Leveraging your PRSSA Leadership Experience to Launch your Career

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.

The Ever-changing Landscape of Press Trips

It is crucial public relations professionals understand how to balance working with editors, bloggers and social media influencers in today’s digital world. News is abundant, and everyone is consumed with information overload so staying updated on current trends and who is controlling it is key.

Mixing Traditional and Modern Media
Hotels and resorts need money and resources and with the constant changes, public relations professionals need to ensure the resorts are getting their return on investment. It can’t be ambiguous. Unlike editors, freelancers and influencers don’t always have a confirmed assignment with a major publication, but there needs to be substantial information to properly vet clients.

“I can write something using your blurb, but to actually see with my own eyes and to use all of my senses to experience a place produces a quality piece full of descriptive language and palpable passion,” says Michelle Winner LuxeGetaways Lifestyle Editor and freelancer. “The result of a good press trip is exactly what writers are taught to do in their work: don’t tell me, show me. In the end the writer’s job is to compel the reader to visit, taste, see and do, too.”

You can learn more about press trips from Michelle Winner, Jill Robinson and Tamra Bolton at the PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference in New Orleans for their session, Press Trips: The Evolving Necessity.

It’s much easier to vet a New York Times travel editor versus a travel blogger. It’s easier for clients to understand the value of a national newspaper than a personal blog. However, these days people want to hear about other’s experiences because it’s raw and word-of-mouth is still one of the leading ways to create buzz.

We work with travel bloggers, but the vetting process is usually much more in depth than an editor with a confirmed assignment. We start by reviewing their work, checking statistics, social media presence, and if their niche audience works for the client. We need to have solid information to back up our recommendation. For example, a family focused travel blogger would be more appropriate than a fashion blogger at a family-friendly resort.

Newsrooms are Nearly Nonexistent
Newsrooms have cut budgets and many travel writers were the first to go. With the rise of social media, many influencers have been successful in their efforts while others abuse it. Many influencer requests show a loyal following, but lack of interest in a mutually beneficial relationship.

According to PR Moment, up-and-coming influencers think that numbers are what matters and not engaged audiences. Many requests, such as videographers who film models and night clubs requesting a complimentary stay at a five-star family-friendly luxury resort are, solely focused on themselves and not showcasing the destination and resort.

How are you adapting to this ever-changing landscape?

View More: http://fremontphotography.pass.us/ericarawErica Hammett is a PRSA member and the Public Relations Account Executive at MP&A Digital & Advertising in Virginia. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech. She’s also a member of the PRSA New Professionals and Travel and Tourism interest sections. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.






Tips for Mentoring a PR Newbie on the Art and Science of Media Relations

So you’ve been asked to train, mentor, or manage a PR newbie on all things media relations. Congrats! Now what? Media relations is an art and a science. Mastering the balance takes practice, and can be challenging to new PR pros starting out in the workplace as an intern or account coordinator. While some colleges teach media relations, many do not, and those that do often only skim the surface.

That being said, those starting out in the PR world could use media relations guidance – a task that often falls on more senior account coordinators, or account executives and account supervisors. Often the shift from new pro to “less new” pro, responsible for helping out the greenest team members, can be tricky. Here are some helpful hints that I’ve found to be helpful, both as I’ve been mentored and have mentored others.

1. Remember that patience is a virtue, and encourage questions.


Be patient with newbies – while you might be an ace at media relations, this is totally new to your mentee, and they will need some time to become an expert. Being patient with them will both encourage and motivate them, and create a more positive experience for both parties. As a manager or mentor, you are responsible for helping newbies build their skillset and confidence. As The Power Group’s account supervisor shared with me when I asked for her advice for this blog post,

Always have an open door policy for questions. If your new account team member is afraid to ask questions, chances are they’ll come up with their own answers, which can be risky and potentially damage your outreach campaign.”

2. Show and tell – employ a “face-to-face” edits model.

If you receive a less-than-stellar media list from a new pro, don’t be afraid to call him or her over to your desk and go through the list, talking through your thought process. It’s easy to hide not-so-nice feedback behind an email chain, but I’ve found that sharing insight into your own process can be really helpful for new pros. If you’re making a personal connection and talking through your own media relations lessons learned, even better. Don’t hesitate to talk through mistakes made by the intern or account coordinator. It can be tough to deliver that feedback, but it’s crucial for the mentee to hear in order to improve.

3. Give your mentees plenty of opportunities to watch and learn.

I learned so much from my first media relations manager simply by watching how she composed an email to a journalist, coordinated an editorial, or approached booking trade show press appointments. A great (and risk-free) way to learn is simply to soak up everything like a sponge. As a mentor, that means including your mentee in every media relations activity you possibly can. Sitting in on client interviews, tagging along to broadcast segments, and observing media training are all great learning opportunities. Leveraging industry publications and organizations, such as PRSA and Cision, is also a great way for mentees to learn. Mandatory webinars and lunch and learns are a great way for an intern or account coordinator to “familiarize faster,” according to my account supervisor Jordan Liberty.

What are some of the more helpful things your direct supervisors have done to guide you in your media relations learning? What are some tips that you would add to this list?


As digital account executive at The Power Group, Lauren creates custom digital strategies, crafts tailored social media content, and manages social media accounts on behalf of clients. She also leads Power’s inbound marketing efforts, and is certified by HubSpot Academy in Inbound Methodology. Lauren’s expertise is in B2B and technology. She started at Power in the fall of 2014 as an account executive, and manages select PR accounts. (Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn and Twitter)

Pitch Perfect: The Dos and Don’ts of Media Relations

Pitching is one of the most difficult thing we PR pros do. Many of us do it every day, but no matter how long you’ve been doing it or how often you’re sending pitches out to media, the rejection, or even worse, the radio silence, are still an unfortunate reality.

Pitching the mediaAs new pros, pitching stories to established media can be a daunting task. “Pitching 101” isn’t a course offered in PR programs – it’s a crash course you take in your first internship or job that requires you to have those skills.

Pitching and acquiring placements for a client is a huge part of media relations and is definitely worth a bit of attention and fine-tuning. Here’s a few tried-and-true tips to make pitching a breeze.

DON’T schedule a press release on a newswire service & forget it.

Sure, PR Newswire is a great way to post a press release and get it mass reposted on some news sites. That shouldn’t be confused with a press placement or earned media, though. It’s an OK way to get the your news out there, but it’s certainly not the kind of placement clients have in mind when they sign up for media relations.

DO try to build relationships with the media.

Everyone is more likely to do someone a favor if they know them. Reach out before you have a client dying for media attention and introduce yourself. Find out how your new media contacts prefer to be reached. Know what they cover and talk to them about what they might be working on in the future. If you can offer yourself as an expert for something already in the works or put them in touch with a good source, you’ll become a valued contact for them.

DON’T send a mass email pitch.

Almost as bad as scheduling and forgetting is sending a mass email pitch to editors and reporters. Think about the general, boring emails that end up in your inbox. Unless they have a super catchy headline or are offering your something exclusive or special, they’re going directly in the junk bin, right? Journalists think no differently. There’s plenty of news out there to cover. If you can’t give a writer a good reason why he or she should be writing about what you’re pitching, what’s the point?

DO your research.

Nothing is worse than irritating a journalist with an email they consider junk. Your pitch may have been perfect, but did you send it to the right contact? If you’re sending out pitches to just any media contact, you’re wasting your time. Make sure pitches aren’t going directly into the garbage by only sending them to people who might be interested. Got a great new fashion brand that you represent? Awesome, but a tech reporter won’t care at all about your pitch or your client.

DO personalize your pitch.

Right along with doing your research and not sending out mass emails, do make sure you personalize each pitch. Make sure all names and titles are spelled correctly and that all other information is correct. Bonus points if you can mention other pieces by the author that are similar to what you’re pitching.

DON’T pitch “just because.”

There’s nothing more irritating than people who subscribe to the idea that there’s an ideal frequency for pitching. There’s no magic formula for how often you should be pitching media, but you should never send out a press release just because you haven’t for a while. There’s nothing newsworthy about saying “Hey, we still exist.” If you don’t have anything newsworthy to say, there are better ways to keep yourself or your client relevant and in the forefront of people’s minds, such as a strong social media presence, blogging, guest posts, offering expert input on other stories your journalist friends might have in the works… the list could go on.

DO pitch stories.

Pitching should really be wrapping the whole story package up with a bow and presenting it to the writer. What’s your angle? How does it tie into other things? Why is this important or newsworthy? All of these are important items to keep in mind and communicate in your pitch. The better you can pitch a story, not a brand or product, the better your pitches will be received.

DON’T exaggerate.

No matter whether you’re pitching, promoting or explaining, it’s never a good idea to exaggerate. If you’re claiming to be the best, the top, the only or any other claim that makes your client stand out, you better have the facts to back it up. If you lie about something and are found out by a journalist, you’ll quickly be blacklisted.

DO keep it short and sweet.

Long emails are difficult to read and retain no matter who you are. When you have hundreds or thousands of emails flowing into your inbox every day, your attention span is that much shorter. Make your point, make it quickly and include a clear call to action. Be friendly and professional, of course, but leave the long flowery prose at home.

DON’T pitch a story the author has already written.

If journalists could recycle stories they’ve already written, their jobs would be so much easier. Pitching something nearly identical to what your contact has already written says one of two things: you didn’t bother to do your research or you don’t know how media works. Offer a new angle or idea that will transform your pitch into something a journalist can work with, instead of tired, recycled content.

DO playback your coverage.

Your work isn’t done just because you secured a placement. Your client or boss needs to know that the effort has a real ROI! Playback your coverage by linking to it, sharing it across social media, including it on your website’s press page or “featured in” section. Get statistics on how many pageviews the story got and how many retweets, mentions and new website visitors the placement generated. If possible, see if you can find a connection between increased web traffic, social media following, content shares, or sales and the placement. The ROI for your media placements will depend on what your goals were from the beginning.

And finally…

DO definitely say thank you.

Those manners your mama taught you are still so applicable. It’s important to remember that pitching is essentially asking a favor. Don’t make it painful by being pushy, rude or indignant. It doesn’t matter how great your client is, unless you have your own media outlet to offer coverage in, you don’t necessarily get to call the shots. It’s important to be gracious and just taking a few minutes to let writers know how much you appreciate their hard work can be the start to a great, long-lasting relationship with the media.

RobynRobyn Rudish-Laning is a graduate of Duquesne University, with a bachelor’s in Public Relations, a master’s in Media Arts and Technology, and currently works as a PR Associate with Pretty Living PR, a boutique firm based in Pittsburgh. Find her on LinkedIn or Twitter or read her PR-focused blog.

Throwback Thursday: Michael Smart on Media Relations

Editor’s note: This is part of our monthly #ThrowbackThursday series, which features a prominent, successful PR pro taking a look back and sharing tips from his/her days as a new pro. Thanks for helping us out, Michael!

Ask almost anyone in PRSA who the “go-to” expert is on media relations, and you’re bound to hear Michael Smart’s name mentioned more than once.

Michael Smart | Media RelationsHe has the inside scoop on all things media, blogger, and influencer relations, and he shares that expertise through presentations, guest posts, his Inner Circle coaching group, speaking engagements and more.

Today, he’s also participating in Throwback Thursday to share that expertise with us! So let’s get started.

Question 1: What is one mistake most new PR pros make when first working with media? 

Being authentic and real comes naturally to new pros when they communicate through social media or when they email each other. But when they start emailing journalists, it’s like they flip this switch in their heads and turn into stuffy-corporate-robot-mode. They start dropping jargon and business buzzwords every other word.  Probably because they have seen bosses and others do the same. Just write to journalists how you actually talk. Well, how you would talk in a professional meeting 🙂 Save the slang, “bros” and “dudes,” and emojis for friends, obviously.

Question 2: As a new PR pro, how did you start building relationships with media?

“Back in my day . . .” ambitious new PR pros used to just call the media. That’s admittedly tougher now. Use social media to get them familiar with you and prove that you have valuable ideas to contribute. But use that as a means to warm them up so that you can actually have a phone conversation. You make such a bigger impact and it lasts so much longer.

Question 3: Many new PR pros – and young journalists – communicate almost entirely via digital. Do you still recommend picking up the phone to follow up on stories?

Oh, I jumped the gun on the phone question. In general, use the phone as much as you can. As for following up specifically, lots of journalists don’t like follow up, and they profess not to like the phone, so that can be a tough combination. HOWEVER, when you have a story you know is good and you know is relevant to a target journalist, and you’ve already emailed her twice, you owe it to yourself to make sure she at least knows about it. So in those special circumstances, yes, definitely call.

Question 4: And, speaking of the digital age, how do you recommend new PR pros interact with journalists on social media?

Generally speaking, journalists say that social media is okay for initial getting-to-know-you, but they still prefer to be pitched via email. That keeps their audiences and competitors from seeing those interactions out in the open. So the best way to interact with journos on social is to react intelligently to their work. Sharing it is a given – to stand out, add a comment or question that demonstrates your knowledge of the space. That’s how move from “random social media reader” in their mind to “potential source.”

Question 5: If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself during your first year in PR, what would you say?

“Younger self, all that stuff you learned in college about communications strategy and planning was great. Hold on to that knowledge for the day when you’re running the show. But right now, your job is to execute. Get the results your boss wants you to get. Build a track record of success. THEN you can start to influence the strategy.”

More about Michael: 

Michael Smart is the media pitching coach PR pros turn to when they want to boost their positive media placements. He’s trained more than 6,000 communicators from agencies large and small, from Fortune 50 companies to regional non-profits. He shares lots of tricks, including suggestions for subject lines that get your emails opened, with people who sign up for his weekly media pitching tips emails.