The Pieces of Your Online Puzzle

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What results do you find when you Google yourself? Nothing much? While a squeaky clean search result may seem ideal in some industries, it isn’t in Public Relations and most other communication fields. 

Having a solid, consistent but authentic personal brand online puts you ahead of the competition professionally. The perception you give online is the ideas and feelings employers, clients, and other professional connections get before meeting you in person.  

When building your personal brand, think about what you want to be known for? What are you good at? What sets you apart from others? Think about what your “thing” is and build a brand from it. Great personal branding gives you the chance to show the world you practice what you preach; if you’re good at writing, building networks, or organizing events show that skill online through blog posts, pictures, and video. Your interests, who you follow and what you post on social media, also reflect who you are. Be sure that your profiles are curated to reflect what you are passionate about. Even if you aren’t quite sure what it is you are passionate about, the topics you frequently post on can give you some clues.

As a new professional finding your niche, keep in mind that it is okay to have a fluid brand and have many “things” early in your career. We are multifaceted people, with multiple interests. The beauty of having a personal brand is the ability to not be stuck in one line of work; your personal brand can and should grow and develop with you. If you decide to leave your full-time job and freelance, move from Public Relations and focus on Marketing, or publish a book that has nothing to do with Public Relations, you can do so without being tied to your current industry or profession.

The pieces found on your website, social media accounts, articles written by you and about you are creating the puzzle that is your personal brand–make it a beautiful picture.

i-zthGPGn-XL-230x300Jasmine L. Kent, a member of PRSA-LA, is a fan of all things food and beverage, pop culture, and media. Combining all three passions, Jasmine builds community through engaging online marketing and dynamic events as a communications professional in Los Angeles, CA. Keep up with her on Twitter at @JaVerne_xo or visit LoveJasPR.com.

Tools for new pros

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Editor’s note: The Edge will feature posts every other Monday to discuss the benefits of PRSA membership for new pros and celebrate the work being done for new pros by local chapters. Join the conversation on Twitter using #MemberMonday.

When we think about resources for newly minted PR pros, tools like Help a Reporter Out, Buffer, IFTTT, Evernote, Dropbox, Hootsuite and Google’s entire suite of programs come to mind. Membership in a professional organization is often overlooked on that list.

PRSA, or any other professional organization, membership can be a big expenditure for recent grads. Understanding the benefits that come with your membership is helpful in deciding which organization is the best fit for you.

So what tools are available to PRSA members?

PRSA Jobcenter

For new pros on the prowl for a job, Jobcenter is a great resource. With jobs listings from all over the country, it’s an ideal source for seeing what new opportunities are out there. Anyone can view the jobs, but only PRSA members can apply for positions, post their resume and ask experts for advice and insight throughout the interview process. Many chapters also have job boards members to peruse local openings and apply. Since companies have to pay for each job posting on both the local and national organizations’ sites, listed positions are often legitimate and actively considering applicants.

Special Interest Groups

PRSA has 14 special interest groups for members of all experience levels and areas of expertise. Joining a special interest group gives members the opportunity to connect with and learn from their peers and gives them access to exclusive perks, such as networking opportunities, members-only message boards and forums, volunteer and leadership opportunities.

On-Demand Training

PRSA’s on-demand library is a perk well worth the membership dues. Members can browse dozens of training opportunities on everything from PR writing and branding to crisis management and accreditation. Training is offered as a live webinar for those who can tune it at the appointed time and as an on-demand option for those who want to watch it on their own schedule. Web training opportunities are free to members (with some exceptions).

Blogs & Publications

In addition to all of the available professional development and training opportunities, PRSA has a number of blogs, including ComPRehension and PRSAY, to share industry trends, tips and news with members. Its print publications, Public Relations Tactics and The Public Relations Strategist, are mailed directly to members monthly and quarterly, respectively. Individual special interest sections, like the New Professionals section, and some of the 100-plus chapters also have blogs that focus on topics of interest to members. All PRSA blogs are available to non-member as well as members, but content is written almost exclusively by PRSA members and is a great way to establish yourself as an expert or showcase your knowledge in a particular area.

Networking Opportunities

With PRSA’s annual International Conference, special interest conferences and regional conferences across the country, PRSA members have the opportunity to connect with other PR pros from all over. For members who are more interested in making one-on-one connections closer to home, many chapters host local networking events and most special interest sections use special hashtags to facilitate conversation and host monthly Twitter chats. Members can also use PRSA’s member directory to contact particular members.

Mentor Match

Mentor Match is a great option for those who are looking for a little extra guidance, especially those who are new to the profession. Mentor Match pairs a seasoned professional from PRSA’s College of Fellows with a mentee to answer questions, strengthen your resume, set goals, solve a work dilemma, and more.  PRSA’s is currently revamping its Mentor Match program, so be on the lookout for updated information on the program.

PRSA Connect

Just announced to members last month, PRSA is launching a new members-only community called PRSA Connect. PRSA Connect will give members the opportunity to interact with their peers to quickly share information, collaborate and discuss issues and questions. In addition to connecting members, PRSA Connect will store all member benefits, such as articles, webinars, recordings, presentations and more. More information will be available later this month.

Want to learn more about PRSA’s benefits for new pros and what tools your peers are using to navigate the PR world? Join us for our April Twitter chat – “Tools for Your PR Toolbox” – on April 13 at 8 p.m. with #NPPRSA.

Zig when others zag: Managing work/life balance

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Public relations can be a 24/7 job, especially as technology keeps us tethered to our work even when we’re away from the office. What does work/life balance mean in our field? PRSA New Professionals Mentoring Chair Alyssa Stafford spoke with Judy DeRango Wicks, APR, Fellow PRSA, to get some insight on how to be successful in the balancing act.

What do new professionals need to know about the life of a PR pro?

A career in public relations can be exciting, mentally stimulating and extremely fulfilling. However the first tasks assigned may seem boring – collecting the results of campaigns for reports or awards entries, creating lists of media and influencers, distributing media materials. Soak in everything you can learn, read the plans so you see the “big picture” and remember every tedious step is important – especially the reporting of results! If you maintain a good attitude and speak up with ideas that fit the audience and objectives, you will differentiate yourself and move up. Be the one who “gets it” and “gets it done.”

Remember your manager may be handling multiple crises on any given day, so respect their time in meetings by coming prepared. Build a reputation for being reliable, positive, smart and hard-working. Establish healthy routines – as you get busier, you will need stamina!  When you are overwhelmed, take a break. Great ideas can come while you are taking a walk and your brain has time to work on the latest challenge.

Seek out a mentor at work, in your PRSA chapter, or visit PRSA.org and sign up for the Mentor Match which can link you with a member of the College of Fellows. We have all walked in your shoes, and those who have signed up to mentor have a personal interest in helping others successfully navigate a career in public relations.

What does work/life balance mean to you?

When I hear “work/life balance,” I envision a juggling act that is exhilarating when you actually get everything done!  Public relations is not 9-to-5, so time management is essential and becomes even more so, believe me, as you move from being a new hire / recent graduate to being a manager / parent. You can move mountains on multiple fronts with sufficient planning and good habits.

How did you progress in your career without burning out?

As my career progressed, travel requirements were added to the mix. During the .com era, I was the girl with the light on over my laptop on the plane all the way to the technology trade show and back. “Zig when others zag” became my mantra – try not to drive or fly when everyone else does, because down-time in peak traffic or searching for a parking place is bad for your health. Schedule flights on Sunday afternoon instead of Monday morning. If you are going to a great city, make after-hours plans with friends who live there, take a break to walk through a museum or cathedral to nourish your soul when the work is done. You’ve earned it and it makes you a more interesting person when you are dining / conversing with executives and media. As an executive, I encouraged my team to enjoy travel and made sure we had fun together, many times with our agency teammates as well, when the mission was accomplished.

Another source of burn-out can be stress about bills and finances. Get into good financial habits early on, such as saving a percentage of every paycheck, establishing a budget, contributing to your 401K, paying bills on time to build a good credit history. Having a nest egg can detract from stress, and give you the freedom to make decisions when it’s time to change jobs.

How have mentors helped you find work/life balance?

One of my early mentors said, “Do the first things first.”  Don’t procrastinate on what you know your boss or client is waiting for you to complete.  At Ketchum, I took advantage of training classes on how to work with a client, how to prepare for a meeting with a senior executive, how to be a better presenter.  Seek out learning opportunities through PRSA including chapter events and webinars.  Mid-career, when I seemed to always have my nose to the grindstone and took everything very very seriously, I learned from a client that it’s really OK to go shopping when you are in a Paris and the work is done for the day! Get a life! Live a little!

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When I was a VP, the CMO actually put into my review that I needed to work on my work / life balance – I was working too hard.  And she was right.  Don’t stop taking care of yourself or you won’t be of much use to your organization.  Later in life, burnout becomes health issues that can take you out of the office for days or weeks. Again, establish good habits as a new professional and you will be able to enjoy your career and survive the most difficult days (which will pass), and fully enjoy the “gift” moments when the story you wanted is appearing in multiple media outlets, and you are now free to enjoy the fabulous city you are visiting with your favorite people!

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Judy DeRango Wicks, APR, Fellow PRSA, serves as co-chair of the PRSA College of Fellows mentoring program. She headed Communications for financial technology providers Fiserv and CheckFree, and twice received the PRSA Silver Anvil in Consumer Services/Technology. Before this, she headed the IBM account at Ketchum. She holds an M.A. in Journalism and Communications, University of Florida, and a B.A., Stetson University.

Keeping your professional and personal life in tune

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As a PR professional tethered at all times to some sort of device, it’s easy to let work take over your whole life. But our passion projects are a huge part of what make us unique communicators, bringing a diverse range of experience to our daily work.

Raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie Pitch Perfect. Keep it raised if you recognize these two crazies from the movie:

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Well, that’s me, to a certain extent. If you didn’t know, the movie Pitch Perfect is actually based loosely on a book written about the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, or the “ICCA” for short. This tournament has been happening for 20 years, and I’m one of the people that helps make it happen. More specifically, I coordinate the high school level of the tournament—the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA).

I’ve been working with Varsity Vocals—the organization that runs both tournaments—for more than 10 years. When I was in college, I sang with an a cappella group that competed in the tournament. I wanted to stay connected to music in some small way, so I asked the organizers of the tournament how I could help. At the time, the high school level of the tournament was very small—holding only a few shows each year. I joined to help grow the tournament.

Over the last several years, in large part thanks to the commercial success of Pitch Perfect, The Sing-Off and Pentatonix, the tournament has grown exponentially. More than 150 high school groups competed in the ICHSA this year, at 17 quarterfinal and semifinal events around the country. Even though it’s not my day job, I still manage the tournament and a team of regional producers who run each event. It never feels like an extra burden though, because it’s something I love.

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Me producing at one of the ICHSA shows.

On that note, here are a few tips for keeping your professional and personal life in tune with each other:

Learn how to say no to things that don’t make you happy or bring you some sort of personal fulfillment. Your spare time is precious, and it’s easy to get pulled into a million extracurricular things, from serving on boards, to attending networking events that seem to be happening every night. It’s absolutely beneficial to do some of those things, but you also have to commit to carving out time for the things that you truly love.

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Marry your passion projects with your professional skills. Did you play soccer in high school and miss the game? Volunteer for a local children’s soccer league as a coach, or see if your area has a semi-professional league that you can help run social media or offer your PR services pro-bono. Working with Varsity Vocals started off as a way for me to stay connected to the a cappella world, but it’s also taught me about event planning, people management, public speaking and public relations.

Last, and most important:

Share what you love in your professional life. Not only does it make you more human, it might help you connect with your coworkers and clients on a more personal level. I brought in my old college a cappella group to sing at a company function last year and found the head of a local association sings in a semi-professional a cappella group! A couple coworkers have also come to shows to support me—one even flew to New York City for the Finals!

And, for those of you on the east coast, tickets are still available for ICHSA Finals at the Town Hall in New York City on Friday, April 29. It’ll be an aca-awesome show, I promise!

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Andie Poole is a member of the Central Michigan PRSA chapter and a senior account executive at Martin Waymire, a Lansing, Michigan-based public relations and marketing firm. She’s also the director of high school programming for Varsity Vocals. Andie and her husband Andrew live in East Lansing with their human child, daughter Elliot (1) and dog child, Einstein (5) and love cheering on the Michigan State Spartans with a good craft beer in hand. Follow her on Twitter at @andiepoole.