Skills PR professionals need in 2011.

4 Jan

This post is by no means original, but I figured I would jump on the trending topics train and shell out my two cents. As you may have heard, 2010 was a huge year for social media, and the PR industry is rapidly evolving to meet the needs of clients coveting targeted social media campaigns. That means that the skills employers are looking for in potential candidates is changing as well.

Please note: this is not an invitation to abandon traditional devices like writing and pitching, which are still incredibly valuable, but a suggestion that you add a few of the following skills to your repertoire:

1. Blogging – I can’t tell you how many people have told me they got the job over the competition because of their blog. Since social media has become an elemental way that PR Professionals share information, among themselves and for their clients, it is necessary for job seekers to demonstrate their understanding of the social media realm. But, if you really want to leave an impression, start a blog. A blog shows that you take initiative. It establishes you as an expert  on a topic – and if that topic relates to your industry (which it doesn’t have to) it can allow you to prove that you’re experienced, regardless of your lack of employment, even earning you the respect of many professionals in the industry. A blog also keeps you writing and researching, which are two skills you should be polishing for the rest of your life. With a thoughtful and well-written blog, all these positives can be conveyed to an employer before you even shake his or her hand.

2. Basic understanding SEO – Now that press releases have gone online, do you know how to write headlines that will boost your story in Google search results? You may have the content, but you need to have the skills to break your story out of the online clutter. Having basic SEO skills is now essential for any PR professional who wants to be heard online.

3. Educate yourself – School is over, but that doesn’t mean your education is. Also, what you learned in school won’t stay relevant for long. (These days, one year can make a huge difference in the way business is conducted). Make sure you’re keeping up with industry trends by reading blogs, industry books and attending industry events, or find yourself left in the dust.

4. Writing – Since the advent of desktop publishing and spell check, research has shown that students lack basic writing and editing skills. This is a major concern for emerging PR professionals. If you can’t write well, and for many different media, you should probably choose a different career.

The following links will take you to some insightful comments on what industry insiders view as valuable skills for new PR pros:

Al Krueger (Comet Branding) – Ten PR skills of tomorrow that are needed today

Sarah Evans (Sevans Strategy) – Top 4 new skills all PR professionals must have

Greg Matusky (Gregory FCA Communications) – 10 Key Skills for PR Pros in 2011

As always, we appreciate your feedback: What skills do you believe are necessary for PR pros today?

…And we’re back.

31 Dec

Sorry for the delay, but we are back from our hiatus with an updated look and some fresh new content. Stay tuned for brand new Looped:Chicago posts after the New Year!

Cheers!

Compliments of Google Image

Go with your gut.

1 Oct

I’m pleased to welcome our first guest blogger, Erin McGrath. Erin graduated from Marquette University in May with a BA in Journalism, and recently relocated to Dallas, Texas to work for AT&T’s Corporate Communications department. Here she explains why she chose to pursue a job outside of her field in a location outside her comfort zone.

Continue reading

Networking can be fun.

28 Sep

Late last week, I was invited to tag along with a friend to a party in Lincoln Park, with an intended purpose to network with some digital media folks. It was an after work party for a friend of a friend who was helping her out after she had expressed an interest in digital marketing.

Turns out it was a party for NBC Universal. A Name on the list, open bar, swanky buffet followed by 2 bands and a DJ kind of party with a fairly intimate group of mostly 20 somethings. I met plenty of new people, and even ran into some old friends.

Thursday night at the NBC Universal party. I apologize for the poor quality, but you get the idea.

I realized quickly that this was the best kind of networking. Everyone was more comfortable in this relaxed and fun setting, and it was a great way for people to get to know your personality, rather than your work ethic. Nobody was there to talk about work, but they did have an interest in what you do for a living.

All it took was a conversation with one person, and people started coming to you. From there, I was introduced to even more people. It was relatively effortless on my part, and a genuinely enjoyable time.

I highly encourage you to find these types of networking opportunities, and they are out there. It has been my experience that the more laid back and fun environments for networking are more effective than the typical job fair set-up. And if all else fails, at least you had a good time. Take a break from the traditional and stiff networking, and go have some fun! Do a little research, Chicago is full of these types of opportunities.

Feel free to share any upcoming events in the comments section.

What not to do.

23 Sep

Please, don’t be insulted. I know that you know that this is not the route to take in a job interview. I offer these videos in the hope that they will bring levity to your job search.

Also, I’m really busy, so cut me some slack. Enjoy.

“Funemployment” can come with a paycheck.

21 Sep

If you’re struggling to find a job after graduation, consider this video sent to me from Megan Wholey by JT O’Donnell of careerealism.com.

In the video, JT O’Donnell discusses the benefit of taking an internship if you can’t find full-time employment. But, even more she stresses the opportunities that can arise from being a freelance consultant. All the years and dollars you put into school and training for your career are worth something, even if you can’t seem to find a job. So, taking on project work is a really great way to fill in the in-between time – whether you do it for money, or simply portfolio pieces and experience.

Through some simple networking and discussions on my career choice, I was able to secure some graphic design project work as an after-work gig. I have completed a few projects for the Chicago chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and met some excellent people along the way. It all happened with some initiative and relatively little effort to get started. It has become a way for me to pursue a passion outside of work, while still allowing me to engage in my industry.

I highly recommend trying freelance projects as either a supplement to working, or even as temporary self-employment. It could turn into something really great, or at least give you an incredible leg up on the competition.

How has freelance project work helped you?

Why I’m tired of Foursquare.

17 Sep

A recent breech in my Foursquare account’s privacy settings (read: a 2 a.m. text message from an unknown Foursquare friend asking to get to know me better, sweetheart) has caused a bit of reflection on my part as to whether the platform has enhanced or exacerbated my life.

Change your privacy settings, pronto.

For a while, I was amused. I could become Mayor of my office, my yoga studio and my local grocery store, and earn playfully-designed badges just for frequenting Starbucks and Apple stores! Checking in was especially fun during my recent trip to New York where Bravo badges abound. Imagine my excitement when a visit to Bergdorf’s resulted in a Real Housewives Badge!

But the honeymoon is over. Foursquare has become more of a chore than a game. When I’m running errands or trying to get to work on time, the last thing that’s on my mind is winning a virtual prize for my check-in diligence. Even free Starbucks Frappuchinos for the Mayor aren’t enough to get me to open the frustratingly slow application when I could be—more productively—paying bills through my Chase app or checking my e-mail.

I will, however, mention a few instances that have renewed my relationship with Foursquare, albeit only momentarily.

The first is $1.99 glasses of sangria for checking in at Catalonian tapas restaurant Mercat a la Planxa on Michigan Avenue. This, and not a (hypothetical) Tapas Badge, will keep me coming back. The second is a 10% discount at Berry Chill, which serves lactose-free frozen yogurt with hundreds of topping choices at locations around the city.

Mercat a la Planxa's sangria is definitely worth more than $1.99, but I'll take the discount.

Maybe when the retail world at large embraces the concept of rewarding customer loyalty, I will resume my check-in binge. But for now, only discounts and dairy allergy-friendly yogurt are keeping me from purging Foursquare from my phone’s precious app space.

All industries are not created equal.

15 Sep

Last week, in a seemingly petty struggle over what to wear to a job interview, I happened upon a conclusion that I have found to be quite important in the more creative industries like advertising and public relations. Taking creative liberties and calculated risks is essential to making yourself stand out among the competition when searching for a job. Here’s what I’m referring to:

  • Liven up your job search materials. Using design elements in your resume or creative writing in your cover letter can make you stand out from the piles of paper on the employer’s desk. Just make sure to keep everything in moderation.
  • Don’t limit yourself to a power suit for the interview. Make sure your appearance is polished and put together, but show some personality in your dress.
  • Find creative ways to follow up after an interview. Anyone can send a thank you e-mail. Creative follow-up shows initiative and genuine interest in the position.

Taken from Google Image

From the extremely creative to basic design elements, these examples take their industries into account with creative resumes.

At first, I was uncomfortable with the idea of bending the rules of the job search. The voices of career coaches past (whose heads are probably exploding right now) were gnawing at the back of my head with advice to the contrary. But then I realized how generalized their advice was. I’m not telling you to disregard the classic job search tips. Bending the rules is always risk, but a well thought out risk usually works for your benefit. So, as long as you recognize the thin line you’re walking and carefully consider each decision you make, you’re bound to be successful.

The most important tool to making these decisions work to your benefit is research. Find out if your employer or the company seem like the type of people who will appreciate an outside-the-lines approach. Then, if it seems right, go for it–because it probably is.

How has bending the rules or taking creative liberties helped you in the job search?

The best things in life are free.

8 Sep

There may not be such a thing as a free lunch, but, fortunately, there is such a thing as free social media monitoring. Whether you want to keep track of how many people click on your tweeted links, or you need more detailed metrics to report to a client, free monitoring tools can do the job with sophistication and ease. (In this post I deal exclusively with Twitter and Facebook, but I plan on tackling LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare in the near future.)

Let’s start with Twitter. I am obsessed with and amazed by HootSuite, which I use to send my Tweets using its link shortener Ht.ly. With Ht.ly, you can gather information on how many people clicked your links, and learn which of your tweets was the most popular. I prefer using Ht.ly to Bit.ly mostly because I can access the information in the same web page as my Twitter streams and stats. (Added bonus: Ht.ly takes your followers to the website you’ve linked to and includes a social bar at the top of the page that lets the reader easily share the information.) HootSuite will even tell you where in the world your clicks are coming from, and from where they were referred. You can also enter a date range to view clicks between specific dates, which is useful if you’ve been conducting a Twitter campaign. Next, download a PDF or spreadsheet of this information, all free!

If you have a Google Analytics account set up on your website, HootSuite can also connect with Google to overlay the number of daily tweets from your Twitter account with the number of daily visitors to your website, so you can gauge how your social media output affects your traffic.

Not to be overlooked are HootSuite streams. You can create a search stream using basic Boolean logic (e.g. ice cream AND chocolate), and can also (I love this) run a “sentiment search” (e.g. ice cream 😦  if you have a dairy allergy like I do). You can even throw in a question mark to find tweets asking a question, making HootSuite great for customer service and CRM.

Next is Facebook. HootSuite has remarkably less statistical information for Facebook than it does for Twitter. (In all fairness, it has to do with Facebook’s API, or application programming interface.) But that’s ok, because Facebook provides “Insights” for all fan pages, completely free. Here you can learn about the demographics of your fans (or “likers”, whatever they’re called now), find out how many new fans you’ve acquired, how many times your page was viewed—even how many impressions were created by an individual status update. All of this information can be downloaded in one single Excel spreadsheet or CSV (which I find easier to read than the Insights page itself.)

Now let me teach you a shortcut. If you’re looking for the quick and dirty way to monitor your Facebook and Twitter (and also LinkedIn and MySpace) accounts, look no further than NutshellMail. This service from ConstantContact sends you a fully customizable e-mail update containing many of the statistics I’ve mentioned above. You can choose how many updates you want to receive daily (and at what times you would like to receive them), and what kind of information you would like to be included. Currently NutshellMail is best suited for Facebook accounts rather than pages, but you can receive basic page information like new fans, page views, new likes or new comments.  It is also extremely beneficial for Twitter, including information like new followers (and new quitters), DMs, @Replies and even search terms. If you don’t want to monitor a HootSuite page all day, this is exactly what you need.

I’d also like to briefly mention live-stream searches, like Google Realtime or 48ers. They’re basically a more comprehensive version of Twitter Search that includes other social platforms. I know you don’t need me to expand upon this.

So, young pros, prepare to impress your managers. Job searchers, play around with these programs and flaunt your newfound knowledge at your next interview.

What other free services do you use for social media monitoring? Ideas and insight are always appreciated!

Don’t put all your eggs in one digital basket.

31 Aug

When I was browsing Twitter last week, I came across an article (via @HeatherHuhman) saying that social networking will seldom get you a j-o-b.

After spending so much time on this blog touting the importance of a digital presence, I realized it was time to state the caveat. Although social media can be an amazing supplement to the job search and your network, you’re not a robot. It’s more important to cultivate tangible relationships when looking for a job.

I was, however, disappointed in the example they chose in the article (for the majority of you who did not click the link, the example was a college grad getting a job at an accounting firm the traditional way i.e. without social media). To be fair, the accounting industry hasn’t changed all that much. If you’re looking to get into the dynamic and fast paced field of communications, you’re going to have to be able to communicate to the masses. According to a tweet by @kristinhersant, the masses are on social media: Social media usage has hit 189 million users = 90% of the US internet population.

So it seems, having a digital presence is crucial, and it will get you a job in the communications industry, but it is not the end all be all.

As the above article suggests, don’t put all your eggs into the social media basket. The traditional pieces of the job search like networking, a killer resume and a concise cover letter will have more bearing on whether you get that coveted position. Social media is just the cherry on top. A very big, delicious and important cherry, but it’s a fixing nonetheless.

I’d like to hear what you all have to say about how social media has helped, or not helped, your job search.

I would also like to mention that @HeatherHuhman is an excellent resource for the Gen Y job search if you’re looking for some extra tips.

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