By: Kendra Paro, Director of Business Affairs

If you are a millennial, there’s a good chance you are on social media. If you are a PR major, there is an even better chance you’re kind of obsessed with social media.

Many of our parent’s age generation like to use social media platforms for everything, including things like political arguments which can get some people into hot water. Our generation has the opportunity to able to use social media in a smart way that will help us grow in the field of communications and advance our networking capabilities.

Social media has become so prevalent in all our lives–and because of that, you have to be careful what you’re posting across all platforms. There will become a time when you are in a professional setting and people you work with may want to be “friends” with you. Instead of awkwardly declining that request, make sure your profiles are in good condition for them to want to see.

Keep everything appropriate | You should never be posting photos/videos doing illegal or offensive things. This may seem obvious, but is often overlooked. If you aren’t 21, there shouldn’t be pictures of you drinking. This includes the way you dress and what you decide to caption posts. Try to always assume your future boss will see every tweet/picture/Snapchat that you post. Do they want an employee who is always cursing on the web?

Don’t be offensive | There is so much heat and discussion going on in the world surrounding a variety of topics. Everyone has the right to voice his or her opinion, but when deciding to do so on social media try to not offend another group of people. Being offensive to another group of people is never a good look on anyone! Once again, you don’t know who in the professional field you are going to come across in the near future and you do not want to voice anything that could harm a relationship, or future relationship, with someone.

Take advantage | Social media platforms like LinkedIn are meant for networking, but nowadays when everyone is on every form of social media, you can use this to your advantage! Someone of importance (i.e. boss or manager) may want to ‘friend’ you on Facebook or on Snapchat someday–use this to become better acquainted with them and impress them with your involvement at school. Instead of being worried about what they will see, use it wisely as a tool for them to get to know you (and like you) better.

Remember, once you put something on the web it stays there forever (even if you delete it). Also, who knows who will want to follow you on social media in the future so you might as well start thinking smart about what you post now!

Social media is a really big part of our lives right now, so do not let it get you in trouble. Let it advance you as an aspiring communications professional.

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By Bella Fordyce, director of communications

In the age of unpaid internships, more and more millennials are looking for new ways to make some cash on the side. For entrepreneurial-minded communications students, getting a side hustle can be a lucrative resume and portfolio booster that can be tailored to your career interests and goals. Jenna Spinelle, a marketing communications specialist for Penn State Undergraduate Admissions and introduction to journalism lecturer, has been freelancing since graduating from Penn State in 2008 with a degree in journalism. In the past year, she has built up a portfolio of clients from around the world using online freelancing platforms. I sat down with her to learn more about how communications students can benefit from finding their side hustle.

What is a side hustle, anyway?

A side hustle is not an internship or part-time job–it’s something you do on your own time. It could be anything from asking around for jobs to running your own business. Side hustles aren’t new, but the rise of the internet and the sharing economy has presented people with side hustle opportunities with low barriers to entry, such as driving Uber or Lyft, renting out a room on Airbnb, delivering Postmates or selling products on Etsy. 

Why should I get one?

For college communications students, you can never have too much experience. If you’re too busy during the school year to commit to an internship in addition to classes, side hustles are a great way to build your portfolio on your own time. Even if you already have an unpaid internship, they’re a great way to supplement your income while still contributing to your career goals. Side hustles are also great lessons in self-discipline and time management, and look great to potential employers who want concrete examples of times you juggled multiple responsibilities and stayed organized.

So..how do I get one?

If you have minimal experience, a great way to get some is to ask around the community. Does a local non-profit need help promoting an event? Do you think a local business could use a brand refresh? Does a family friend need someone to take graduation photos? Don’t be afraid to pitch yourself and your skills–and even though these jobs might be unpaid, you’ll end up with work samples you can use as a means to get paid jobs. You can also head online to sites like UpWork.com where small businesses and startups post work requests. When talking to a potential client, it’s okay to let your work speak for itself and not disclose that you’re a student (unless they specifically ask). When looking for jobs online, it’s always important to use discretion and think about what your time is worth. If you have experience and a growing client base, you may even want to consider starting your own business.

Busy schedules and lack of set hours can make students apprehensive about taking on side hustle projects, but Spinelle recommends that students start small, underpromise and overdeliver. She also tells students to sit down and audit their days. How do you spend your time? Could you be spending 30 minutes a day doing something more valuable?

 

Special thanks to Jenna Spinelle for being interviewed for this blog post.

By Lara Good, Account Executive (Martin’s Feed Mill)

Social media is a place for brands to connect intimately and consistently with consumers. Following brands who do it well is a great way to learn and get ideas. Here are three fun brands to follow on Twitter:

@Starbucks

Whether you are a Starbucks fanatic or not, this is a brand to follow. Starbucks tweets engaging content that use fun on-brand gifs, emoticons in tweets, and hashtags to amplify their tweets. They’re a brand that stands out on your newsfeed. They are especially good at using current hashtags to join a conversation. A recent example is #NationalCoffeeDay. Last holiday season, they even started a huge Twitter conversation with their own hashtag #MerryChristmasStarbucks. Most of all, Starbucks is a star when it comes to engaging with their fans. They retweet content from their fans in about every fourth tweet!

@Wendys

Wendy’s is a great brand to follow because of their fun and sassy tone of voice. In addition to typical promotional materials, they also love to engage in witty banter with their fans and other fast food brands. Some fans just tweet at them to get roasted. This would not work for all types of accounts, but they have made it work for them.

Check out this tweet they posted in response to McDonald’s back in March.

@Charmin

As a toilet paper brand, a necessity, Charmin needs to differentiate itself through its branding. Most times you should steer away from potty humor, but Charmin is making it work for them on Twitter. They consistently make jokes about going to the bathroom. They also are a less conventional account because they do not use as many visuals in contrast to other brands; this is probably for the best though considering their product. Their feeds instead use a good mix of some cartoon images, retweets of fans, and their own copy.

What are you waiting for? Go follow these and more!

By Taylor Bayat, account associate

When most people hear the words “crisis communications,” they picture Scandal’s Olivia Pope and her team covering up a murder or clearing the name of an unfaithful politician.  However, there is much more to crisis communications than White House scandals. In the past thirty days alone, there have been three major hurricanes and the deadliest mass shooting in American history.  Crisis communications has been vital to preparation and reaction to these events.

Before the hurricanes hit, organizations such as FEMA and the American Red Cross geared up to keep people and towns safe during the storms.  However, the role of public relations practitioners isn’t to physically prepare for the storm; PR people don’t board up windows or set up shelters, rather they inform the public about the disaster.

Laura Howe,  former vice president of public relations for the American Red Cross, stated that the three goals of the communications department of the Red Cross are to be proactive in getting the story out, to interact with the public, and to react during crises. During disasters, it is the role of the PR department to ensure the company or organization is getting the right information out to the public. This was especially important during the hurricanes, since many families were unable to get in contact with loved ones.

The same crisis techniques were used by the Las Vegas Police Department following the mass shooting on October 1.  It was critical that the police department communicated with the public to inform them of the events that had occurred.

While this side of public relations may be not be glamorous, it is crucial.  The real work that crisis communications teams do day-to-day is vital to our information-dependent society.

By Liam Datwani, Account Associate

The advertising industry is always changing, and in recent years real advertising has been entering the video game universe more and more. A company known as Versus has been getting companies to send them coupons and product codes and pay developers to distribute these to their own clients. There are even racing games with race cars covered in ads paid for by actual companies. With this expansion has come some unique opportunities and several contemporary issues.

In almost all video games, gamers normally see billboards that have real products replaced with parodies or fake products. It is something very common in TV shows, but has been changing bit-by-bit because advertisers are realizing that placing ads in shows are profitable. Now video games are doing the exact same thing.

A recent article in Ad Age discussed how the new FIFA game had the virtual athletes promote Coca-Cola. This idea works organically because the characters in the game do not know they are in a video game. The characters see the game world as the real world, and even if we know that the game is not reality, elements that makes the game more real makes players love the game more. Sports games like this work on realism. The whole game is supposed to be about living out your soccer fantasy and in professional soccer you deal with sponsors. So, having a character talk about and being sponsored by Coke only adds to the realism.

However, like everything, there is always a downside. CNN wrote an article about how, after a lengthy trial, Gatorade would no longer be able to use an app game to disparage water and promote their product. In the game, Usain would speed up after grabbing Gatorade, but slow down when he hit water. So, the court decided that this was unethical and illegal because it gave the false claim that Gatorade was better for people then water.

This is what can happen when products push a bit too far. However, video games are still new to the advertising world so companies, like Gatorade, are trying to see what the limits are. On top of that, companies still have to start figuring out if video game spots are even effective. Do gamers use the coupons that are distributed? Do people like Coca-Cola more after seeing it in a soccer video game? These are questions no one has the answers for yet, because there is little data.

All of this takes time and effort to figure out. As more companies start investing in placing advertising in video games there will be more information to study. In the end, video game advertising may not be worth the money, but it is both fun and insightful to see how advertisements and video games can work together.

By Shayna Rogoff, Account Executive, Global Entrepreneurship Week

You’ve likely heard of the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ – or IoT – at some point, but you might also be scratching your heading figuring out what it is or what it means.

In simple terms, The Internet of Things refers to the connection of products to the Internet. Cars, speakers, kitchen appliances, and even locks on a door can all be connected through IoT. These products are networks that generate huge volumes of consumer data that flow to computers for analysis. Products like FitBit electronic wristbands and autonomous cars have taken the world by storm. To understand how much the internet is infiltrating day-to-day products, below are three examples that fully embrace the era of ‘The Internet of Things.’

The Tasty One Top

Buzzfeed, a media company most known for its millennial mix of quirky quizzes, celebrity news and investigative reporting, has taken a huge leap into the kitchen appliance realm with the Tasty One Top. The $149 bluetooth-enabled induction countertop burner is designed to help the consumer cook the recipes he/she sees from Buzzfeed’s Tasty cooking videos. Here’s how the Tasty One Top works: the user downloads the Tasty iOS app which he/she can use to access more than 1,700 recipes and videos. The user can pick the recipe he/she wishes to cook and the app will send the appropriate settings to the Tasty One Top. In addition, the app includes instructions while the user cooks, so he/she knows when to flip a pancake or add vegetables to a stir fry.

Zeeq Smart Pillow

With today’s technology, even sleep is smarter. The Zeeq Smart Pillow is a memory foam pillow that comes with a robust number of different features. The pillow will automatically detect snoring and then gently vibrate to change the user’s sleep position without waking him/her up. In addition, the pillow will track sleep motion, track snoring decibels, wirelessly play audio, set alarms, and provide a daily report on sleep quality through a smartphone application.

 

 

Nest Learning Thermostat

The Nest Learning Thermostat is a smart thermostat that automatically adapts as the user’s life and the seasons change. Nest users have the ability to remotely control their home or office temperature through a smart phone application. A key part of the Nest Thermostat is the mission to conserve energy. When the user’s home is empty, the smart thermostat adjusts the temperature to conserve energy. Since 2011, the Next Learning Thermostat has saved over 14 million kilowatt-hours of energy. On average, this IoT product has saved U.S. customers about 10-12% on their heating bills and about 15% on their cooling bills. Nest reports an estimate average savings of $131 to $145 a year – which speaks to the product’s tag line: “Programs itself. Then pays for itself.”

As impressive as these devices may be, it is important to realize there are risks to IoT. Two years ago, an internet-enabled refrigerator was compromised and began sending spam while making ice cubes. Baby monitors have been turned into eavesdropping devices, and there are concerns about the security of medical devices. These are just a few of the many threats arising with the rise of the IoT.

From smart pillows to smart cooktops, the Internet of Things comes with limitless opportunities and challenges. These technologic innovations connect minds and machines and have the potential to produce unprecedented levels of productivity among people and business. The best thing consumers can do is educate themselves about what the IoT is and the potential impacts that can be seen on their livelihood.

By Marisa DeGennaro, Executive Director

Giving employees off on Friday is a trend that is gaining momentum in the business world and with great reason.

Employees are the backbone of every company, and as such companies aim to provide their employees with benefits that keep them happy. Giving employees off on Friday has been linked with increased employee happiness as well as increased efficiency!

When you think about it, this makes sense. If you only work four days a week, you get more time to unwind on the weekend; this may curb building resentment or burn-out. As you hold less negative feelings about working hard, you mind it less! This may lead to you working harder during those four days as you don’t get the chance to get sick of work due to always having a long weekend!

In addition to efficiency, there are many additional benefits to providing this awesome benefit! This new practice helps companies recruit better talent; with better talent comes better work comes a better company reputation! Moreover, the additional time off will help employees achieve personal goals like fitness, spending time with their family, and taking time for themselves!

The moral of the story is everyone loves a long weekend, and there are many positives to providing your employees with Friday off.

By Alexis Komatsu, Account Executive for The Italian Concierge

There are so many different programs and platforms that communication professionals use on a daily basis to manage the online presence of clients. Many of these programs offer training courses as well as certification exams for individuals to take advantage of. If you are considering working in communications, consider these industry-recognized certifications to add to your resume.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media management platform that allows users to schedule posts and measure performance. Hootsuite offers free training courses through their website. The courses touch on everything from engaging with prospects to running effective social media campaigns and contests. The 65-question certification exam then tests users ability to use the tool.

Microsoft Office Specialist

The Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification is offered for individuals who want to indicate their skills and proficiency within Microsoft programs. Those who chose to pursue this certification can choose to test in one, or multiple programs. Knowing how to efficiently use Excel or how to put together a killer PowerPoint presentation goes a long way in this industry.

Google Analytics

The Google Analytics Individual Qualification allows individuals to demonstrate their strong knowledge of the program to potential employers. Google Analytics is used to measure advertising ROI along with many other critical marketing KPIs. Google, Lynda.com and many schools offer free online training courses for the free exam.

 

In an industry that is constantly changing and evolving as new platforms and tools emerge, it is so important to continuously learn!

By Caitlin Gailey, Director of Staff Relations

Even the most prepared communicators will find a career fair daunting. The pressure to make a good first impression with 30 seconds or less is immense and can leave many wondering what recruiters really are thinking. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to sit down with a college recruiter of a Fortune 500 company to ask her honest questions about the recruiting process. She not only shared with me the typical do’s and don’ts of a career fair, but also provided me with great insight into the mind of a recruiter.

Time Does Matter

One of the first questions I asked was does it matter what time you arrive. While she said it doesn’t truly affect the impression you leave, earlier is always better. For many recruiters they are standing and talking from beginning to end, with very few breaks in-between. The entirety of the day can be exhausting and if you want to stay in a recruiters mind the earlier is better. They are more likely to engage in a longer conversation and remember you.

Have Good Manners

Before jumping into your pitch it’s important to remember that recruiters are people too. The Fortune 500 recruiter said one of the easiest ways to make a great first impression is to ask about their day. It not only is a less uncomfortable way to lead into a conversation about it shows compassion on your part. It’s something that will show your true character and in many cases impress the recruiter you’re speaking with.

Cut It Short

There is such a thing as a pitch or a conversation that has gone too long. Recruiters are aware when someone is trying to stretch out a conversation; in fact sometimes it can be quite obvious. It’s important to leave a great impression but also to know when the conversation has come to a natural end. Recruiters are there to get to know you and to assess your fit for a company, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to monopolize their time.

Don’t Be Nervous

This is easier said than done. However recruiters can tell when you are uncomfortable or unsure about what you are talking about. Instead of dwelling on nerves put your best foot forward and represent yourself and all your hard work. Recruiters find confidence to be reassuring and something that makes you stand out.

Resume And Pitch Matter

Recruiters are aware that people have different strengths, so many don’t put all their focus into your pitch or your resume. While some people may be more comfortable speaking others may better illustrate their accomplishments on paper. With that being said it’s important to properly prepare your resume and pitch for prospective employers. Even if your strength is in one particular area recruiters can notice effort and that’s what matters.

By Sarah Vlazny, Account Executive for PSU Engineering Abroad

Most rising seniors who study communications probably hope to get a job in the communications field— whether it be working in public relations, media, or advertising. A select few of us, however, may find ourselves looking for and applying for jobs that aren’t traditionally considered to be “communications” positions.

This was exactly the position I found myself in last fall. I am an economics and public relations double major, and a year ago I decided to apply for economics-related positions for the first time. The internship I ended up accepting was in economic consulting, seemingly having nothing to do with public relations or communications whatsoever. However, what I quickly learned over the summer is that good communications skills are valuable no matter the industry or position. Here are some ways communications students can leverage their skills in any job, field, or industry:

Write a good email. The one thing I’ve found to hold true for any kind of office job is that a tremendous amount of communication is done over email. I’ve also found that writing an email that is clear, informative, and concise is not as easy as one might think. Those who have studied communications have a unique edge in this area— most of us having taken classes like News Writing and Reporting (COMM 260W) that teach us how to determine what the most important ideas are and write about them succinctly and clearly. This is a skill that is valued in any workplace environment, and one that definitely won’t go unnoticed.

Communicate well with your supervisors and coworkers. I think most company human resources departments would agree that many workplace issues that arise are at least partially due to a lack of communication. Maybe a supervisor didn’t clearly articulate what was expected of an employee, or an employee didn’t ask questions to clarify what their responsibilities were. One thing I found to be invaluable this summer was to not be afraid to ask my managers for clarification about any assignments or deadlines, and to make sure they knew what other tasks I was juggling or any difficulties I was having. Those who have studied communications know not to underestimate the importance of open and honest two-way communication.

Understand the importance of a compelling narrative.  One thing communications students learn in almost every communications class is how to “tell a good story”. This applies to news writing, public relations strategy, and even advertising campaigns. I was surprised to learn how well this knowledge translates to other industries outside of communications. My company this summer did mostly quantitative work— interpreting and analyzing data on behalf of their clients. One thing they found was that while it is extremely important to do empirically sound work, it was almost equally as important to be able to “tell a good story” about the quantitative work that they did. Communications students know that most people are more responsive to stories that are compelling and persuasive than they are to facts and statistics. This holds true no matter how quantitative the work may seem, which is why good story tellers are valued in every industry.

Overall, I was surprised and excited to find that the skills and attributes that make a good communications student are applicable no matter what you end up doing after graduation. So for those rising seniors who, like me, find themselves applying to jobs that aren’t strictly “communications” positions, the time we spend sitting in classes like COMM260W was certainly not wasted.