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
It is that time of year again, the season of travel! As the holidays quickly approach, many of us are eager to travel the world during winter break. If you are someone who loves to travel, don’t rule out one aspect of public relations that is less spoken of- travel and tourism public relations. Travel public relations’ role typically consists of three major tasks: stimulating the public’s desire to visit a place, arranging for travelers to get to their destination, and ensuring a comfortable stay for visitors once they arrive. While the aspect of traveling in this field may sound appealing, keep in mind that this is only a small part of the job. In any public relations career, you must be on top of the latest trends and news and be ready to tackle any crises professionally. If this sounds like something you may be interested in, here are some tips to see if this is the right career path for you:
Have an industry mindset:
As previously stated, keep in mind that working as a PR professional in the travel industry requires more than just a love for travel. Ask yourself: Am I genuinely interested in the travel industry?
Do I enjoy reading articles about travel trends? Following travel blogs? Am I aware of successful travel campaigns?
Am I prepared for crisis management involving the safety of travelers?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, then travel public relations could be your forte.
Get ready to pitch:
The public relations industry relies on publications to get the word out about the clients they represent. In travel public relations this is the same. Many travel public relations firms use bloggers and magazines to promote the services their clients provide. Getting a blogger to agree to post about any of your clients can be a challenge, however, there are certain ways to go about pitching that will help you be successful.
Often bloggers will provide guidelines on how best to pitch to a particular publication. These tips are important to read and adhere to and can create more success for your client.
Also keep in mind that bloggers and all publications seek unique and interesting stories. Only contact them if you have material that is news-worthy and will capture the reader’s interest. For example, if a hotel has recently hired a new critically acclaimed chef who serves up a variety of delicious dishes, then one may consider this newsworthy.
Know how to handle unplanned situations:
Crisis management is a critical part of public relations in the travel industry. A lot of things can go unplanned and some of these things are beyond your control. There can be poor weather conditions which delay transportation or misplaced luggage. Treating travelers well is extremely important in the travel and tourism industry. Travelers have the ability to build or tarnish your company’s reputation with reviews and through word of mouth. Even the best arrangements for guests can fall through and it is best to handle these situations professionally and with care. Being in communication with hotel and travel destination staff to ensure the proper handling of this situation is crucial. If something doesn’t go as planned, staff should be ready to treat travelers cheerfully and with respect to make them feel comfortable and happy. As a public relations professional, it will be your job to convey the importance of a good attitude to travel destination workers and to the clients you represent.
One example of a well-handled crisis in the travel industry was when Carnival Cruise Lines had a series of high profile incidents in 2012 and 2013, including the sinking of the Costa Concordia that resulted in the deaths of 32 passengers and the infamous Carnival “poop cruise.” Because of these incidents, Carnival bookings disappeared, proceeds dropped and the reputation of the corporation suffered. To combat this serious crisis, a new leadership team was put in place and the corporation brought in public relations professional Roger Frizzell as Chief Communications Officer to help recover the company’s reputation.
As you can see, travel public relations is complex. Travel public relations professionals need to ensure that the clients they represent have safe practices and facilities and that all travel staff are professional. In this industry you need to always be aware and ready to combat any crises. Do you think you have what it takes to take on a travel public relations profession? Get in contact with some professionals in the industry to learn more!
By Talia Smith
As Thanksgiving weekend and holiday break are upon us, I think we can all expect an inevitable conversation with a relative that goes something like this:
Relative: How’s school going?
Me: It’s going well, Aunt Maureen. Thanks for asking.
Relative: What is it that you study again?
Me: Public relations.
Relative: Public relations? What’s that?
Maybe it’s just me, but at this point, I am racking my brain for the right words to articulate what exactly PR is. It is hard to summarize the whole industry into a few sentences because each sector of PR is different and the field is changing every day.
I realized after providing a not-so-great answer to a family member that I really should have a few sentences prepared about what I do. Then I remembered there’s a professional concept called an elevator pitch which is a 30-second opportunity to tell someone what you do in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
In preparation for the holidays and the get-togethers that come with it, I encourage aspiring PR pros to create your own PR elevator pitches. Holiday gatherings are an excellent opportunity to test run your pitch in front of a forgiving crowd so when you find yourself in an elevator with an executive seeking PR assistance, you’ll be able to eloquently communicate your message.
To help you get started, here are a few examples about how to construct your own PR elevator pitch. Let’s assume someone asks, “What is PR?”
Provide a general definition and an example of what PR professionals do.
According to the PRSA, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” This definition is a great starting place for your pitch but you’ll want to customize it to your own voice.
Public relations is a strategy brands use to communicate with their audiences.
Public relations professionals think of creative ways to help clients reach their audiences.
Public relations helps companies build relationships with the people who make the company successful.
Public relations professionals work with media outlets to share their client’s story to the public.
Follow with a casual, attention-grabbing statement.
You don’t want to pepper your pitch with industry-exclusive jargon. That’s a surefire way to receive glazed over eyes and the classic “I have no idea what you just said so I’ll just nod my head.” Keep it simple and use relatable words.
We do the behind-the-scenes work to help companies shine in the media.
Just like the name suggests, we help companies relate to the public.
We are like storytellers but for brands and organizations.
We take elements from advertising, journalism, and marketing to create a plan to help companies succeed.
Narrow in on what you would like to do in the field of PR.
Now that your listener knows what PR is, tell them what it means to you and how the definition relates to your aspirations.
One day, I’d like to help nonprofits spread their message in order to raise more revenue.
I want to be a bridge between the scientific community and the public.
I want to work exclusively with food and beverage PR to make sure my clients’ products end up in your refrigerator.
I’d like to use my love for writing to help brands get their message out in creative ways.
This holiday season, don’t panic when a relative asks, “So, what do you do?” Taking the time to create your own PR elevator pitch will not only help others understand what you do, but it might even help you better understand what you do or want to do. Make your PR elevator pitch your mantra and hopefully one day you’ll be reciting it to your future employer in an elevator and not to your Aunt Maureen as she passes the pumpkin pie.
By Erica Freeze
Broadening your professional network is essential for a smooth transition into the professional world. Your time in college is crucial for connecting with professionals and exploring possible career paths. So how do you meet potential employers? Here are four ways to get your foot in the door:
Join a career building group on-campus:
Student organizations across the country provide students with a variety of ways to network and meet new people. There are several on-campus clubs that can help broaden your professional network which includes: The International Business and Economics Club, Independent Society of Campus Journalists, UO Toastmasters, the American Institute of Architecture Students, and PRSSA. Many of these clubs bring in professionals to their meetings who give advice on how to succeed in a specific career path. The UO PRSSA chapter invites PR professionals bi-weekly to present at chapter meetings. These meetings can help you network and discover potential firms you might be interested in applying to after graduation.
Utilize the Career Center through the Professional Network:
As an enrolled student, you have access to a professional network through the Career Center. To gain access, you must complete an online networking workshop and quiz, and the login to your Duck Connect account. The Professional Network consists of UO alumni, parents, and friends committed to supporting you in exploring different career paths and preparing you for the working world. Browse various profiles and reach out to those who have a career that interests you in the professional network. If you gain a contact, ask if you can receive an onsite tour or set up a job shadow. This network is a great resource for engagement because all professionals in the network have agreed to share their time and professional expertise with UO students.
Connect with your instructor:
Many of your instructors have great connections in a variety of industries. Your instructors want to get to know you and help you succeed. Get to know your professors and see what realm of public relations each one specializes in. If they have similar interests to yours, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. They also still keep in touch with past students who have entered the public relations industry and can connect you with them. Instructors will often invite professionals into the classroom as well, so feel free to ask questions in class!
Set up an informational interview:
Before reaching out to a professional, look into a company you are interested in and research who they are, what they do and what they support. Once you have some knowledge about the company, ask the professional if they are willing to speak with you. Schedule a time that works for both of you, and be prepared to ask questions about their daily life at the company, any projects they are working on and the office environment. Remember that informational interviews are different from job interviews and that they do not guarantee a job.
Connect with professionals on LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for connecting with employers. If you don’t have a LinkedIn it is definitely time for you to set one up! Take the time to tailor your profile to show potential employers who you are. Many companies are on LinkedIn and you can narrow your searches by location, industry or job openings. LinkedIn is a great way to follow the employees at the companies you are interested in. You can message professionals on the platform and inquire about informational interviews or ask simple questions.
These are just a few ways to broaden your network. What are your tips and tricks for meeting potential employers?
By Talia Smith
Last year I was living in Portland, dead in the middle of a PR internship search. I applied to companies of all sizes – large corporations such as Edelman, midsize agencies such as Matter Communications, and small, boutique firms where I found the most success. When I shifted my attention to smaller firms, I noticed actual people were picking up my phone calls and responding to my emails.
Three interviews later, I landed an internship at Veracity. The boutique PR firm is owned by Amy and Mike Rosenberg, both UO alums. Their quaint office is tucked away in the stylish Bakery Building in Northeast Portland. For six months, I worked side by side with Amy and Mike, trying to soak up their knowledge about the field of PR.
One of the many things I learned during my internship is bigger is not always better when it comes to employment. I encourage anyone in my similar situation to seek out a boutique PR firm to intern. Here are four reasons why:
You can create meaningful relationships with your mentors.
When you work closely with your employers, you can’t help but get to know them on a deeper level than you otherwise would at a large agency. You have an ability to shine and be seen since, well, there are not as many people in your way. At a large firm, you won’t have the ability to interact with the president of the company on a daily basis. After producing good work and proving yourself to be a valuable intern, you can be assured that you will always have a great reference, letter of recommendation and networking connection. It is wonderful to have someone you can count on to speak highly of you.
There is a likely chance your internship will turn into a job.
All the lovey-dovey stuff aside, PR firms invest a lot of time and energy into their interns and they want a return on their investment. It is in their best interest to hire someone full-time who already knows the ropes of the company. Why would they want to hire someone in need of training when they could hire someone who has already been trained? Larger firms have more funds to test out interns whereas small firms won’t take on anyone who they can’t see working at the company in the future.
You might work directly with clients and media.
With the intimacy of a boutique PR firm comes trust and responsibility when it comes to client and media relations. You cannot necessarily say the same of an entry level position at a large firm. There is no better way to tighten up your email and phone etiquette than calling up a client or reporter on a regular basis.
When you communicate with reporters regularly, you create media relations that carry with you to your next job. Reporters tend to pick up press releases from familiar writers who take the time to understand their beat. A large portion of my internship was customizing emails and matching press releases to the right reporters. At larger firms, media relations can turn into spam at times with automated email pitches. Learning the essential skill of client and media communication is valuable.
You will have the opportunity to create tons of portfolio pieces.
Nothing looks better in a portfolio than an actual writing sample used by a client. In smaller firms, there is plenty of work to go around and a lot of it will fall on you. There is a good chance that you will have the opportunity to write pieces that end up in newspapers, magazines, blogs or social media posts. The work you produce is real and holds weight in a portfolio over something written for a school project. There is more work to dish out to other people in larger agencies but you have to be more of a jack-of-all-trades in a boutique firm – the result will be an array of diverse profile pieces.
As you’re starting to think about summer internships, I recommend starting your search with boutique PR firms. Be aware that many small firms do not post internships online – it’s up to you to create your own position and pitch yourself. This is really only a possibility at boutique firms.
Start by researching and making a list of the firms in your area then give them a call. Once you get someone on the phone, ask if they would be interested in hosting an intern. Practice your pitch and make it direct. Either they will say no and you can move on to the next firm on your list or they will say yes and ask you to send your resume. Make sure to remember the name of the person you spoke with on the phone.
Take some time to research the firm and create a customized cover letter. Then compose an email saying, “Hi, I spoke to so and so on the phone and they told me your firm might be interested in hosting an intern.” Attach your cover letter and resume and wait for a reply email or phone call. I guarantee, there will be a few firms who never invited the possibility of hosting an intern until it was presented to them. Who doesn’t need extra help and cheap labor?
Take control of your internship search by narrowing your choices to the boutique PR firms in your area. It worked for me and it will work for you too. The skills and hands-on experience you will gain in a boutique PR firm could land you a job with the company or act as a stepping stone to your next exciting career move. You know what they say: good things come in small packages.
For many of us, graduation is around the corner. That final day in spring is full of excitement, happiness and fear. The monumental transition into the real world can seem daunting, so, here are tips to help you along the way:
Make goals. As public relations professionals, we know a lot about the importance of planning. Pretend that you work for an agency and the client is yourself. Make a plan with long-term and short-term goals. Ask yourself reflective questions to help you plan your future, but always leave room for change and opportunities you don’t expect.
Land that first internship or job. Landing a job right out of college can be overwhelming and discouraging, especially when you don’t get a job you thought you were qualified for. The trick is to stay optimistic and keep your options open. Apply for jobs that could lead to your dream position. As a young professional, you have time to try out plenty of options and you never know which experience could lead your ultimate goal.
Manage your money. Now that you have a new job with a real salary and expenses, you need create a budget and stick to it. iReconcile, Expenditure, MoneyBook and Mint are great apps to help you track your budget.
Continue to network. Building a strong network is about surrounding yourself with people who inspire you and will vouch for your character. A professional network will help propel your career forward and strengthen your resume. Personally, networking can connect you to your new community and help build a balanced life.
Keep learning. College may be over, but knowledge is still out there. Ask questions, this will demonstrate passion and commitment to your employer. Seek out new experiences to bring more to the table – personally and professionally.
Hopefully these tips will help ease your anxiety. Just remember that every executive started out as a scared recent graduate just like you.
Continue this list of tips or comment with your own concerns for the transition from student to professional.
Ruby Hillcraig, external relations committee member, is a senior at the University of Oregon studying public relations. Ruby hopes to pursue a career in fashion and beauty PR when she graduates in spring 2014. You can reach Ruby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So you have finally landed the interview. Now what? Here are 10 tips to help you overcome anxiety and land any internship or job with ease:
1. Come prepared. Do your research about the company or the person interviewing you. When they ask you why you want to work for them, you can talk about work they have done for clients or campaigns that inspired you. Also, bring a pen, paper and a copy your resume.
2. Know your resume like the back of your hand. Chances are, your interviewer is not going to read through your entire resume before the interview. They will be glancing over it throughout your conversation and asking you to speak more directly about experience that intrigues them. Practice elaborating on key points on your resume the night before your interview.
3. Come with three great questions. When your interviewer asks you if you have any questions at the end of your interview, you have a chance to ask more about what really interests you about their company. Try to avoid sticking to questions about the internship position itself.
4. Arrive early, but not too early. Try to walk into the lobby about five minutes early.
5. Map out your route the night before. Know how to get to the company that you’re interviewing at and how long it will take to get there.
6. Prepare an interesting elevator pitch. If you only had 30 seconds to tell someone about yourself, would you just parrot information that they could get from your resume? Be creative but strategic.
7. Dress to impress, but keep company culture in mind. Even if the company you are interviewing at is casual, you should show in your attire that you take the interview seriously. Typically for a casual company, you don’t have to wear your nicest suit or heels. Find one formal piece, such as a blazer, and balance all of your less formal items around it.
8. Be confidant. You have to believe in your abilities before anyone else will.
9. Smile. Show that you want the job and that you are happy to be there. An interview is really just a conversation between professionals – not a hostage interrogation session.
10. Say thank you. Write a hand-written card thanking your interviewer for considering you for the position the day after your interview. It shows that you’re detail oriented and makes you stand out.
Amelea Renshaw is the 2013-2014 University of Oregon PRSSA operations director. She is currently a junior double majoring in advertising and public relations. You can contact Amelea at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @amelearenshaw.