Kelli Matthews is a public relations instructor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). She has been the faculty advisor for Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR) for eight years, and when she was a student at the SOJC, she was on the first AHPR team. With years of experience, Matthews knows a thing or two about success in the public relations industry.
Q: What is the most important advice you have for budding public relations professionals?
A: I think that my biggest piece of advice is to be curious. Be curious about everything. Like how the world works, how news gets made. Just being active in organizations like AHPR, PRSSA or Oregon News associations really stem for being curious and making that attempt to fill your knowledge gaps. Even as you get in your profession, that curiosity will carry you a long way.
If you continue to be curious, you will pay attention to how to advance in your industry and your job. Curiosity will keep you up to date and, because everything changes so frequently in public relations, you really need to keep searching for those answers.
Q: You briefly touched on opportunities like PRSSA and AHPR, do you have any specific advice about how to get involved and build up a résumé?
A: I think that you should keep your eyes and ears open all the time. Opportunities may not always come in the form of a formal interview. There are lots of ways to gain exposure and to learn about the (PR) industry to be exposed to the environment, jobs and structure outside of formal settings. The point is really to keep your eyes open for opportunities that may not be directly related to a job experience. It’s not just about getting three internships on your resume because that’s what supposedly gets you a job.
Get involved with what interests you even if it’s not directly related to public relations. Life isn’t just a big checklist. There are many opportunities that add to the richness of your life and to the richness of you as a person, and all of these aspects tie into becoming a better public relations professional. Students tend to look for certain job experience on their resume without looking at the bigger picture. Stay curious and interested, you’ll be surprised at what opportunities lay in front of you.
Q: Could you give me an example of these life experiences that have helped you in public relations?
A: Part of my core values is to be connected and involved in the community. My personal commitment is to the community not to public relations. I am very involved with Rotary International, and I am on the board of directors of United Way of Lane County. I make conscious commitment to spend time with organizations that relate to my core values. As an adult, I knew what I was giving up in order to do that and as a young professional these choices are harder.
But as a young professional, you need to keep yourself aware of your core values, it could be a number of things, like family commitment. For me, it was about figuring our how my time is best spent and this had to do with my core values. It’s about finding a fit with your personal values and where you spend your time.
Post by Kaitlyn Chock, PRSSA member and project manager for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Kaitlyn through our blog editor: firstname.lastname@example.org!
“In Alabama, you can’t be for both. You have to choose. It’s either Alabama or Auburn. And once you choose, you are branded for life.” – Unknown Auburn fan
“Personnel? That’s for assholes!” – Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan
“I was in Personnel for 10 years.” – Bradford Dillman as Captain Jerome McKay
“Yeah.” – Harry Callahan
Recently, a fellow public relations graduate school classmate was excited about her prospects of landing a position with Intel Corporation. The only problem was the job was in Human Resources (with all due respect to those in HR).
I couldn’t help but immediately think about Dirty Harry’s reaction about being reassigned to “Personnel” in the 1976 feature film, “The Enforcer.” This point is amplified by his one-syllable response to Captain McKay informing him about his 10-year tenure in what we now label: Human Resources or HR.
My serious concern for my academic colleague had absolutely nothing to do with the largest semiconductor company in the world, Intel, but the position itself. Instinctively, I took into account that jobs are precious in this lethargic economy, even at a time in which we are celebrating the nation’s unemployment rate “declining” to 7.7 this past November as more-and-more job seekers give up the hunt.
In particular, I urged caution to her about inadvertently heading down the path to pigeonholing. She could record 10 years in human resources and suddenly come to the realization that she is permanently dropped into the lethal “HR” bucket. If she subsequently wanted to shift her career back to public relations, marketing, advertising etc. — what she actually studied as an undergraduate and in grad school — she may find the doors closed for her because she is now permanently branded as a “HR” professional, similar to “The Evil Director of Human Resources, ‘Catbert,’” in the Dilbert cartoons.
Another example is one of my students, who was saddened that he lost out for a retail management trainee job for Macy’s. This may have been a blessing in disguise unless he really wanted to spend his life in retail, which very well could have been the result if he was “successful” in attaining this particular job.
The point of this epistle is that we live in an increasingly demographic world and there is no going back. Think about how everyone is worshipping at the altar of Barack Obama political guru David Axelrod because his team correctly projected that 72 percent of the electorate would be composed of white voters…a number too low to elect Mitt Romney.
The exercise was to identify single women, African Americans, Hispanics and young voters and target the GOTV campaign (Get Out The Vote) to these demographic groups in their respective buckets. Some of this segmentation is obvious: Males and females; married or single: young or old. And someone is always dividing and subdividing each subgroup into tiny slivers to determine buying and behavior patterns for political or monetary gain.
From the Census to Facebook, we are compulsively segmenting people whether we like it or not (e.g., privacy advocates). From the Spartans to the Athenians, the Hatfields to the McCoys, the North and the South, Red States and Blue States, Israelis and Palestinians, we have a long history of putting people into groups. In Alabama, it is the red and white of the Crimson Tide or the blue, orange and white of the Auburn Tigers. There is no straddling the fence in ‘Bama.
To many Sean Connery will always be James Bond. Simon Cowell will be the absolutely brutal talent judge on American Idol. Simon Bond will always be the guy who wrote, 101 Uses for a Dead Cat. Reportedly, his subsequent books on any other subject were not accepted…he was always the “Dead Cat Guy.”
So does someone specifically trained in the verbal, written, digital media and communications choreography skills of public relations want to wake up one day and ask: ‘How did I become saddled in Human Resources?’ I am fearful that the lousy economy of today may result in some very painful and for the most part irreversible results a decade or more from now.
Should a graduate turn down a “position” in this crummy economy to avoid the dreaded pigeonhole? Or should that same graduate take a “job” to keep food on the table and gas in the tank, while continuing to search for the position that fits her or his career? This is a difficult predicament. And in many ways, it is an easy answer.
Choosing between Auburn and Alabama is tougher.
No public relations education would be complete without hearing about the word “portfolio” at least a million times. A strong portfolio and positive online presence are two important tools for PR students after graduation. But one more way important to catch the eye of potential employers is a blog.
I started my own blog, Coffee and Cardigans, in February 2012. Since then, I have learned important lessons in writing, editing, marketing, business tactics and brand management. I also have a work sample that I can share with employers. As a result, my blog presents a strong example of my interests, my expertise and my personality.
Managing a blog can demonstrate your writing skills, along with any design, photography and editing skills. It also builds upon them if you make blogging a habit. Updating your blog with fresh content on a regular basis also shows your ability to organize and dedicate time to a project.
Blogging is also a great way to expand and enrich your online presence. Add your name to a professional, polished and relevant blog that will be at the top of a Google search when employers search for your online presence.
Blogging can introduce you to the industry where you eventually want to work. Whether you want to focus on public relations in the tech industry or explore financial and investor relations, consider blogging in your area of interest! You can position yourself as an “expert” early, and the research will build your industry knowledge.
A blog also connects you to an online community. The blogosphere is a social place and it isn’t rare to strike up a few friendships while you are there. Networking online can be an effective tactic that can lead to connections in the real world as well. Once you find a niche, research other bloggers who write about your favorite topics.
As a PR student, managing my own blog has been an enormous learning opportunity. I honed my writing skills and voice, developed an editorial calendar, and learned to build and market a brand online. According to PR Daily, writing skills and strong work samples are a must in the post-grad job search. The easiest way for a PR student to earn those skills now? Get blogging.
Say hello to a new “generation” of PRSSA leadership. The 2013 PRSSA National Assembly was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from April 4 to April 7. The event marks an important time for the organization, as delegates vote on bylaws and leadership for the coming school year. Current UO PRSSA chapter president Ellie Boggs was elected to serve as the National Vice President of Career Services for the 2013-2014 term. UO PRSSA is incredibly excited and proud for Boggs as she moves forward into her new role! Here is what she had to say about her new position and her thoughts on leadership:
Q: What inspired you to apply for a position with the National Committee?
A: I first started thinking about applying to the National Committee during the National Assembly last year where I was the UO PRSSA delegate. The National Committee is a group of students who are so passionate about the PRSSA organization and the overarching ideas and plans that make the society run; I wanted to be a part of implementing those big plans. Leadership is also something that I enjoy immensely, so the decision to take the next step and apply for a national leadership position was an easy one.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish as the vice president of career services?
A: My No. 1 goal is to increase the number of PRSSA students who are given the opportunity to complete an internship. Every student deserves the chance to practice and improve their learned skills through internships, and serving as vice president of career services puts me in the position to help more PRSSA students get that practical experience.
Q: What is your definition of a successful leader?
A: I think a good leader is someone who knows how to listen, as well as act. Balancing these two qualities is essential but quite difficult. If the team you’re leading knows that you will listen and care about their concerns, they are more likely to work hard on your behalf. On the other hand, a good leader also should know when to take action and get things done.
Q: How do you think this experience will shape your future as a professional?
A: This is a really exciting position, because I get to interact with chapters and students, as well as businesses and professionals. Essentially this position is all about making connections in order to expand the PRSSA Internship Center, so it will help me develop the skills to interact on a professional level, instead of just a student level.
Q: Why is it important for students to seek out and apply for leadership positions while in college?
A: Leadership pushed me outside my comfort zone, and I’d venture to say it does that for most students. Learning to lead effectively takes practice and hard work. In your professional career, you most likely won’t have the opportunity to lead and manage people for several years, so learning to lead while in college will put you a step ahead.
Q: What advice do you have for other PRSSA members who might be interested in applying for a similar leadership position?
A: Start leading on a small level. Like I said before, learning how to lead effectively takes time and practice; it doesn’t happen overnight. Try seeking out a leadership position in your university or local PRSSA chapter. Then, once you’ve taken on several smaller leadership roles, you can begin researching leadership positions that allow you to take on larger responsibilities, such as the PRSSA National Committee. Be sure to do thorough research when applying to these positions. I prepared my application for several months before submitting it, and the time spent preparing was definitely paid off.
Post by Samantha Hanlin, University of Oregon PRSSA Member.
While the Gateway to Media series attempts to equip journalism students with the basic skills they need, learning the in-depth function of computer programs like the Adobe Creative Suite are useful skills. Here is a list of some of the most important programs PR majors should add to their resumes:
As intimidating as this program may seem, you need to know the basics. For many internships and positions, this layout and design program is highly desired – if not required. Think of it as a sophisticated Microsoft Word document with 10 times the amount of opportunity. This program can transform a dreary poster into a professional and impressive advertisement.
Many people have dabbled in Photoshop. This program opens the door to flawless photos and sharp graphics . Photoshop plays into InDesign with any type of photo placement. Though sometimes an overwhelming program, Photoshop skills are incredibly useful to creating high quality images.
Public relations is all about communication. When communicating with a large group, as many will have to do, visuals are key; and sometimes you have to go beyond PowerPoints presentations. Instead of persuading more yawns, try adding interest and flair with Prezi, an online presentation builder. Completely free and easy to use, Prezi gives every presentation edge, movement and easy access to embedded videos or graphics.
4) Final Cut Pro
Even if you don’t think video editing is essential, Final Cut Pro offers some perspective to what goes into a production piece, which starts with patience. The Gateway to Media series focuses on this program because you can learn vital skills about interviewing, and the importance of good audio and footage. Beware perfectionists, you can easily get addicted!
Success in the public relations industry means being a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. Take the time to explore popular computer programs like Adobe Creative Suite. Visit your professor for a quick tutorial, pick up a book or Google tutorials to teach yourself the basics. Adding these basic skills to your resume will make for a much stronger resume.
Post by Audree Nethercott, University of Oregon PRSSA Member.
Congratulations to the students who recently (and successfully) made it through Gateway I and II. The UO SOJC Gateway to Media series can be a few of the most rewarding classes you will take in college or it can be the longest two terms of your life.
It wasn’t too long ago that I was staying up until 4 a.m. in Agate Hall editing the “ums” and “buts” out of my audio to meet the 90-second project requirement. For many students, the Gateway series consists of long, lonely nights in computer labs and shamelessly asking everyone you know to participate in multimedia projects. Need some help? Here are a few ways to avoid the Gateway gloom.
1. Go to every class
Sounds obvious, right? Some students think that the lectures can be skipped occasionally. Wrong. Every single class is extremely important to your success in the series. By skipping class, you risk missing a quiz or class project, which can both affect your final grade, as well as your development of essential skills.
2. Attend the workshops
The workshops are where you learn the basics of Final Cut X and InDesign step by step. In my opinion, these workshops are more valuable than any other aspect of the class. Your instructor will guide you through mini projects that teach you the details of each program, resulting in higher quality work.
3. Use the Gateway instructors as resources
The Gateway instructors are there to help you. If week three has rolled around and your interviewee hasn’t replied back to your email, it is probably an indicator to move on to something else; this is a great opportunity to use your instructors as resources for alternate options. Visit them in office hours. They will give you ideas for a new topic and refer you to interesting people in the area. As an added bonus, you will have a chance to hear their amazing experiences, such as Dan Morrison’s stories of being embedded in Afghanistan.
4. Have a backup audio recorder
Sometimes your technology fails during an interview. Most interview subjects are busy and won’t be able to reschedule to another time. To avoid this problem, always have a backup recording device. It can be an audio recorder from the J-Cage or your iPhone.
5. Do not procrastinate
This is an obvious one, but a few graduates have told me they graduated with two degrees; the first a Bachelors of Arts and the second a “Bachelors of Procrastination.” Creative work is not something that should be rushed through the night before a deadline. Pulling an all-nighter will negatively impact your work and your grade. Plus, your instructor can tell the difference between work that is well-done and work that is rushed through.
The Gateway to Media series is supposed to teach you what is expected in the world of journalism, not inhibit your excitement for the journalism industry. Follow these tips and stay organized. It might surprise you how fun the classes really are, if you take the time to do them right.
Post by Aimee Gregg, University of Oregon PRSSA member. Photo by Callie Gisler.
University of Oregon students have countless avenues to get involved on campus; unfortunately, there is no way to take advantage of every opportunity, which can make the decision of what organization to get involved in overwhelming. A good way to get the most out of your time is to find activities that allow you to combine your professional goals with your campus involvement. Here are five ways for public relations students to get involved on campus:
Though we are somewhat biased, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) will provide you with the opportunity to network with fellow public relations students and professionals, and learn more about all facets of public relations through professional guest lecturers.
Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR) is an entirely student-run professional public relations firm that takes on real clients. It helps public relations students network with each other, as well as with small businesses and nonprofits in the area. It also gives students valuable hands-on experience, while maintaining high professional standards. The work that students produce is the perfect addition to any portfolio.
3.) Marketing or advertising groups
Both marketing and advertising are closely related with public relations. Learning more about these professional areas is a great way to expand your skills set to become a more marketable professional. You might also uncover an entirely new interest or passion. Examples of marketing and advertising groups on the University of Oregon campus include American Marketing Association, Allen Hall Advertising, Ad Society and more.
4.) Campus publications
Many campus publications including Flux, The Daily Emerald and Ethos have public relations related positions that are fantastic practical experience. Attaining writing, marketing, multimedia and other journalism-related positions in these publications can be a great way to broaden your skills set and diversify your portfolio.
5.) Volunteer your public relations services
Sometimes the best way to get involved on campus is to find an activity that you are passionate about, even if it is unrelated to your professional objectives. You can obtain public relations experience by helping your club or activity gain exposure on campus. This is a mutually beneficial option. You develop your public relations skills, while serving the needs of other students on campus.
Campus involvement is key to getting the most out of your four years here. These are just a few options; however, there are more than 180 student programs at the University of Oregon. Browse through all the student groups at orgsync.uoregon.edu to find the perfect fit for your interests.
Post by Katie Keene, University of Oregon PRSSA member.
Can the content you post on social media affect your job and internship applications? Possibly. CareerBuilder surveyed 2,000 hiring managers and found that 2 in every 5 managers used social media to screen applicants. The managers searched profiles to determine whether candidates fit in with company culture and appeared professional.
Many students rely on privacy settings to keep certain content from potential employers but having a completely private profile can be a red flag. Employers are using social media to get an idea of who you are. Using your profile to make a brand for yourself is more beneficial than hiding inappropriate content.
In public relations, understanding your audience and effectively using social media is a key skill. As students, our audience includes potential employers. The content you post does not always need to be relevant to the field you wish to work in, but should remain appropriate at all times.
Using social media as a tool reflects who you are to employers and differentiates yourself from other job applicants. Including a statement about yourself on each of your profiles is also helpful. This statement should identify who you are and your unique characteristics and strengths.
As public relations students, we are expected to be familiar with the latest technology in social media. Knowledge of each platform can be shown through effective profiles. Posting content that conveys a strong understanding that anyone can view your content on social media is advantageous.
Post by Hannah Williams, University of Oregon PRSSA member.
As public relations students, we are meant to be prepared as we possibly can before entering the real world. While earning a degree in the field is a great start, your skills and portfolio are important factors to post-grad success. Potential employers look for certain areas of expertise in recent graduates and potential hires. Here are several skills that public relations students should sharpen before entering the workforce:
• How to tell a story: When most students hear this word they think that it only applies to reporters and journalists, but as PR practitioners we need to be able to communicate to our audiences in a creative and clear manner. Crafting a strong story and message is an essential skill for any in the communication field.
• How to listen: Good communication skills mean the ability to deliver a message, as well as the ability to listen. Active listening will help you understand exactly what your clients and bosses are expecting, and help you avoid mistakes later. Pay attention in conversations, write down what is being said and be able to relay the information back.
• How to do social media: Advanced understanding of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wordpress and Instagram will be extremely beneficial, as most businesses have a digital strategy component to their public relations efforts. Additionally, students should also be aware of their own online presence. Potential employers and clients may look at your social media channels for a better understanding of you as a potential employee.
Understanding and using these skills will prepare any public relations student for the world beyond graduation. The ability to communicate in-person and online, as well as thinking critically and creatively will help you to stand out in the crowd.
Not many people can say a post-grad vacation led them to their dream job… Except for Portland-native Allie Hawes. In the summer of 2012, Hawes ventures to Palm Springs shortly after graduation for some well deserved post-grad relaxation but made the life-changing decision to stay in Los Angeles for her dream job.
Hawes now works as a Project Manager at the world’s leading entertainment marketing agency Trailer Park. The company is headquartered in Hollywood, along with regional offices in New York and London.
Before accepting the position in L.A., Hawes was a student University of Oregon. She returned to her retail position in Portland directly after graduation, but Hawes did not plan to stay there for long.
In need of a reprieve from college and returning to life in Portland, Hawes drove to Palm Springs in California. The young professional planned to interview with an agency in San Diego on July 10th. But on the day before of her interview, she woke to an unexpected surprise: the chance to interview with Trailer Park. Hawes received word from a friend of an opening at Trailer Park. Her interview took place on July 16, and she started work the next morning.
“The interview was drilling,” recalls Hawes. Three interviewers peppered Hawes with demanding questions at the same time, but she passed the tests.
Hawes was assigned to freelance for three weeks, but she worked for only a week before she was offered the position. According to Hawes’ supervisor, she was selected for the job thanks to her “spitfire” personality. She now works in the marketing department of ArtMachine. Her work has introduced her to world-famous clients, including Warner Bros., Paramount, Lionsgate, and more recently, Disney and Universal. Hawes is the youngest professional in her office.
“I am the middle person between the studio and my team of eight designers,” said Hawes. Her team designs the packaging of movies released on DVD/Blue Ray, Netflix, and iTunes.
“It didn’t set in for about a month…it all happened so fast for it to feel real,” Hawes recalls about the quick decision that changed her career. But Hawes adjusted quickly to life in Los Angeles. She currently lives in Santa Monica, about a mile from the beach. Hawes’ success story proves that amazing opportunities can present themselves at the most unexpected times. According to Hawes, “Things come up and you never know how they are going to turn out.” But this former PRSSA member turned PR professional is proof that things really do happen for a reason.
Post by Audree Nethercott, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Audree through our blog editor: email@example.com!