Election 2016: Top PR Takeaways

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credit: https://thejaggedword.com

By: Emily Pirt, Director of Staff Relations

It’s no secret that election years are some of the most profitable for advertising agencies, but there is also a lot to be gained from aspiring PR professionals, too. Presidential campaign seasons are notorious for being unpredictable, and this year certainly hasn’t disappointed. Here are just a few of my takeaways from the race thus far:

Expect the Unexpected:

If you would have told me a year ago that a real estate mogul, a neurosurgeon, a Hewlett-Packard executive and a Democratic socialist would all enter the race for the White House, I would have waited for you to deliver the punch line. 2016 has proven to be the year of the outsider, with all candidates vying for the title of “Most Likely to NOT Be a Politician.”

However, this anti-establishment newcomer status should reassure PR professionals that even the most fruitless campaigns can have hope. While some campaigns have a shorter shelf life than others, it is important to find your target audience and form a solid foundation of support before broadening your network.

Authenticity is Key

If you want to get attention, especially from the millennials, authenticity should be the cornerstone of your campaign. Untraditional candidates (i.e. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders) have been steamrolling the competition in the Gen Y demographic, simply because they are true to who they are.

A poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics found that authenticity is considered one of the top-three most valued traits in a presidential candidate. The same logic carries over to your favorite brands. Why do people obsessively follow brands like Taco Bell and Denny’s on Twitter? Because they are unabashedly true to their brand identity. The same goes for political candidates.

Tweet Your Way to the Top

Don’t underestimate the power of a catchy hashtag. While Twitter use as a whole seems to have plateaued (or flatlined, depending on who you talk to), hashtags are still a great way to simplify a campaign’s message. The best example by far is the Sanders campaign’s #FeelTheBern hashtag.

For millennials – who are already more inclined to use social media to begin with – this hashtag has become ubiquitous on virtually every social media platform. The hashtag itself is catchy, short and a bit cocky; the perfect recipe for content sharing.

An honorable mention also goes to Rand Paul for adopting the #Festivus hashtag to promote his platform, while also throwing some well placed shade on his fellow Republican counterparts.

My Take:

This election season can only get more heated from here on out. Social media will continue to play a huge role for candidates moving forward, as this will compliment traditional door knocking and phone banking used in grassroots campaigning. While “authenticity” is the flavor of the month for millennials, I project that candidates will be forced to tone down their unfiltered authenticity if they want any hope at winning over the indecisive moderates.

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Honor Your (Over)commitment

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credit: http://www.psych2go.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/stress.jpg

By: Mackenzie Liberatori, Account Associate for Penn State Residential Dining

The second wind that a new semester affords us can sometimes be paired with a set of unrealistic expectations regarding our availabilities and levels of enthusiasm for the for the next fifteen weeks. Picking up those two internships in addition to your coursework seemed like awesome idea on the first week of school. So did adding that accounting class you needed onto your existing sixteen credits of scheduled classes; joining four new student organizations and committing to extra hours at work to top it off (or drive the proverbial nail into the coffin). The lingering threat of overcommitting yourself at a university with 40,000 students, 1,072 clubs and organizations, and a decent academic workload may seem almost unavoidable, and we’ve all understandably fallen victim to this plight at some point in our academic careers. So what exactly do you do if you’re overcommitted and kicking yourself for it?

You can start by refusing to let your hectic schedule discourage you. This is especially important during the mid-semester slump when you’re likely subsisting off of anything caffeinated at arm’s length and the blocks on your day planner may as well be colored in. Approach each of your commitments with a positive attitude and trust in your capabilities. Even faking enthusiasm to a degree can make meeting a deadline that much easier.

It is also important to bear in mind that a packed schedule does not justify sloppy or late work. Consistency is considered an asset to your academic and professional success. With that said, take pride in your work and make quality a priority rather than quantity. It is always okay to ask for help or give notice in advance if you know that you are truly not capable of meeting a certain deadline and subsequently prevent any last minute mishaps.

To prevent overcommitting yourself in the first place, it is necessary to develop proper time management skills. Be realistic. If you always seem to get caught up with obscene amounts of work that impair your ability to focus on anything clearly – let alone multitask – it’s time to stop making the excuse that you ‘work well under pressure’ and invest serious time and effort into scheduling yourself. Time management skills are certainly not easy to acquire and necessitate the complete overhaul of how you spend your day – blocking out hours depending on the volume of your weekly workload. They also involve much trial and error and utilizing past slip-ups as motivation to improve. However, the development of these skills are vital to any profession post-grad and should absolutely be developed sooner rather than later.

Skills You Need to Succeed

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(credit: http://dbhurley.com/importance-organized-desk/)

By: Lauren Purisky, Account Executive for PSU Residential Dining

Public relations is a competitive field. With thousands of college graduates entering the job search each year, it can be extremely challenging to break into the professional world. However, if you can demonstrate some desirable skills, you will garner serious attention from potential employers.

  1. Organization

Have you ever seen a desk that is completely overloaded with Post-It notes and To-Do lists? Maybe just the thought of a desk so cluttered that you can’t see its surface makes you anxious or maybe that imagery describes exactly where you’re sitting right now. Either way, organization is one skill you must possess to make it in this field. PR people consistently have multiple projects to work on at any given time, so the ability to keep everything straight in your mind, and on your desk, is essential. For some people, this means creating countless folders on their computer and for others, it means simply labeling each document correctly. Whatever method suits you best, be sure you master it.

  1. Time Management

What goes hand-in-hand with organization? Time management. This skill is especially important in the agency world. Being on several account teams all with different deadlines can be overwhelming for some, but the ability to make a schedule and stick to it will help tremendously. You can block time off on your surface calendar or set alarms on your phone to remind you when to switch gears. Just like organization, you can choose a plan that fits best with your work style and you’ll be forever glad you did.

  1. Strategic Thinking

Working in PR, it is inevitable that at some point in your career, someone will come to you asking, “What do I do?” You need to be able to think on your feet and provide that person with a professional, effective answer. From crisis and reputation management to in-house practices, this can happen in any setting. One way to practice your strategic thinking skills is by evaluating undesirable situations that are discussed in the news. Think to yourself, “If this was my client, what would be my plan of action?” You’ll get better and quicker at creating solutions for all kinds of professional dilemmas.

  1. Determination

Since public relations is such a cutthroat field, its successful practitioners have high levels of determination and drive. This may mean staying late so you can produce top-quality deliverables and working through lunch in order to make a deadline. Anyone who has even interned at a PR agency knows that these situations can be regular occurrences. But remember, if you’re not willing to do it, your company could find five other people who are ready to take your place. Prove to your supervisor that you are willing to go great lengths to put forth great work for your client and not only will you impress him or her, you’re setting yourself up for potential promotions in the future!

  1. Curiosity

People who work in public relations are expected to be constantly researching information that will interest their client. From reading newspapers each morning to monitoring media activity throughout the day, you must always have the desire to know more. This way, your tasks won’t become tedious; they will keep you interested no matter how many years you spend working in PR.

How to Brand Yourself

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By: Sara Thurber, Account Associate for the American Indian Powwow

~How to maximize your full potential in five relatively easy steps~

As a soon to be graduate (yikes), I’ve been to my fair share of interviews and spoken with a large handful of successful people, and I’ve perfected a firm handshake, good eye-contact, professional attire, and have created what I think is a killer resume. Yet, my resume looks almost identical to the person sitting to my right, and it can be just the flip of a coin on who will get that job we’re both dying to get… or is it?

In the communications field, we are taught about the importance of branding, and the connection it creates between the product and the consumer. In a world consumed by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and various other forms of social media, we now have the ability to connect ourselves and build relationships worldwide – all from behind a computer screen. Social media has become second nature to most of us, so why not use that to our advantage?

Like the importance of the bubbly and sweetness of Coca-cola guaranteed with every sip, you should adapt the same type of idea for yourself. By branding yourself you are hoping to create a lasting impression on a future employer, or client. When it comes to branding, the possibilities are endless, and it can all be done in five relatively easy steps.

Step 1: Map out your goals: As a college senior, it should be pretty clear to me by now what I would like to do with my future. Even though I still have no idea what career I want, I do have a general direction I would like to go. Having a direction that relates to your passions is always a great start!

Ex. If you like music and events, a great goal may be to work in the music industry as an Events Coordinator.  

Step 2: Make a game plan: How do other people perceive you? Hopefully as a hardworking college student who is ready for a career! If that’s not the case don’t worry – that’s where the game plan comes into action. Define how you want people to perceive you and work towards that! A great way to get started is by making your social media accounts professional. If that’s too hard, create a professional one separate from any personal accounts. Talk about things that interest you, retweet topics that are important to your values, and create a presence you would want people to see.

Step 3: Unique you, unique website: Create a website that defines who you are as a professional, and showcases your interests and work. This is a way to step up your game, and can even be added to the bottom of your resume to make it less generic. A website shows you are professional and professional presence is important on all levels.

Step 4: Network in person: While creating an online presence that shows who you are is super important, it’s also important to create face to face connections. What you are putting up online should 100% reflect who you really are and what makes you, you! Show that off every chance you get and try to create a connection that makes a future employer want to come back for more.

Step 5: Manage your brand: Your passions should be the driving force behind your brand, so it shouldn’t be too hard to keep it in sync with your values. Just make sure to steer clear of having a mismatched brand by conveying different values across your online and in person presence.

If your searching for an internship, looking for a career or just want a part-time job around campus, you need to create a personal brand. Knowing who you are and what matters to you is all part of branding yourself for the world to see.

Go conquer your next career fair now that you’re all branded!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cover Letters

index
Credit: US News and World Report

By: Neena Zona, Account Executive of American Indian Powwow

Cover letters can often be a deciding factor on whether an employer decides to call you back for an interview or pass you along for someone else. That being said, cover letters can be quite intimidating. A cover letter allows freedom that you do not get with a resume, but that freedom can cause you to go off path and turn it into something that will not get you a callback. Follow these simple do’s and don’ts that will ensure your cover letter does not get pushed aside.

  1. Do personalize your letter

            One of the biggest mistakes that can be made when writing a cover letter is not personalizing it. You should typically write a new cover letter for every job that you apply for. Believe me, your future employer can tell if this is the cover letter that you sent out with all your previous applications.

  1. Do proofread

            Yes, this is pretty obvious but something that is often overlooked. Word’s spellcheck will not catch every mistake you make. It also does not hurt to have a couple friends or your professor proofread it for you, they might catch something you overlooked. In the world of public relations, submitting a cover letter with misspelled words is a sure sign that you will not be hearing back from that company.

  1. Don’t restate your resume

            A cover letter serves the purpose of complimenting your resume while allowing you more freedom in what you say. Do not waste this precious space by repeating your resume. There would be no point in having a cover letter if it was a mirror of what they are about to read. Your future employers are busy people and do not want their time to be wasted by reading the same thing twice.

  1. Don’t end passively

            When ending your cover letter say something like “I will follow up with an email next week” and actually follow through. This will show that you are serious about this job. Ending your cover letter with “I will wait to hear from you” might have you waiting much longer than you anticipated.

Above all a cover letter is a way to answer the question of why this company should hire you, so make sure you prove yourself! If you follow these simple do’s and don’ts you can increase your chances of scoring your dream job or internship.

 

The Most Overused PR Terms

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Photo Credit: Business Wired

By: Shaquasia Fuller, Account Associate for The Ghana Cookbook

In the field of public relations we are taught to write with persuasion and precision for our audience. However, conveying messages for press releases, media advisories and pitches can create redundancy if certain words are overused. Here is a list of the most overused PR terms and suggestions for future PR practitioners on how to avoid them.

  1. New

In 2013 the word new was used 110,059 times. We know new means to have not existed before or to have already existed but never seen. To avoid using this term repeatedly replace new with words such as recent, modern or up to date. This gives the audience the understanding that your product is something they have never experienced before while avoiding repetition or fluff words such as cutting-edge.

  1. First

This word has often appeared in documents composed by PR practitioners to stress the importance and rank of the product being advertised. In 2013 the word first was used 56,724 times. There has to be another way to emphasize the position of your client without using this commonality. Replace the word first with words such as top, leading or major to show exclusivity to the product using an innovative approach.

  1. Strong

Although this descriptive term is one of the least used in 2013 totaling to 1,763 hits, it is still very much used. We understand that as PR practitioners we want to make it known to the audience that this product and this client is the most ideal for them because it has great force and strength. But shouldn’t we use a more vivid term to state the obvious without being obvious? To avoid using the word strong in press releases frequently use words such as secure, durable, solid or long lasting to communicate to audiences the positive impacts of utilizing your client/product without the lack of interesting description the word strong brings.

  1. Innovative

A personal favorite of mine is the word innovative. At some point in time this term was every PR practitioners favorite. For a while it sounded fresh and edgy, now it has become a common way of saying “something is creative.” So how can we tell audiences that our client is “new, exciting and different” without being typical? Words such as advanced, leading or inventive stresses what makes the product special and unique but takes a different approach.

For a full list of more overused PR terms visit http://www.marketingprofs.com/chirp/2014/24221/top-50-overused-words-in-press-releases-infographic

The Muppets and Adele Collaboration Lead to Brilliant Ad

‘Hello' is taken from the new album, 25, out November 20. http://adele.com Pre-order from iTunes http://smarturl.it/itunes25 Pre-order from Amazon http://smarturl.it/25amazon Pre-order from Google Play http://smarturl.it/hellogplay Pre-order at Target (US Only): http://smarturl.it/target25 Directed by Xavier Dolan, @XDolan Follow Adele on: Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Adele Twitter - https://twitter.com/Adele Instagram - http://instagram.com/Adele http://vevo.ly/jzAuJ1 Commissioner: Phil Lee Production Company: Believe Media/Sons of Manual/Metafilms Director: Xavier Dolan Executive Producer: Jannie McInnes Producer: Nancy Grant/Xavier Dolan Cinematographer: André Turpin Production design : Colombe Raby Editor: Xavier Dolan Adele's lover : Tristan Wilds
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hoto Credit: Daily Mail

By: Emily Grabowski, Consulting Director

If you tuned into the American Music Awards (AMAs) on November 22nd, you may have seen a few great commercials pop up on ABC during the award show breaks. Although these advertisements are certainly not as famed as those of the Super Bowl, much of America’s youth had their eyes glued to the television not only for the music awards show, but for the commercial breaks in between.

One commercial in particular stood out to not only to me, but to the entire universe (according to social media, of course!). The advertising team behind The Muppets recognized the ‘music loving’ demographic during the AMAs and used Adele’s smash hit single “Hello” as the theme for their promo commercial.

The ad featured Miss Piggy as Adele, who was dressed in almost identical attire from the original music video. The commercial cleverly used humor to draw in the viewers’ attention. Leaves were falling as they did in the original music video, and Miss Piggy dramatically belted out her beloved tunes. The wind-blown leaves flew right into her mouth and she choked on them, which caused me to tear up with laughter. Miss Piggy then proceeded to throw a kettle and keyboard at Kermit’s head, emphasizing the point that they are still broken up from earlier this year.

One key component that makes this ad so successful is that the producers completely copied the content of Adele’s music video and replaced the characters with Miss Piggy and Kermit. A commercial break during the AMAs was the perfect place to air the ad for the first time because the demographic for the show was clearly familiar with that specific song and music video. Just like a cherry on top, the producers used comedy to mock the original music video and the new characters to create a hilarious rendition of the song.

Adele spoofs have been popping up all over the internet, but this particular spoof not only had the audience talking about Adele and her chart-topping new song, but also The Muppets and their show on ABC which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. The creators of this advertisement successfully combined romance, drama, comedy and popular music trends to produce a truly memorable commercial. With thousands of ads thrown at us everyday, it is easy to quickly forget those that do not leave an impact. This particular Muppets ad had bloggers, social media experts and industry professionals buzzing over their successful use of Adele’s new song and the placement of the ad to create awareness for The Muppets show. The commercial is a perfect blend of all of the things needed to create a truly successful ad. I’m eager to see how the success and buzz surrounding this commercial will increase statistics for the show and song in the coming weeks. Check out the commercial below to see for yourself the genius of this brilliant ad!

Why It’s OK To Send That Follow Up Email

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Photo C
redit: nycprgirls.com

By: Jess Stefanowicz, Account Executive for The Ghana Cookbook

We all know how it goes. You find that perfect internship opportunity, a job opening that catches your eye, or you’ve scored the email address of a professional who you hope can one day become a mentor. You spend what feels like hours tweaking your resume, and constructing the perfect email. You click send, and constantly refresh your inbox the rest of the day awaiting a reply. And then you wait some more, and eventually it becomes weeks later when you finally come to the realization your email was lost in no-man’s land. It can be a crummy realization, but the fact is many industry professionals are getting hundreds of emails a day, and your email that you thought was perfectly crafted may not have been enough to grab the recipient’s attention. So how can you ensure that you’re doing everything you can to get that reply? You follow up.

I know what you may be thinking: ‘Won’t I come off as desperate?’ If they didn’t answer the first time, doesn’t that mean a no? The answer’s no! One thing I have learned in my time as an Account Executive and as an intern at a few different companies is that your follow up is often what can get you that response in your inbox.

The success of your initial contact and your follow up is all in the timing. I learned from one of my mentors that one should always try and follow “The 3 Day Rule.” Typically an initial email at the beginning of the week, on a Monday or Tuesday, gives you time to create a follow-up for that following Thursday or Friday, or maybe the next Monday. By waiting at least 3 days, you are giving ample amount of time for your sender to see your email and decide on a response time, without being too hasty in asking for a response or second look. Often, your email may be put in the “I’ll get to it later” pile (figuratively or literally) in your recipient’s inbox. Sending a follow up the next day or two after your initial email for something that is not urgent isn’t professional, and can come off as a little aggressive.

Furthermore, your follow up email should be very precise and serve only as a reminder that you have reached out previously to the recipient. You should never demand a response or ask directly if they got your email. Recap the most important parts of your initial email, opening the email with something along the lines of “I wanted to follow up with you on my initial inquiry this past Monday. I am (insert purpose here). I would love to connect with you and discuss this job opportunity/a meeting for coffee further.” A polite follow up email should present itself as a reminder that your initial email does exist, making it much more likely for the recipient to take a second to go back and give your outreach a more careful consideration.

Always remember that at the end of the day, your email does matter, and just because your response does not come in 24 hours does not mean it’s not important. With the right wording, and the right timing, the odds may end up working in your favor.

Simple Interview Questions You Have Been Answering Wrong

Four candidates competing for one position. Having CV in his hand
Credit: http://apprenticeshipsinscotland.com/

By: Neena Zona, Account Executive for Sweet Heat Gourmet 

Interview season is upon us as students are looking for jobs for once they graduate, internships, or holiday season jobs to make extra cash while home. For some, interviewing is something that causes a lot of anxiety, but interviewing does not have to be so hard. Here are three common interview questions and how to best answer them:

1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?

            This is the question that most interviewers start out with. While it seems like an easy one, most everyone messes it up. This is because you are not use to talking about yourself and all that you do in less than one minute. Here’s the trick, you want to pick two or three experiences that you want your interviewer to know about the most. Then tie it into why those experiences would qualify you for this job.

2. Why should we hire you?

            This is another simple question but again one that can easily mess up your interview. When answering this question you have to make sure that you can relate something that this job will require of you, to something you are good at and have experience with. Your interviewer is essentially asking you to sell them on you being the best person for the job. So make sure you are prepared to tell them why it is in their best interest to hire you!

3. Do you have any questions for me?

            This is the question that most interviews will end with. To make sure you leave a good impression you need to prepare at least two questions to ask. These questions should be used to show your interest in the company and that you have done research on the job and the company. Good examples are, “What are the next steps in the interview process?” or “What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, year?” You also want to make sure that you do not ask about salaries or benefits, these are questions you want to save for when they offer you the job.

Making sure that you have practiced these simple questions is what can set you above the rest of the candidates. So make sure before your next interview to study these questions and do your research about the company. Happy Hunting!

By: Emily Grabowski, Consulting Director

While all other majors across the spectrum prepare to go home to enjoy their winter break and the holiday season, communications majors are gearing up for the season a bit differently.  We are all well versed in the area of applying for summer internships, and even internships during the fall and spring semesters while we are away at school.  Not many communications majors think about holding internships during their winter break, and why they are actually extremely beneficial in terms of launching a career and maintaining connections within the communications field.

Here are five reasons why YOU should apply for a winter internship this season:

  1. This may be the only chance you have to apply your skills to real-world situations.

For most of us, we spend our summers working in restaurants or in retail, hoping to save up some spare cash for the busy school year.  The summer monthly can be very hectic for most due to traveling, working and spending time with family.  If you aren’t able to intern during the summer or even during the semesters due to a heavy course load, what better way to get experience than interning during the month-long winter break?

  1. You are able to stay connected with industry professionals during the middle of the year.

A winter internship enables you to network with even more industry professionals during the “lighter” season where companies are not only beginning to think about hiring new employees, but when the workload is not as heavy and there is more time to personally get to know the people you may be working with.  A winter internship is an extra bonus that can help you enhance your list of professionals to network with and maintain steady relationships with until graduation.

  1. Stay on the couch vs. stay updated with industry news.

As tempting as it is to spend the entire month at home relaxing and eating all of the holiday goodies you can find (can’t forget binge watching many shows on Netflix), it is much more productive and beneficial to do a short internship or even shadow a company in your area that interests you.  This is the best way to decide what type of company you may want to work for in the future. This wise way of spending your time will make you feel a lot better looking back on your break once you return back to school in the spring.

  1. The more experiences you take on, the better!

You should never miss an opportunity to learn new things.  With each internship, you learn new skills, gain more contacts and improve your communications.  A one month long winter internship could lead to a potential job down the road if you go above and beyond the tasks expected of you.

  1. Going outside of your comfort zone may pleasantly surprise you.

Winter internships are perfect for trying something you are unsure about or something that may be foreign to you.  If you want to experience a start-up PR firm but feel as though it may not be for you, what better way to try it out then doing a short, one month internship?  The amount of time allotted for winter internships is perfect for getting a feel for the company, but it isn’t long enough that you have to stay committed to that company or position.

 Although I have only highlighted a few benefits of obtaining a winter internship, the possibilities are truly endless.  Short-term internships help you network, stay up-to-date on industry news, weed out positions you may or may not want to take on in the future, and build upon your resume.  To get started on the winter internship search, check out InternQueen.com and filter your internship search by selecting “Winter” under the semester category.  You can also utilize LinkedIn and use the Job Search tool to filter for Winter Internships in areas near your hometown.  For any other questions or advice about winter internships, feel free to contact me at emilygrabowski13@gmail.com.  Happy Internship Hunting!