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.

Leadership In 2016 – Part 3

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Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series by leadership and communication expert David Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA.  In the first two posts, David discussed the importance of leadership today and the keys to effective leadership (with some great input from readers of this blog!)

Leadership Is Easier When You Are Authentic

Growing up, I found myself on the “Supposed To” track.  The feelings I allowed myself to have as a child, teenager and adult were solely happy feelings; the rest of my feelings went into this black hole never to be discovered or talked about.

At age 33, I had achieved all of what I was supposed to and more, and found myself in a therapist’s office.  In talking about my challenges, I had put on the veneer of my polished, professional self.  It’s then that I grabbed the pillow next to me and clenched it to my chest.  Hard.  In that moment, there was a huge disconnect between the words I was saying and my feelings.

My therapist and I now laugh about the pillow that launched my journey of authenticity – one I wish I had started years earlier.

As we think about leadership today, starting on (or continuing on) a path toward authenticity is a way all leaders can make a difference – for themselves and for others.  Authenticity matters today.  Authentic leaders get better business results, have healthier work lives, and excel in real, meaningful relationships. They sleep better at night.

The Road Less Traveled: A Journey of Authenticity

What’s essential for your Journey of Authenticity is to come at it from a place of self-knowledge instead of coming from a place of responding to stress, worry, or anxiety.  This means being as purposeful as you can on your chosen route.

What I know from my research and consulting, as well as from interviews with senior leaders and practitioners – authenticity isn’t a skill.  It’s a component of one’s self that a person can actually accentuate or work on to become better and lead a more fulfilling life – whether it’s on the job, in your relationships, or at home.

No one really learns the skill of authenticity.  Instead, authenticity comes through by improving our communication skills as leaders.   When you come at communication from an authentic place, communication becomes much easier and much more effective.

How To Be Authentic

For me, authenticity has 3 components:

1. Know Yourself

Early in my career, I was fortunate to work with some incredibly inspiring leaders who brought out the best in me. I gravitated toward them because of how they made me feel. I trusted them because they were genuine, authentic, and because they demonstrated much more confidence in me than I had in myself. They stood for my potential, which was incredibly motivating for me as a 20-something professional, and only spurred me on to be even better.

When it was my chance to lead, I was determined to lead in a similarly authentic way. I tried to take the best strategies from each of them. After all, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Still, I made my share of mistakes as a new leader, and then I realized an important lesson:

Leading authentically isn’t about being “like” someone else. Instead, it’s about knowing yourself and being who you are. Sure, you can “try on” strategies that work for others. Yet in the end, leading authentically is about finding what works best for you. And when you are genuine, you have “full power,” which is what the Greek root of authentic—authentico—truly means.

2. Be Yourself

The second component is about acting in ways that are consistent with who you are. This is your own self-awareness as you relate to others.  This means behaving in ways that are in sync with your values instead of simply trying to please others or get something from others.

Early in my career, I acted like a chameleon, changing my thoughts and feelings based on others.  Today, I strive to be my authentic self regularly.  What it looks like and how I act really doesn’t change very much.  What does change is how I feel on the inside.  When I acted as a chameleon, I did it out of a desire for people to like me.  When I relate to others from an authentic place today, I do it with confidence.  I don’t worry that they won’t like me.  They might not, and that’s their choice – that’s okay.  I’m simply no longer consumed with the need for people to like me.

3. Have Quiet Courage As You Interact With Others

Authenticity is about this constant process of being truthful – first with yourself and then with others – to say the things that need to be said.  It can be very difficult to do it in a kind and respectful way.  Quiet courage is about saying the truth so others are able to hear it.  This isn’t “Rambo” courage but an internal kind of courage that comes from deep inside. It’s about knowing that being truthful is the only way to move people and the business forward. Failing to address the problems or areas of improvement won’t help the business succeed.

Must-Haves for Your Journey to be Authentic

If you’re up for the Journey – and I hope you are – here’s what’s important to have with you at all times:

  • First, your curiosity – You can’t be authentic without the ability to reflect and be self-aware. Your curiosity needs to be as strong – or stronger – than any of the thoughts or feelings you might be having – whether it’s concern or worry, or other much more complex feelings like fear or shame.  If you can be curious, you can look at anything.  You can say, “Hmmm… Wow, that’s interesting. Is there something worth exploring here?  Is there something I can learn about myself or others?” To get ahead in business, you need to continually learn and grow.

    Plus, curiosity will make you a better listener.  The better you listen to others, the better they will listen to you, and the better your relationships will be, including your most important relationship – the one you have with yourself.

  • Second, embrace who you are – It’s our imperfections that create connections with others. People say all the time to “let it go” – the phrase that made the movie, “Frozen,” so popular.  You can never let go what you haven’t embraced.

    You have to say, “This is mine.  I can hold it.  I can own it.  Now, I can let it go.”  And then once you really accept it, saying, “Yes, this is me.  It’s not my favorite part.  Now I can begin the process of letting it go and setting it aside.  It doesn’t really control me.”

  • Last, focus on what you can control – think about all you have control over, and focus on that. Not how your boss, colleagues, or clients behave.  Not the economy.  Not the fact that “stuff happens.”  Don’t focus on where you’re powerless to change things. Instead, focus on what you can do something about.

When In Doubt, Take A Step Back

If you find yourself stressed, or feel stuck on your Journey, just listen to yourself – to your gut.  Take a step back and try to see the forest through the trees.

When you’re approaching a mountain and are miles out, it seems really small.  When you get to the bottom of the mountain and look up, you realize it’s huge.  When life gets too big, back up a little bit.  Sometimes when you’re too close to something, it can feel overwhelming.  You feel incapacitated and can’t take the first step.  Or, the alternative strategy is to get to the base of the mountain and don’t look up; just put your nose down and start. A CEO I used to work with at McDonald’s often would say, “Jump in; the water’s fine!”

The process of looking at yourself can be very difficult in the beginning.  But the value at the other end can be so worth the process.  Very few things feel as rewarding as being who you are in the workplace.

How are you doing at leading authentically, and what’s a next step to advance your Journey?

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David Head Shot High ResDavid Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA is both a teacher and student of effective leadership and communication and helps leaders drive productivity and get the results they want through authentic and courageous leadership communication. He’s a sought-after speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 leaders. A three-time author, David is CEO of The Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago-based strategic leadership development and internal communication consultancy; clients include: Hill-Rom, Eastman Chemical Company, Kimberly-Clark, McDonald’s and Motel 6, to name a few. His newest book, “No Cape Needed: The Simplest, Smartest, Fastest Steps to Improve How You Communicate by Leaps and Bounds,” was published in the fall of 2015 and recently won the Pinnacle Book Award for the “Best in Business” category. In addition, David teaches Internal Engagement at Columbia University, in New York City. To connect with David you can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

New Pros Spotlight: PRSA Charlotte

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Connecting with other new pros is an important benefit of PRSA membership for many members. PRSA chapters across the country have organized groups within their chapter to help them connect on a local level, like the New Professionals section does nationally. We will feature a q&a each month to showcase chapters’ new professional groups. This month we spoke with Seth Kingdon, PRSA Charlotte’s New Professionals Committee Chair.

PRSA Charlotte’s New Professionals group works to plan events and workshops to help Charlotte’s young professionals gain a deeper understanding of the PR industry. The committee is made up of nine members, led by Seth.

“We, as a committee, want to cultivate great PR professionals in Charlotte. To make this happen we strive to offer helpful resources and one-of-a-kind opportunities for our members so they can blossom into successful public relations practitioners,” Seth said.

According to PRSA Charlotte New Pro member Justin Taylor, “Being part of PRSA has not only expanded my network, but has given me a great amount of support as a young professional. This support ranges from when I was a recent college graduate on the job hunt to building important skills to be successful in both my professional and personal life.”

Here are some of the questions we had for Seth about PRSA Charlotte’s New Pros group.

The Edge: Could you tell us about the programming and resources you put together for your members?

Seth Kingdon: Our committee initial began by establishing a shared vision for providing professional development opportunities for New Pros and students. We planned a networking event because we saw the value of meeting other new professionals and students in the Charlotte-metro area. We scheduled professional development workshops throughout the year because we all need tools to do our job better. Our committee’s future endeavors include establishing a mentorship program with local PRSSA chapters and pro-bono campaigns and projects.

Overall, we offer networking events and workshops. However, on a deeper level, we recruit new professionals to come to monthly PRSA Charlotte luncheons where they can meet experience PR practitioners from organizations like Duke Energy, Bank of America, Food Lion, Luquire George Andrews and Taylor. We believe mentorship drives a successful PR career, so we encourage our members to find a mentor and to be a mentor.

TE: How many members/participants do you have?

SK: It’s hard to know how many New Professionals are scattered throughout Charlotte, but approximately 20 professionals and students generally attend our meetings.

TE: How do you engage new or potential members?

SK: We each personally reach out to students and meet people at other networking events and invite them to PRSA gatherings.

TE: How does your group fit into the bigger picture of the chapter?

SK: Our New Professional section brings a unique perspective to the overall PRSA Charlotte chapter by offering millennial insight, inventive concepts and an energetic atmosphere for success.

TE: What is the best way for New Pros to get involved in the PR community?

SK: First and foremost, attend events so you can meet professionals. Second, it is important to continually build your skill set and be self-taught on important PR topics so you can offer knowledge and insight. Third, establish relationships with two or three professionals—your age and older—who are your “go to” for questions. As you do these things and progress through your professional career, you will consistently learn and be a marketable public relations professional.

TE: And finally, what advice do you have for New Pros for using PRSA to their best advantage?

SK: Meet and develop relationships with as many PR professionals as you can. Build a strong network you trust to contact with questions or advice. Especially connect with those who have more experience than you—even if it feels intimidating.

Is your chapter doing great things for New Pros? Do you know a New Pro doing great work in and outside of PRSA? Let us know!

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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.

How to Stand Out in the Sea of PR Pros

PRSA THE EDGE OCTOBERThere’s great news! The economy is looking up for today’s job seekers, but that doesn’t mean companies are just hiring anybody. In today’s job market, tenacity and creativity go a long way.

Employer’s want to know you were productive between the time you graduated and the time you applied to your dream job with their company. They love to see that you are committed to your career and gaining valuable experience independently. After tailoring your resume, updating your LinkedIn profile, going on informational interviews, and actually applying with a compelling cover letter, we often complain that the job hunt is a job within itself. The hustle is real but is well worth it once you land a job you love.

Prepare yourself for job-hunting success by creating a job hunt strategy. This goes beyond updating your online presence and applying to jobs but actually making strategic moves to land the job you want. Think organization. Create a list of companies you want to work at vs. companies you would love to work at. Use this list to prioritize time spent on cover letters and networking. Create a google doc and track the applications you send and the responses you receive. Keep in mind the date you applied and the date you followed up. Did you land an interview or was their no response at all? Log it!

Public Relations is a career that requires constant learning. While you are searching for full time positions, strategically introducing yourself by reaching out to companies you the companies on your “love” list. Share the relevant skills and accomplishments that would add value to their company and why you are interested in working with them. Show your passion by volunteering to assist in a project part time or on a paid contract basis. This is the perfect time to prove that you are an asset to the team.

Set yourself apart from other job seekers by taking on alternative positions that are related to the industry. A great way to gain experience is to serve as a Brand Ambassador at local events. Some of the top brands are represented at local festivals and doing a great job marketing their product is attractive to employers. Have you ever thought about asking your local coffee shop if they need some help with their social media? I mean you’re always there anyway applying to jobs, right? The least they can offer in return is a free cup of joe. Create a Social Media Strategy Proposal for them and if they like it, ask them to pay for you to implement it. If not, you have a social media strategy to add to your portfolio.

What are you doing to stand out from the crowded job market?

i-zthGPGn-XLJasmine L. Kent, a member of PRSA-NCC, focuses on building community through dynamic events and engaging online marketing as a freelance integrated communications professional in Washington, DC. Keep up with her on Twitter at @LoveJasPR or visit LoveJasPR.com.