Leveraging your PRSSA Leadership Experience to Launch your Career

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Leveraging your PRSSA Leadership Experience to Launch your Career
By: Emma Finkbeiner, PRSSA Immediate Past President

For recent graduates, standing out amongst your peers in the job search is crucial. In a competitive industry, leveraging the leadership experience gained through PRSSA membership can help you do just that. I spoke with four former PRSSA National Committee members about skills they learned through PRSSA involvement and how they used their experiences to help launch their careers.

Brian Price, PRSSA 2013-14 National President
Corporate Communications Manager, Starwood Retail Partners

Heather Harder, PRSSA 2014-15 National President
Communications Manager, RSE Ventures

Laura Daronatsy, PRSSA 2015-16 National President
Communications Leadership Development Program Associate, Lockheed Martin

Veronica Mingrone, PRSSA 2015-16 National Vice President of Career Services
Analyst, Canvas Blue

What did PRSSA leadership experience teach you about professionalism?

Brian: “I think it showed I took my profession and professional development very seriously. But, you need stories to back it up to show why and how PRSSA experiences are so valuable. Seek out leadership positions not just to have the line on your resume, but for the development that comes with it.”

Laura: “PRSSA helped me launch my career because it allowed me to learn what professional behavior looked like and how to emulate it.”

Veronica: “PRSSA taught me how to interact with professionals at much different stages in their careers than I was. Now, I feel better prepared to engage with senior leadership at my company and, more broadly, at networking events. Knowing how to approach others confidently and keep in touch with them has been instrumental in my career.”

Heather: “Engaging with senior PR professionals as a student taught me a lot about when to speak up and when to listen.”

PRSSA leadership positions are volunteer positions. How is this type of leadership experience different because of that fact?

Laura: “PRSSA taught me it’s not enough to just show up. Raise your hand. Be a volunteer! Help someone else out. You have to be a giver, contributor and follower before you can truly be a respected leader. By thinking about what you can contribute, you’re already doing a crucial part of leading — leaving the place, organization or person better than the way you found it.”

Veronica: “Regardless if your aspirations are to serve students as a Chapter leader or on the National Committee, the operative word is “serve.” Any position you hold in the society – at whatever level – will likely be a time commitment and a good amount of work.”

What did you learn from leading a group of your peers?

Brian: “Much more than group projects in classes, PRSSA taught me to work with a group of my peers. Now, I do it all the time at work, especially when I was at Edelman with so many like-minded colleagues. In PRSSA, you work for clients, projects, fundraising programs with people you (hopefully) like personally, but also respect professionally even when there are competing ideas and different approaches. It’s just like a good workplace in that sense.”

Laura: “I referred to my leadership positions multiple times throughout my interviews because I had learned so many lessons — both good and bad — by leading my peers. It definitely helped (still helps) me in my job now because I know how to manage a project when working with people completely different from me.”

Heather: “Coming into a PR firm with leadership and management experience, I was immediately recognized as someone with the potential to manage our interns and given more responsibility because of the skills I’d developed in PRSSA.”

How did the network you built from involvement in PRSSA benefit you as you began your career?

Brian: “PRSSA prepared me the most by developing my network. I was active in PRSSA outside of just my Chapter, and met many influential professionals and rising new professionals. They became mentors and trusted resources who helped me through the job search process.”

Veronica: “I was able to leverage PRSSA in the job hunt by tapping on the connections – both peer and professional – that I had made in the four years I was a member. These people knew the value of PRSSA and what it meant for my professional development.”

Heather: “You have to continue to cultivate the network and keep in touch with everyone interesting that you meet. It really was useful for obtaining the recommendations that helped me get two very important jobs in my career. I don’t know that I’d have gotten those jobs without being able to call up some PRSSA/PRSA mentors and have them put in a word, because I’d kept a genuine connection with them.”

How did your leadership experience help you stand out among the crowd?

Laura: “You can set yourself apart as a teammate and a leader simply by putting in a little extra time and effort.”

Veronica: “PRSSA gave me an opportunity to lead – and I don’t think I would’ve had experience managing a team this early in my career were it not for the society. It allowed me to become confident in my leadership abilities, to explore my career interests, to travel and figure out where I wanted to move post-grad, to become an ambassador for my university and well-known in my program – and the list goes on and on.”

Heather: “Once I brought it up and explained how much management, leadership and hands-on experience it had given me, I was able to immediately standout as someone with a unique experience and a passion for the industry. These skills helped me prove myself to get more responsibility very early in my first job.”

It’s important to note that the leadership journeys of these four individuals are far from over. All four have continued their development by joining PRSA, serving on the New Professionals Executive Committee and getting involved in local PRSA Chapters. Leadership and professional development is truly never finished, and dedicating time to an organization like PRSSA or PRSA shows your continued interest in the industry and your own professional growth.

Inside the Mind of a Millennial Reporter: The Art of Pitching

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Inside the Mind of a Millennial Reporter: The Art of Pitching

An Interview with Inc. Columnist Jeff Barrett

By Heather Harder

We all know the stat: For every five PR people, there is one journalist. With the fast pace of news development, pitching has become both easier and harder in different ways. Contributors have become even more essential to help news rooms fill content.

I spoke with Jeff Barrett, an Inc. columnist, PR and digital consultant and Shorty Award winner to learn more about how he became a successful top-tier contributor, as well as his advice for PR pros who want to pitch contributors.

How did you become a top-tier contributor?

This wasn’t something I stumbled into. Inc. approached me because I’d written for Mashable many times over the course of six years. I never thought of myself as a journalist.

When I first started as a PR professional, it was really difficult to make a phone call, send an email and try to make someone cover something in the business. I needed to be able to create a name for myself and have an opportunity to get myself covered more. So I made a bigger social platform, and places started becoming pretty interested in my writing.

I kind of used the column as an opportunity to build up a name to where I’ve taken a different path to being able to help get coverage for my clients.

How does being a contributor make it easier for you to get your clients coverage?

I don’t write about clients. It’s about credibility and visibility, getting a leg up and a having a talking point when pitching reporters. And it goes both ways – doing an interview for Inc., for example, I understand what the PR person needs and wants.

What are some things to keep in mind when pitching a contributor vs. a full-time staffer?

A full-time staffer is going to be a little more rushed. I would say a contributor is more PR friendly. They’re going to be looking for all kinds of things to talk about.

Ask yourself how you can create reciprocal value. How are you providing value to a staffer? Do you have clients who are good sources? In both cases, it’s more about developing a relationship than it is about developing your pitch. You want to be able to say, “Here are the people I work with and the things I hope to get covered.” Then hope they’ll think of a way to create something. The time spent trying to cultivate the perfect pitch is not as advantageous as trying to create the perfect relationship. It’s the same with full-time staffers.

What are key things millennials like/don’t like when it comes to receiving pitches?

It has certainly become less and less formal. There is greater need to tap into social influencers. It really does just come down to building that relationship.

Pull away as far as you can from press releases. A press release is the owner’s manual. If you bought furniture from Ikea, you kind of need the manual to put things together, but you wouldn’t sell someone the owner’s manual. My process is to build the relationship and have a quick discussion. That discussion might end up being via text, Facebook message or Snapchat until we get to a point where something makes sense. It’s finding people in the channels that make the most sense to them.

You just start to adapt your message and speak in quicker soundbites. If you send someone a novel, it might be a little intimidating and they might just not know what to do with it. You almost start speaking in 140-220 characters. Plus with that approach, that’s less work on your end, then you can build out the release.

The worst thing to do is take three hours writing a release and crafting the perfect pitch. Every client is going to think that all their stuff deserves all the attention in the world. You have to believe in your clients.

When first making contact, do you think it’s better to be overly professional or to show your true personality?

A bit depends on how the relationship started. If it started on Twitter, it can be more goofy and casual. Over LinkedIn emails, you have to be professional. Go with your gut. Generally speaking, I try to get to casual as soon as I can. It’s way more beneficial.

How are changes in storytelling affecting how we need to package our stories?

Everything has a shorter shelf life now. It used to be that you could run things down. I received about 50 pitches with people wanting to talk about United a day or two after the big incident 2017. It was too late. Yes, it takes time to come up with the pitch and the angle. But if you have a relationship, tell the reporter you can talk about United now. You have to be able to capitalize on the first 24 hours. If you see something emerging, make sure you have three to four people in your back pocket to help you out. It’s really like a speed game – it’s like day trading versus investing in stock. Pitching is faster now.

Heather Harder is a communications specialist at RSE Ventures, a New York-based investment and incubation firm. She was formerly PRSSA National President and PRSA New Professionals Board Member. Follow her on Twitter @HeathHarder.

5 Apps New Pros Need to Sucessfully Navigate Adulting

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I’ve been somewhat successfully “adulting” for about ten months now and, I’ll admit, navigating the professional life is in no way a simple transition. No matter your approach, there’s no streamlined way to navigate this journey. It’s only through trial and error I am able to find the right recipe for success.  Since I’m a new PR pro and the textbook definition of a millennial, I’ve survived with the help of a few must-have apps that have helped me appear a bit more professional and significantly less stressed:

Grammarly

I’ll start with something relevant to every PR professional out there: good grammar and quality writing. Grammarly is the app that has saved me when I haven’t been able to save myself. Grammarly proofreads your written work, so anything from a press release to a late night email, and even a Facebook post gets scanned for spelling and grammatical errors. Even better, Grammarly works as a Google Application so it integrates into almost every website platform you’re utilizing. If you’re signing up for the first time, use this link to get one week of premium free and invite your friends!

theSkimm

Let’s be real, small talk that doesn’t go anywhere is meaningless. I believe in making conversations count and, more importantly, having educated things to say. Since we often don’t have the time to read all the news before your morning coffee, theSkimm hits you up with daily emails that provide the need-to-know details on big things happening in the world. Whether it’s domestic or international issues, political happenings or just some major pop culture, theSkimm ensures that you’re in-the-know with the facts to impress. So instead of mentioning the weather, enlighten your boss with an update on that environmental policy legislation that just passed in the House? Sign up for it here.

Unroll.Me

Remember all those subscriptions you subscribed to during college for the “free stuff”? Mmhmm… Now you’re out of that lifestyle, and you still get swamped with countless coupons that get in the way of those real emails from your job. Do yourself a favor and sign-up for Unroll.Me. This app goes through your email and identifies all your subscriptions which you can then either unsubscribe in one click (yeah, you heard me!) or roll them up all into one email. So long are the days of sifting through 30 emails from Macy’s or daily political fundraising emails. Save your GBs for something more important. Enroll in Unroll.Me here!

Shine Text  

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a daily pick-me-up? Every morning someone just reminding you that you’re awesome and capable of handling whatever comes your way? Shine Text is literally a high-five in your pocket.  Daily messages of affirmation that go directly to your phone each morning. Why? Because self-care is important, and so is doing your best. A little encouragement never hurt anyone. Get your daily dose of happiness here.

Mint

Money management, ya’ll. Now that you’ve transitioned from that pesky part-time paycheck, it’s time to see how far your dollar can really go. I use Mint not only to track my income but also to identify where I’m spending my money. For example, Mint lets me know what percentage of my income I should be spending on groceries, entertainment etc. versus how much I actually am. Also, it helps me save toward financial goals. I know how much to put away and how my current spending habits affect how fast I can save that cash. Smart spending makes for smart saving. You won’t be a New Pro forever, so learn smart saving practices early so you’re not playing catch-up in the long game.

BONUS: Gmail Notifier

So for those of you rocking #TeamGoogle for work email (sorry Outlook users) Gmail Notifier is a quick little add-on providing you with instant notifications whenever you receive a message from your Gmail account. Regardless of what screen you’re on or, if your Gmail window isn’t open, you’ll always know when a new message enters your inbox. It also works on multiple Gmail accounts so it can be synced to your work or personal accounts. Install it here.

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Herasanna Richards is a member of the Central Michigan PRSA Chapter located in Lansing, MI. Currently, Herasanna is the Communications Specialist at Grassroots Midwest, a bipartisan political advocacy firm. She holds both her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communication and Political Science from Michigan State University. In her free time, she enjoys getting out and involved in her #LoveLansing community and binge watching the latests Netflix Originals. Catch up with her on
Twitter and LinkedIn!

March Twitter Chat Highlights: Crisis Communications

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the March #NPPRSA Twitter chat focused on crisis communications planning. We discussed what is required for any thorough crisis communications plan, which departments to include and how to prepare employees.

PRSA Twitter Chat Highlights: Crisis CommunicationsSpecifically, we’d like to thank Valerie Merahn Simon, senior marketing executive and Director of Marketing Communications for Plymouth Rock Assurance. She is also the co-founder of the #HAPPO and #PRStudChat Twitter chats.

Join us again on April 3 for our next #NPPRSA chat and stay up-to-date with PRSA New Professionals on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Review highlights of the chat below. What did you learn from the March chat? How can you plan for unanticipated events for your brand? What methods can you use to prepare co-workers and executives for dealing with the public? Who can you collaborate with or who should you include in a crisis plan?

 

 

Lauren Rosenbaum

Lauren Rosenbaum is the PRSA New Professionals Social Media Co-Chair and Co-Founder of Soversity, a public relations and digital marketing company. You can connect with her on Google+LinkedIn or Twitter.

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5 Tips to Make Business Travel a Breeze

Unfortunately, traveling for business isn’t as easy as packing up your car or shoving your carry-on items in the overhead space. To make the agony of travel a little more bearable and keep you from looking like the new kid in the airport, here are five tips to travel like a pro:

tips for a business trip1. Research your travel destination before you board the plane –Typically, you’re going to have down time on business trips so it’s a good idea to look up popular bars, restaurants and coffee shops in the city. And, if traveling with a client who isn’t familiar with the area, it’s a good idea to get a feel of the land ahead of time. That way, when the down time comes, you can suggest things to do and get to know your client a little better in the process

2. Pack the important stuff in your carry-on – A co-worker shared a horror story with me once that went a little something like this: “I flew to Germany for a meeting with a global company’s executive team and made it there without my luggage.” Be sure you have the essentials with you at all times – a business suit, contacts, medicine, glasses, basic toiletries, jump drive with your presentation and chargers  should all find room in your carry-on to avoid headaches and frantic shopping trips around an unknown city.

3. Know how travel expenses will be handled –Talk to your office travel coordinator, finance department or supervisor before you leave about how to handle expenses acquired during your time away from the office.  Some offices choose a per diem, while others require employees to keep track of their receipts and fill out an expense report upon returning. Clearing up any confusion about how to handle finances before you leave will make sure your company and your pocketbook are left surprise-free. Also, don’t forget cash. You’ll need it to tip the folks that make your life easier, like doormen, bellhops and maids.

4. Confirm all the details of the trip before you leave – Make sure everything is in check prior to leaving the office – including your flight, hotel and car rental – and be sure to bring the confirmation emails with you so you have it if any issues arise. If you have to ship product or additional materials to your destination ahead of time, it is best practice to call the location ahead of time and give them a heads up as to exactly what and when your things will be arriving.

5. Download travel apps – If you’re flying, there’s a good chance your airline has an app that lets you check your flight status, change your flight time and check-in online. Plus, car service apps, like Uber, make sure you get from Point A to Point B on-time, without worrying about trying to hail down a cab or navigate through an unfamiliar city. If your destination is within driving distance, apps like Waze can give you inside information on traffic patterns, slowdowns and construction areas. Also, the likes of Yelp and UrbanSpoon give you quick access to nearby restaurants and cafes.

Most of all, don’t forget to have fun. Take the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, develop a more personal relationship with coworkers and connect with your clients. After all, there’s no better place to learn than on the road.

Kelsey SpellmanKelsey Spellman (@kelseyspellman) is a social influence manager at The Adcom Group, a full-service communications agency in Cleveland, Ohio. Kelsey works with a variety of B2C and B2B clients, specializing in media and blogger relations and experiential marketing. Kelsey graduated from Ohio University in 2011 with a degree in public relations and blogs over at starfishsnacks.wordpress.com.