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 Erica Freeze
A public relations (PR) survey is more than just an investigation of a group of people. A PR survey often consists of exploring key publics to gain insight into their opinions or experiences with a certain brand or organization. The information obtained from surveys helps PR practitioners to create a successful plan to target key publics. Because of this, knowing how to create an effective survey is crucial to helping the brand you represent achieve its goals. Here are some quick tips for writing online surveys in the public relations realm:
1) Decide exactly what you want to know about your audience(s):
All practitioners who conduct a survey want their findings to be provoking and eye-opening. But to gain the best insight into your key audiences, you must cater your questions to understand the different individuals in your audience. Would you like to see the differences in education levels, gender, or employment status when it comes to the perception of your organization? Make a list of what you exactly want to discover from your findings, and hone in on the topic that you believe help you truly understand your audience. Decide exactly what you want to find out of the survey and keep it short.
2) Keep questions short and closed:
Keeping the questions on a survey short and concise will make the survey more desirable to respondents. This also helps you concentrate on the key objectives of the survey and will help to get the most accurate and honest results. Additionally, keeping the questions closed-ended, meaning you have to select from a certain group of answers, will make your job easier when it comes to calculating results. Open-ended questions without a selectable answer may be easier to craft, but harder for your audience to answer, as they have to think thoroughly about their answers. Closed questions will generate the results you need.
3) Think outside yes-or-no questions:
A common mistake people make is writing yes-or-no questions. These questions often frustrate respondents because they cannot always give their honest opinion in their answers. Think of scales involving variation, such as: strongly favorable, somewhat favorable, neither favorable nor unfavorable, somewhat unfavorable, or strongly unfavorable. These words can be interchanged with, for example, “agree or disagree” or “considerable.” Creating your survey in terms of scales will help you gain much more insight into your target audience and will provide you with much more information.
4) Take your own survey:
Take the survey you create and keep in mind how you react to the questions throughout the process. It is important to keep in mind respondent experience. Simple questions with multiple answer choices provide more points of view, which helps you to have more honest results. I once took a survey that asked respondents which music platform they would be, along with something to justify that answer. For example, one answer read “I am Spotify because I am adventurous and discover new things.” Questions such as this are confusing for respondents and also return minimal results.
If you need any additional help, it is always useful to search the internet for example surveys or successful surveys and see how they were constructed. How will you apply these tips to the next PR survey you create? Good luck!
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?
By Talia Smith
I’m going to be honest; I’m a total Podcast geek. But can you blame me? Podcasts are revolutionizing the way we consume information. First of all, they’re free. There are thousands of Podcasts to listen to in just about every category and they can be download directly to your smartphone. Second of all, they’re great for multitasking. Podcasts are perfect for anyone looking to learn more about any given topic but lacking enough hours in the day to read a magazine or a newspaper. You can learn something new from a Podcast while simultaneously cleaning your room, exercising, riding the bus or walking across campus to your next class. Personally, I love to learn more about the world of business through Podcasts.
It’s no secret that PR professionals need a business mindset in order to succeed in the industry. In fact, many PR majors start out as business majors and many PR majors choose to minor in business. I don’t fall into either of those scenarios, which is why I use Podcasts to learn more about the related field. For those like me, who want to know more about business, but don’t have the time to pick up Bloomberg Business Week, head to your Podcast or Stitcher app and subscribe to these 4 shows:
Freakonomics will help you rethink the dreaded economics requirement in the SOJC curriculum. The show uses economics to answer quirky sociological questions such as: Should Kids Pay Back Their Parents for Raising Them? How Much Does Your Name Matter? And Why Do We Really Follow the News?
Freakonomics is a must-listen for PR pros because of its array of topics and self-improvement episodes which provide a window into the study of incentives backed up with economic statistics. When you have a better idea of what makes people tick, then you can be successful at selling yourself and a brand you may represent. Many of the findings are surprising which why it is the kind of show you can’t help but share with others.
Listen to Episode: How to be More Productive
Learn about the eight steps to a more productive work day. Here’s a hint: motivation, focus, goal-setting, decision making, innovation, absorbing data, managing others and teams. Check out this episode for more context.
If you like the TV show Shark Tank, and are interested in how modest people grow successful companies from the ground up, then you will like How I Built This. You will hear interviews from millionaires and billionaires talking about how they overcame obstacles and filled a gap in the market with brands such as Patagonia, AirBnB, Spanx, Cliff Bar, and Southwest Airlines. These entrepreneurs became successful because they were able to effectively promote themselves and their products. Listening to their advice will offer insight into promoting a brand, starting a business and the tenacity required to do so. It is helpful to learn about the homemade PR that goes into the success of these companies.
Listen to Episode: Warby Parker: Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal
The founders of this discount glasses company used their PR skills to barter with their supplier for inventory. You’ll see how it pays off to be skillful at both business and PR.
Planet Money offers a powerful punch of all things pop-culture in the business world in just 15-20 minutes. Listening every week is a great way to stay on top of business news headlines while learning something new and interesting each time. Since I started listening, I feel more in-tune to major business news stories such as Brexit, the Wells Fargo bank scandal and oil prices which I might not have paid as much attention to if it weren’t for the podcast’s excellent storytelling. Planet Money has the ability to take these topics and create a capitating and informative audio story.
Listen to Episode: #729: When Subaru Came Out
Subaru was facing an identity crisis back in the early 1990s and it wasn’t until they received help from a small ad agency that the car company was able to subliminally become the America’s hip and outdoorsy car brand.
Marketplace is a daily rundown of everything that is happening with the economy and stock market. Sounds boring, but I promise it is not convoluted. Hint: When they “run the numbers,” upbeat background music indicates the stock market is doing well whereas background music in a minor key means stock prices have dropped. Especially when working for a larger company, it is important to know the basic concepts about how the stock market functions.
Listen to Episode: You know what, just download the latest episode. Listening to marketplace is like listening to the news and you’ll want to listen to the most recent one.
If you’re looking to know more about the business world than listening to these podcasts is a convenient way to stay on top of current events and business trends. Public Relations and business go hand-in-hand and you will benefit from being knowledgeable about both. Next time you are washing your dishes, pop on a Podcast and see what you can learn about business.
By Pablo Lopez
Connie Chandler, a public relations instructor in the School of Journalism, gives us her top-three reasons to build relationships with our instructors on campus.
Networking. Networking. Networking.
This word gets thrown around at us in college classrooms like our parents reminding us to eat our vegetables at the dinner table. But like our vegetables, why is it important?
More importantly, why should we network with instructors that we have to deal with for 10 weeks? Ten weeks should be more than enough time, right? Wrong.
Personally, I rather call it “building relationships.” It doesn’t sound as professional, but as students, I think we’re here to look at instructors as our friends and not as an associate that we’re competing with, dreading to ask them for help and cringing at the thought that they’ll embarrass you in front of the boss.
It’s true, we have a lot on our plate. It is almost impossible to meet with instructors when you’re trying to balance the workload of four or five classes while working a daily job that requires countless hours of physical labor.
Connie Chandler, a public relations instructor in the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) agrees. Chandler says, “Students are busy. And going to office hours, if you feel like you have a pretty good handle on what’s going on in the class, may seem like it’s too much to add to your schedule. But I think that the other part that students need to think about is that the instructors in the program that you’re in –in this case PR – really care about where you end up.”
These are Chandler’s three reasons to build a relationship with instructors.
1. Connection: We are here to learn from instructors.
It’s obvious that books cannot teach us everything. We can go to class twice a week, ace the course, and still be oblivious to what’s going on in the work place. Chandler says one of the best reasons to build a relationship with instructors is not only because they ‘have great deal of knowledge on the skills we are learning,’ but because they have ‘a fair amount of practical experience in the work place that you want to go into using those skills.’ They’re here to help; use them.
2. Good Practice: Instructors welcome “cold emails”
It’s an awkward, and sometimes intimidating introduction that you have no idea how to approach. As hard as it sounds, it’s not that bad. Instructors know that we have questions, and sure we might sound a little nervous, but don’t be hesitant and just do it.
Chandler explains that it’s as easy as sending an email. “Most instructors in, for example, the PR sequence, would be open to even just an email that says: ‘I’m a student in the public relations program and I know you are an instructor in the program with a special interest in leadership – for example like Dave Remund has – and I’d like to sit and talk with you. Can we do that sometime?’”
If you have a relationship with an instructor already, she recommends you simply ask to be introduced either virtually or in person with another instructor in the department that they think would be a good person for you to sit and talk with.
3. Access to Opportunities: Guidance into the right path
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely in the same boat as I am. We need a well-trained sailor to help us get to the destination we’re trying to reach. Which is exactly where the instructors come in to play. Chandler shares, “part of helping you get to that place is certainly the skills that you’re learning in the classrooms, but it’s also in getting to understand what you’re specifically interested in as an individual and helping in anyway that we can to guide you toward the path that you really want to take.” An exceptional staff surrounds us in the SOJC, and ultimately, they are here to help.
You landed the internship position, worked hard for months to gain valuable work experience and built up your resume. The hard part is over, right? Actually, there’s a lot you can do even after your internship ends to make the most of the experience. From maintaining your professional network to including your new experience on your resume, here are the post-internship dos and don’ts.
Do send a thank you note
As your internship comes to a close, make sure to send each person you worked with a handwritten thank you note. Recognizing the people you worked with is the first step in maintaining a relationship after the internship is over. Be sure to tell each person exactly what you appreciated about him or her. From the person who helped you complete a certain project to the person who made you feel included ¾ who doesn’t love getting a thank you note?
Do keep in touch
The people you work with at an internship are valuable contacts to have. They can become references and even mentors, letting you know of job opportunities and putting in a good word for you. Stay in touch with fellow interns, coworkers and managers by connecting with them on social media, especially on LinkedIn. Check in with your old coworkers every few months to see how things have been going since you left. Keep informed on what the company has been up to and congratulate former colleagues when they launch a new program or win an award. Your former manager is rooting for you to succeed so let him or her know what you’ve accomplished since you left. If you come across an article you think a former coworker or manager would be interested in, don’t be afraid to pass it along!
Do ask for a letter of recommendation
You never know what personnel changes might happen after you finish your internship. The last thing you would want is to need a letter of recommendation and not be able to get in touch. Asking now will save both of you time and stress. Plus, it’s always better to have them write about your contributions while your time there is still fresh in their minds. By asking for a letter of recommendation, even if you don’t need it right away, you’re setting the stage to call for a reference later.
Don’t burn any bridges
Not all internship experiences are positive ones. If you are disappointed with your experience for whatever reason ¾ maybe your supervisor took you for granted or your duties lacked educational value ¾ refrain from sharing your feelings on social media or in another job interview. Give your honest feedback in an exit interview or send an email to your internship manager, but keep it constructive. You never know when you might need a reference, so be sure not to leave on a negative note.
On the other hand, maybe you had a fabulous internship experience and think your supervisor is your new best friend. It may seem like once the internship is over, you can be free to let your walls down, but be careful to keep any relationships you’ve formed professional. Don’t go to a bar with coworkers and get drunk. Don’t friend your former employer on Facebook if you’re going to be posting scandalous party pictures. Don’t publicly engage in an inappropriate conversation on social media.
Don’t lie about your experience
When you’re including your internship in your resume, it can be tempting to exaggerate your roles here and there. Although you want to put your experience in a positive light, even if you spent most of your time fetching coffee or filing papers, make sure you’re still being honest about what you did. Focus on results you achieved, rather than your day-to-day tasks in order to better convey your value.
What have you done to make the most of an internship even after it’s over? Let us know by leaving a comment.
A career in public relations is like a roller coaster: the ups and downs are almost always unpredictable and sudden. Aside from the dinners, parties and exclusive events, there are many other perks to working in the industry.
You hear news first. Public relations professionals are responsible for monitoring and disseminating news about their clients to the media, meaning you would be the first to hear breaking news about your client or organization.
Your hard work is visible. Whether you win a bid on a campaign or successfully implement one, as a public relations practitioner you can “see” your hard work.
Your job is never static. You won’t be writing or looking at the same material day-in and day-out. Even when you’re working with only one client, the work is guaranteed to change drastically and rapidly throughout the job.
Now let’s get to the worst aspects of PR.
Your relationship with the media is unpredictable. Even if you have connections with the media, there is no way to ensure your event or client will make the news. Additionally, media coverage is not always positive.
You’re always tuned in. With the advent of the Internet, news operates on a 24-hour cycle. Therefore, you must stay connected to your phone or laptop outside of the standard eight-hour workday. The work doesn’t stop when you leave the office, but if you love your job this won’t be a downside!
You will be stressed. Forbes ranked the public relations executive the sixth most stressful job of 2014. The nature of the media, news cycle and clients means public relations practitioners must stay on their toes at all times.
If you find yourself loving the best aspects and embracing the worst, a career in public relations might be for you!
Do you have any good or bad aspects to PR that you’d add to the list?
Photo credit: NYC PR Girls
Heather Yount, external relations committee member, is a senior studying public relations. Follow her on Twitter at @yountstr_monstr.
Networking is an important career tool, but it’s one that some undergraduates overlook. According to a 2011 survey from Adecco Staffing US, 29 percent of recent college graduates wished they had better prepared for the job market by spending more time networking while in college. Networking is a time-consuming endeavor, but it can increase your chances of employment, connect you with experts in your field, and open up new opportunities. Here are four tips to help you network effectively:
1. Make yourself visible. You can’t network from behind your computer screen. Email and social media are great ways to maintain relationships, but don’t underestimate the value of face-to-face contact. Set yourself apart from the constant barrage of emails and tweets.
2. Cultivate real relationships. Meaningful relationships require a lot of energy. You need to invest time and build a rapport with your contacts before you can ask for a favor or referral. Learn about them, try to find common areas of interest, and, most importantly, remember that relationships need to be mutually beneficial. Successful networkers give as much as they receive.
3. Diversify your network. Networking is about more than employment opportunities and collecting business cards, so develop a variety of relationships. Through networking you can build a reputation in your industry, find a mentor, learn about workshops and seminars, and meet new people with similar goals. Professional organizations, peer groups, and online networks are a wonderful source of information, support, and advice.
4. Maintain your network. Your network will require maintenance, which means you need to be proactive about reaching out. You can do this in a variety of ways, but here are a few ideas to get you started: send thank-you notes, extend invitations to industry events, share relevant articles, or arrange meetings.
Networking can help you grow within your industry and give you a competitive edge after you graduate, so start developing professional relationships now. PRSSA and the SOJC provide opportunities to network throughout the year. How have networking events had an impact on your career? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Chloe Loveall is a writer, an artist, and a slave to the creative process. After spending two years traversing the globe, she has temporarily settled down to study journalism and advertising at the University of Oregon. Follow her on Twitter at @ChloeLoveall.