkpoints for yourself can help you stay on track when you get caught up in the whirlwind of your home or your office.  Literally – pick a date to take stock of your career and mark it on your calendar.

Maintain your resume and your portfolio.  Add this to your calendar, too.  Even if you absolutely positively love what you’re doing right now, make a date to review your own marketing collateral at least once a year.  You never know when some amazing opportunity is going to pop up (or, some unanticipated disaster), but if/when it does, you’ll be ready to tackle it.

Continually expand your horizons.  Take advantage of networking and career development opportunities – PPRA has regular programming geared specifically towards industry professionals, and there are plenty of other exciting events throughout the region all the time.  Set a goal for yourself – plan on attending one extra event or volunteering your time for a cause at least one extra time each month.   Add events to your calendar to make sure you actually go!  Do this right now.  Seriously, open a new window in your browser and just do it.  You’re much more likely to go if it’s on your agenda.

Become a leader*.  Mentor junior-level personnel – you’ll need someone to fill your shoes as you move up to the next step in your career.  Take charge of a project at work.  Find ways to contribute to the community through volunteering or participating in special initiatives.  Use your career objectives and value propositions as markers to help you find ways to align your endeavors with your goals.  Feel free to add these experiences to your resume as appropriate.  *Ask for help as needed and look to learn from colleagues – this only makes you a better leader.

Above all, treat yourself as you would a client.  Your image, your messaging, and your visibility as an independent professional is your career.

Certified Career Coach Rita Friedman  –  PhillyCareerCoach.com –  helps clients plan their careers, conduct effective job searches, give great interviews, and grow professionally.  She provides one-on-one coaching, leads small group workshops, and writes a career advice column for Philly.com.  Subscribe to her blog or connect with her on LinkedIn.