Three Tips for Reaching Out to Other PR Pros

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An intentional, well-written networking email can lead to a new job opportunity, a new mentor or a new perspective. You will find that most professionals, especially those involved in PRSA, are more than happy to help you, offer advice and share their expertise. But even if you have a strong relationship with the professional you are reaching out to, it is always important to establish professionalism.Whether you are a graduating senior seeking job opportunities or a young professional simply looking to make new connections, here are a few tips you should always keep in mind.

Be considerate.

It’s important to remember the person you are reaching out to has a full-time job, and is graciously taking time out of their schedule to help you. Be considerate of how much you are asking from this professional and understand it may take time for them to respond.

I recently got an email from someone “hoping to move to NYC” wanting to know “which companies they should apply to.” Seems harmless, right? Wrong. There are thousands of companies in New York City, and this young pro was essentially asking me to do their job search for them. You should make it as simple as possible for them to reply, which leads me to my next point.

Be specific.

About a month ago, I received a text from a recent grad from my university, who asked if I could tell them more about my last job. It was typical PR agency, so what exactly did they want to know? About the culture? The clients? Once I followed up and asked for more information, I discovered they wanted to learn more about the differences of working at a large agency versus a small agency, as I’ve done both.

When reaching out to a professional, avoid vague requests like this, and instead ask specific questions and make sure your goal is evident. Do you want to set up a call or meeting? Offer up a few days and times you are available in the next couple weeks for the professional to choose from. The more details the better. Speaking of details…

Be detail-oriented.

Before you reach out to a professional, triple check the body of your email and any documents you’ve attached. Then, ask a few friends to review everything. Don’t send a resume with grammar errors, formatting mistakes or a lack of specifics to a professional. It comes across as lazy and unprofessional.

Too often I receive emails with a low quality resume attached and the request to pass it along to one of my contacts. I’m always shocked when this happens because I’d never recommend someone I don’t truly believe in.

Hope this helps you as you prepare to reach out to a pro you admire!

–Arielle Schrader, @RELschrader

Maximize Your Career Potential by Managing Up

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Picture this: you’ve just started a new job, but your new manager isn’t as hands-on as previous supervisors or professors. Instead, you get 30-minutes of one-on-one time with them every other week and—before you can even learn how to use the printer—they expect you to show results. Yikes! Other managers may report into someone that is too hands-on—an entirely different challenge. Whatever your situation may be, learning how to work with your direct supervisor can make or break the early days of your career. The right manager can be your mentor, guide and biggest cheerleader, and it all comes down to how you manage up.

Changing Workplace Dynamics and the Keys to Managing Up
According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials (ages 21 to 38) have overtaken Baby Boomers in the workforce. Did you cringe at the word “millennials”? It’s Ok. I hate that word, too. Younger generations get a bad rep – we are often pegged as needy, entitled, narcissistic, unfocused, lazy – the list goes on. What’s interesting is that we see ourselves as motivated and purpose-driven, trying to make a difference in the world.

Simon Sinek’s video about Millennials in the workforce highlights a key point that unlocks a lot of our problem here: Millennials tend to have difficulty developing meaningful relationships—especially in the workplace. They also tend to be impatient about getting to where they’re going.

The reality, as stated by Sinek, is that the key to managing up is found at the intersection of patience and relationship development.

We’ve all heard the saying, “People leave managers, not companies.” According to Gallup CEO Jim Clifton, “The single biggest decision you make in your job—bigger than all the rest—is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits—nothing.” (Source: Inc.)

But what makes a good manager? In my experience, the best managers are available when you need them, capable of sharing quality feedback, and able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in others. While it’s easy to demand those of others,  best way to bring these characteristics out in your manager is to portray them yourselves.

Millennial psychology aside, there are some clear ways to “hack” managing up—no matter which kind of manager you have.

The Power of Quick Wins
If you’ve worked at an agency, you’ll be familiar with this concept. This is the first rule of onboarding a new account—deliver quick wins. However you define a “win,” immediately delivering on your promises and showing success can go a long way in getting the right attention from your manager.

This doesn’t only work for new relationships. In fact, this works after every performance review, weekly one-on-one meeting and more. Remind them of why they hired you and remind them that it was a good decision.

How to Ask for Feedback
How many times have you felt criticized or unappreciated at work? In those situations, I would say it’s probably because you were lacking quality feedback. There are hundreds of articles and books about giving and receiving feedback for a reason—it’s the key to every good relationship.

When giving feedback, first make sure they’re open to it. Ideally you would have already established a relationship with your manager so you can go to them with your questions and concerns. If you have a weekly 1:1 with your boss, then it’s easy—that’s your chance to talk about things that are/aren’t working.

If not, then you need to ask. It’s easiest to do that in the context of your work with them. When they come to you with a new project ask if you can discuss your concerns one-on-one. Some helpful phrases to try out:

  • “Would it be helpful to have another perspective?”
  • “Now that I’ve gotten my head around this assignment, can I talk to you about how things are going?
  • “Do you have a minute to discuss ____? I need more clarity from you on [my role, my responsibility, how we are approaching the assignment].

The key with this is to be specific and don’t get personal. If you start making generalizations or start attacking them as an individual, you could put them on the defensive, and lose your chance to be effective.

It’s worth noting that some relationships will not allow for feedback. In those situations, it’s usually a senior executive so empower yourself to do your best to see things from their perspective.

Receiving feedback is simple—all you need to do is ask:

  • “Do you mind providing feedback on this project? I’m interested in getting your thoughts so I can learn and make adjustments next time.”
  • “Did this meet your expectations?”
  • “Am I getting closer to your vision for this project? If not, where should I focus?”

Feedback should be honest (not brutal, but direct) and real-time. If you only get feedback once per year, then you only have one chance per year to improve. If you get generic responses to your questions, follow up: “Tell me more about that.”

How to Discover “Unwritten Rules”
I’m a fan of discovering “unwritten rules” by befriending the gatekeepers—like the receptionist or your boss’s assistant. You should also work to get to know the people that have been at the company longer than you—they will be a tremendous asset to you as you get to know the “way” of a company’s culture. They can also share tips for working with certain individuals (like your manager).

Unwritten doesn’t usually mean secret, so also don’t be afraid to ask. You’re probably not the first person to do so.

Why Personalities Matter in the Workplace
In Meyers-Briggs, I’m an ENTJ. That means I’m extroverted, intuitive, a thinker and judging (i.e., logical and decisive). The better you understand yourself, the better you can help others to understand you. And for someone to truly manage me, they need to understand me—it works the other way, too.

Understanding how your manager processes information is something I’m still learning—my manager internally processes information and needs more time to think before coming back to me with feedback. I, on the other hand, externally process everything—meaning I like to talk it out with you right then and there until we come to a resolution.

Get to know your manager and be curious about how they think. Learn to anticipate their questions based on their priorities. Understand that everyone is different, and it would be unreasonable to assume otherwise.

What it Means to Set Expectations
Understanding what your manager wants from you—and vice versa—comes down to how you communicate expectations. Be clear about what’s expected up front so there are no surprises (or disappointments) down the road. How do you do that? Have a process. First, ask questions and repeat what you’re hearing. Then, put it in writing (e.g., in an email) and get them to agree to it.

Communications for Communicators
Practice what you preach. Sometimes we can be so client-focused that we forget to utilize our own best practices. Try creating your own formal strategy, just as you would with any client, for how you communicate with your manager. Pre-empt their asks by being proactive. If your manager ever has to come to you and ask you for a status report, you’re too late in getting it to them.

Learn to anticipate the questions of your manager: what are they being held accountable for? That’s what they’re going to ask you about. Find a way to let them know the status of what you’re working on so they don’t have to come looking for you.

In closing, managing up is a challenge because managing people is hard. Be patient with yourself and with your manager. Everyone is on a journey and learning at their own pace.

And the key to any management relationship—up or down—is not management, but the relationship. Take your boss out for coffee and get to know her. That relationship will be the key to your success.

Scott ThornburgAbout the Author
Scott W. Thornburg, APR, is an accredited marketing communications leader with nearly a decade of global agency and in-house experience. Passionate about his work, he is known for thoughtful management of complex issues, careful attention to detail and high-impact leadership. Scott has been a strategic communications adviser for top global brands like Oracle, ExxonMobil, Dell, Cirque du Soleil, Hard Rock, Nasdaq, lynda.com (acquired by LinkedIn) and more. He now works as a senior public relations manager for Sojern, a travel marketing and advertising technology company. He’s a graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi (2010), with a degree in journalism, and an emphasis in public relations. Scott is a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and serves on the organization’s national board.

From Post-Grad to Professional: How to Jump into the PR World in 2017

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Just do it. And no, this isn’t a blog post sponsored by Nike. Just do it. Dive head-first into the pool of opportunity that is the public relations world. Its waters are deep; you will want a life jacket. And as you have already concluded, there is no lifeguard on duty. Have no fear! You will not sink… as long as you abide by these two policies this year:

Maintain enthusiasm. Seek opportunity.

Structure. It is defined as the process between components of something complex. As students, we developed a habit to systematize our lives around class schedules and the daily routines which coincided with college life. Before you knew it, it was over. What now? Uncertainty is intimidating. The structure you unknowingly relied on is no longer defined by your next class assignment, mid-term paper or upcoming PRSSA meeting. Where to next?

Consider this reality check:

You are the navigator. This is huge. What a wonderful place to be – at the starting line of the real world. There is potential at every corner. Apart from the support of your family and friends, the defining factor of what will push (sometimes pull) you along will be your enthusiasm. This is essential not only for how you conduct your professional life, but also your inner persona.

“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Success does not happen overnight, but becoming self-aware about your attitude can. If you are feeling discouraged, know that some of the strongest leaders were not knock-out superstars on day one. It was through the lessons learned by making countless mistakes that, over time, sculpted the greatest trailblazers in our industry. How did they make it? They were passionate about their work, they thought creatively and most importantly, they were enthusiastic about the “lessons” they learned from failing. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Next, Opportunity

Whether you’re interning at a branding agency, working part-time within a company’s marketing department, taking on freelance work, or still trying to figure out your next steps – know that being fresh out of the graduation cap and gown leaves a door open for the unimaginable. You have the time to invest in yourself outside of what you have done to earn your degree.

This year, make an effort to:

  • Become involved with your local PRSA New Professional section and surround yourself with a community of individuals who also want to invest in themselves. It is an empowering experience.
  • Seek mentorship through the PRSA Mentor Match. There are few words I can use to explain how important it is to find a mentor that can give you valuable guidance during your first steps into the industry. In one word: necessary. Anticipate an awe-inspiring moment when you see exactly what you want to do in your career. Your mentors will open your eyes to this.
  • Conquer the available PRSA training courses online through the PRSA website. These are essential skills and strategies that will prove themselves handy in times of demand.
  • Find inspiration by reading the best sellers in public relations and marketing and by watching webinars. Gain an insight on how industry leaders think. These are unparalleled resources for devising successful campaign strategies and sparking remarkable ideas.
  • If you want to do work in social media, work on earning native social media platform certifications through Facebook Blueprint and Twitter Flight School. Become Google certified in Google Analytics and Google AdWords if you are interested in online advertising. The more you know, the more you grow. Having these certifications under your belt can give you a level up on your resume.

Taking advantage of your resources is the greatest graduation gift you can give yourself this year. Remember, enthusiasm sparks curiosity which introduces opportunity. How did you jump head-first into the public relations world? I would love to hear your story!

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Anne Deady is a social media specialist at MMI Agency in Houston, TX and a member of the PRSA Houston Chapter. Her professional interests include influencer marketing and social media strategy. In her spare time, Anne’s favorite activities include attempting every BuzzFeed Tasty recipe and teaching her German Shepherd tricks. She graduated from the University of Houston with a corporate communication major and business minor. You can follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Be Unstoppable: 5 Ways to Build Confidence as a New Pro

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Beginning as a new PR pro is exciting, but it can also be unnerving. Suddenly, you are no longer a student or intern – you are now taking on more significant roles within projects. As a new pro, you may interact with or even work alongside managers, directors, vice presidents and possibly even C-level executives. Being the newest professional on a team may challenge your confidence, but don’t let self-doubt undermine your skills and abilities. Here are five things you can do to help build your confidence:

1. Ask Questions

You’ve probably heard people say “knowledge is power,” and in many cases, that’s true. It’s natural to want to appear knowledgeable in the workplace, but having incorrect or incomplete information is far more costly than simply asking for clarification. Asking questions show that you are engaged and focused on accuracy. On top of that, having accurate information and a firm grip on what you are working on will make you more comfortable and confident.

2. Be Teachable

Being teachable is an incredibly important attribute for new professionals. An important part of being teachable is being open to feedback from others. As you may see over time, many seasoned professionals enjoy helping those who are newer to the field. Be humble and listen to those who are willing to share their knowledge and wisdom. Learning this way will not only help you feel more confident, but it will also help you build relationships with the pros who want to help you learn.

3. Remember Your Accomplishments

When you are working on a challenging project, or things just aren’t going your way, it can be easy to lose sight of all the things you have accomplished. It can be helpful to just take some time and reflect upon where you are and where you began. Think back even just a few years ago – what have you accomplished in that timeframe? Now think about where you are and where you could be a few years into the future. Remembering your accomplishments can serve as a reminder of the great things you are capable of doing and help build your confidence.

4. Make a Plan

When it comes to confidence, knowing where you want to go will help. You don’t have to have your entire life figured out today, but perhaps you plan on earning a Master’s degree by the time you’re 28, or you’re thinking about completing your Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) through PRSA within the next three years. Having a plan will help you feel more confident about your future, which can translate to increased confidence in the workplace.

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5. Learn from Mistakes

Mistakes – we all make them. Some are larger than others, but all mistakes have one thing in common: we can learn from them. Understanding what went wrong and why can help prevent the same mistake from happening twice. The most important thing about learning from mistakes is to not beat yourself up. Shake it off and learn from them – tomorrow is a new day to shine.

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Jeff Adkins is a public relations associate for Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan. An active member of PRSA Detroit, Jeff enjoys connecting with fellow PR pros and seeking out new professional experiences. He obtained his Bachelor’s in Public Relations in 2014 from Wayne State University (WSU), where he was a member of the WSU PRSSA executive board and a peer mentor for students entering the PR program. In his free time, Jeff enjoys kayaking and staying active outside. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How My Graduate Degree is Advancing My PR Career

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Editor’s Note: As part of our month-long topic on continuing education we’ve touched on the APR, Tools for New Pros and other professional development. Today, we’re interviewing members of PRSA’s New Professionals section that have completed some form of higher education or are in midst of earning their graduate degree, with an end goal of advancing their public relations career.

Meet our panelists and their earned or in-progress graduate degree:

Lindsay Moeller
Master of Education in Higher Education (Student Affairs), Iowa State University

Simon Oh
Master of Science in Transportation Management (administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute), San Jose State University

Brian Price
Master’s in Public Administration, Northern Michigan University

Robyn Rudish-Laning
Master of Science in Media Arts & Technology (focus in Creative Media Practices), Duquesne University

Alyssa Stafford
M.A. Journalism and Mass Communication (concentration in Health Media and Communication), University of Georgia

What made you decide to go to graduate school?

LM: First, I love school. Second, I knew I would need to get a graduate degree in order to pursue a career in Student Affairs.

SO: To prepare myself for a greater role in transportation, potentially managing a team, department or an entire organization within the business.

BP: I decided to stay at NMU after graduating with a bachelor’s because I had a graduate assistantship opportunity. I worked as a G.A. in NMU’s communications office both years. I couldn’t turn down the discounted tuition, stipend and relevant work experience (and faculty lot parking pass!) so I’d advise anyone looking at grad school full time to research G.A. opportunities. I thought about an MBA but lacked prerequisites for multiple classes and ultimately decided to build on my communications background by applying it to public administration and policy.

RRL: It was a perfect storm of things. When I finished my undergraduate degree in 2011, jobs were hard to find and I had had some internships, but nothing that turned into a real full-time lead. I didn’t feel like I had a completely firm grasp on what I wanted to do, besides work in PR, (I understand now that no one actually has it all figured out.), but I didn’t want to move back home to figure it out either. I knew that I would have better opportunities to gain experience in Pittsburgh and I had already begun to develop connections out there from my undergraduate work. It just so happened that my alma mater, Duquesne, also offered 25 percent off of graduate degree tuition for particular programs, mine included, to alumni. So in August 2011, I packed everything up and moved back up to Pittsburgh to pick right back up where I left off in May.

AS: My bachelor’s degree is in creative writing, and I ended up in a job where I was doing sales and marketing. When I discovered public relations, I knew I wanted to make the switch, but I had no idea where to start. I decided to get my master’s in PR, thinking a formal education was what I needed to make the transition. It turned out that while my classes got me up to speed academically, the most important thing for me was being exposed to professional development opportunities as a graduate student.

Robyn Rudish-Laning on graduation day.

Robyn Rudish-Laning on graduation day.


How has your degree helped or simply played a role in your PR career?

LM: It helped me to get my first job out of graduate school working in college admissions, which put me on the path to working in the marketing department and eventually PR.

SO: Although the degree is not required, it will almost certainly help me elevate to a position like a PIO or community relations manager for transportation projects down the line.

BP: In the classroom I learned general concepts like how to apply research, how to truly research a topic and honed my ability to read and digest complex issues; it was a unique opportunity to really build up those muscles. Outside of class, I applied that knowledge to executing digital and traditional media for NMU as a G.A. and just spent a lot more time crafting my skills. I was really in that student mindset where you try to read and learn everything while in grad school, which is difficult to maintain in a full-time job.

RRL: I felt like my graduate program was much more hands-on than my undergraduate program, even though they were within the same department at the same school. It also wasn’t entirely PR-focused. Instead, I learned a lot about related skills, like marketing, social media, journalism, advertising, web design, etc., on top of furthering my PR knowledge. The program wasn’t rigid, so I was able to pick and choose classes from a number of disciplines to round out my skill set. I think these things have been most helpful in my career because I was able to really dive into what I was interested in and what I thought would benefit me most. No two people in my program graduated with the same exact experience or degree, no matter what our diplomas said.

AS: I actually switched my concentration from Public Relations to Health Media and Communication, because I wanted to develop expertise in healthcare communications, social marketing. My concentration also emphasized health journalism, which trained me in writing about health topics for a broad public audience. I joined the Association for Healthcare Journalists and attended their annual conferences and reported at the Society for Neuroscience conference. I learned how to shoot and produce videos, worked on my writing craft and came away with a great portfolio of published work.

I also dove into professional development opportunities through UGA’s PRSSA Chapter. I served as the chair of the events committee my first year, and became president my second year. I really put myself out there in ways I hadn’t during undergrad. A big part of this was finding my passion. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, so I was much more energized and ambitious during graduate school. I also felt a sense that this was my last chance to make the most out of being a student. I credit PRSSA with helping me land my job at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. I was hired on as a contractor in 2014, an opportunity I had because I met the PR manager at a PRSA/PRSSA networking event.

What is some advice you would give to PR pros wondering if they should go back to school?

LM: Graduate school was such a great practice for me in really learning how to buckle down and apply myself. Even if I didn’t get a degree in public relations, I think that it really helped me to learn how to research, plan and effectively communicate with multiple audiences and the importance of being able to do all of those things. I think it maps really well to PR.

SO: Think about where you stand now and where you want to go in your career. A graduate degree could expand opportunities beyond where you currently stand. Do your research before embarking on any program.

BP: Hard for me to say as I went straight through at NMU for six years. But I would think it’s important to have a vision for how this plays into your larger career goals, because this isn’t a challenge you’re going to want just for fun.

RRL: Only go back if you’re willing to put in all the work necessary and if you’re doing it to better yourself. Don’t go back to delay getting out into the real world or assume it’s going to be easy. The two years I spent working on my master’s were the two hardest years of my life so far. The best advice I can give is to be sure you’re pursuing it because you want to continue to learn.

AS: Even if you get funding through a graduate assistantship, grad school is expensive and time consuming. Think deeply about your goals and spend time asking questions of faculty and staff at your prospective grad school. Make sure that you really need and want a graduate degree before you commit. I usually encourage people to work for a year or more between undergrad and grad school, because it gives you time to establish yourself in the workplace. If you’re like me, you’ll learn a lot about yourself during that time and it will lend a lot of perspective to the decision-making process. Also, you’ll have work experience on your resume that will distinguish you from other graduate students who are job hunting at the same time you are.

Brian Price with his diploma in snowy Northern Michigan.

Brian Price with his diploma in snowy Northern Michigan.

What’s a fun fact or your favorite memory from grad school?

LM: This won’t seem like a fun memory to most, but at the end of my first semester of graduate school I had to write four papers which were due during finals week for a total of over 60 pages. It wasn’t fun at the time, but it was really fun for me once it was over.

SO: Working on a group project about transit-oriented development and, by my suggestion, injecting corgis into nearly every aspect of our presentation. Too bad we couldn’t get corgi ears headbands as part of the bit…or actual corgis.

BP: Teaching. During my final semester I was an adjunct instructor in my undergraduate academic department, teaching Introduction to Public Address to 23 freshmen and sophomores. It’s fun and I learned so much having the chance to teach a class while in grad school.

RRL: As a grad student, I worked for the Duquesne’s student newspaper, The Duke. In addition to helping me fine-tune my writing skills, all of the hours and late nights spent working on it gave me some of the best memories. My favorite was the “awards” ceremony we did after we finished the last issue of the year each year. We’d spend a week coming up with awards or superlatives for each of the editors and our advisor. I use the word “award” loosely because most of them were poking fun at the recipient or an inside joke we were all in on. Some of them were incredibly heartfelt, though, even if they were tinged with a bit of sass. We’d try to get the issue done as early as we could that night and take turns bestowing these awards on our colleagues, before heading to the nearest pizzeria/bar to celebrate. My favorite award? “Most likely to keep the newsroom waters calm as a proverbial tsunami approaches.”

AS: Traveling to the 2015 Association of Healthcare Journalists conference in San Francisco, meeting incredible reporters from around the country who are telling important health stories.

Considering going back to school or have an experience to share? Tweet us at #NPPRSA