Member Spotlight: Robyn Rudish-Laning

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Name: Robyn Rudish-Laning
Position/Company: Senior Manager, Marketing for Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA)
Location: Washington, DC
Education: B.A. in Public Relations, Duquesne University
M.S. in Media Arts & Technology, focus in Creative Media Practices, Duquesne University
Social Media Handle: @robyn_rl

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
When I was in high school. My first job was waitressing at a small restaurant in my hometown and towards the end of my junior year of high school, I started coming up with ideas to reach more people in the community and engage with customers through community events, promoting specials, using social media, connecting with the local newspaper and helping our happy customers to spread the word. Since we were a small staff, I took on the responsibility of planning & executing these ideas too. When it came time to look for colleges and think about what I was interested in the following year, I already had a pretty good idea & looked for schools specifically for their PR programs, not just general communications. Everything I learned while pursuing my degrees and on the job has only made me more curious.

How did you find internships/jobs?
I came up with a list of places I wanted to intern and hit the ground running applying and figuring out if I knew anyone who could help me get in the door. That method worked and I landed my first internship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Pittsburgh. Everything after that I’ve found by just being open to opportunities and making sure my network knew that I was interested in new things, even if I was enjoying what I was doing at the time. I found my last two jobs by making connections through PRSA, particularly local chapters, and being honest that I was new in the area and looking for a new opportunity.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
Learning how to be the one making the plan and communicating the importance of a comprehensive communications strategy to guide the communications, PR and marketing efforts. Taking things from tactical and responsive to strategic and proactive is tough, especially when you’re not exactly in a decision-making role. The experience I had gained through volunteering for my PRSA chapter was incredibly helpful in knowing what needed to be done and the importance of a forward-thinking strategy. I’m also grateful for the guidance of more experienced PRSA members who often offered to be a sounding board for ideas and mentors.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
I think learning to speak up and how to be a leader have been the most valuable things I’ve learned. It’s easy to say “I don’t have enough experience” or “what do I know, this person probably knows better than I,” but that’s not always the case. There’s no such thing as too little experience when it comes to leading or coming up with new ideas. The most dangerous trap anyone can fall into is believing that just because something has always been done one way, that you shouldn’t shake it up once in a while.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
“Give yourself some time and give yourself some hope.” – PRSA’s 2017 National Chair Jane Dvorak while speaking to a mixed group of SCPRSA and PRSSA members at the University of South Carolina.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Practice, practice, practice. You can never learn too much. Volunteer, take on some pro bono work, take on new roles and responsibilities in internships and jobs – whether the job is in the profession or not, everything uses communications in some way. Get into a habit of learning whenever you can and being inquisitive. The more time and energy you invest in yourself and your career, the better the returns will be and the more likely an employer is to invest in you and helping you develop your skills.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
Definitely the opportunities to network, get involved and lead. It’s incredibly easy to turn down opportunities to get involved and lead by thinking that lack of experience is a barrier, but being a part of the New Pros section has shown me otherwise. We’re a group of pros with five years of experience or less, so it’s a pretty level playing field and there’s plenty of room for everyone to get involved in some way. Leading the section has given me the opportunity to gain experience and has boosted my confidence in my own abilities, making me more sure of myself and my work and leading me to take seize leadership opportunities in my chapter and my workplace.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
I wish I had understood the importance of practical experience and application of the theories and ideas discussed in the classroom. While it’s all important, it can be overwhelming when you’re first starting out to translate that knowledge into practice.

Tell us a little-known thing about yourself.
I once competed in a local-level preliminary Miss America pageant. My issue platform was literacy across America & I competed to prove to myself that I could & to push myself to step outside of where I was comfortable.

If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

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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.

Four Ways to Stand Out (In a Good Way) at Your First Job

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From navigating the lunch scene to navigating office politics, a first job can be tricky. You want to find just the right balance of doing your job well without seeming like a suck up. I’m no expert, but I do want to share a few tips I’ve found to be helpful as I navigate my first real job:

Have an opinion

This piece of wisdom floated my way from a mentor who’s worked in communications for over 30 years. Just because you’re the new guy or gal doesn’t mean you have to be quiet. There’s a time for speaking and a time for silence. While it’s extremely important to embody a sponge sometimes — taking in all the newness and expertise around you — recognize that you were hired for a reason. Your insights, thoughts and opinions are company assets, so don’t let them go to waste by being unspoken.

Get to know your coworkers as people

You’re likely spending 40 plus hours in the office each week, sitting next to the same people every day.  Take the time to find out what your coworkers’ lives are like when they’re off the clock. What do they love? What do they hate? What’s their favorite way to goof off or relax? By asking these questions and more, you’ll have a better understanding of who your colleagues are — not just as fellow workers, but as fellow humans. I think you’ll find that this has a catalyst effect when it comes to building trust and empathy. Plus, it’s never a bad idea to gain a little extra social capital by remembering someone’s birthday or wishing them well before they leave for vacation.

Keep a work/life balance

Plenty of people throughout your career will tell you to “say yes to everything.” In my opinion, it’s not the wisest way you can live and here’s why: If you keep saying yes to everything, you’re going to find it harder to flex your crucial muscle of discernment. Instead, you’ll find yourself automatically accepting job assignments and social invitations that are going to wear you out with no substantial gain. To function at your best, you have to create space to recharge and connect. Don’t believe me? Check out this handy PR Daily infographic that explains even more benefits of keeping your weekends free from work.

Do the right thing

At Lockheed Martin, “Do what’s right” is one of our three ethical mottos. (I’m fortunate that it’s also a life motto for me, too.) Lots of times it may be easier to purposefully overlook a small error or choose to end a task before going the extra mile. Hey, nobody’s even going to notice, right? Wrong. The trouble with that thinking is that it doesn’t matter if nobody notices. If you’re not doing the right thing and making choices out of integrity, then you’re not only cheating the company, but also yourself and your coworkers. Instead of “advancing the profession,” you are choosing to take the whole ship down with you.

What advice has been helpful to you at your first job? Or what advice do you wish you would have been given to you?

lauradaronatsy_headshotLaura Daronatsy is the Immediate Past President of PRSSA and currently works as a Communications LDP Associate at Lockheed Martin. She graduated from Biola University with a public relations major and biblical and theological studies minor. Connect with Laura on Twitter @lauradaronatsy.

Three Tips to Take the Jitters Out of Networking

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People who work in PR are known for being social butterflies who can drum up a lively conversation with just about anyone. But I’ll be the first to admit that, yes, I work in PR, and yes, I still get a little anxious right before I walk into a networking event. It can be intimidating to attend a luncheon or conference by yourself. There’s that first long minute filled with nervous energy while you look for a friendly face, and then everything melts away after you start your first conversation. And by the end, you’re glad you went. This quote from Kristin Newman’s memoir perfectly sums it up:

“I was a shy little girl and an only child, so on vacations I was usually playing alone, too afraid to go up to the happy groups of kids and introduce myself. Finally, on one vacation, my mom asked me which I’d rather have: a vacation with no friends, or one scary moment. So I gathered up all of my courage, and swam over to the kids, and there was one scary moment… and then I had friends for the first time on vacation. After that, one scary moment became something I was always willing to have in exchange for the possible payoff. I became a girl who knew how to take a deep breath, suck it up, and walk into any room by herself.”

One scary moment is almost always worth the trade-off. Here are three tips to get you through that one scary moment and become an expert networker.

1. Geek out together

The good thing about attending PRSA networking events is that you automatically have at least one thing in common with everyone else there: you work in PR (or aspire to work in PR). So bring up industry news that your regular social circle doesn’t get nearly as excited about, like Snapchat’s new glasses or the latest brand in crisis. In addition to industry news, it’s helpful to be up on the latest global and national happenings, always, but especially before a networking event. My go-to resource is theSkimm, which presents the news in a quick, easily digestible format. It’s ripe with conversation starters.

2. Go beyond small talk

Based on the idea that we’re not defined by our job titles (although I would argue a career in PR results in a serious work/life blend), I recently stumbled upon this great list of questions to ask people instead of “What do you do?” from Fast Company. Some of my favorite questions are:

  • Do you have any side hustles or passion projects?
  • Are you working on any exciting projects right now?
  • What’s your favorite emoji?
  • What was the highlight of your week/weekend?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?

These are guaranteed to spark conversations that won’t fizzle out after the first minute.

3. Volunteer

If you’re new to an organization or city, the fastest way to make connections is to raise your hand and volunteer. For example, in PRSA you can join a number of committees, from new professionals to membership to communications. Choose a volunteer opportunity based on your strengths, whether that’s planning events, running the check-in table, or helping with promotion on social media. When you get involved, it allows you to build deeper relationships with members. Plus, you’ll know a few friendly faces when you go to the next event.

What are your tips for becoming an expert networker?

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Caitlin Rebecca Ryan is a PR writer for Eric Mower + Associates in Charlotte, NC, with a passion for live music, snail mail, and novels. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog.

What Every New Pro Should Know: As Shared by Edelman Immersion Program Employees and Graduates

Editor/Guest post note: The Edelman Immersion Program is a highly competitive program where participants spend 18 months rotating across different Edelman departments to learn the business and determine long-term career goals. 

Are you a new PR pro looking to succeed in this fast-paced and ever-changing environment? Graduates and current participants of the Edelman Immersion Program have gathered their wisdom to share with PRSA New Pros. Take a look at what members from all three of the company’s Immersion classes had to share from their unique experiences.   

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Herschel Kissinger, Class of 2015 – Currently in Program

A piece of advice that I often need to remind myself of: nobody is a mind reader. Colleagues and mentors are willing to help you achieve your goals—if they know what those goals actually are. Don’t be afraid to start those conversations yourself.

From working across five different practices at Edelman, I’ve learned that we have an expert or specialist for nearly everything. If you’re starting a new project in an unfamiliar space, the good first question to ask is “Have any of my colleagues done this before?” Often a 15-minute conversation with a subject matter expert gets you a lot more information than an hour of Googling

Molly Shaheen, Class of 2015 – Currently in Program

Allow yourself to think of your role as you thought of college. In a communications agency, your clients and projects are your curriculum and each is an opportunity to gain knowledge on new things.

During your career, you’re going to have those core accounts that you always work on, much like the core classes for your degree. If you navigate things right, you’ll have room to take a couple electives down the line. Keep your eyes open and raise your hand for projects that pique your interest and are outside of your day-to-day role.

Don’t forget what your professors preached – participation! Speak up in meetings, bring interesting research or insights to the table and ask your teammates thoughtful questions along the way. It will help make you stand out.

Lissa Pavluk, Class of 2013

Don’t underestimate the value of a mentor. Find someone a few levels above you who is willing to help you navigate complex situations, give sage advice based on their own experiences and help you understand how to best grow your career. Your HR department should be able to help you facilitate this if you have trouble identifying someone on your own. The best part? You may end up with not only a mentor, but a good friend!

Jenna Wollemann, Class of 2011

One of the most important things I learned my first year working was the importance of managing up (or simply put, making the lives of your managers easier). Entry level employees are expected to be one step ahead, paying close attention to project timelines and various tasks for the team. When I joined Edelman, I quickly learned that you sometimes have to over-communicate with managers and team leaders so they know what the status of your projects are and when they can expect various deliverables. Over-communicating and managing up can be tough at first, but managers have no way of knowing what’s going on unless you tell them.

Additionally, be resourceful and don’t be afraid to ask questions! These traits go a long way. It’s always better to raise your hand to your manager before diving into a task if you’re unsure about something. Also, don’t underestimate the power of your peers. Other colleagues at your level can be fantastic resources if you have questions or ideas, considering it’s likely they have encountered similar experiences or issues.

Interested in applying for Edelman’s Immersion Program? More information can be found here.