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/.

Tips for Conducting Effective PR Surveys

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Survey data is a critical leveraging tool for all PR pros. A practitioner at a client meeting prepared with survey results from a well designed and executed study is no PR pro to mess with. Attention-grabbing and sometimes slightly out of the ordinary results could be the perfect approach for client and brand exposure. Sharing significant statistics without a doubt pique’s the public’s interest and even makes good use for an informative infographic. A recent PR Daily article titled, “9 tips for effective PR surveys,” gives practitioners fresh angles on how to carry out valuable, result driven surveys.

1. Keep the questions short. Always focus on the key objectives of the survey you are conducting. Keep both the questions and the length of the survey to a minimum. If it takes too long to take the survey you may bore participants who will decide to rush through it.

2. Use closed questions. If you are planning to report mean scores and percentages then avoid including open-ended questions within your survey.

3. Use credible stories. Make sure you construct your survey in a way that is relatable to your target audience and the key objectives you are researching. You can do this by including real-life examples and scenarios within the survey.

4. Don’t force answers. Creating a survey can sometimes be tricky. How a question is worded or limited answer choices can easily skew the results. Remember, you want your findings to back up valid points you are trying to convey. If results don’t match up or are easily skewed you could lose credibility in the eyes of both a client and the public.

5. Beware of sample size. For best results limit your sample size to 1,000 interviews when generating results from national or generally representative surveys.

6. Think internationally. Consider conducting a survey within various countries and regions. There are many websites online that are not as pricey as you may think. International surveys can provide eye-opening results as to how others perceive your brand. International data could provide resourceful results, leading you to creative ideas to kick-start a new campaign. 

7. Consider location and sample size Be cautious if you are planning to combine regional and national survey results, without including an adequate sample size.

8. Reconsider ranking questions Sometimes reporting the results of ranking questions can be difficult. The author of the article asks the reader if they are interested in the rank order overall or the percentage who mentioned specific items in the rank order. Also, be sure not to use rank order and rating questions interchangeably. Rating questions asks survey participants to compare different items using a rating scale.

9. Be realistic with business-to-business surveys Be practical when constructing business-to-business surveys. Consider which employees are most appropriate to reach out to in order to receive valid results. There are other decision makers aside from the CEO who may be more knowledgeable about specific topics and information.

In your opinion, what does an effective survey include? How do you analyze survey data to be sure the results aren’t skewed? Let us know in the comment section below.

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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.

“A Smile, A Handshake and a Strategy” Event Recap

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From left to right: The Franklin Institute’s Director of Institutional and Government Relations, Rachel M. Fournier, Wayne Rosenberger, Vice Chair of Marketing at SCORE and moderator Lucy MacNichol posing before the panel discussion begins. Lucy is the Senior Content Development Manager and Editor at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Last Thursday, PPRA held its’ “A Smile, A Handshake and a Strategy” event. Over thirty PR pros came together, enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Sonesta Hotel in Philadelphia and learned some key strategies about becoming effective networkers. Networking is a long-term effort that requires both parties within the connection to continue to keep building and maintaining the existing relationship, on both a personal and professional level. The Franklin Institute’s Director of Institutional and Government Relations, Rachel M. Fournier, advised attendees to always remain energetic, empathetic and enthusiastic about the positions in which they hold. No one wants to meet someone who appears uninterested in their professional role. We must be mindful that we are brand ambassadors for our company wherever we go and always remain in a networking mindset. Keep these 7 tips in mind when networking.

1. Network with a purpose
Wayne Rosenberger, Vice Chair of Marketing for Score, told attendees to think about the prospective contacts they are interested in meeting and how this connection will benefit their professional goals. For example, if you are in charge of fundraising for a non-profit organization you may benefit most from seeking out prospective donors at industry events. Also, learn how to accept rejection because not everyone is a perfect fit for you and your company.

2. Target your prospective contacts
Consider what kind of events you can attend and where you can go locally in order to run into your desired connections. For example, if you are responsible for growing the business development division for your company perhaps happy hours near specific company locations and attending industry related conferences could direct you to a new group of helpful connections.

3. Plan ahead before a networking event
In some cases, lists are available to event attendees. These lists display the guests that are attending the event, the company in which they work for and their title within the company. Be strategic and make your own list of the top attendees you think you want to meet. Think about sending an email to some attendees prior to the event and introducing yourself.

4. Arrive early and be the go-to person
Arrive early and scope out the premises. Learn where the registration table, restrooms, food set-up and coat-check are located. Being knowledgeable about little details of the event is a good icebreaker for initiating start-up conversation. You may even run into some key connections such as the event coordinator or key-note speakers of the event.

5. Maintain a two-way street connection
Whether the relationship is personal or professional all people deserve respect. No one enjoys being in a relationship in which only one party is benefiting from the connection. Don’t just keep your goals in mind when networking; be helpful and valuable to your new connections.

6. Be visible
Nurture your new and existing relationships by following up frequently. If you haven’t spoke with someone in a while, shoot them a casual email explaining that you came across something during your day that reminded you of them and rekindle the relationship from there.

7. Evaluate your results
After taking these tips into consideration keep track of your new connections and how they fit into the overall improvements of your work-related efforts. Switch up your strategies based on what kind of events you are attending and your intended results. And remember, networking is a long-lasting effort.

This post was written by PPRA member Renee’ Velez. Velez currently serves on PPRA’s Communications Committee. She is also the Public Outreach Coordinator at Stokes Creative Group, Inc. Follow Renee’ on Twitter @rvelez88.