New Professional Spotlight: Shannon Nicholson

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Name: Shannon Nicholson
Job Role: Program Director, West Virginia University Office of Graduate Admissions
Education: B.S. Journalism, ’14, M.S. Data Marketing Communications, ’17 – WVU Reed College of Media
Social Media: @shannonicholson (Twitter) and @shannonpauline (Instagram)

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?

My first job in the industry was at a small, B2B advertising agency in Morgantown, WV. I was exposed to all facets of marketing: content development, direct email, digital advertising, media relations, social media, traditional media, and website design (to name a few). What I did not know before I started my Junior Account Manager position was the importance of tying campaigns to business goals, breaking down department silos, and utilizing collected data to be relevant and timely. Enter the Data Marketing Communications, fully-online, graduate program. This program allowed me to bridge my interest in the business-side of marketing and my growing expertise in the field.

How did you find internships/jobs?

As a WVU student and alumni, I have an amazing resource at my disposal- MountaineerTrak powered by the Career Services Center. MountaineerTrak was my first line of defense. During my years as an undergrad, the Reed College of Media hired a Director of Student Careers and Opportunities, Eric Minor. Eric’s weekly “opportunity” email quickly became my go-to resource. Eric is the perfect liaison between current students looking for experience and alumni looking to provide that experience as a way to give back to their alma mater.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my young career has been introducing new procedures, and strategies from the ground up. In my current role, I assumed that after six months and I’ll be like a well-oiled machine and have already implemented new strategies. I soon realized that implementation would take closer to one year. The next year will be spent analyzing, and the following year will be about growth and optimization. It is hard not to get ahead of myself and want to be at year three, today! Really, the biggest challenge is not trying something new, it is pacing myself to check one step off the list at a time. Devoting 110% to each step without getting ahead of myself and potentially losing sight of details that could later derail all that the team has worked towards. Slow and steady wins the race.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?

Differing experiences, bring perspective. In my Data Marketing Communications cohort, students had varying backgrounds in data, graphic design, marketing, sales, etc. Listening to each other’s viewpoints helped the entire cohort approach problems with an open mind.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?

You won’t know unless you try.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?

There are a lot of different ways to apply your marketing/PR knowledge. Don’t limit yourself to certain industries or titles. Today, there are more opportunities than ever to be creative with your knowledge.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?

I think the biggest benefit of the New Pros section is the opportunity for engagement and networking. PRSA boasts amazing partners, and communities for growth and learning. I was particularly drawn to the #NPPRSA Twitter chats. Twitter chats have been a great outlet to informally discuss specific topics with others in the industry. I have found that those who participate want to engage and share. Even simply reading through threads has helped open my eyes to areas outside of my expertise.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?

You will never stop learning. When you think you know enough, there is always more. It is important to be vigilant about the changes within your field.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.

I have a Bengal Cat that is about 20 lbs, who acts more like a small dog than a cat.

This New Professionals spotlight is sponsored by West Virginia University. If you are a member of PRSA New Pros and interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

 

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

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.

Mastering the Art of Networking

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Networking- it’s a very intimidating word, especially for those who cringe at the idea of meeting complete strangers at a happy hour or local event.  Though it may come off as intimidating, the truth is that mastering the art of networking is a crucial step to land your first job.  The expression “it’s who you know” isn’t a myth and it certainly isn’t an expression that should be underestimated.  As someone who began their first post-graduation job in August, I can vouch for the importance of networking.  I can also provide some tips on how networking and landing your first job go hand-in-hand.

1. Utilize Your Resources

When looking for a first job, it can be tempting to start the search with platforms like LinkedIn, and while you may find some great positions listed, it’s not where I would begin. Very often when looking for your first job, it’s the people already in your circle that’ll help find the position you want, and ultimately, get you that position.  Whether it’s a professor, classmate, or family friend, chances are that you have a connection in the field that you are applying.  Once you establish that connection, don’t be afraid to reach out.  It may be an unspoken truth, but people in the communications field (and in general) like to talk about themselves and their professional experiences.  If you reach out with a positive attitude and genuine curiosity about the work they do, you’re golden.

2. Put Yourself Out There

Grounding yourself in the professional world requires you to get out there- literally. If you have colleagues or friends going to a networking happy hour or sporting event, make sure to get that plus-one invite.  Being open to meeting new people and stepping out of your comfort zone is the first step in securing that first job.  Even more important, it gives you the opportunity to be asked the first impression question: Who are you?  This is where your perfected 30 second elevator pitch comes in handy.  No matter who is asking, consider them a possible professional connection and sell yourself.  Make sure your presentation doesn’t sound staged or rehearsed, as people respond better to conversation that sounds genuine and honest.

While these two pieces of advice aren’t the only ones to consider when looking for your first job, they encompass the big ideas.  Everyone has been in your shoes before: colleagues, your boss- and everyone gets how difficult it is to assimilate into the real world.  The most important thing to remember is that the people around you are the ones that matter.  They are in your circle and consider themselves a connection for a reason- use that.  Taking advantage of networking opportunities will pay off in getting you that first job and it will pay off in the career path you choose.  Understanding how to talk to people, especially those who you want something from, is an invaluable skill.  So next time you are stepping into a networking event, try to let go on the intimidation and nervousness, and remember that it’s just one piece in the puzzle to help you get your first job.

evan-martinezEvan Martinez is a Communications Associate at American Iron and Steel Institute, a DC- based trade association representing the North American steel industry on Capitol Hill.

 

New Pros Week is Coming: Here’s How to Get Involved

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Celebrate PRSA New Professionals Week Aug. 1-7, 2016

Each year, PRSA New Professionals Week (Aug. 1-7, 2016) encourages new public relations professionals to share resources and advice with fellow new professionals across the country as we celebrate current members and encourage new members to join.

During this week, we encourage local Chapters to host events focused on providing networking and career development for professionals new to the industry.

Here are a few ways PRSA Chapters, new professionals and employers can get involved with New Professionals Week.

PRSA Chapters

Plan a New Pros Week event

While the PRSA New Professionals Section provides national programming, each PRSA Chapter can host an in-person event of its own. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask a new professional in your Chapter to help plan an event
  • Arrange a mentor meet and greet in which young professionals are paired with seasoned mentors
  • Sponsor a networking mixer at a popular happy hour location
  • Host a “What I wish I knew as a Young Pro” panel featuring seasoned public relations professionals; invite students and recent graduates
  • Host a viewing of a PRSA New Professionals webinar over coffee, lunch or drinks

Once you set a date, be sure to register your event here.

Recruit new professionals to join your Chapter

New Professionals Week is the perfect opportunity to plan a membership campaign targeted at young professionals. Use this week to target your communications to new professionals who are not members.

New professionals

Participate in national programming

During PRSA New Professionals Week, we will provide national programming such as a Twitter chat, webinar and blog series. Stay tuned for more details, and continue to monitor our website for upcoming dates.

Organize an event

If your Chapter isn’t already planning a New Professionals Week event, volunteer to organize one. Once you set a date, be sure to register your event here.

Employers

Work with PRSA to host an event

If your company has a lot of new professionals, consider working with a PRSA member to organize an event to recognize your company’s newest hires. Here are a few ideas:

  • Promote your local PRSA Chapter’s New Professionals Week event to employees
  • Invite a PRSA member to host a training for new professionals at your agency or corporation
  • Write letters welcoming your new professionals to the company and thanking them for their work
  • Sponsor your new professionals’ PRSA membership and use the code AM16 to get a free New Pros Section membership

PRSA New Professionals Week 2016 will be here before we know it. How are you planning to celebrate?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAl1AAAAJGM5NWQyMTZkLWFlZTAtNDU1OS05NDZiLTgxYTU2ZDNjZGJmNgHeather Harder is the PRSA New Professionals co-programming chair and an account executive at Capstrat in Raleigh, North Carolina. Contact her with questions about getting involved with New Pros Week.