Be a Rockstar PR Pro in 2016

Everyone wants to be great at what they do and the new year is a great time to reevaluate everything we’ve been doing and how we can make ourselves the best PR pros we can be, new or otherwise.

Rockstar PR ProNow’s the time of year when everyone comes up with resolutions for things they’d like to change or be better at. For 2016, why not make it a resolution to focus on professional development and becoming an extraordinary PR professional. Here are 10 things all New Pros can focus on to stand out from the crowd.

Be flexible.

PR isn’t one of those jobs where you can count on a strict 9-to-5 schedule. Not everything will fit into eight hours in the office and, more often than not, you’ll have early mornings, late nights and work that needs to come home with you. We can’t change these facts, so the best thing we can do is be flexible. Living by your to-do list will only add even more stress to your life. Instead, look at the list as a set of guidelines and accept that things will change, more pressing things will come up and, sometime, things are completely out of your hands.

Know how to prioritize.

So maybe your to-do list has some non-negotiable, must-be-done things that can’t be postponed. It’s important to know how to prioritize your tasks and your time. As new professionals, we sometimes struggle with doing what we need to when it means saying no to others or admitting that we just can’t take on anything else. There’s nothing wrong with declining an additional project if you know that you won’t be able to commit to it or provide a quality product, blocking off time on your calendar to work on pressing things on your list or taking your work to a quiet space – be it an empty conference room or a nearby coffee shop – to get things done.

Make a commitment to continued learning & growth.

Continuing to learn after you’ve earned your degree is a huge component of professional development. Knowing the latest trends and best practices, as well as having a few extra skills in your back pocket, can really give you an edge over your peers. Committing to reading one new professional or career related book or mastering one new skill a month will put you on a path to success and instill good habits through the length of your career and beyond.

Be a sponge.

A great way to commit to learning is to soak up everything you can. Whether it’s an insight or tip your boss shares, a book your colleagues are raving about or an article or piece of news a college friend posts, take it all in and file it away because you never know when those tidbits will come in handy. As a new professional, you can learn so much just by soaking in what the seasoned pros you know, work with or meet have to share.

Always be prepared.

Being prepared should be kind of a “no duh,” but not everyone is always on the ball. Making sure you’re prepared for meetings, projects and, really, every day of work will really go a long way. Take the time to properly prepare for everything that needs your attention, whether that means making notes, keeping a running list of questions or important items, or just doing your research, and you’ll stand out to your supervisors when you have all the answers at the ready.

Think big picture.

It’s easy to be caught up in the day-to-day in your career, but the important thing is to think big picture – both for your career long-term and for your current position. Think about where you ultimately want your career to go, what you need to do to get there and begin making your plan. Thinking about your job tasks on a bigger scale than just what you have to do each day or week will help you to create overall strategies and plans that will make your day-to-day work easier and turn out better results.

Dive into the news.

As PR professionals, keeping up with the news is something we should all do, but sometimes just get a little lackadaisical about. Sure, there’s a lot of news to be aware of and some of it isn’t really that interesting, but it is important for us as professionals to keep up on what’s going on in the world around us, beyond our own interests. Knowing the basics of current events, including pop culture, world events, business news, etc., can help you as a PR pro to make sense of how things fit together and be aware of opportunities you might have missed out on otherwise.

Sharpen your networking skills.

Networking is a huge part of having a successful career. You may be great at what you do, but if no one knows about it or has a reason to sing your praises, they won’t. Make an effort to connect with new people and grow your network this year by doing something you wouldn’t normally do. Join a Twitter chat, ask someone you admire to coffee or lunch, attend that after-work happy hour or stop by that event your PRSA chapter is hosting. You can learn so much just by talking with new people and listening to what they have to say.

Be relationship oriented.

One of the big misconceptions of networking is that it’s all about how many people you can meet. Too often people look at it as a way to grow a large network of people you know pretty much just in passing, but those connections aren’t worthwhile and won’t do anything to further your career or help you grow. Instead, we should focus on creating relationships through networking, not just gathering as many business cards as we can. If we look at networking as an opportunity to grow through lasting, meaningful relationships we’ll all get more out of it than just a large contact list.

Develop a thick skin.

Unfortunately, no matter how fantastic a PR pro you are or how great your work is, not everyone is going to like you. Sometimes your work will be picked apart, you’ll be criticized or told that what you’re doing is just not good enough. It’s going to happen, but it doesn’t have to leave a negative impression. Those people who have developed a thick skin are able to take constructive input out of the criticism and make themselves better. Focus on not taking negative comments personally and instead find the areas that maybe you could improve upon a bit by looking at your work objectively and reevaluating any critiques you received. No one grows by staying the same.  

Robyn Rudish-Laning (1)Robyn Rudish-Laning is a member of PRSA SC and communications coordinator for the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness. She is a graduate of Duquesne University and is currently located in Columbia, SC. Find her on LinkedIn or Twitter or read her PR-focused blog.

How To Put Your Best PR Face Forward

As young PR pros, social media is a tool we use every day. We revamp our clients’ plans, update them on best practices and research the new tactics.

Putting Your Best PR Face Forward

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But, how often do we invest time in maintaining and regularly updating our own personal profiles?

When you consider all of the tweaking, posting, researching and revamping that can be done it seems as if a limitless amount of time could be devoted to personal social media. But let’s face it – we don’t have limitless hours in the day so keeping profiles up-to-date can seem daunting.

Don’t let the enormity of social media stop you from putting your best face forward (Click to Tweet!). Below are three steps to streamlining your personal social media strategy with your precious time in mind.

1. Start with focus

The first step is always the hardest – at least that’s how the saying goes. It doesn’t have to be, though!

First, think about your personal brand.

  • Who are you?
  • Are you serious or light-hearted?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What would you like to learn about?

This information will guide how you set up your profiles, what content you share, and the tone. By narrowing your focus, you can spend your time strategically on developing your profiles.

Next spend some time looking through the social media profiles of your mentors and successful individuals from your interest areas.

  • What are they talking about?
  • How do they describe themselves?
  • Are there opportunities for you to engage with their networks, such as Tweetchats or LinkedIn groups?

Once you’ve determine your personal brand and identified a few best practices from those you admire, you’re ready to set up or revamp your profile. Make sure to include key words for the topics you’ll be talking about and an appropriate photo that fits your brand. No matter what you do make sure your profile is accurate – nothing is more aggravating than following a tech specialist who only talks about where to get the best french fries.

Set aside 30 minutes every six months to revamp each profile, focusing on no more than one profile each month. This will make the task seem less daunting and more manageable, as well as help you to focus on your personal social media strategy.

2. Get the news delivered to your fingertips

One of the easiest ways to stay up on key trends and news is to have it at your fingertips! Your time is limited so it’s difficult to read every article related to a particular topic.

Instead of scanning dozens of news sites and blogs for relevant and interesting stories worthy of sharing on your social channels, have them delivered straight to your inbox. The obvious news sources include newsletters for your favorite sites and, of course, PRSA’s daily e-newsletter Issues and Trends.

Look outside of your typical news sources by tapping into the power of content curation tools and news alerts. Personally, my two favorite tools are Swayy and Google alerts.

Swayy connects to your social media channels and delivers curated content to your e-mail (or their app) based on designated key terms and the content your network is sharing. Combined with Google alerts, you will have endless content to share on the topics of your choice. For a list of other great tools for finding sharable content check out this list from Inc.

When evaluating articles for “share worthiness,” ask yourself: “Does this strengthen my personal brand and is it authentic?” If the answer is yes, move onto the final step!

3. Schedule your findings

With content at your fingertips the final step is easy – get it all posted. Choose top articles from news scans and curated content, then schedule posts throughout the day.

Again, there are plenty of free tools available for scheduling, many of which you are likely familiar with like Hootsuite. Each tool has a variety of benefits. My favorite features are analytics, which ensure I’m reaching the right audience, and auto-scheduling, which puts posting on autopilot.

It really is that simple – focus, content, schedule. Social media can be powerful, not just for your clients, but also for you. By focusing and tapping into available tools, you too can take advantage of its benefits and amplify your personal brand.

Katie Atkinson Katie Atkinson is an account coordinator for LEWIS PR’s Boston office. When she’s not working, you can usually find her planning her next trip, dreaming about delicious food, and, recently, warm weather. Find her on Twitter @Katie_Atkinson

#ThrowbackThursday with Deirdre Breakenridge

Editor’s note: This is the first post in our monthly #ThrowbackThursday series, which features a prominent, successful PR pro taking a look back and sharing tips from his/her days as a new pro. Thanks to Deirdre for helping us kick this off!

For those who don’t know her, Deirdre Breakenridge is the chief executive officer at Pure Performance Communications. But, like most successful PR pros, that’s only the beginning of her portfolio.

Deirdre K. Breakenridge is Chief Executive Officer at Pure Performance CommunicationsShe’s the author of five Financial Times books, including her latest “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” an adjunct professor at New York University, a member of PRSA (woohoo!), and co-founder of #PRStudChat, a dynamic Twitter discussion scheduled monthly for PR students, educators and PR pros.

Honestly, we could fill this post with all of her work and achievements, but we know what you’re all here for: Deirdre’s life lessons! So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

Question 1: What were three of the biggest challenges you faced as a new professional in the PR industry and how did you overcome them?

  1. Thinking you’re prepared when you’re not. No matter how junior the team member, you must come into a meeting fully prepared. However, this goes far beyond having a pad and pen to take notes. Being prepared involves challenging yourself to think about and answer the questions that a supervisor / boss may ask you during the meeting. Still to this day, I coach professionals to think ahead. And, if they are in a meeting with executives it’s important to identify what they would ask, or need long before the meeting begins.
  2. Rejection from the media. Rejection is a part of public relations, especially when it comes to media pitches. Even in the face of rejection, you must continue to perfect your pitching efforts by spending more time doing homework about the journalists / bloggers you’re pitching, and the communities they serve. Relationships develop over time, so if you are persistent and consistently offer good information, then you are more likely to land a really good story and be recognized as a reliable source.
  3. Networking more often at association meeting and special events. Not everyone is a natural born networker and making good connections requires you to get out there to meet people. When you’re a young professional it can be difficult to walk into a room not knowing anyone and strike up a conversation. However, the more opportunities you take to network, the more you realize that people are at these events for the very same reason. What is the worst that can happen? Perhaps, you introduce yourself and shake hands. Then, you exchange business cards and move on to meet someone else. However, there will be those instances when you meet someone and there is a great connection. What may come out of a simple introduction can be a number of opportunities. I learned early on that not every person you meet will lead to a next step connection, but you will never know unless you try.

Question 2: What type of time management tools did you use to stay on track as a new professional? 

In the past, time management for me was a big black planning book that I carried everywhere and a large calendar sheet on my desk that was marked up daily. Then, about 10 years into my PR career, time management software was integrated into our agency, and we no longer had to fill out manual time sheets. I think I just dated myself!

However, what I would recommend to young professionals today are several apps to make them more organized. I’m a big fan of Evernote, which is the note taking software that allows me to capture notes, ideas and images, and then syncs on all of my devices. I also use Circa, which is a news app that curates the important news headlines. There is a scanner app that I find very helpful. It allows me to scan documents into PDF form and then share them. Of course, my Google calendar keeps me organized and on track, with alerts so I can properly prepare for my meetings. Lastly, Spreeder is free online speed-reading software designed to improve not only your reading speed but also your comprehension.

There are many great apps and tools. This article from Lifehack has several really good time saving resources that you can check out here.

Question 3: What were some of your most important career goals as a new professional? 

Building relationships was at the top of the list. It is your network of connections that will allow you to excel in business and to help others (Click to tweet!). There is so much that goes into relationship building, but it all starts with getting to know people, learning more about them and listening, rather than immediately sharing information about yourself. To be known as someone who is connected, or that you’re a great connector, is very valuable, and often sought out by companies large and small.

Focusing on your integrity as you pursue new opportunities. There will be times that your values and integrity may be challenged, and you will have to make an important decision. Always choose the ethical side of the situation and your integrity will remain in tact for the duration of your career. If you need a refresher on ethics, you can check out the PRSA Code of Ethics.  At the end of the day, you have to be sure that your communication is transparent and in the best interest of all parties involved. Always let your values and ethical standards guide you.

Perfecting your writing skills. If you’re in PR today, then writing for all different types of media is important. We have moved from earned media to owned, paid and shared. Companies are looking for professionals who are not only able to write byline articles, editorial opinion pieces and news releases, but also blog posts, video scripts, tweets and Facebook updates, ebooks, etc. Perfecting your writing skills takes a lot of practice and also requires you to read in your spare time. The more you read the better your writing will become. I’ve been writing for 25+ years. Practice makes perfect, and for me, led to some incredible writing opportunities, including several books published by Financial Times Press.

Question 4: How can today’s new professionals find time to focus on personal career goals without getting sidetracked by work?

Careers can get very busy and you will always find yourself sidetracked. You have to make a date with yourself to find time to focus on your personal goals.  If you’re a morning person then you should set aside the time then, or if you like to stay up late at night, then this may be your best time plan out the steps to reach your personal career goals.  You should also incorporate regular telephone, Skype and in-person meetings into you weekly routine, so that you can meet people, get different perspectives and learn about new career directions. In addition, finding a mentor will help you to grow in your career and to have a seasoned professional guide you as you strive to reach your personal career goals.

Question 5: If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself during your first year on the job, what would you say?

My first year of work was an incredible experience, so I’m not sure what I would have changed or where I would have given myself advice. But, I do remember my second job, wishing I had given myself some advice early on.

I was doing PR for a cosmetology school that was affiliated with a popular hair and skin care company. I remember, within my first couple of weeks of working there, I was asked to model for one of their hair fashion shows. It was an honor and then quite a shock when I was on stage and they cut my hair above my ears and colored it bright red. After the show, I had to keep my hair short and colored. They also gave me a lot of makeup that I was supposed to wear as a representative of their company and advised me on my wardrobe. But, It just wasn’t me.

Although I had fun and stayed with the company for a few years, I eventually realized that I wasn’t being true to myself. Almost like a “Devil Wears Prada” movie scenario. After I left, I grew out my hair, went back to my natural color and found my own style of fashion.  If I could go back in time, I would say to myself, “Be true to who you are from the work that you do to how you present yourself (including your appearance) in any role that you play.

If you can learn this early on you’ll be a lot happier!

To learn more about Deirdre, visit or follow her on Twitter at @dbreakenridge

Five PR Tips From Taylor Swift

Five PR tips from Taylor Swift

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A pop princess may be the last person you’d expect to look up to as a public relations professional, but Taylor Swift is definitely doing something right. Between buzzing up constant media attention, building a loyal fan base, and staying true to her strengths, there’s a lot we can learn from Taylor about being a successful communicator.

She knows her brand. Crossing over to full-fledged pop could have spelled career disaster, but Taylor stayed true to herself by making the switch.

Be like Taylor: Spend time learning the voice of each of your clients and you’ll be able to decide the best ways and places to tell their stories.

She’s a conversationalist. Taylor has crazy follower counts across the board, but she’s not just broadcasting on social. She’s truly interacting with her fans! With so many people talking, it’s hard to actually hear anything these days.

Be like Taylor: Running a brand’s social media? Pull a page from Taylor’s playbook and reply to fans posts, seek out conversations via hashtag searches, and be proactive in your interactions. Use your personal Twitter to build relationships with media. In other words, be social! (Click to Tweet)

She offers the exclusive. Before her latest album dropped last fall, Taylor held secret listening parties across the world with 89 of her biggest fans at each event. Fans were invited to get a first listen to 1989 in Taylor’s very own homes. Hearing the album ahead of time didn’t dull the excitement around the release: these select fans were even more thrilled to see her music finally debut weeks later.

Be like Taylor:  Have a great story brewing? Reach out to one of those contacts you’ve built a relationship with and offer it as an exclusive. Between the 24-hour news cycle and a saturated media market, breaking a story has become just as rare as a Taylor Swift listening party. Working together on an exclusive can benefit both you and your contact. You’ll secure a great coverage hit while your contact gets to lead the media frenzy.

She knows what’s trending and how it aligns with her brand. She uses news angles to her advantage to ensure she’s being talked about. When Tumblr went crazy over the Becky meme, Taylor was spotted the very next week in a “no it’s becky” tee.

Be like Taylor: Consume a variety of media every day so you know what’s hot and how you can be a part of the story.

She shakes it off. At the end of the day, not every relationship, song lyric, or pitch is going to work. Taylor doesn’t stress about the things that don’t fit – she’s able to kick back and poke fun at herself for every faux pas.

Be like Taylor: Take what you learn from every experience and use it to be better the very next day.

We all know Taylor’s talents are countless! What other PR lessons have you learned from Taylor Swift? Share below!

 IMG_0011.JPGChristine Perez is an Account Executive at The S3 Agency, a boutique advertising, social media, and public relations agency in Northern New Jersey. She has a wide array of experience with CPG products on both the agency and client sides. In her free time, she volunteers with a local animal rescue as a communication strategist and pet foster. Tweet with her @ICtine or connect with her on LinkedIn.


PR lessons from your first year on the job

PR Lessons from your first year on the jobI’m quickly approaching my two-year anniversary of being a PR Pro. These past two years have been filled with new faces, places and challenges. I’ve had the opportunity to do things I’d never thought I’d do and build connections with people I would have never run into on my own. While it’s been an exciting two years, and there have been many lessons learned.

A bachelors degree is just the beginning.

While I value and appreciate my degree, it was only a stepping stone into the professional world. Many of the things I’ve learned have been on the job. A degree provides you with the foundation, but creating a pitch letter for a class assignment isn’t the same as actually pitching a journalist.

Lesson Learned: Take feedback and critiques positively, things function differently in the real world for a real client.

Social media is important, but its only part of the package.

Click to tweet: “Social media is important, but it’s only part of the package.” #NPPRSA #PRSA @PRSANewPros

When I first started my career, I assumed I would be working with social media on a regular basis. Depending on the how a company is structured, the marketing department may handle  social media or your role may not be as hands-on with social media.

Lesson Learned: Knowing how to use social media definitely comes in handy, but remember that there are also other skills to focus on in our profession.

Dont forget about writing.

If you haven’t already guessed, writing is a major part of the job. As a PR professionals, it’s our job to get the message across to our client’s audience in the clearest, most concise way possible. And that takes practice. If you have the time at work ask for an extra writing assignment. Or start your own blog. Either way, write as much as you can to sharpen your skills.

Lesson Learned: Practice makes perfect, write as much you can.

Its normal to feel like everything you do is wrong.

Over the past two years, there’s always been a day or an entire week where I feel like everything I do is wrong. As a newbie, there’s no way that everything you do will turn out amazing the first time or even the fifth time you do it. Don’t worry, your manager already knows this, they were once a newbie too. They don’t expect you to produce perfect work, they expect you to put in the work.

Lesson Learned: Be open to criticism and direction. Don’t be afraid to mess up and don’t be too proud to ask for help.

My first year as a PR professional was a whirlwind. It was amazing, it was exciting, it was frustrating, it was challenging, it was everything I didn’t expect it to be. Through all the ups and downs, make sure to enjoy the ride!

Cheers to your first years!


Victoria LightfootVictoria Lightfoot graduated from Georgia State University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, concentrating in public relations. She is currently the PR coordinator at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and volunteers on PRSA Georgia’s College Relations Committee and co-chairs the Travel & Tourism Special Interest Group. Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn and Twitter (@Victoria_Lenese)