Beyond PR

I’m active on LinkedIn, and it’s not unusual for me to hear from a recruiter every now and then.  Last week, one sent me a note about an interesting sounding job.  While I had zero interest in the gig, I know others in my social networks might be interested.  So, instead of ignoring this message, I responded to the recruiter, asking if she had any publicly-available information so I could share it with my network.

She sent me an attachment. 

This reminded me of an exchange we had once with a heavy hitter editor from one of our sister company’s leading technology magazines.  When asked what his PR pet peeve was, he had a ready answer.   Email pitches that didn’t include a URL that he could tweet, link to and share.

Consider how your audience will use the content you share. 

In both cases, the people contacting the targets (the…

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2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Mobile apps every PR hopeful should have installed on their smartphone/tablet


If you’re one of the 155 million-plus American adults who own a smartphone, chances are you have familiarized yourself with some of the apps available for download, and tend to use some more than others.

As an aspiring or budding public relations professional, there are certain apps I recommend to have installed for the most efficient use of your networking, self-branding and self-education activity. Some are almost guaranteed to already have been downloaded to your device for both professional and personal use, such as Facebook and Twitter, and others may be hidden gems that just make this whole thing easier. I’ve listed some of my favorite and most useful apps while navigating a large city in hopes of starting a career in PR:

Facebook – Like the pages of the companies and industries you would want to work for, or the company for which you are about to interview. This is probably one of the easiest ways to find out the company’s background, mission and current events.

Twitter – Same as above, yet provides more of an opportunity for direct interaction with leaders and companies from your desired industry. Twitter also allows you to flex your savvy and analytical skills through retweets and modified tweets. Chime in with your two cents whenever you retweet something of interest.

Foursquare – Aside from showing the world your awesome spicy tuna roll and redeeming that 10-percent discount, familiarize yourself with this app from a business standpoint. You should know how to fit location-based, social networking sites within a social media plan.

LinkedIn – Great for generating networking leads as well as follow-on conversation and maintaining relationships. Also another great way to research your prospective employer and improve your preparation for any meetings and interviews. Keep it professional and classy.

CardMunch – When you’re attending the next networking event that you hope will put your next employer’s business card in your hands, the last thing you want is to misplace it, or worse, have it fall out of your pocket on the CTA train. CardMunch allows you to snap a horizontal photo of business cards, and the info is uploaded for processing, and within minutes, all of the contact and company info is saved to your phone. The app also pulls the contact’s LinkedIn profile, if it exists. This creates an opportunity for follow-on conversation and networking.

YouTube – The video sharing app is no longer included in iOS 6. Many PR agencies have YouTube channels hosting videos featuring agency leadership and past/present campaigns. Another great researching tool. 

Pinterest – The fastest growing social media network, especially with retailers. Much like Foursquare, educate yourself on how to implement Pinterest into your social media plan by navigating through it.

Yelp – Great for locating out-of-office meetings and interviews, whether it’s the local Starbucks or local pub. You can read reviews and pull up directions to your destination.

PR Newswire – PR Newswire is a press release distribution, monitoring and targeting system. It also features the latest PR news in almost every industry imaginable, as well as several insightful blogs. If and when you land a PR job, chances are you will be intimately familiar with PR Newswire, so why not educate yourself ahead of time?

Ragan News – Ragan News is one of the leading resources for information on public relations, internal and external communication, and social media. Their app provides the latest trends, tips and blogs very useful for those in the PR industry.

Job search app – You should know what job opportunities are available in your city. Download apps such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Beyond and Job Engine to keep up with the latest opportunities in public relations. You can often have your resume stored via the desktop version of the web site, and apply through the app.

Local and national news apps – Staying abreast of current news is a no-brainer for PR practitioners. Download national news apps like CNN, Fox News, USA Today, New York Times, etc., as well as your local news outlet apps. This includes print and television. Living in the Chicagoland area, I have Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Daily, RedEye, Fox Chicago and ABC7 Chicago.

Public transportation schedule app – Between work, school, interviews, meetings and events, you should have it down to a military science on the arrival/departure times of your buses and trains to maintain your punctuality. “There’s an app for that.” I use Transit Stop, which provides estimated departure and arrival times for all CTA buses and train lines.

Cloud storage app – Whether you’re a college student or job seeker, you should always have access to your vital docs without having to lug your laptop or carrying bag everywhere you go. Cloud storage apps like Google Drive and Dropbox make it easy to have instant access to cover letters, resumes, portfolios and school/work assignments. If you’re called in for a short-notice interview and asked to bring several copies of your resume, you can easily pull up your documents and have them sent to a local print service center, like FedEx Office or Staples.

PDF converter/scanner — In so many words, certain apps can turn your smartphone camera into a PDF scanner. This is vital for when you need to send important docs ASAP, such as contracts, agreements or even homework, and do not have access to a fax machine or scanner. JotNot Pro works for me. You can also turn existing photos into PDF documents as well.

With the right apps, you can turn your phone into a modified briefcase.

90% preparation, 10% interrogation: preparing for a successful PR internship interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview twice with Edelman Chicago, and I am happy to report that as of January 2013, I will be a full-time intern under the Media Services division with world’s largest, independent public relations agency!

I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to secure such an opportunity within three weeks of leaving active-duty military service. However, a lot of preparation, research, practice and networking went behind my successful search. After finally completing my first post-Marine Corps employment interview, I’d like to share some of the things I learned, as well as some of the tools that helped me during the pre-interview process, as well as during the interview itself.


Research the company for which your looking to work. Expect questions such as “What made you choose us? Why do you want to work here? What do you know about our company?”

Visit their corporate/company web site. Read, and re-read, their “About Us” or “Who We Are” pages. They usually contain the company’s mission statement, code of ethics, corporate culture, etc., and you should be ready to display your knowledge during the interview.

Stay abreast of current events affecting the company for which you want to work. If you can create and engage in conversation on past, present or future campaigns, accounts or events, the chances of becoming a “likely fit” will increase. The easiest way to do this is to add vital keywords related to the company to your Google alerts or Google news feed.

Find out who your interviewer will be, and research that individual. A simple Google search can pull up education history, previous work experience, and notable achievements, which you can discuss during the interview. You never know, the both of you might be fans of the same sports team, or share the same alma mater!


After you’ve drafted, formatted and edited your resume, invest in quality paper for your resume, and bring a few copies. There are often times when it will not be a one-on-one interview. You can place online orders at places like FedEx Office, and your print job will be ready for pickup within minutes. Resume/executive paper is an option, along with different shades and weights.

Draft and design a portfolio. You need hard-copy, empirical evidence of everything you say you have done in your professional past. I chose my media placements with a combination of screen grabs, placement analyses, PDF printouts of stories in which I was quoted and places where my photos were published. I also included some of my better news and feature articles, blog pieces, press releases/media advisories and even a college PR assignment. I am by no stretch of the imagination a graphic artist, but I used Microsoft Word 2011 to design and format my portfolio.

Some people choose to tape or paste their work on black story boards, or inside scrapbooks. I took my printed all of my selections, bought some color-coded document dividers and took everything to Staples. The reproduction specialists were able to have my work spiral bound and reprinted on double-sided, glossy photo paper with a hard backing and clear cover.


Look your professional best. Shave and shower (common sense, right?) Have breath mints or gum at the ready, and avoid food or coffee before the interview. You don’t want to overpower the executive vice president with Starbucks breath.

Invest in a suit. Nothing too crazy. This isn’t an NBA post-game press conference, so leave the eight-button suits and oversized, hipster glasses at home. For the guys, a simple gray/charcoal or navy suit will do. Add personality with a tie clasp, cufflinks, pocket square and even a cool-looking pair of socks that complement your suit. Remember the style basics, like matching your belt and shoes. Go with laced shoes instead.


Two wise men shared the same piece of advice — BE YOURSELF! Everyone has certain esteem issues, or complexes. However, a job interview is often a new chance to make a first impression. You get to control how you will be perceived. Amplify your best qualities for the interview.

If you have never taken a speech/public speaking class, I highly recommend it.

Maintain equal eye contact with everyone in the room, especially the person asking the question, if you are being interviewed by more than one person.

Monitor your tone, inflection and dialect. If you know that you have a strong New York dialect or Southern drawl, be cognizant of it. My “cawfees” and “wahtah” tend to escape when I am relaxed. If you usually speak at a rapid rate, practice your talking points and mannerisms beforehand. Don’t yell, don’t whisper.

For questions targeting your strengths and weaknesses, be honest. Do not lie and profess certain skills you do not have, like expertise in graphic design or video editing. Don’t give cliche, cheesy answers for weaknesses such as “I work too hard,” or “my weakness is that I have none.” If you can identify a weakness, share on how you plan on improving, or have improved in that area.

Ask questions. Walk into the interview room with prepared questions already in mind. This will display your intuition to your potential employers.

Be willing, ready and able to tell a story. YOUR story. Take advantage of every single question. Address all questions as open-ended. Do not respond with simple yes or no answers.

When the interview is over, do not forget to send thank you notes to each person present at the interview. It’s a small gesture, but one that could be visibly noticed by its absence.

It’s a lot of work for a meeting that may only last 30 to 40 minutes, with no guarantee for a job or intern position offer. You owe it to yourself to control as much of the interview process as you can, and that involves research, presentation and image.

Happy hunting!

PRactical Issues

Below are excerpts of a writing test, complied from various sources, I distributed to students enrolled in the Public Relations Firms course this semester. The exam consists of spelling and word usage, along with editing skills. The students were given 20 minutes to complete the test, yet a substantial amount had finished prior to the 10 minute warning and all were done within 15 minutes. (Initially, I was going to provide 10 minutes for the test, but with it being the first day of classes I decided to give them a little extra time 🙂 )

How do your skills match-up? (A link to the full version is at the bottom of this post.)

Part A: Spelling and Word Usage.
Provide the correct spelling of each word. If the word is correctly spelled, simply rewrite it as shown.

comittee ___________
liaison _____________

Circle the correct word in parentheses…

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Networking for dummies by a networking dummy


Pull yourself away from your smartphone or tablet for a second, and look around. What do you see? If you’re not holed up in front of the television tweeting real-time politics or celebrity gossip like I am right now, then you will more than likely see people.

People are valuable, and that’s not just because your kindergarten teacher said so. Through proper, frequent and disciplined networking, you will open doors to opportunities that would have remained shut by limiting yourself to the digital world of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Below are five steps to networking which I have found valuable in my first full week in Chicago:

1. Brand yourself

If you’re one of the many PR hopefuls such as myself seeking a rewarding career, what better brand to promote than your own? Build, or in some cases, tame your online and social media presence. Maintain a similar theme across several platforms. People will recognize your profile photo, your profile description, your tweets.

They’ll remember how you dress, so keep that in mind as well when planning for your first impression. Put some time and effort in developing business cards. Develop a style and presence that defines you, and you alone. Look to others as examples, but develop your own competitive advantage. Display your strengths. Show what you have that others may not.

2. Join a group

From sales to public relations and beyond, nearly every line of work has a professional group for like-minded individuals in similar career patterns and aspirations to get together for a seminar, workshop, or a beer. These are the best situations to display your personal brand. You may hear about an opening for an internship or job opportunity. You may have to readjust your path and expectations based off of a reality check on the job outlook of your profession. Worst case scenario, you get the chance to introduce yourself, meet others and expand your professional network.

3. Make friends

You don’t have to find your new BFF at the next professional social or workshop, but allow your genuine nature to shine through your discussion, interest and expression. Talk less, listen more. Learn about others and some of the successes, failures and lessons they have to share. They will remember you as much as they feel you had remembered them.

4. Do your homework

Whether it’s a beer or a seminar, learn about what’s going to be discussed, who is going to discuss it, and who else is going to listen to it. Keep these weapons of knowledge in your arsenal by researching the event, the topic, other attendees and the companies to which the attendees and leaders belong. This will allow you to speak and interact intelligently and in an informed fashion, without having to “fake it ’til you make it.”

5. Follow up

With the four pieces of advice mentioned above, you may have been networking this whole time without even realizing it. What ties it all together is following through. What good is networking without anything with which to move forward? Remember names, collect cards, write thank you notes. Connect on LinkedIn, follow each other on Twitter. Compliment each other’s work and successes, whether it’s a new job or promotion. Offer your time and services when you can, and take others up on offers to network further.

Happy hunting to everyone looking to start or resume a career, and remember that the path toward your dreams may be through the web of networking.

3 easy ways Tweeting can improve your reporting and pitching

If you can look past #YOLO and #RIPBillNyeScienceGuy, becoming an active Tweeter can actually improve your communication skills. Here are three quick and simple ways learning how to communicate in 140-character spurts can improve your writing, whether you’re journalist or creative writer:

1. Meat and potatoes

Enough with the fluff. Overeager writers, novice reporters and self-indulgent media pitchers who love to hear themselves speak or see their words on paper tend to either front-load their writing with needless filler and information that can be saved for later. The 140-character limitations can turn a over-wordy scribe into a economical wordsmith ala Hemingway by forcing direct, to-the-point reporting, pitching and writing. Subject-Verb-Object sentence structure lends itself well on the Twittersphere.

Let’s be generous and say the average word contains seven characters. That would shrink your traditional 25 to 30-word lead/nut graph to about 20-25 words. You have no other choice but to cut everything BUT the 5 W’s in your tweets. and save room for links, which leads me to….

2. “If your mom says she loves you, quote it”

Nobody cares what you, as the reporter or PR rep, personally think. They care about what info you have to share with them, where it comes from, or the truthfulness/source behind it. One of the more effective ways to optimize your tweets and increase traffic/visibility is by attributing it to a source or an article via hyperlink. This can also enable you to use your Tweets as vehicles to your traditional forms of media, or your product platform. Beware: links count against your 140 characters, so link-shortening tools such as TinyURL are recommended.

3.  Your researching skills will improve

After your lead and before your conclusion/boilerplate comes all of the information you’ve researched, subject matter experts with whom you’ve spoken, and other relevant data to support your story/pitch. By finding SMEs on Twitter, and using hashtags (#), you can find the most relevant and up-to-the-second information and conversation regarding the topic about which you are writing.

Challenge yourself and open a Twitter account, if you haven’t already, and see how your writing improves. Besides, #YOLO, don’t you?