By: Shane Teklits, Account Associate
By our junior year in college, we have had heard the word “experience” hundreds of times from family, friends and professors alike. But how do you get this so-called “experience” if you’re taking your first steps into the PR field? If you’re anywhere near how I was last spring, it can be an incredibly unsettling feeling watching your friends and classmates speak about their second, third, or even fourth internship while you haven’t even obtained your first! It may not feel like it, but time is certainly on your side and there are plenty of ways to impress a potential employer in order to land your dream internship opportunity. Here are five of the best things you can do.
1. Network! Network! Network!
This is the most important thing you can do to market yourself! It’s vital in PR that you make long-lasting, meaningful connections. If you want to work in fashion, start looking for Penn State graduates working in the industry. Want to work in sports? Begin searching for Penn State alumni working for major sports teams or sports leagues. For me personally, I have always wanted to do PR for a professional football team. I was able to get in touch with Penn State graduates who are in the communications departments of four NFL teams. What I found is that Penn State alumni always want to help you. Even though I didn’t land an internship, I was able to plant a seed and practice marketing myself for the first time. It’s important to keep in touch with those you reach out to, as you never know what may open up down the line.
2. Create a LinkedIn profile
In many ways, this is an extension of number one. Going into the spring semester of my
sophomore year, I barely knew what LinkedIn was, much less have a profile. What I’ve learned is that having a LinkedIn profile allows employers to see your experience they would otherwise not see. After you create your profile, search for connections such as fellow classmates or professors to grow your network. It’s also important to add your most important skills and to have your connections ‘endorse’ them.

3. Look for additional ways to gain experience
Even if you didn’t land that dream internship, there are still plenty of ways to get involved and make an impact on a future employer. Penn State is one of the best universities at offering students different ways to get involved. Perhaps, you can join one of the many communications-related clubs on-campus or take a class you didn’t even know existed. When I spoke with one of the NFL PR pros, he suggested I get involved with Penn State’s athletic department. I applied three consecutive semesters for what I considered to be my dream position, but ultimately didn’t get in. However, this summer I found about COMM 478 (Sports Information), which is a class geared toward Sports PR majors. I was able to cover a Men’s Basketball game and write a game recap, work on writing game previews, and even learned new skills like using Adobe InDesign,
Photoshop, and Premiere to make a Heisman campaign for Saquon Barkley. These are skills I would have learned if I interned with the athletic department, but would have missed out on if I didn’t add COMM 478 as my 18th credit. I had to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Getting involved shows a potential employer you took initiative and that can sometimes be important than experience itself.

4. Make your social media profile look professional

Social media is about being yourself, but don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your employer to see. According to a 2015 survey by CareerBuilder, 52% of employers check the social media profiles of job applicants before hiring them. This means you should be professional on social media. Don’t post embarrassing photos of yourself or use offensive language. If you’re in PR, there’s a high probability that you’re obsessed with social media. You should know more about the impact of social media than your friends, so don’t hold yourself back! Read more about employers and social media here. 
5. Stay confident, and as my Philadelphia friends would say “Trust the Process”
Even if you aren’t as fortunate as some of your classmates with three or four internships, there are always ways to gain experience. Don’t be discouraged and stay confident. Whether it be through a club, class, or internship, there are always multiple different ways to get out and impress a potential employer. Step out of your comfort zone, take risks, and be professional. It’s up to you to unlock the doors to your future!

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By Shayna Rogoff, Account Executive

When you find out you got the interview, it is a pretty exciting feeling…then the nerves
settle in. Will they think your experienced enough? What should you wear? What if you
say ‘um’ too many times? The fact is, no matter how many times you go through the
interview process, it is still a nerve-racking experience. Walking into a new place with
new people and asking to be judged can be difficult! So how can you give yourself the
upper hand? Here are 5 ways to overcome the interview jitters:
1. Do the research
Research the company and your interviewer as much as possible before hand. When
setting up the interview, make sure to get the name (or names) of the people who you’ll
be interviewing with. Then use your internet stalking – Er I mean sleuthing…- skills to
get to know them. Getting to know your interviewer as a person can make them seem
less intimidating. This practice can also help you with talking points during the interview. Having a good grasp on the company and their mission is also important for answering interview questions like “Why do you want to work here?” or “why should we hire you?”
2. Choose your look 24 hours in advance
Check the weather report and think about how you will wear your hair. Pick your outfit
out and try it on in a brightly lit room to make sure nothing is see-through or has stains.
If you typically twirl your hair when it’s down, wear it up to limit distractions. The key here is to plan every detail of your appearance out (and do a test run) to make sure you
are as comfortable and confident as possible.
3. Workout the morning of the interview
If you can, get to the gym the morning of the interview. Working out some of the
adrenaline and endorphins will help you be more grounded. When your body can
release the excess energy, your mind will relax and stay clear too!
4. Don’t forget interviewing is a two-way street
Interviewing is a two-way street! This is just as much your chance to figure out if the
company is a good fit for you. Sometimes we know a lot of excitement about a
company, and assume it will be our dream job, that we forget to interview them during
the interview too. Make sure you have thoughtful questions prepared to ask your
interviewer, and you keep an eye out for how the employees seem while walking around
the office. Too often, people get so focused on leaving a good impression on the
interviewer, then accept the job, and end up unhappy because they did not take the
time to interview the company.

5. Avoid your cell phone and think positive
Do your best to stay off your phone for an hour before the interview, the last thing you
need is to get a text or see something that will irk you or get in your head. Once you
step into the company’s office doors, you will definitely want to stay off your phone and
use that time to be calm and give yourself a mental pep talk. Don’t worry about
reviewing your answers or talking points, just focus on what an awesome catch you are.
Your enthusiasm will be contagious!

By Andrea Melgar, Account Executive

At some point during your 4 (maybe 5) years of college, you’ll most likely find yourself in a leadership position. Whether that be in your student organization, sorority, fraternity etc., simply thinking about a leadership position can be intimidating. Being nervous is common when it comes to obtaining a position of power, but mastering your communication skills can be huge determining factor between excelling or failing.

Communication skills play a huge role in our day to day lives, but when it comes to leadership it really can help us “make it or break it.” As a student leader I have found that there are 5 skills in particular that have really made a positive impact in my experience.

  1. Listen

Communication is a two way street. Not only must your team listen to you, but you too must listen to your team members. Listening is not only a sign of respect, but it also helps build positive relationships while creating an efficient working environment.

  1. Delegate

Use your team members and delegate tasks. No one is expecting you to do everything yourself. Sure it may be more comfortable to only depend on yourself to get the job done, but in the end you’re really only hurting yourself. Don’t add on more stress, and don’t take away a valuable learning experience from your team members. A good leader takes advantage of their resources, and when working on a team it’s members are one of the most valuable resources.

  1. Be open minded

Though it is important to be organized and plan everything out, being open minded can make a huge difference when something may not go as planned. Being open minded can also help encourage your team to speak up and collaborate on ideas. Some of the best ideas my teams have come up with were attributed to team brainstorming sessions.

  1. Be respectful

If you show respect your team will respect you as well. Also, when conducting meetings make sure to respect your team’s time. We all have so much going on in college, so try to not waste time by being unproductive.

  1. Be CONFIDENT

Fake it till you make it, and don’t let your nerves get the best of you! Confidence shows that you know what you’re doing, and it will lead to others trusting you. When in doubt show confidence- make eye contact, show good posture, dress to impress. Always remember you got to your position for a reason, and now it’s your time to shine!

By Sophia Nitsolas, Account Executive

As an advertising/public relations major, never did I imagine myself to be accepting a position in compliance for a bank during the summer of my sophomore year. However, this opportunity unlocked doors for me I didn’t know existed. I learned all about communication in a corporate environment. Before I had experience interning at a small PR firm, but working in a large company is very different because you are able to see how a company culture can extend on a wider level.

So, how were my skills transferable?
The department was looking for me to use my comprehensive writing skills and creative mind to enhance their reading materials to make information within them more easily accessible to the consumer. I was able to use the same cohesive writing skills I express in the press releases, fact sheets, flyers, graphics, etc. that I make for my clients in HVC.

What else did I gain from the experience?

Teamwork. Regardless, what kind of project you may be working on, understanding a group dynamic to make efforts successful is important.

Organization. I was put up against deadlines and managing a variety of tasks.

Networking. I was introduced to a variety of departments and challenged to understand how they all worked together. I met a lot of people. Everyone you meet you is an asset to your future. There is something to learn from everyone.

Overall my experience, at the bank was incredible. I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone to an industry you might not have imagined yourself in initially and see what you can learn in it.

By Elan Fingles, Account Associate

Quicker than we could’ve imagined, millennials are day-by-day changing the way brands are approaching their marketing strategies. While mom & pop shops are slowly becoming less intriguing, online shopping is becoming the standard to get just about anything. With millennials becoming the target market for brands to create their stake in the future, it’s important to understand  the most effective way to market to this generation.

Where are millennials looking for their inspiration?

As the concept of vision boards falls flat on the surface, the very idea has shifted to Pinterest boards. Their ideas may brew from within, but the very core of that idea is often manufactured first from relatable posts, blogs, websites, or social media channels.

So what does this tell us exactly?

Strike your marketing at the moment of their inspiration. While their minds are hot, millennials are at a passionate moment where they’re looking for their next big thing.

What’s the best way to capture them in this moment?

Clever copywriting might be attractive to the creative, but if you’re really looking to leave a lasting impact on them, then a picture or video is going to send a more meaningful message.

Are endorsements effective?

Absolutely. Millennials want to see that the brands they are sporting are both unique and relatable. It’s an interesting complex; being unique and apart from the status quo, yet staying trendy with the latest fashion.

Choose an endorser of a similar age. They want to see that the brand they’re wearing is being repped by someone confident and well put together. It’s simple really. If the model is confident, then that brand will make them confident in return.

Most important of all?

It’s not just a brand they’re looking for. It’s a lifestyle. If you can show them a lifestyle attractive to them, then they’ll return by being a proud supporter of your brand.

By Sara Salter, Director of Consulting

We live in a world where the advertising market is so saturated, and yet the average consumer doesn’t always know they are being advertised to. There are very few movies that aim to shed light on this topic. I recently had the pleasure of hearing Morgan Spurlock, the director of the documentary “Super Size Me”, speak to the Public Relations Society of America about his experience regarding another of his works, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”.  It is a documentary entirely about branding, advertising, and product placement that is paid for entirely by the very thing it seeks to explore. His goal was to show the entire process to provide full transparency about the industry.

His speech, which was hilariously witty and funny, also took us through a series of tips which he learned from his movie-making experience. He discussed his struggle with advertisers as they didn’t’ want to be associated with a movie that had such an outlandish concept of their industry. He eventually went straight to brands but pitching his idea was, at first, only well received by challenger brands who were more willing to take risks to standout. It took him 9 months to get his first brand on board– Ban deodorant. He quickly realized that as soon as a brand agreed to support his movie it became obvious that “everyone wants to be first to be second” in advertising. What he meant was that because Ban went in on the documentary, soon did the likes of Main and Tail as well as Pom Wonderful because it was the “next new thing” to capture the attention of others.

Throughout this speech, I realized Spurlock’s genius as a communicator and how he learned to navigate the world of advertising to achieve his vision. He stressed the importance of staying true to your ideals and owning the space in which you want to navigate. Today is the best time to be a communicator in society and share the messages that we want to share but we it requires persistence as well as imagination to get there.

You can check out Spurlock’s TED talk on advertising here:

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.

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.