By Kate Miller
The purpose of an informational interview is to talk with a professional who is working for a company or in an industry that you are interested in working in. This interview takes place either in-person or virtually. It may seem daunting or weird, but I can tell you from my experience that informational interviews have been the most important thing I have done throughout my internship and job search.
Informational interviews have been valuable because they have required me to get all of my ducks in a row, find some courage, be as professional as possible and ask a stranger for career advice. While the wording of an introductory informational interview email request may differ from person to person, most professionals and students know the parameters. You are simply trying to learn about what the professional does for a living. I promise, informational interviews become easier once you get the first one over with.
The first step to landing an informational interview is to reach out. As a student at the University of Oregon you have so many connections at your fingertips and alumni want to talk to you. So have courage, be professional and reach out. Be aware that professionals are busy so be considerate and grateful for their time and expertise. In my experience, professionals love sharing about their job and you being interested in what they do is exciting for them.
The first professional I reached out to was a woman at Edelman in New York. Edelman is a place I hope to work for one day and speaking with an alumnus about her experience helped me understand what it took to get there and provided me with a connection at Edelman when I was applying for their internship program. Networking has been most helpful while pursuing an internship and a strategy I will continue to use to one day find a job. In my opinion, PR is about three things: connecting, storytelling and strategy. The more connections you have the better.
Do Your Research
As a young professional, you need to show the person you are speaking with that you have done your research. You want to know what they have done in their career, how they got there and have some quality questions to ask. They are taking time that could be spent working to speak with you, so be prepared. The questions you ask should show that you are intentional and curious.
Send a Thank You Card
This is key. After the vast amount of knowledge, you have obtained from this professional, send a thank you card. It makes all the difference. It makes people happy to receive a handwritten thank you card and shows the professional that you appreciate the specific things you discussed with them and how much it has helped you.
Networking is essential and after your first informational interview, it will be way less scary. I personally love the insight and connections informational interviews provide me with professionals and I encourage you to take every opportunity that you can. It has led me to internship opportunities and has given me insight on where I would like to potentially work in the future.
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?
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?
Didn’t make it to our last meeting? We heard from Heaven Lampshire, former UO PRSSA Exec Board member and current assistant account executive at Edelman Seatle. Here are six things we learned from her about internships, tech PR and more:
On going into tech PR after working in food and beverage: Food and beverage PR is intuitive because you can relate to it so easily. Going into tech PR, there’s a lot to learn about how the companies work and what they do.
The difference between being an intern and an AAE: As an intern, Heaven says she worked on one-off projects for eight different accounts and wasn’t able to deeply understand the client’s work. As an AAE, she is able to work on projects from start to finish.
Time management is critical. When asked to do something, it’s better to be honest and say you can get to it later than say you can do it now and not get it done.
Want to stand out as an intern? With every assignment you work on, ask yourself “What are two thing I can add to make it better?”
Think strategically and have a reason for everything. You need to be able to counsel your client on decisions and explain why your solution would work.
Take advantage of in-class assignments. Do things that are interesting to you, and you’ll not only enjoy your classes more, but have things you’re proud of to add to your portfolio.
Join us for our next meeting on January 28 to kick off our Workshop Wednesday series!
Hannah Osborn, Public Relations Director, is a senior pursuing a double major in public relations and magazine journalism. She manages all UO PRSSA social and digital media platforms. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahmarieoz.
Michael Nguyen is the Communications Coordinator at Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington Affiliate. He earned his Design and Visual Communications degree from Western Oregon University. During his college career, he also participated in a study abroad program at the Florence University of Arts where he studied art history and photography.
Q: What are some of your responsibilities in the organization?
A: My responsibilities entail graphic design, web design, photography and social media. Essentially my role here is heavily visual communication design.
Q: What does an “average day in the office” look like for you?
A: An average day at the office has me checking my emails in the morning and responding to any questions or projects that I am currently working on. Various projects that I work on routinely would be maintaining care of the website, updating any information, managing what content goes on the front page and checking for trends through Google Analytics which show me statistics of all traffic coming to our site. Likewise, I go through our social media accounts as well to check on any messages or comments as well as to periodically post content and information about upcoming events and activities. Bigger projects that I work on depend on the time of the year. Currently we are going through our Year End Appeal. I have designed and sent out over 9,000 letters to our constituents as well as to our email database and I’m posting social ads through media outlets for maximum exposure.
Q: How did you land your position at Susan G. Komen?
A: I began as a graphic design intern working for Komen under the Director of Marketing, creating visual content for use on web, social and email. After several months I was then brought on part time as the Communications Coordinator eventually working with the Director of Development and Communications where I was then brought up to a full-time position.
Have confidence, be assertive, and make sure that if you make a mistake own up to it.
Q: What tips do you have for students coming into the professional world of public relations and communications?
A: Education is the foundation from which you start your journey. However, experience is ultimately what is required to push you forward not only in your career, but also in your skills. If you can start early and become involved in any organization, internship, company, or opportunity that allows you to practice real life applications while you are still in school, then you will have an edge over other candidates your age looking for similar jobs. That experience early on will easily translate over to similar encounters in your future career.
Additionally, work on your people skills! Practice mock interviews, if you find yourself stumbling on words or having a hard time answering a question, then you know what you must focus on in improving. This can be crucial in future negotiations, job interviews (negotiating salary can cause people to stumble and become tongue-tied), or communicating confidently at work with your supervisors or clients. With that also is networking: no matter how skilled you are, knowing the right people can take you very far. They can provide opportunities and connect you with potential job prospects or clients. Final tips would be to have confidence, be assertive, and make sure that if you make a mistake own up to it.
Lastly, take a look at this Ted Talk on body language that Michael recommended!
Shelby Nelson, External Relations Committee, serves as a project manager for the PRSSA blog. She is a senior pursuing a Public Relations degree. Feel free to follow her on Twitter at @shelbybriann.
Jen Eisenmann is a University of Oregon SOJC alumna who works as a social media and event production intern for the San Francisco Giants. During her time at the SOJC, she worked as a digital strategist for the University of Oregon Athletic Department and an account supervisor for Allen Hall Public Relations. Below she discusses her experience in the professional world.
Q: What are you responsible for as the San Francisco Giants’ Social Media and Event Production Intern?
A: My responsibilities change depending whether the team is home or away. When the team is home, I help with day-of responsibilities. This changes depending on what is going on at the park. Usually I am responsible for updating our Snapchat, gathering content for Facebook and Twitter, preparing a Run of Show for our social media center, the @Cafe. Since my job also includes event production I will help with any special events going on in the park that day. This can include bringing different groups onto the field for on-field performances, coordinating National Anthems and helping with events around the park. When the team is away, my days are more of the classic 9-5, I have planning meetings and prepare for the next homestand.
Q: How did you get to where you are today?
A: I started working in social media through an internship with The Duck Store. I randomly applied the summer after my sophomore year and ending up getting it. About 6 months after that, the Quack Cave asked if I would like to join their team. After working there the whole summer I was asked to be the lead for football. I tweeted for every home and away football game during the 2013 season. When football ended I took a little break until baseball season started and began tweeting for Oregon Baseball. I was graduating a term early and decided to start applying for jobs in late-January. In mid-February I got a call from the Giants for an interview. After three rounds of phone interviews they called to let me know I had the job. In late March, I moved to San Francisco and started working for the Giants during their preseason games.
Q: Is there anything you wish you had learned or a skill you wish you had spent more time honing during your time in school?
A: I wish I would have taken a CIS class. So many social media jobs these days ask for you to have some experience with HTML coding and I have absolutely no background there. I also wish I would have taken one or two more design classes, just to be more confident in my abilities on Illustrator and InDesign.
Q: What is the most needed skill in your job and why?
A: I think the most important skill for someone who wants to work in sports is flexibility. Things change every single day and it can seem like nothing is going right, but you have to keep going because the game still has to start on-time. I think you need to be ready for really bad days and really good days. You can’t let little mistakes get to you and you really just have to be prepared for whatever gets thrown your way.
Q: What advice do you have for a student seeking a job in PR?
A: Apply for everything and be ready for anything. Everyone says it’s all about who you know; I knew no one at the Giants when I applied for the job here. I was hired because of what I knew. So if you think you are qualified for something and want a certain job, go for it. Don’t discredit what you know.
Be sure to attend our meeting at 6 p.m. tomorrow night in Allen 141 to hear from Jen Eisenmann as she shares her insight with us!
Nicola Hyland, external relations committee member, is a junior pursuing a degree in public relations and a minor in business administration. Follow her on Twitter at @NicolaMorgan_.
Life after graduation can be daunting, but Kylee Plummer has navigated it like a pro. Kylee is a recent graduate from the UO public relations program. During her time in the SOJC, she was actively involved with PRSSA, serving as the 2013-2014 Event Director. She’s now living and working in Portland and took the time out of her busy schedule to share about life after college and her tips for seniors.
Where are you currently working and what are some of the projects you are working on?
I am currently working at Edelman Portland as an Assistant Account Executive working on a mix of consumer and tech clients. Right now, I’m my clients include HP and Travel Portland. Some upcoming projects will possibly include Emerald Nuts and Starbucks. It’s really a large variety! My job involves a heavy amount of media monitoring, measurements, analytics and a lot of writing – which I love.
It’s exactly what they say; you’re never doing the same thing and you never know what you’re going to be working on. It’s very exciting.
What does your typical day look like?
A typical day includes monitoring the different social platforms for brands I’m working with, pulling reports for them on a weekly basis and performing a lot of research. In a typical day (I think at most agencies), there are a lot of meetings. I would say about 70 percent of each day consists of meetings, and I think that’s why with PR you have such flexible hours. You’re always on and fitting different tasks, brainstorms and planning into each day. You could have a somewhat easy day head home at 6 p.m. or you could have meetings most of the day, as well as a few deadlines that require you to work pretty late – but that doesn’t happen all the time! This is just a great example of how varied your days can be in an agency setting. Always busy and always learning new things – but always exciting and challenging!
What has been your greatest obstacle in your new job?
This may sound a bit cliché, but my biggest obstacle has been trying to find a good balance for using my time wisely. This job requires you to really prioritize and manage your time. Going straight into agencies from graduation has forced me to get a lot better at this – so has my planner.
Which classes at UO prepared you the most?
I absolutely respect Kathryn Kuttis, and I loved her portfolio class. She really gets imprints it in your mind that you need to work extremely hard and have interesting, clean materials in your portfolio that help you to stand out or you’re not going to be able to land the dream job that you want. That class taught me a lot; even though it was for a weekend, it really helped to put everything into perspective and I’ll never forget it. The workshop forced me to start working toward a pristine, beautiful collection of work that would eventually help me land a real job out of college. Apparently it worked! Overall, Kathryn is super inspiring and her class helped immensely.
Stay involved until the end because you never know what will make the difference in landing you the job you want.
When did you start the job search your senior year?
I was in the spring 2014 cohort for the Portland Senior Experience so I actually left Eugene in early April to jump in right away before graduation. I started my internship at Urban Airship, a tech startup in Portland, and I was actively job searching while I was there. I knew that I wanted to get into an agency and desperately dreamed of going to Edelman! With that, I started looking into smaller agencies. To recap, it was probably three months before graduation that I really started looking for jobs. Starting early is always a good thing!
Do you have any advice for senior PR majors?Get involved!
Do something! Get an internship and/or get involved in PRSSA and AHPR. It really makes a huge difference. Also, make sure you network like crazy. Networking is honestly one of the main reasons I landed where I am now. Go to events like Portland Paddle; it’s so much fun and you end up meeting the most inspiring, smart, wonderful people. Get involved, brand yourself in a positive way, network, network, network and the rest will fall into place. Honestly, if you work hard and have an end goal, you can do it all. Go for it.
Shelby Nelson, External Relations Committee, serves as a project manager for the PRSSA blog. She is a senior pursuing a Public Relations degree. Feel free to follow her on Twitter at @shelbybriann.
Are you interested in crisis communication or digital strategy? Trevor Steele will be joining us tonight to explore a few topics PR practitioners tend to overlook within the broader theme of crisis communications and digital strategy. We asked him a few questions to get to know him a little better before our meeting.
Q: How did you begin your career in the public relations industry?
A: I haven’t met a six year old who says “I want to work in PR when I grow up.” Perhaps this will change someday, but it certainly wasn’t my original life goal. I worked in professional politics through high school, college and a couple years after graduating from college, during the start of the recession. In college, I studied political science but found that communication studies had all the action. After a few years as a lobbyist, I opted to go into communications full time. I’ve never looked back.
Q: What is your favorite part about working in an integrated agency practicing PR?
A: I love the variety of the work I do and the skills each member of the team brings to a problem. I have an opportunity to work with incredibly creative designers and skilled account managers who bring different experience to the table. As part of an integrated agency, I have the freedom to look at both paid and earned media, and choose the best tool for the situation. This is the biggest benefit of an integrated agency practice.
Q: For students interested in crisis communication, what is one piece of advice you would give them?
A: The “rules” for crisis don’t differ as much as one might expect from most other types of PR, but things often happen faster. The best advice I can give is to come on Wednesday and ask questions. One other piece of advice: train yourself out of “writer’s block.” Writing is the one skill you can develop in school and apply to any situation in PR. Being able to write on command is crucial.
Q: When it comes to social media, what do you foresee its affect on the PR industry in the next five years?
A: Social media touches on so many different areas of an organization. Public relations is in the best position to take advantage of the changes in social media, but it requires an industry-wide approach. Don’t discount traditional media, but look at an integrated approach that blends traditional and digital into what is quickly becoming a “traditional” environment. Note that this is different from social media, which is also critically important. Social media is a little strange in that it is upsetting both marketing and PR, but ultimately I think PR will win out.
Q: What skills do you think students will need to embody when entering the post-graduate world?
A: Flexibility. Be ready to explore different areas with your career, and avoid getting locked into any one thing. That said, I also really want to see students pursuing their passions. At the end of the day, communications is a critical part of any industry and any effective organization. Look for the opportunity to pursue your passion using the skills you have acquired in school. Look for opportunities to continually learn and grow, but don’t lose sight of what makes you tick and what you want to do.
About Trevor Steele
Trevor came to Funk/Levis to help as a political strategist for the Lane Community College Bond campaign. His work to message, galvanize volunteers and implement outreach was an important part of the success of the campaign. Trevor returned to Funk/Levis in 2009 to help work with LTD in doing outreach to key influentials for the West Eugene EmX project. Trevor is heading up our Strategic Digital Communications department focusing on new media and social integration into branding campaigns.
Trevor graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a degree in political science and communications and from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism with a Master of Arts in Strategic Public Relations. During his time in Los Angeles, Trevor was hired by the Milken Institute where he developed and ran the Institute’s social media program and developed new digital communication tactics.
Abbie Mulligan, President, serves as the chapter’s resource and mentor, for our members and the executive board. When she’s not in Allen Hall, you can find her helping to strengthen the university’s relationship within the community. Follow her on Twitter at @abbsmulligan.
Meet Ian Bragg, University of Oregon SOJC alumni, who will be joining us for our PRSSA Panel and Mixer tonight! Following his graduation with a B.S. in Journalism with a focus in public relations and advertising, Ian spent a few years at Waggener Edstrom. He then joined the Edelman team to work on their Xbox account. Currently, Ian is a Senior Account Executive on the Earned Media team at CMD. As part of the Portland PRSA chapter, Ian works as the Director of New Pros where he brings his five years of large agency experience to new PR pros.
We asked Ian some questions prior to the PRSSA Panel and Mixer. Get to know Ian before our event tonight:
Q: Did you have any internships while in college? If so, how influential do you think that experience was in helping you nail your first job?
A: I did not have any internships while I was in college. However, I was involved in a variety of activities, including the student-run magazine, Oregon Voice, Allen Hall Advertising (AHA) and of course, UO PRSSA. Honestly, I was very lucky to get a job out of college without holding any internships. I believe they are extremely valuable to prepare yourself before entering the job market. There are even some internship programs that require candidates have at least two previous internships and/or a Master’s degree. It’s pretty competitive out there, folks.
Q: What was the application process like for you when looking for post-graduation options?
A: My dad always taught me that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This couldn’t have been more accurate during my application process. A family friend introduced me to a VP at Waggener Edstrom, which led me to an informational interview, and well, the rest is history.
Beyond my personal story, I can’t stress enough how important setting up informational interviews is. Simply applying for a job is sometimes not enough. Plus, not all jobs coming down the pipeline are advertised on the company’s website. If you can demonstrate your value during an informational [interview], you’d be surprised how much that helps your chances at landing a job.
Q: What shocked you the most when starting your first job out of college?
A: The on-boarding process can be quite intense. I was lucky enough to start on the Microsoft account, so I had to learn all the ins and outs of the tech industry – right away. It’s exciting digging deep into the accounts you work on, but it’s mentally draining for the first few months. However, I wouldn’t give up that experience for anything in the world. Starting my first “real job” is one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt.
Q: What has been your favorite project or accomplishment?
A: I had the opportunity to launch Xbox One while I was working at Edelman. This experience was by far the highlight of my career. I worked harder than I ever worked leading up to the event, but it was worth every minute of it. I got to go to New York City to help with the launch, which included going backstage at Bloomberg, Fox Business and other broadcast publications with our top executive. I also ran the VIP/celebrity check-in and watched Macklemore perform for hundreds of Xbox fans attending the event. I was truly living the dream.
Q: How has PRSA benefited you as a professional?
A: As I mentioned above, it’s not what you know, but who you know. PRSA gave me the opportunity to meet and network with the leaders of the PR community in Portland. The PRSA New Pros specifically helped acquaint me with the numerous PR and marketing agencies in Portland. This knowledge helped me locate the most recent stage in my career – working on the Earned Media team at CMD.
Q: What are the top three skills PR students should try to obtain before graduation?
A: Writing/editing is probably the most important skill for a PR professional. Agencies and clients alike expect us to have strong writing skills and perfect grammar.
Social Media knowledge: As millennials, we are expected to have knowledge of emerging social media networks and how to leverage the existing ones. Today PR isn’t just about media relations, it encompasses all forms of communication.
Networking: It’s amazing how small the PR community is across the nation. By getting to know others in the industry, you will give yourself a leg up on the competition when job searching.
Q: What are some first steps students should take to build their networks?
A: Leverage your professors. They have more connections than you can imagine. Beyond that, join professional networks in the cities you are planning on working in. For example, PRSA New Pros and similar groups are a great way to get to know other young professionals and the various PR and marketing agencies in your community. And don’t be shy. Roll to a few meet-ups solo – chances are there are five other talented people in the room who are in the exact same boat. Finally, keep your LinkedIn updated and connect with the people you meet. LinkedIn is the number one way recruiters find candidates for jobs. You don’t want to miss out on that opportunity.
Be sure to stop by Allen 141 tonight at 6 to meet Ian Bragg and other professionals as they share their insight with us!
Lauren Todd, Internal Events Director, plans internal events for UO PRSSA in effort to build relationships within the group. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys assisting with weddings and staying up to date on the world of pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @Lauren_Todd.