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.

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Give Your Client the Loyal Treatment

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The harsh reality all PR professionals must face is perfectly stated in this line from a recent edition of the Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat: “the majority of your pitches won’t get a response -” Then, as if offering a tiny glimmer of hope, the sentence continues: “but some will.”

It’s true. We all know media pitching is more of an art than it is science. But what happens when your pitch is a home run, the reporter wants the story…then you have to call a timeout?

It sounds like the unthinkable, but as I recently found out, unthinkable doesn’t mean impossible. Here I was, two days away from an interview I’d set up with a veteran reporter from a widely-read daily. All was well until the reporter’s interest shifted–albeit slightly–away from my original pitch. Great for the reporter, not so great for my company’s brand.

A rock and a hard place is an understatement. Yet it was a real life wake-up call that as a PR professional, I must be diligent in the loyalty I have for my company’s strategic goals; even if it means letting go of a media placement I worked so hard to get.

I like to call it the “loyal treatment.” Not unlike kings and monarchs, treat your company and client like royalty when it comes to protecting their brand and public image. Here are a few more tips to remember.

Know your client’s/company’s intended public brand
Ask your client or company’s senior leaders “What do you want the brand to be?” Also, “What don’t you want it to be?” As times change and companies evolve, answers to these questions will inevitably change, so don’t be afraid to ask more than once. The point is, know what the brand is (or isn’t) so you know not to deviate from it when pitching the media.

It’s ok to tell a reporter “no”
I know it sounds crazy given the sheer difficulty involved in getting a reporter to even acknowledge that you exist (unless you work for Apple or some other big name brand that reporters drool over). But trust me on this. If you suspect the end media placement could compromise the brand in any way, respectfully and tactfully decline. Think about it. The repercussions of making your company or client look bad are far worse than one missed opportunity. Which brings me to my next point…

Put yourself in the shoes of the spokesperson
One of the things I love about our work is that we get to make other people look good. In doing this though, we can easily lose sight of the fact that it’s their face, their words, their reputation that’s on the line; not our own. Now ask yourself, “What if it was me?” This change in perspective can make a world of difference when you consider which media placements to pursue.

Have you ever had to give up a media opportunity to protect your company or client? Share your experience and advice in the comments below.

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/.

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Glassdoor – A Valuable PR Tool You May Have Overlooked

You’ve probably heard of Glassdoor – the job and career site launched in 2008 which offers something unique compared to other job boards – employee and interview experience reviews. As with Yelp, Trip Advisor, Open Table or any other website that encourages customer or visitor reviews, Glassdoor publishes all employee reviews, positive and negative (excluding those that may include inappropriate language). Although it is your human resources team’s role to track, monitor and be in-the-know about Glassdoor reviews that can harm a company’s reputation, Glassdoor is also a valuable tool for public relations pros.

Utilize this tool two ways – read the employee reviews and ensure the page enhances your company’s image wherever possible.

Uncover What You Don’t Know Through Employee Reviews.
Here’s an idea. When your creative side is feeling challenged for the next topic to pitch, visit your company or external client’s Glassdoor page and scan employee reviews. Maybe you will uncover positive information you did not know about. Maybe you’ll read that an employee enjoyed working with other employees across the country on a million-dollar fundraising initiative. Maybe you’ll read about an intern who had an opportunity to sit with the CEO at a new hires networking event. Utilize these reviews, dig for the deeper story.

Negative employee reviews contain information that can prove similarly valuable. Media representatives and bloggers might visit your company’s Glassdoor page in search of something to fill in their story blanks. Be proactive by making yourself aware, reading between the lines and staying current on potential crises. Look for the red flags that could blow up – fear of mergers, layoffs or management changes – and find out as much as you can so you’re equipped if called upon.

Enhance Your Glassdoor Page. Build a Positive Image.
Work with your marketing and human resources teams to ensure the company’s Glassdoor presence is one everyone is proud of.

Here’s how:

  • Include links to your company website, careers page, blogs and social media outlets.
  • Showcase photos from community service projects, awards ceremonies and your cutting-edge facility.
  • List of all your company’s awards and honors.
  • Work with human resources to encourage employees to post reviews.
    (The more positive reviews posted, the higher the company’s ranking.)
  • Ensure that someone is designated as the company point person for responding to reviews.
  • Subscribe to “follow” your company to receive email notifications when new reviews are posted.

Are you utilizing this priceless PR tool to position your company as one that is doing great things?

This post was written by PPRA member Karen Toner. Karen is communications manager at ParenteBeard, a top 25 accounting firm in Center City. She learned about Glassdoor when encouraged to review one company’s repeated horrible employee reviews for a laugh. Hopefully your company’s Glassdoor page is not a PR nightmare like that one.

Maintaining a Successful Blog as a College Student

Students studying communication or public relations are all united by one common factor: competition. With the growth of academic programs at various universities in the field, it isn’t uncommon to run into another student with the same major. These students usually go after the same internships, and eventually will send resumes off to the same jobs.

This competition requires that students do something to set themselves apart. After a while, resumes and cover letters of different students all begin to look the same. It is extremely important to do something that shows what makes you a better candidate than your peers. Blogging is a great way to do this. It allows you to gain writing experience, to learn how to curate content, and is a public display of who you are as a person.

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Maintaining a blog as a college student can be a difficult task, as we often have other responsibilities to focus on. If you’re interested in starting a blog to help you stand out from the crowd of PR students, here are some things you should consider:

  • How much time can you dedicate to blogging? Blogging can be extremely time consuming whether you do it as a hobby or have made a small business from it. You need time to generate content, format posts, take photos, and respond to comments and emails. Take this into consideration with the time you already dedicate to class, work, and extracurricular activities.
  • Develop an organization system. Keeping up with your blog is the key to gaining and expanding your readership. Get a planner that you dedicate to blogging and make an editorial calendar for each month. Be realistic with yourself; if you know you can’t post every day, then don’t place that expectation on yourself.
  • Brand your blog consistently. Your blog should be treated as one of your clients. If you use Twitter or Facebook to promote your blog, be sure that those profiles are consistent with the content and design of your blog. Make the cover photo of your blog’s Facebook and Twitter match the header image, and keep the colors the same. This will create a sense of familiarity among your readers.
  • Create original content. No one wants to read your blog only to get information that can be found elsewhere. It is important to always be creating fresh content, not just sharing or reposting. Adding your own input and life situations helps readers create a more personal relationship with you and your blog. Posting about topics you truly have a passion for is the best way to insure quality content.

Though it may seem overwhelming at first, blogging is the easiest way to promote yourself as a professional while still having fun. Don’t get lost in the feeling that your blog has to look or sound a certain way. Allow your unique voice to come through, and the rest will settle on its own.

This is a guest post written by Amber Burns. Amber is a junior at Temple University majoring in Strategic Communication with a concentration in public relations and minoring in Spanish. She serves as one of the Assistant Firm Directors for PRowl Public Relations. She also serves as the Vice President for Temple University’s PRSSA chapter. This summer she interned for Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum as their PR and Marketing Intern. Amber also runs a personal lifestyle blog called, And Yes To Joy, where she blogs about college, goal setting, and life tips.