By Kate Templeton
When most students imagine studying abroad, they probably picture exploring a foreign country and making lasting memories with new friends. However, studying abroad can actually help students gain professional connections and develop important skills that can positively impact their future. Last summer, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to study abroad. After what felt like months of researching different programs, countries and courses, I finally decided to spend six weeks studying in London. The program I chose was offered through the University of Oregon, and it provided me with an incredible opportunity to spend the summer with 60 other journalism and public relations students. While abroad, I gained valuable skills that have already greatly benefited my life as a PR student, and will help me reach my ultimate career goals.
Here is why you should consider studying abroad:
The professors in my London program were much different than the professors we have in the states. Two of my professors worked for the BBC, one in radio and one in television. Interacting with professors who are also working professionals from a different country with diverse experiences helps students gain new perspectives in the world of public relations. As students, we are advised to make connections and build professional networks. Having the chance to be in small, interactive and engaging classroom settings with professors who have their own unique professional connections opens up more possibilities for networking. One of my study abroad professors actually wrote me a letter of recommendation for a job!
My study abroad courses provided a great deal of experiential learning. We had amazing opportunities to attend a variety of theatre productions, dances, museums and sporting events. Through the classes, I learned how to effectively write news releases, news stories, critical reviews, blogs and features. I reviewed events and performances and learned how to critically and clearly explain what I had seen. Being a strong writer is important for PR professionals. Students who study abroad get the opportunity to dramatically improve their writing skills and become more compelling and effective communicators.
During my program, I had the opportunity to tour different businesses in the heart of London. I was able to see firsthand the role that public relations and journalism have in organizations like Chelsea Football Club, Ticketmaster, the BBC, the Olympic Games and many more. Being able to experience what it would be like to actually work in a communications field for these huge organizations opened my eyes to the many different possibilities that are out there for public relations majors. The hands-on atmosphere in studying abroad is key in showing students how professionals in these fields work and find successes.
While abroad, the classwork we did was very special. My program offered classes that required writing, photography and videography. Students left the program with multiple original pieces of work that showcased a variety of media platforms. The coursework created while abroad is extremely beneficial in differentiating and enhancing PR portfolios in comparison to other portfolios.
And finally, it wouldn’t be a study abroad experience without fully immersing into an entirely new and different culture. When students are able to say that they successfully lived in a new country while also taking classes, this demonstrates personal growth and perseverance. Study abroad students come back to their colleges and universities with a life changing experience that helps them mature personally, professionally and culturally.
By Erica Freeze
I am graduating in less than two weeks. As I continue to process this, I thought that I should end my UO PRSSA blog contributions with some advice for those who get to enjoy college for a bit longer.
The last few weeks of my senior year have felt like the series finale of a sitcom; you say tearful goodbyes to the dear friends you have made and start to reminisce on all of the good times throughout your college career. Your character development over time suddenly becomes apparent and you realize that this development in this environment is ending.
For those of you lucky enough to still be in college, or who are about to start, I remind you to keep your college friends close before they start their new lives elsewhere. Enjoy the fact that you are only a few blocks away from some of the greatest people you will ever meet. Take a class you enjoy and soak up as much knowledge as possible. Make a bucket list and go on adventures with your friends all over the state. Don’t be afraid to overuse the excuse, “I’m in college” while you can. And when you do have some free time, don’t be afraid to utilize the connections you have made to pursue a future career that interests and excites you.
The job search is a long and strenuous one. I am still on my search and rejection is not easy. But something that I am constantly reminded of is that everyone has a different path and you cannot compare yours to your peers. Being in the SOJC, this is extremely difficult as I compare myself to those who have had jobs lined up since the beginning of the year. I feel behind and as if I will never find a job. But at the end of the day, there is, believe it or not, some positivity to the job search. This search has helped me learn more about my passions and exactly what I want to do. Don’t be afraid to be a little selfish as you embark on the post-grad job search and journey. I have not had an easy spring term and have dealt with a lot of anxiety and stress about my future. But the thing is that it is MY future, no one else’s. Remember that it is your life, and if you want to move to New York and work long hours to survive, then go for it! Yes, I know that some parents may have reservations about where their children go, but a conversation about your future with them can be beneficial when you present them with all of the wonderful opportunities that there are for young college graduates. Don’t move to a big city just because all of your friends are. Don’t go to grad school because it’s what your parents want. Do what makes YOU happy and strive for that!
With all of that being said, in the craziness of senior year, make sure you take at least one moment to realize how beautiful and special life is at this moment in time. Sit back and smile when you have little responsibilities and time to grab brunch with your friends on a Friday morning or gather around a TV with a pizza on a Tuesday night. Take this moment to appreciate the life you are living. Although next year will be different, keep these memories close to get you through your post-grad years. Life is filled with ups and downs, but there are many great years ahead to look forward to.
To those of you graduating, congratulations to the Class of 2017. We did it! Good luck to you all, and to those still embarking on the wonderful journey that is college.
By Erica Freeze
As I am about to graduate from the University of Oregon, my job search is on full-throttle. Every time I see the words “please attach a cover letter,” I start to question the purpose of one. What is the point of a cover letter? It turns out that they actually have a purpose and when you utilize them to their full potential they can get you past the application process and into the interview process.
The purpose of a cover letter is to help you stand out past your resume. Cover letters are the outlet to introduce yourself and demonstrate your interest in a company. In these letters, you draw attention to your resume and motivate the reader to interview you. Often this letter and your resume are the first contact you have with a prospective employer, and if written correctly can have a large impact whether they ask you to interview.
After writing many cover letters for my job applications and conducting some research, I have learned a great formula on how to land an interview. So how do you write an interesting cover letter? Read on:
Headers can vary for every cover letter. Here is a pro tip: usually larger companies look for a header for your cover letter while smaller companies or startups usually don’t. If you are applying to a large in-house company or agency, then a header will most likely be preferred. If you apply to an agency with a few employees, then a header will most likely not be needed.
A header should normally consist of the date you’re writing the letter, your name, address, phone number and email address. Then, skip a line on the page and address your letter to the person who posted the job and their title at the company. For example, if Jane Smith, an HR representative for Edelman posted the job, then you would say, “Dear Jane Smith, HR representative.”
Sometimes you cannot always find the name of the person who posted the job. If you have no idea who this person is, or who makes selections for interviews, I simply put, “Dear Edelman.”
A successful introduction paragraph will include a brief introduction as to who you are and why you are interested, and qualified in the position. I normally start with my name and my education. Following this, I provide a brand statement. One great thing about the SOJC is that it encourages you to have a brand statement made before portfolio reviews. This is great to include in a cover letter because it provides a brief background as to what you are interested in. An example of a brand statement may be, (and this is the one I created for myself) “I am an aspiring public relations professional with a passion for writing, strategic communication and creative thinking.”
Following this, I like to explain why I am qualified for the position and what I can do for the company. It is important to make your reasons relate back to the job posting in some way. Think of it this way, if you can use the same cover letter and simply swap out the name of the company, you aren’t being specific enough.
Read over the job posting again, and the mission of the company as a whole. How can you help this company accomplish its goals? What experience do you have to succeed in the posted role? The next few paragraphs are for you to talk about your experiences that make you qualified. These can be internships, volunteer roles or even classwork if you do not have a lot of job experience.
I like to divide each paragraph up with the same structure. The first sentence or two should introduce your previous role and the skills you gained from the role. The following sentences should include scenarios where you utilized these skills, and how you best fulfilled the role. Lastly, provide results if you generated any. This is one of the most important things that companies look for. If you generate positive results, it proves that you worked hard in your role. An example of a result may be, “increased Facebook page likes by 50%.” It is as simple as that!
Your conclusion should be about one to two sentences, and reiterate the following:
Your enthusiasm about the role.
A “thank you” to the company for taking the time to read.
Where the company can contact you with any further questions.
A mention of relevant documents or links attached (resume, website, etc.)
With this formula, you can hopefully attract the attention of employers and show them your potential! Good luck with the job search.
By Erica Freeze
As the school year is coming to an end, it is important for college students to have updated résumés for future careers or internships. As a graduating senior, I constantly find myself updating and changing my résumé to best represent who I am. A résumé can include other elements besides words – different colors and fonts can all help to show who you are to a potential employer. Potential employers make snap judgments about who you are from a simple glance at your résumé. Because of this, it is important that your résumé makes a positive impression on readers. There are certain mistakes that people make time and time again on their résumés that will make an employer turn his or her nose up. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them:
1. There is not enough white space.
You want your resume to appear clean and professional. Overcrowding the page with too much text will most likely overwhelm an employer and cause him or her to not want to read through the whole page. Being precise and to the point on résumés is the best way to go. When an employer receives your résumé, you want them to be able to glace at it and get a general idea of your experience. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to have a visually appealing layout with some color or a logo you have created to represent who you are. If you’re adept at graphic design, there are general résumé layouts in Microsoft Word and also simple design platforms online such as Canva which have premade templates.
2. You didn’t include results-oriented language.
As aspiring public relations professionals, we know that results are very important in understanding how to best target key publics. Employers want to see how you drove change at a previous job or internship. They want to know what you have to contribute to their company to drive change. Your résumé should be clear about results you’ve achieved. It can be as simple as “increased Facebook page views by 15%.” If offered an interview, you can elaborate on how you did so, but it is important that on paper you show them that you do include how you contributed to your past job or internship.
3. Your objective statement could use some work.
If you decide to include a statement at the top of your résumé, try to steer away from an objective statement. An example of an objective statement is, “Seeking a role as an account coordinator to advance my career in the public relations industry.” There are a few problems with this statement. It is very bland, and the focus is on what the candidate wants for herself, to advance her career, rather than providing information on how she can generate change for the potential employer. Instead of that, try using a statement that shows your value to a company. An example of this would be, “Transforming communication problems in the entertainment sector into intensive, results-backed solutions. Creating results through identifying stakeholders, building relationships and implementing change.”
4. You didn’t include skills.
You can list out your skills in a section or provide them interwoven throughout your résumé in your experiences. Employers need to see your skills and how you applied them in previous positions. These skills can help you stand out from other applicants. In a CareerBuilder survey, 35% of employers stated résumés that don’t include a list of skills is one of the most common résumé mistakes that may lead them to automatically dismiss a candidate. If you decide to weave your skills into your resume, start with the skill and then include how you generated positive results because of this skill.
5. You aren’t confident in your past work experiences.
As a student in the SOJC, I know that classmates can get competitive with each other, and sometimes it feels as though you may not have enough experience or involvement to stand out. Don’t give up, and don’t represent a lack of confidence on your résumé. If you have no PR experience, highlight the skills you acquired in another job and how they can relate to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are a server, you can say something along the lines of “accurately recorded orders and partnered with team members to ensure satisfaction for our customers.” This shows that you have experience working on a team which most likely helped you enhance you r communication skills. Additionally, if you have no work experience, highlighting certain classes on your résumé is okay to do as well – that’s how I got my first internship! Be confident in what you have to offer an employer, even if it isn’t a bunch of work experience in the field you hope to end up in.
The job hunt can be a tricky one, but be confident in what you have to offer employers with an awesome, updated résumé! This is a first impression of who you are and what you have to offer. Use these tips to help you stand out among competitors!
By Erica Freeze
When you have finally finished a piece and it receives coverage, all you want to do is sigh with relief. However, just because an article has received some coverage doesn’t mean you should stop reaching for more. Proactively providing audiences with the latest news on your client, and showing them how your client’s goals align with theirs, can help you gain coverage for months after an article has been published. View these tips on how to gain more coverage:
Put it on the FRONT PAGE of the website
Did your client receive recognition for an outstanding product or an innovative idea? It is extremely important to promote this on the website, and have it be the first thing that prospective customers see. Make sure to reach out to the publisher so you can properly and legally use logos.
Share it on social media
Utilize all social media platforms that your client uses to promote the article, even on some that are less utilized for article sharing, such as Instagram. Also, making it more personal and asking upper management to share on their social will show how important increasing brand awareness and customer loyalty is to your client.
Does the press coverage include a link back to your client’s website? If so, then you can utilize content syndication to keep interaction up weeks or even months after the article has been published. Utilizing syndication networks will help more key publics’ view the news on your client’s key messages or products they have to offer. The purpose of this syndication is to increase brand awareness, and it will help.
Include the article in a newsletter
If your client has a wide email contact base, then utilize this to promote the press coverage. Attach a link to the article in the bottom of your client’s newsletter. Provide a summary on what the article covered and a small back story along with the link. Additionally, if someone in your contact base was featured in the story, make sure to include that person’s name in the newsletter to show the customers that the brand cares.
Include press coverage in email campaigns
Most organizations have email campaigns that feature the promotion of specific products or key messages each month to align with what target audiences want to see. If the press coverage features something that will align with target audiences, make sure to include the news article in your email campaign series. Customers want to see how products and key messages can help them solve problems and provide solutions.
Following these tips will help your client receive more brand awareness and customer loyalty. How will you utilize these tips for your next press coverage?
Have you considered a profession in the healthcare industry? Public relations is vital to promoting and improving the reputations of organizations in this sector. What makes healthcare unique is that it is constantly changing and evolving. Think you are ready for the challenge? Keep reading to learn more about this unique sector of public relations.
In a fast-paced industry such as healthcare, organizations need to have a voice in the marketplace. Healthcare is constantly evolving as new science and technology emerges, and it is important that organizations stand out. Healthcare companies can invest in a public relations partner, such as an agency, to create a communication strategy that positions the organization as an innovative leader while increasing demand. Healthcare providers may also have an in-house staff which manages communication between patients and the hospital itself.
Public relations practitioners in the healthcare field are responsible for managing many relationships ranging between the hospital, its clients, visitors and stakeholders. In-house practitioners may work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), psychiatric facilities and community health centers, according to the Health Careers Center. Those who work in an agency may take on a variety of clients who are in these fields. Practitioners in both fields act as guides for an organization and help in making important decisions regarding an organization’s communication strategy. Especially within the healthcare industry, there are many rules and regulations that constantly change and practitioners must communicate any changes with the client. They are also vital in providing recommendations and advice to the client.
Whether in house or at an agency, public relations professionals in the healthcare industry help tell the stories of groundbreaking research and new innovations to help put their clients name out. Healthcare providers create technology and medicines that can potentially improve quality of life all over the world. Healthcare public relations practitioners have many target audiences to remember, and must reach beyond communication between the organization and the client. Suppliers are very important because they must also have a desire to positively impact the health care system and wish to partner with your organization. Because of this, public relations employees in the healthcare industry must approach each target public differently.
Public relations is important in health care, where both patients and clients can feel vulnerable. As a practitioner in this sector, you will be working with your coworkers to ultimately develop communication to help your publics feel safe and as though their time and money are being used to better society overall. Think this is interesting? Check out healthcare agencies or providers in areas that you want to work and start networking!
By Erica Freeze
Every day journalists and bloggers receive too many emails to count. Many of these emails are from public relations practitioners across the country who are paid by their employers and clients to reach out to press and hopefully gain some coverage. Because of this mass influx of emails, many pitches are overlooked. This is because pitches received are often too lengthy, not professional or irrelevant to the writer. But believe it or not, there are ways to reach the press, and if you follow these tips you may be able to do so. Here are a few rules to follow for success:
Choose a target:
Choose an outlet that fits your client. For example, if you represent a small coffee shop, pitch to a blogger who explores coffee shops in your area. If you represent a larger company, strive to reach for larger news platforms. Make sure that the blogger or reporter you target tends to write about topics that relate to your client.
Do your research:
Whether pitching to a blogger or a reporter, make sure to read up on the writer’s previous posts or articles. Do this to create an understanding of their interests and the way they write. Think about how your story will help them extend their focus further. When pitching, let the receiver know how your story will fit with their expertise, and most importantly, how it will be of interest to that writer’s readers.
Personalize the email:
After gaining an understanding of the reporter or blogger you hope to utilize, personalize your email with their name and outlet. Writers appreciate emails that are personalized and correctly formatted because it shows that you as a public relations professional took the time to read their material and understand their background.
Pitch a short and precise story:
Address the reporter in your email, and then get straight to the point. Reporters do not have the time to read a lengthy email highlighting details about your company and how it ended up creating a certain product. Don’t pitch your company’s new product without explaining how this accomplishment is part of a larger story. Pitch to the writer how you think its readers will benefit from this new product. Format this information in a structure that is easy to read, with potentially bullet points. Then end with a reasonable and convenient way for the reporter to follow up. The reporter will quickly be able to decide whether he or she will cover your story, and with a massive amount of pitches coming in each day, shorter is better.
You may not always be able to reach the reporter of the blogger of your dreams, but if you follow these guidelines you may be able to reach some great story tellers. How will you use these tips to tell your client’s story?
By Talia Smith
If you follow me on Spotify, you might assume an eight-year-old stole my account password and has been streaming children’s music for the past year. I’m here to say it’s actually me who listens to artists such as Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could, the Okee Dokee Brothers, Recess Monkey, Frances England and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. While I do thoroughly enjoy their music, these artists are our five Grammy-nominated clients at Sugar Mountain PR.
Sugar Mountain PR (SMPR) is a Portland-based agency that promotes children’s entertainment. I have been doing freelance work for SMPR owner, Beth Blenz-Clucas, for more than a year now and am fortunate enough to be joining her PR team at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in L.A. this weekend.
This all transpired in a sort of serendipitous way and I thought I’d share what I have learned so far in the lead-up to this event.
Don’t Underestimate Your Network
I was introduced to SMPR in Portland through two connections from my hometown in New Jersey: my mom and Brady Rymer from Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could. My mom discovered SMPR when she was trying to book Brady for an event a few years back.
I didn’t know Brady as the children’s musician; I knew him as the bassist for the band, From Good Homes. They have a large following on the East Coast and I grew up listening to their music. Without my mom or Brady, I wouldn’t have known to reach out to Beth at SMPR.
The lesson I learned from this is that sometimes the most rewarding connections are not obvious ones. I would have never thought that I would find PR work through my mom, who did not have a PR background or my favorite local band. Sometimes you have to dive deep into your third, fourth, maybe even 17th level networks.
Sugar Mountain was not seeking a freelance intern when I applied. I got the job because I asked. I was not originally invited to assist at the Grammys. I’m going because I asked. I learned you sometimes have to take it upon yourself to reach out and offer your services. I think of how many opportunities I might have passed up just because I didn’t ask. As Christopher McCandless said, “If you want something in life, just reach out and grab it.”
Go Along for the Experience and Leave Room to Be Pleasantly Surprised
When at first I asked Beth if I could assist her team at the Grammys, she said yes but made it clear that she couldn’t promise I would have a press pass to get on the red carpet. I was still eager to go because they needed someone to sell merchandise at the pre-Grammy concert featuring all five nominated children’s musicians. I also have family in the L.A. area who I could visit and stay with.
I knew there was a chance that I would not be involved in any of the red carpet Grammy events, but I still wanted to go along for the ride. I would either have the chance to visit my family and work a cool concert or I would get to visit my family, work a cool concert AND work the red carpet and media room at the Grammys on Sunday. I couldn’t go wrong with either outcome. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from the Recording Academy to learn my press pass was approved. Then I was able to wholeheartedly freak out and go shopping for a dress.
I’m telling my story to show that it snowballed from a humble start. I think a lot of opportunities have extraordinary potential when you learn to, “Just Say Hi,” as Brady Rymer would say.
By Talia Smith
It’s the PR major’s dream to snag a big-name internship over the summer, plop it on your resume in the fall and have a dream job nailed down by the time your graduate; it doesn’t always work out that way. Some of us spend the summer taking classes, traveling or working. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact, there are still plenty of ways to keep building upon your résumé and portfolio if interning does not fit into your summer plans. Here are some options to consider:
Create Your Own Blog
Writing consistently over the summer is a great way to practice discipline. If you can give yourself deadlines to meet, then not only will you improve your writing but you will end up with at least one solid piece to add to a portfolio. Employers like to hear that you write for pleasure because it’s an indication writing is more than a just requirement but it’s also something you are passionate about.
A few summers ago, I wrote a travel blog when I took a cross-country trip. I mentioned it in a cover letter which was later brought up in an interview. Mentioning my travel blog opened up a conversation which would not have otherwise been brought up in an interview, and the more conversational you can make an interview the better!
After creating a collection of samples from your blog, you can take your writing a step further and try freelance writing. There’s a bit more effort required for writing freelance, some trial, and error, but after all of the hard work you could end up with a published piece of writing that will hold weight in your portfolio.
First take a look at the writing opportunities offered on campus. There’s the Emerald, Spoon University, and Her Campus, to name a few. If you’re looking to make a little bit of cash, you could check out a freelance writing aggregator website which will post opportunities. If you have an idea for an article, you could approach a local publication and pitch them an idea. They might want you to write the story and often appreciate articles from a college student perspective.
Manage a Social Media Account
Do you have a family member with a small business? A friend who is an aspiring musician? Or are you a volunteer somewhere that is lacking an online presence? Offer to create or manage a social media account over the summer and see how many followers you can gain. Coordinating social media for someone will provide you with quantitative results to add to your resume and you can include the screen grabs in your portfolio. That’s a summer side hustle well spent!
Volunteer Design Skills
Do you have an eye for graphic design? There are plenty of nonprofits that could use your help designing flyers, brochures, posters, social media graphics and more. Whether you have access to Adobe InDesign or use the “freemium” design website, Canva, you can really make a difference to a local charity or fundraising event by offering your skills. At the end of the event, you’ll have a spread of pieces to add to your portfolio.
If an internship is not in the cards this summer, there are still plenty of opportunities to contribute to your portfolio and expand your resume. Each of these suggestions requires self-initiative which future employers will appreciate. While you’re hitting the books, traveling abroad or working at the pool this summer, see if you can arrange one of these side projects to keep adding to your repertoire of communication skills.
By Erica Freeze
Planning is essential to designing an effective public relations program. Planning in public relations involves researching, understanding a problem, and implementing a program to solve this problem. Adequate planning will determine if a public relations campaign will be a success or a failure. Because of this, it is important to know how to plan before starting a project both in school and in a public relations career. Here are some tips on how to plan appropriately for your next project:
Break down the elements: Public relations plans are broken down into four main elements: analysis, strategic research, implementation, and evaluation. A situation is a set of circumstances facing an organization. Without defining and analyzing a situation, it will be impossible to complete efficient research or to define the goal of a communications program later in the process. Research helps practitioners define a problem and think strategically. It is important to look at the bigger picture while analyzing and researching a situation. A situation analysis must factor in all parties, including stakeholders, teammates and the organization itself. It is important to accept the feedback of these parties so that a campaign team can predict and establish a goal. Once this feedback and research are outlined with an end date and goal in mind, the plan can be implemented.
Include all parties in decision making: Any public relations professional must be prepared to overcome any obstacles that occur during the implementation of a strategic plan. If a plan is implemented and there were disagreements on objectives, the plan may not satisfy the end goal. If there is an absence of feedback from an account manager, as well as any vital departments and stakeholders, important information and opinion may be forgotten. It is important for public relations professionals to be aware of any obstacles before they happen so that they can be fixed in a timely manner.
Determine success: How will you measure the success of your plan? Just as an organization’s goals and objectives change over time, the performance metrics that your team uses to track progress should also change. Metrics can show not only where the company is succeeding but also highlight specific areas of weakness. As data accumulates, the matrix can display trends and identify places which need improvement. There are tools such as Google Analytics which measure website or social media interactions, and then there are more advanced services, such as CyberAlert, which displays analytics for earned, owned and social media. Depending on the organization you work for, learning how to understand analytics tools is crucial to understanding the ways in which your company is falling short and succeeding.
Public relations is a constantly changing field. It is important to keep on top of the latest consumer trends and to have a thorough understanding of all parties that will be affected by a campaign. In order to launch a campaign, a strategic plan must be created. The capability to think strategically is what helps adequate public practitioners become strategic planners. Without a strategic plan in place, a campaign will fail because of a lack of understanding of a final goal. What are some ways you have found planning useful in your projects?