Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Applying for a PR position? Be smart and be #HAPPO.

Our Communications Department at the school district just went through the fantastically challenging process of hiring for a new Public Relations Specialist position.

It was fantastic insomuch that it meant that our department was finally able to add another set of hands to help out in a growing district. This was a challenging endeavor due to the fact that there is a lot of amazing communications/PR/journalist talent out there looking to land a good gig. In the end, we are pleased to have who we believe will be a tremendous asset to our team.

The hiring process also gave me the chance to assess a rather large pool of résumés, cover letters, and correspondence from potential candidates and discover some areas that might help others seeking employment in public relations.

  1. Know your audience - I was surprised at the number of applicants who had zero qualifications that matched our needs. This could be because of the still recovering job market and people applying just to apply, but it doesn't make sense to waste your time trying to get in front of someone when there's obviously not a relevant connection.
  2. Read the job description very carefully - When evaluating applications, we were looking for specific set of skills, demonstrated ability and experience for our department needs. Look for words in the job description (like writing, reporting, media spokesperson, special events, web, etc.) that give context clues to help you determine what they are looking for in an ideal candidate.
  3. Match your skill set with your experience - Look for ways to draw comparisons with your work experience (paid, internship and volunteer) to as many of the skills sought as possible. Don't have any related work experience? This is when your writing skills will come in handy as you'll need to frame your education around the needs of the position. Either way, you need to be able show your prowess for their specific open position.
  4. Cover letters get read. (Hopefully.) - Thinking about writing skills, the cover letter is an area for the job seeker should pay attention to. The cover letter probably shouldn't be a narrative rehashing your résumé. Instead, let the cover letter be a written example of your personality. Keep it professional, but it's ok to be a human.
  5. Details, details, details - Pay close attention to what you send to potential employer. Let's all say it together, "Pay close attention to what you send to potential employer." Sadly, people make bonehead mistakes when applying for jobs. Like leaving all of the edits turned on in the Microsoft Word .doc cover letter so 1/2 of the page is red and/or crossed-through. Don't be that guy. Send a PDF.(And yes, that really happened.) Other mistakes with your résumé such as misspellings or misleading bullet points, etc. cause unnecessary confusion. Also, follow all of the directions in the application process, to whom do  you send documents, whether or not to complete an online or offline application, etc. These things really make a difference and when fouled up, make you appear to not be very detail-oriented which is pretty important in PR.
  6. Apply like you're pitching a story - You'll get better traction when seeking employment if you approach each potential employer they way they want to be approached. We know that blasting out the same generic press releases to a bunch of media contacts and hoping one of them bites is a waste of everyone's time. Tailor your résumé to each prospect like you would tailor your pitch to a specific reporter and outlet. It takes more time, but you stand a greater chance of getting your foot in the door if you can be relevant to them.
  7. For the journalists - We had a high number of current and former journalists apply for our position. And I know of many media friends making the jump to the dark side (or into the light depending on how you look at it) of PR. I believe you bring an exciting potential to any communications team because of the inside knowledge of the media you bring to the table. Lean on your writing, ethical, and newsworthy standards and I believe you can be a valuable addition to public relations teams.
What do you think? What tips or suggestions can you add for PR job candidates? The comments are yours.
And for your moment of HAPPO-ness...
HAPPO (Help a PR Pro Out) is an online community started by Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon. It’s members strive to help PR pros who are looking for jobs connect with organizations looking to hire in order to identify potential opportunities for both sides. I am the HAPPO regional champion for Dallas/Ft.Worth. The next HAPPO online event is Dec. 8. Follow the #HAPPO hashtag on Twitter for more details and to get involved. If you are in DFW, follow the #HAPPODFW hashtag on Twitter for local information.

[Photo by zervas via Flickr Creative Commons]
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Getting in the flow (chart) of social media

"But what if someone posts something bad about us?"

Sound familiar? If you've had those internal discussions about social media, it should have come up a few times in your organization. Here's the thing, it's often up to you, the intrepid PR pro to navigate, write, plan, respond, and ultimately stick your neck out when things go screwy or even when things go well.

So, how do you get in the flow? Hopefully, you've thought about a plan for appropriate organizational responses and reactions. Maybe you've considered putting those down on paper or perhaps even a full-blown step-by-step plan for situations. Whatever your status, you should at least have some kind of mechanism to guide you in your listening and responding through social media.

I came across a couple of interesting examples of flowcharts that illustrate processes for managing scenarios.

The Balcom Agency's Social Media Response Flowchart (thanks Chip Hanna) which is simply an outline that they can use to build on deeper for clients depending on specific needs:

Another more complex version is from concept illustration guru, David Armano, who shared a Community Management Scenario Map through a recent post:

(Photo: David Armano via Flickr)

Both of these flowcharts have three very important things in common:
  1. They require someone who can anticipate issues.
  2. They require situational awareness.
  3. They reveal that sometimes one's best approach is to leave it alone.
PR professionals must constantly delve, discover, and determine next steps if we're to deliver on the promise of effective communication for organizational guidance which, if not explicitly in our job descriptions, is certainly in the subtext.

Are you a PR pro with a plan? How do you decide organizational/client responses? Are you in the flow?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Leading and Influencing: Takeaways from @FortWorthPRSA October 2010

LeadershipImage by pedrosimoes7 via FlickrFrom the good grief, was this post ever going to get written? files, I'm finally getting to the write-up from the October Ft. Worth PRSA luncheon presentation.

The luncheon was part of a morning and lunch time workshop entitled "Leadership: How to Get a Seat at the C-suite Table," led by Dan Novak from TCU's Tandy Center on Executive Leadership. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the lunch portion. (Judging by the interactive discussion and topics from the morning, it was pretty solid.)

As for the lunch, the leadership-oriented session was to learn how to have an authentic voice and a strong organizational/business culture that stands strong in the face of disaster or attack.

The best takeaways on leading and influencing (according to my scribbled notes):
  1. Be better at what you do.
  2. Success: You need to want to be a part of it.
  3. Client/Organization interaction via social media - You don't own your reputation.
  4. We need to have a voice that matters.
  5. Breakthrough organizations are more likely to anticipate and determine root causes of problems and not just reacting.
  6. Social network analysis can make networks visible thus make it actionable.
  7. The Org Chart is not the way organizations really function.
  8. We need to have the awareness within the org to understand the person(s) with knowledge and skills right for specific times of communication need.
  9. Successful organizations practice constant self-reflection and has a willingness to improve and learn.
  10. If I can think differently, I may be able to add more value and diagnose problems.
That last point about problem diagnosis came with a fascinating diagram that I've attempted to recreate

The reason I thought this concept diagram was so compelling was because it illustrated how we often deal with the symptomatic issues (i.e. perceived break-downs in communication) and not ever go back to check the causes to adapt and change.

There were a few other gems worth noting:

  1. "Closed" approach is no longer sustainable.
  2. Information flows in and out...with or without you.
  3. Establishing your voice.
  4. Listen to your employees
    - They have a voice
    - They want to be heard to tell their story
    - They want action/results
  5. Lead by collaborative influence across functional, social, demographic, and organizational boundaries [silos].
Leaders influence change through one of three ways: Power, Reason, or Re-education of beliefs, values, attitudes. As leaders in our organizations, PR people need to develop a different language and think in terms what truly matters to internal and external audiences. This will help our focus in being reputation defenders.

Everything you do [or not] sends a message. What gets your attention? Are you anticipating or reacting? As always, the comments are yours.
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