Member Spotlight: Cait Crenshaw

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Name: Cait Crenshaw
Position/Company: Communications Manager at Signature HealthCARE
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Education: M.A. Communication from University of Louisville
Social Media Handle: @Cait_Crenshaw

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
I changed my mind about my career twice, without ever changing my major. Changing from high school English teacher, I discovered a real love for journalism and storytelling in college. I was hooked. I spent entire weekends in the basement office of our university newspaper. After a few years, I realized it is the storytelling, editing, details, and strategic planning that I love and switched to corporate communications.

How did you find internships/jobs?
My professors were my best resource for internships. I checked our university career center’s listings and department’s listings, too. Actually, one of my professors recommended me for an internship, and that internship led to my current job. I found my full-time job when someone I had previously worked with during an internship emailed me the application. It was a fit!

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my career so far has been when someone, who had power and pull at the organization I worked for at the time, said, “Oh, she can’t do it. That’s not what she does.” I felt deflated for a moment, but the experience taught me an important lesson.

The experience taught me to create growing opportunities for myself. Instead of waiting for an invitation to sit at the table, I flipped my thinking and directly asked for a seat at the table.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
Working hard is important but working smarter and strategically is even better. School only required me to do the work but starting my career has challenged me to work smarter. I start every week with a list. The things that I can automate in Outlook I do.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
At the end of my very first internship, my boss gave me an honest evaluation, and I am incredibly thankful for her. I don’t remember any of her compliments or praises, but I do remember her telling me, almost commanding me, “Take more risks.”

Also, it’s not really advice, but here is a favorite of mine, especially when I think about the future of my career. A wise professor in my master’s program at the University of Louisville said, “People work for daily meaning, as well as daily bread.”

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Be a sponge and learn. Ever have a meeting where afterwards you google the acronyms they were using? Oh, just me, okay. The point is there are limitless resources to learn at our fingertips. We just have to grab one, learn, and apply it.

Also, your greatest asset is the ability to adapt and communicate at different levels of an organization and with different types of people.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
In the New Pros section, I like that I am connected to people who have or are going through the same professional growing pains. There isn’t a time when I login to PRSA and do not learn something new. In an industry that changes so quickly, learning from other pros is a big resource.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
I wish I would have had a better sense of the things no one wants to talk about, such as salary negotiation and time off. My tendency is to work, work, and work, so the idea of work life balance is very much still in-progress for me.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
My first job was working as a soccer referee at the age of 13.

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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

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.

Member Spotlight: Hanna Porterfield

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Name: Hanna Porterfield
Position/Company:
Senior Account Executive at Development Counsellors International
Location: New York, NY
Education: B.S. in Advertising and Specialization in Public Relations, Michigan State University
Social Media Handle: @citygirlhanna

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
It’s funny, I was always reading and writing growing up, but never thought of it as a career because I didn’t necessarily want to be author. I began college as a mathematics major, with a goal to be an actuary. While that didn’t work out, loving numbers still comes in handy for calculating results and ROI of work. After changing my major I looked into advertising and marketing. Public relations was a specialization at the time, and the more I learned, the more it became for me. Internships and PRSSA involvement solidified my career choice.

How did you find internships/jobs?
Well, for internships I looked at my college job website and internship websites that I can’t even remember the name of (and they’ve probably since changed and been updated!). The question I think people actually want answered as a new professional is how to find a full-time position that will launch their career. For this, it takes time; looking for a job can be a full-time job, with late nights sending resumes, cover letters and follow-up notes all while you’re in school or working. I suggest setting up job alerts so that you can get potential positions emailed to you and all of your time isn’t spent going down a rabbit hole searching. LinkedIn and PRSA are good for this. Also think outside the box – literally every type of business needs PR.

I found my first (and current) job by putting my all into it. This means you’re going to have to make sacrifices. For me, that meant setting up 10 interviews during my senior year spring break and paying my way to New York City. When asked in an interview why I wasn’t on the beach, I said I could go to the beach the rest of my life, but I wanted a career in NYC. It paid off and I had two job offers before graduation.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
One that comes to mind is when my first boss quit about a year and a half after I’d been at my company. It seemed like the end of the world to have a manager I liked and respected leaving so soon. In the end, it was for the better. Having a team member leave–while probably increasing workload–will ultimately give you an opportunity to step up to the plate and grow. For me, that resulted in my first promotion and an even more supportive manager than I previously had.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
The most valuable things I’ve learned for my career have been though experience, not school, without hesitation. While college classes provide a good foundation, you cannot learn without doing. I cant stress enough the value of internships and your first jobs. When asked to present to public relations classes at my alma mater, I always share case studies of projects I’ve worked on, and try to apply to the topics in their textbooks.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is simply to work hard. My dad instilled the word ‘industrious’ in our family, and that’s really motivated me to work hard no matter what I’m doing, in my career or otherwise.

Do you have any advice for PR pros early in their career?
Keep learning. It’s amazing how much can change in the PR industry just within a couple of years being in it. Read industry news and blogs, and keep any certifications you might have up to date. Bring up professional development budget in your annual salary reviews.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
Having a network of PR professionals across the country who are going through similar things as you in their career. From Twitter and LinkedIn to MyPRSA, there’s no shortage of ways to get in touch with other members. While mentors are an important part of your career trajectory, being able to bounce ideas off people who are in a similar role to you, but at a different company, is helpful. Plus, make the connections now and run the world together later!

Is there anything you wish you would have known before becoming a new professional?
Outside of the actual office setting and your first career, I wish I would’ve known to keep balance and that it’s okay to say no to things. I have been extremely involved with lots of organizations during college and since graduating, but am just now learning how to balance priorities and make time for myself. You need time to rejuvenate to thrive. Put your all into organizations and side projects you’re passionate about, but don’t spread yourself too thin. For me, serving PRSA is one of those priorities.

Name one little-known thing about yourself.
I won my hometown’s Punt Pass and Kick in 6th grade for females and went on to the regional competition.

Hanna Porterfield is Chair of PRSA’s New Pros Section and a senior account executive at Development Counsellors International in New York. She is a graduate of Michigan State University. Connect with her on Twitter @citygirlhanna.

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If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight blog series, please complete the following form. Or reach out to us via email at prsanewpro@gmail.com.