Pro Bono Work: Professional Development for a Good Cause

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By Elizabeth McGlone

My pro bono work for nonprofits started with a rejection letter.

I had applied for a position at a PR agency but wasn’t selected. I was disappointed but also determined to learn from the experience. My first step was to get advice about how to become a better job candidate for future opportunities. A contact at that same PR agency suggested

pro bono work as a great way to build my own skillsets while also helping an organization that was probably short-handed when it came to PR.

It was one of those, “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments.

Finding the right organization.

I began researching nonprofits in my area that do work for causes I am passionate about. One non-profit in particular stood out to me, National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, Indiana, and with my top choice in mind, I reached out to the organization.

NAMI was thrilled that I was interested in doing pro bono work for them! In fact, my point of contact had been a PR volunteer who later transitioned into a full-time role in their communications department.

Getting the right experience.

In my first conversations with NAMI, I made it clear that I was looking for an opportunity to gain experience in areas of PR that I hadn’t previously had exposure to, namely media relations.

Fortunately, this fit with NAMI’s needs and my timing was perfect. Their annual mental health and criminal justice summit was approaching and they needed help writing promotional content and getting media coverage.

The summit has since concluded, but it was incredibly satisfying to see the results of my hard work. I was tasked with finding media coverage of the event and secured a local reporter who published an article on the mental health program discussed in the workshop. This is publicity and attention that the program may not have received otherwise.

Working through the challenges.

Although my pro bono work for NAMI was extremely rewarding, it hasn’t been without its obstacles.

One of the biggest challenges was nurturing the relationship with NAMI and meeting the deadlines and goals that I set for myself. This wasn’t easy with a full-time job, other volunteer commitments, and my own hobbies that I also had to balance. NAMI’s employees also had their own responsibilities and it was my responsibility to maintain open lines of communication. I had to be proactive and persistent, providing updates on my tasks and asking for new ones. Each week I blocked out time on my calendar to work on NAMI-related items so I could make steady progress and meet deadlines.

Overall, my experience was enjoyable and invaluable to my professional development. It is fulfilling to know that my expertise is helping a cause I am passionate about, and it’s exciting to watch my skillsets grow. I’m excited to see how this opportunity grows and changes, and also what other opportunities the future holds.

What do you do to volunteer your PR services to nonprofits? What is most important to you when you look for a volunteer opportunity?

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Elizabeth McGlone a native Hoosier and a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Pinnacle Solutions Incorporated. She is an active member of the PRSA Hoosier Chapter, serves as a committee member of the Professional Development Special Events/Networking Committee, and is a co-chair for the New Pros Committee. In her spare time, Elizabeth does pro bono PR work for local nonprofits, including NAMI and Phi Beta Kappa Alpha Association of Indiana, and also enjoys biking and backpacking. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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.

Managing Up: What Does That Even Mean?

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Stat: 85% of millennial managers worldwide have moved into management in the past five years (Ernst & Young).

Coming from a new professional classified as a millennial, and who recently moved into a management position last year, this is a terrifying daunting statistic.

Making the transition from an early-staged new professional to a mid-level new professional can happen before you even realize. Nonetheless, you still must be prepared as you make this transition to set yourself up for success (and ensure minimal stress-induced sugar binges).

What could this new transition include . . .

Overseeing staff? Say what?

Giving hard feedback instead of only receiving it? You’ve crossed the line, Greg!

Managing up? What does that even mean?

These are all questions we have to face as we produce solid work and move up the professional ladder, whether we’re ready or not. Let’s focus on the last of those three facets of mid-level new professionalism: managing up.

I was fortunate enough to deliver a presentation at 2017’s PRSA International Conference with two of my fellow colleagues (“colleagues” is what you say when you’ve transitioned into mid-level new professionalism, by the way) from the PRSA New Professionals Executive Committee. The topic in which we delivered captivating content to our session attendees? You guessed itmanaging up.

I’ll let you look over the presentation on your own time HERE (there are some pretty interesting stats and tips in there), but I want to pull out two main points:

  1. Managing up, the act of managing upwards to your superiors, is not something that’s often taught outside of real-world experience (and even that’s if you’re lucky).
  2. When done well, managing up takes foresight, strong two-way communication and a grounded perspective.

“But Greg, you say it’s only taught in the real world? I’m in dire need of this skill; where can I learn more?!”

Well, I just happen to know of the perfect event to recommend and it’s coming up next Wed., Jan. 24 from 3 – 4 p.m. EST in the form of a virtual teleseminar!

This session, PRSA New Pros’ first of the year and entitled Maximize Your Career Potential by Learning to Manage Up, will be presented by Scott W. Thornburg, APR.

This session is a crash course on managing up and you’ll end being armed with tangible takeaways! I met Scott last October and I’m so excited to hear what advice he’ll be offering attendees. Needless to say, I’ll be showing up with my Do Not Disturb active on my phone and the door shut to my office (no distractions, you know, as a mid-level new professional you’re now being pulled in 200 different directions both upward and downward).

>> REGISTER FOR THE TELESEMINAR HERE <<

So register, buckle up and get ready for a worthwhile learning experience to rock your mid-week next Wednesday.

With that kind of hype, how could you not register?

jan-24_teleseminar

greg-rokisky

Greg works full-time as the Marketing Manager for the Michigan Association of School Boards, as well as a freelance creative services consultant. With several years of strategic communications experience, he specializes in digital and creative marketing and public relations. His experience spans agency, corporate and nonprofit arenas. He serves as the social media co-chair for both the New Professional and Association/Nonprofit PRSA sections. When he’s procrastinating not working he enjoys pretending he’s Twitter famous @GregRokisky and checking off items on his never-ending Goodreads shelves.

Math for PR pros – What metrics you should keep your eye on?

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Raise your hand if you took up a career in PR because you believed math was irrelevant to public relations?

Oh good – we’re all in the same boat.

Initially, I thought a career in public relations would mean I’d spend my time writing, planning events, connecting with audiences and stakeholders and sharing information far and wide. How silly of me to think that numbers wouldn’t play a part in any of that work!

Of course numbers and a bit of math are important to PR. How would you know what efforts were working, where to focus your time and attention when there’s a limited amount of it and where your budget is best spent without consulting the numbers?

If flying by the seat of your pants is your preferred method of answering those questions, think about how you’d answer them if your boss – or the CEO of your organization – asked them. Would anecdotes and generic statements be enough of an answer? Or would data be a better representation of the work that you do?

That’s really what it comes down to – what’s the best way to show that the work you’re doing each day has value for your organization? Numbers and data. Since the world of analytics is a vast and, frankly, frightening one, here are a few key metrics to get you started off on the right foot.

Email Engagement Metrics

Just about every communications program has an email component to it. Whether it’s to sell, to inform, to connect or a mixture of all three, email is one of the best ways to quickly and inexpensively connect with your audience. For that reason, looking at your email’s engagement metrics is important.

So what do you want to look at? There are a few things that are pretty easy to look at right off the bat. If you’re looking at your entire list (which should be broken down into segments, too!), you should be looking at the average cumulative open rate and who are your most engaged subscribers. Are people sharing your emails? Are other people signing up because of that? Who’s interested in what you’re saying? Are your email pitches getting being opened, engaged with and responded to? These are things you’ll want to know.

Once you have a good handle on these things, take a look at your individual email campaigns. What subject lines, formats and topics are performing well? Are your messages reaching the right people in your list? Is there a particular time of day that gets better engagement? Evaluate all of these things and, if you haven’t already, give segmentation and A/B testing a spin. Break down your subscriber list into segments based on demographics, engagement, location, interests – whatever information you feel is important to group your audience by – and begin testing different campaign elements. Test different subject lines, content, delivery times and more to find the ideal combinations for your messages. Be careful to only change one variable at a time and to keep track of what you test and how it performs each time.

Mentions

I’d bet the first thing that came to most minds were Twitter mentions. Social media mentions are a great thing to keep an eye on, but they’re not the only mentions you should be aware of. Which media outlets are talking about you? Who in the public is talking about you? Is it positive or negative? Who’s talking about your competition and your industry? Setting a handful of searches and alerts is the best way to keep your finger of the pulse of what’s being discussed.

Free options include setting up Google Alerts for your organization, key public-facing individuals in the organization, your competitors, your products, your industry, etc., running regular Twitter and Facebook searches using advanced options to fine-tune your searches. Paid services like Cision and Meltwater can aggregate and automate these searches for you into a central place, while identifying trends and streamlining your media outreach as well.

Website acquisition

Your website is the hub that connects your organization or brand with the rest of the world, right? It would make sense that you’d want to know how people find you and end up at your website. Using Google Analytics, you can set up detailed reports or use Google’s templates to analyze user acquisition and activity. These reports can show you where people come to your site from, what pages they’re interested in, how long they visit and more.

You can further drill this information down using Google’s URL Campaign Builder to build unique, descriptive links with campaign and origin information to help you keep track of where people are coming from. You  can track these in Google Analytics, along with goals and flow to see if users are completing the actions you’d like them to and what information they’re interested in.

Audience growth

Knowing what your audience is doing is important, but it’s also important to make sure that your base is growing in a healthy way. Tracking your subscriber growth, your social media audience growth and your website user growth is a good way to make sure that your brand and the content you’re sharing is still relevant and engaging. Check out how your subscribers subscribe to your email list. Take a look at your new social media followers and see what, if anything, they have in common. Same with your site viewers. If you can identify similar trends and commonalities, you may start to see other ways to engage your audience and new content marketing and PR avenues you can pursue to keep your organization growing.

Want to know more about PR metrics and measurement, including ways to use them to grow your own career? Join us on Wednesday, June 21 at 8 p.m. for a Twitter chat with Shonali Burke, independent PR pro and host of the monthly #measurePR chat, to learn more!

robyn-rudish-laningRobyn serves as PRSA’s New Professionals Section’s programming co-chair and is a communications and PR pro currently living and working in Columbia, S.C. In addition to volunteering with PRSA’s New Professionals Section, she also serves as the 2017 VP of Communications for the South Carolina PRSA Chapter and brought together the chapter’s first New Professionals group in 2016. She’s a native of southern New Jersey and currently resides in Columbia, S.C., by way of Pittsburgh, and currently works as the communications coordinator a statewide non-profit organization. In her spare time, Robyn likes to cook, read, spend time with her tail-less cat Izzy and write for her own blog – and almost always with a cup of tea in hand. Find her on Twitter & talk to her!