Tag Archives: public relations

The Turnover Rate in Public Relations

5 Aug

Laurent L. Lawrence, Associate Director of Public Relations for the PRSA in New York recently penned a great post on Media Bistro: The 4 Culprits Behind PR’s High Turnover Rates. Take a read.

I felt the need to weigh in with my own thoughts here as well. For the sake of ease and brevity, I’ll just go point by point.

The problem: External recruitment rather than internal support

My take: Yes, yes and yes. Once you’ve got at least a year, even less, under your belt in PR, the recruiters start calling and emailing with enticing opportunities elsewhere. Perhaps it’s the human default – the grass is always greener on the other side, and if you aren’t exactly thrilled working where you are, a recruiter might just help you jump ship before someone internally lends you help, valuable career insight or direction. Should I even mention that the recruiters always tout higher salary? Not to give my generation a blanket overgeneralization…but I will…a higher salary will always be enticing to us/me at first glance. Obviously I will do my homework and due diligence, and not simply switch jobs for a dollar sign, but man can a raise sound and feel nice. Sallie Mae is knocking on my door, people!

The problem: Low wage increase is the new normal

My take: I cannot speak from the business owner perspective and won’t pretend like I know the perfect solution to this issue. Like I said above, a more competitive salary is enticing. I used to work for an agency that gave me a raise (even if modest) every six months via formal review and that gave me the warm and fuzzies. It felt good – like I was valued and appreciated. Even if it was an “HR tactic” to keep people on board, I’ll take it. I sound like such a money grubber, sorry. I’m not!

The problem: Lack of management accountability

My take: YES. I have only ever worked for small (and one mid-sized) agencies and a reoccurring theme was lack of guidance, on-boarding, acclimation and training for new people. With that said, I truly believe that this is an issue because senior level management is time-strapped. I’m sure there are exceptions of laziness, burnouts and the like, but no smart business owner will intentionally fail their people from the start – not unless they want to lose clients left and right. I second Lawrence’s sentiments from his entry: “A manager’s responsibilities should always include training, mentoring and protecting their staff by making sure they are properly prepared to do the work being assigned to them.” There must be time allotted for these types of things. Clients’ needs will have to be put aside to allow for this time, but in the end, the better trained and acclimated their team is, the longer the relationship will last (hopefully).

The problem: Non-existent onboarding

My take: Pretty much covered in the above. The only thing I’ll add is that I too have been thrust into a new business pitch the third day I was working at a new firm. I was so unprepared and it was embarrassing. For the sake of solid client relationships and always being perceived as thoughtful, prepared and strategic, no new hire should take part in any external pitches or meetings before they are ready.

If I were to pinpoint one specific issue that threads throughout all points made in this entry, it is this: lack of time and resources. Many of the problems Lawrence points out and their respective solutions have to do with people, namely management, having the appropriate time and resources to:

  • Internally support staff so they aren’t readily poached by recruiters;
  • Research appropriate, competitive industry wages and review staff members every 6-12 months granting them wage increases if earned;
  • Properly advise, oversee and train junior staff.

None of these “fixes” will slow or even stop the high turnover rate in PR anytime soon. This will be a drawn out process. But perhaps if we make time and commit to bettering our staff retention practices, there could be some positive change. Now repeat after me: Sorry client, we can’t come to the phone right now, we have internal onboarding to do so your AE sticks around!

What makes me stick around? Feeling valued, heard, challenged and passionate about the work I’m doing. What about you?

Good writing will never go out of style

24 Jan

 

Photo credit: Pete O'Shea

Photo credit: Pete O’Shea

One of our clients shared a new and exciting technology development with us the other day. Following some brainstorming and strategy discussion with my internal agency account team, I was eagerly ready to hit the ground running and pitch our target media.

“I just need to pick up the phone, call this editor, and he will love it right off the bat. No problem,” I thought to myself.  My internal, impatient dialogue with myself dictated that a phone pitch would be best. In this digital world, everyone always talks about the art of picking up the phone to connect. Yes, definitely.

I had to slow myself down and carefully reconsider. Most PR industry best practices dictate that media most often prefer pitches and press releases via email. Unless one has an enormously huge and exclusive bit of news (nota bene: major industry titan filing for bankruptcy, doctor finds cure for cancer, the President of the United States is delivering the State of the Union), have an established form of communication over the phone with a specific journalist, or a writer has explicitly asked you to call them, I personally usually go the route of the email to start with.

Despite my excitement to just take this current bit of client news right to the media as fast as possible via phone, I knew it would be best to organize my thoughts and this client news into written format in an email.

Why?

  • You have to be organized: Email pitches offer you the opportunity to organize your thoughts and ideas. You can clearly delineate the ‘who, what, why, where and how’ when you can review and edit as much as needed, which is particularly important in our complex world of health IT and B2B.
  • You can get creative: You can get creative with email pitching. You can tell a story. A well written, creative pitch read aloud can come off as too “sales-y” when spoken. When read in an email, it translates more naturally. It’s obvious that you have taken the time to craft a good pitch and it makes sense in email form.
  • You must be prepared: Email also grants you confidence. We’ve all had that pitch that flusters us once we have the ear of a journalist. Perhaps it’s a confusing bit of medical technology, or there are a lot of last names involved that can be easily mispronounced. Email gives you the platform to get straight to the point, no flustering or embarrassment needed if you accidentally misspeak (remember, we are human and it does happen, and it seems we’re always “on the record”).
  • Be of help to the media: Well written email pitches enable media to digest the news or idea and understand. Then they can ask questions and be ready to further discuss via a phone call.

My point in all of this is that the written word and the skill of effectively communicating via writing will never go out of style in the practice of public relations. We are first and foremost communicators, and skillful writing is an undeniable necessity for us to be successful in landing our clients in the media. Don’t get me wrong, verbal communication skills are paramount as well, but written skills will forever reign supreme as a basic foundation skill that will help you your entire career in this business.

Interview deal breakers

9 Oct

Interviewing is not easy, and the job hunt landscape can be tough to maneuver. Below are a few tips to help you best capitalize on the limited time you have as a candidate to convince someone to hire you.

  • Lack of passion/definitiveness for career choice doesn’t look good. Even if you don’t have your heart 110% set on a certain realm of PR or subject matter, don’t be so forthcoming about it. I know it sounds deceptive, but with an eloquent and well thought-out answer to the question “why PR?” you cannot (and shouldn’t) be faulted for not screaming from the mountaintop: “I will only work in healthcare PR! I love it so much!” PR offers a wide variety of opportunities and subject matters. No one can fault you for diving into fashion PR and then realizing it’s not a good fit for you. Get experience and find out what fits you best. That takes time. But while figuring out that passion, craft a solid response for when you are asked about your career choice and goals.
  • Assuming you got the job. This personally just rubs me the wrong way. I received a thank you email from a candidate once saying “I look forward to working with you.” Hold the phone. Did you mean “I look forward to the opportunity to work together?” No matter how well you think the job interview went, you didn’t land it until an offer letter is in-hand.
  • Lack of eye contact and confidence. PR success tends to favor those with confidence. If you don’t have what it takes to be forthright and confident in your delivery during an interview, what would lead me to believe you would be in the position?
  • Ask questions. I love it when candidates ask prepared questions peppered with spontaneous ones related to the conversations during the interview. Asking both types of questions shows you’re prepared and able to think on the fly.
  • Be organized with your work samples. I interviewed a candidate that produced his writing and media placement samples in a haphazard and messy fashion sprawled out on the conference table. I didn’t know where to look. I bluntly asked the candidate about his organizational skills as I was skeptical. Get a nice folder for you resume and samples. Clip papers in a binder if that’s necessary to keep you organized when sharing your work.

As always, I’d love to hear your best practices and tips for a great interview. There’s always more to learn. Hope these tips are helpful! Thanks to my colleagues Sourav, Kate and Brittny for their input on these tips as well.

Should you drink your client’s Kool-Aid?

23 Sep

KOOL-AID If I can pat myself on the back for something I think I do well in my career as a PR person, I’d have to say I’m a great client advocate. Despite having some interesting, difficult to sell and downright strange clients in my years thus far, I have an innate sense of wanting to help them and meet their needs.

That said…I won’t drink the Kool-Aid.

PR professionals, specifically in an agency setting, should serve as an extension of a client’s brand / company. We should know the ins and outs, the messaging, the goals, the audience, the strengths, the weaknesses, etc. Knowing all this, the best thing we can do for our clients is to remain neutral.

Trust me – I have walked out of new client meetings thinking “man – that is the coolest thing ever!” I have pitched a client until blue in the face thinking “this is so amazing, why does no one care? This should be on Oprah!” (I’m half kidding.)

You should be a client advocate and one of their biggest fans. But it will only do you a disservice if you drink the Kool-Aid.

Why?

  • In order to land your client in the media, you need to meet the media’s needs. Think like a reporter. The reporter doesn’t care that you client’s product is the best, most awesome, innovative technology ever made. So why would you say that to them?
  • You are the PR expert, not your client. That’s why they hired you. If a client tells you they want a cover story on People magazine and you know you have a better chance of winning Miss America blindfolded, why would you agree with them? Expectation management is a major part of our jobs. Do your homework, learn where your client’s audience is, and go there. Be strategic and don’t just try to appease the client. You’ll simply end up wasting time and possibly ruining relationships in the end.
  • When you play devil’s advocate and dig a bit deeper into some of the blemishes your client might not want to address, you are helping the client prepare for what’s to come from the media. The media’s job is to find the story and the truth within something. Not every organization has a squeaky clean record or a full proof product. When you expose and discuss any and all shortcomings with the client in advance, issues can be fixed and messaging can be created to best and most effectively deliver messaging about what may be a sensitive topic.

Above all else, do your job with integrity (which summarizes so much of what I’ve said above). And no matter how tasty it might seem, stay away from the Kool-Aid.

Being friendly is not a bad thing

9 Sep

I was a bit taken aback by David Spark’s post on PR Daily today, titled ‘Why faux friendliness gets emails deleted.’ David suggests cutting the sugarcoating out of your email correspondence. No “I hope the week is going well.” No generic “love your blog and all of the great social media marketing tools that you share.”

I find David’s suggestions in general a bit curt. I have no issues with starting an email with “I hope this finds you well.” That is in no way me trying to be your best buddy. Rather, I’m trying to extend common courtesy.

What we should learn from David’s post is the skill of personalizing and targeting individual email outreach.

  • If you actually read (which you should always do) and liked one of the reporter’s latest articles, say it. What harm does it do if you specify why you liked it, and how your pitch fits because of what you liked? We all know the best practice of reading the work of who we’re pitching. Who doesn’t like hearing that the pitcher also happened to like it for legitimate reasons and why that fits our reasoning for being in touch?
  • PR is about relationship building. While it’s important to get to the point and be as succinct as possible, I’m a fan of warmth and friendly inflection. More often I find myself referring to and connecting most often with those I know have a pleasant personality. Robotic communication just leaves something to be desired in my opinion (and I’m not saying David suggests such a thing).
  • For the love of all the PR gods – do not mass email!
  • An apology is fine, but you should mean it. I honestly am sorry to pester people, and I say so when I send a follow-up email. I don’t like to be pestered, but sometimes need a reminder or a poke here and there. Just don’t use it ad nauseam, especially where there’s really no need.

David ends with calling faux engagement a hideous, obnoxious trend. He also calls any of us who send what he deems “faux,” a-holes. David has a lot of cordiality and empathy, doesn’t he? My two cents: The definition of faux is in the eye of the beholder. Be polite, courteous, considerate, genuine and targeted in all correspondence. It shouldn’t take a post like David’s or mine to teach you that.

 

Agency PR – Varied clientele or focused subject matter?

12 Mar

I started my public relations career at an agency. I did all of my college internships at agencies, except for one. I’m currently working – guess where – at an agency. Perhaps I could call myself a glutton for punishment. What do you think? :)

I can’t speak otherwise because I have yet to garner in-house/corporate experience, so please do take everything in this post with that understanding.

As I’m acclimating to my new position with KNB Communications specializing in healthcare technology, I’m looking back on the variety of experience that I’ve gained through all of my previous positions, and how I can apply that experience here. One question that keeps popping up in my head, and probably always will, begs: Is it better to work for a multitude of different clientele in different industries, or is it better to focus on a single subject matter in the agency world?

I asked this on Twitter and got responses from some friends:
tweetscreeenshot

After giving it some thought, I can definitively say for myself, one is not better than the other. Rich said it well: “Both have benefits.” Just as some work cultures are a better fit for some, the same goes for a varied client base vs. focused industry specialty.

Here are a few pros and cons I came up with if you just so happen to be grappling with this same topic. Would love your thoughts as well!

Variety of clients

Pros:

  • Almost always busy, day flies by
  • You can delve into a number of different subject matters creating connections across many media and potential client/new business platforms
  • If one client subject matter doesn’t thrill you, you can always take a break with it and switch to another client for a fresh topic

Cons:

  • Multitasking is a required art form in PR. Doing it between a variety of client subjects is a skill that very few actually possess
  • It’s rare to have the opportunity to work with the same reporters on a regular basis to develop valuable relationships
  • Most likely, your colleagues are also “Jacks of all trades,” leaving the team without a point person on the management level that is knowledgeable about every facet of the client’s business – especially if it’s a difficult subject matter such as investor relations, finance, real estate, etc.

Focused Specialty Clients

Pros:

  • You have the ability to learn everything about the client and the industry from A-to-Z, becoming a bit of a subject matter expert
  • In becoming a subject matter expert, on-boarding with clients can be streamlined. There’s less of a learning curve
  • You can dedicate your time with media outreach to building lasting relationships as you are in touch with these contacts on a daily/weekly basis

Cons:

  • The subject matter can fry your brain. Not only are you just covering one industry or subject, you’re doing it over and over again for different clients.
  • If you or a client burns any bridges with target industry media, it’s not fun. If a client backed out of an interview last minute, or you misdirected an email about a reporter to the reporter that says less-than-glowing things, you’re in big trouble (don’t put that kind of thing in an email to begin with…goes without saying)
  • Fatigue. I’ll admit that this one has gotten me previously. Similar to one single subject matter frying your brain, you can start to get hungry for variety if you’ve had it previously. Does the saying “the grass is always greener” have a place here? I think so.

Of course, all of the above can be a case-by-case basis. These are simply my experiences to-date. If you were to ask me which I prefer, I honestly couldn’t give an answer. What I can say is that I’m grateful and fortunate to have gathered as much experience as I have at different agencies both that focus on a single subject matter and that have a variety of clientele.

Four Tips on Acing an Internship Interview

17 Apr

Internship interviews are just as important as any job interview. They should be approached with the same level of preparation and enthusiasm. As many college students and recent graduates are on the hunt for a summer internship position, I thought it would be a great time to share some solid tips for acing that internship interview.

1) Come prepared. This covers a lot! Bring a portfolio of your work from classes and previous internships if you have them. This will allow you to get specific about the experience you have and your writing skills by showing the work as you discuss it with the interviewer.

Research the company. You should have an idea of who the clients are, the number of people working at the company, who you will be meeting with, etc. Nothing screams “I’m half-hearted about this internship” more than someone who hasn’t even Googled the place they’re interviewing for.

You will be asked about previous work, school, club, volunteer and internship experience. Mentally prep yourself before the interview to know the important points you want to make. Simply saying that you built a media list at your last internship doesn’t give me a good indication of your skill set. Tell me what you built that list for, what type of media you were researching, how you helped the account person, and the ultimate result. What did you learn?

2) Dress appropriately. Come to the interview in business dress. First impressions are a big deal and you want the interviewer to pay attention to what you have to say, not what you are wearing. Dressing the part shows that you are taking the opportunity seriously. You should also steer clear of loud jewelry and flashy makeup. I heard a story of a candidate who had bangle bracelets on that kept banging on the desk in front of her, and all the interviewer could remember from the interview was the bracelets.

3) Be yourself. Nerves can get the best of us. We can speak too quickly, stutter and ramble if we get nervous in an interview. Take a deep breath before you get to the office so that you can best represent yourself in a calm and collected manner. Public relations is a high-stress job, and showing that you can remain cool under pressure will set you apart from other candidates.

Being yourself is also paramount so the interviewer can pair you with the appropriate supervisor. Supervisors want to know who they will be working with and how their direct report works best. If a candidate acts one way in an interview, and completely different while on the job, it’s not doing anyone any good. Interns aren’t expected to know everything or be “perfect” at public relations (no one is!), so admitting your struggles and what you want to learn is OK. That’s why we have internships – so you can improve your skill set and eventually apply it in your career.

4) Write a thank you note. This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Write a thank you note or email to everyone you interviewed with, and make it something personal and different for each person. A template thank you note doesn’t show a lot of originality or that you put a lot of effort into it.

We’d love to hear your internship interview tips as well! Feel free to leave a comment below.

And best of luck to all those on the internship hunt!

You can also see this post at Quinn & Co.’s Purple Lounge.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers