May 7, 2013
I was taking a break from client work earlier to catch up on items in my newsfeed. A post from Jeff Esposito caught my eye. It’s called “Are you bumping into your coworkers enough?” If you have coworkers you should read it. But I don’t, so why did I?
The same principles apply to those of us who’ve chosen to work independently. To summarize, Jeff says:
- People matter
- Relationships are key
- We need to break silos
As a solo PR person, I often spend my days in front of the computer working, by myself. But I’m really not alone. Facebook and Twitter have made sure that when I need a distraction (or when I don’t need one), they are there to help keep my finger on the pulse on what’s going on around me.
And the Solo PR community is really like having an agency at my fingertips. (Thank you Kellye Crane) If you haven’t, check out the weekly Twitter chat (#solopr) Wednesdays at 1 PM ET. We’ll solve the problems of people world and have a good laugh at the same time. It’s like a virtual coffee break and I try not to miss it.
But I need some “real life” breaks too. I get those by assembling some groups important to me from both my work and personal lives:
First Tuesdays – is a group of past presidents of the local PRSA Chapter. We gather (you guessed it) the first Tuesday of each month for lunch at a casual lunch spot. I send an e-reminder the week before and we promise to talk about those who don’t attend. It’s a great way to hear what’s happening in our community from different perspectives.
Master’s Lunch (okay, this one’s kind of fallen by the wayside) – This is the silo busting group. It’s a PR pro, web designer, strategic consultant and SEO expert who have lunch together once a month. We talk about what’s going on in our business worlds and how we can help each other.
iPad User Group – Yes, we have a group of close friends, all in similar professions, who gather every other Thursday to share new tools we’ve learned on our iPads. Again, I send an e-reminder. This has been a wonderful way for us to talk through tools we’ve found that make our work lives easier. We also talk about tools that don’t work and show each other fixes on our iPads. And, don’t worry…we won’t laugh too hard when we learn you don’t know how to back-up or sync your iTools.
Girlfriends Lunch – About four or five years ago, my best local friends and I decided to give each other the gift of time for Christmas. So, we have lunch the second Wednesday of each month. If it’s your turn to pay it’s also your turn to choose the restaurant. Since we’re also food lovers, we almost always check out new restaurants in town. This lunch is more personal where we talk about our kids – and our husbands – and more personal issues in our lives.
As an independent consultant, I know it’s my responsibility to set up these check-ins that give me a semblance to being in an office. I have to schedule time for them, and organize them because they are important to me. Of course, I also make time for my husband and our two sons, but that’s a completely different post.
What do you do to make sure you’re staying involved and aware of the world beyond your computer?
February 22, 2012
It’s no secret to many in the public relations field that I’m a supporter of the Public Relations Society of America. I’ve served the organization for many years as both a local chapter leader and a national Board member and officer. This year I’m serving as chair of PRSA’s College of Fellows. Because of the investment I’ve made in PRSA and the time I’ve spent as a volunteer I feel I’m qualified to speak out.
While I was on the PRSA national Board, and during my many years as a Leadership Assembly Delegate, I’ve seen the organization go through many changes and grow. I’ve reviewed many a member and non-member survey pointing to the needs of the membership. I’ve then watched both volunteers and our hard-working staff bend and change based on data from our members. And I don’t always agree with the changes we make. That’s because when you have 22,000 members (more than 30,000 if you include the student members) there are bound to be some people who don’t agree with everything we do. Especially in the past five years, I have been confident in PRSA’s changes and programs because they are ALWAYS based on research and data. The PRDefined project is no exception.
Three years ago, members asked for tools to help tell PR’s story to businesses and organizations. The Business Case for Public Relations was created by a broad-based group of industry leaders and is available to members and non-members alike. There are incredible resources there that I hope professionals are using. If you haven’t seen it, go look around and I’ll bet you find many useful items.
For as long as I can remember as a national leader, there has been discussion about redefining public relations. The definitions in use today are cumbersome and just not as relevant today as they were when they were created…by a committee. No one wanted to take on the challenge because it would be hard and likely controversial. In 2011, PRSA’s leadership decided the changes in the profession meant it was time to take on the challenge.
So, last September PRSA gathered a group of individuals from a broad spectrum of the industry, including groups outside the US, and put together a process to reach a definition. That process remained focused on research and data. Additionally, because of the complexity of the issue and the many facets of our industry, a representative committee was formed. Members and non-members were involved in the process and the committee set to work…on an impossible task.
Between late November and early December, professionals were asked to complete a form to create their definition. There was also an opportunity to comment, so professionals could discuss any concerns. It was hoped there would be consensus from the crowd-sourced definitions. As with all of the communications from the committee to professionals, there was an opportunity for comments. These were provided to the committee and I am confident they heard the comments that were sent to them.
Then, from January 11-23, the draft definitions were published for comment and discussion by anyone in the profession.
Earlier this week the results were sent out to vote as what was hoped would be the final step of a process. Unfortunately, the definition is…well…fairly cumbersome as one might expect from globally-sought research and a fairly broad profession. What I kept reminding myself, as I chose which option I preferred, is that this is a definition and not the explanation I use of what I do. My specialty is only one aspect of the profession.
What I was not prepared for, and I have to say I’m terribly disappointed in, is the plethora of professionals who’ve chosen to criticize the process using their own tools and mediums instead of talking directly to PRSA. I don’t believe the comments were sent to PRSA and I wonder if these individuals participated in the research process. None of the individuals who I’ve seen criticize the project has commented on PRSA’s blog on the subject.
If you are not happy with PRSA on this project, or another, please tell them. Please tell them directly. There are volunteer leaders you can talk with or you may direct your comments to COO Bill Murray. They need to hear from you on this issue and others. They do listen and they are doing as well as they can to represent the public relations field. It just really isn’t fair to take your concerns to other formats this late in the game. You should have been involved all along. And you should be okay that others’ views, as well as your own, have been taken into account.
I’ve thought about writing this post now for several days and the more I see those volunteers who worked so hard to get to this point being maligned, the more frustrated I get. This isn’t how we would counsel our clients to behave. In fact, it’s the exact behavior we often tell them is inappropriate. So, why are we doing it now.
I can guarantee you that PRSA has taken the time to listen to you. Please take the time to listen to them, learn about the process and color inside the lines. And, finally, if you don’t participate…you really have no right to complain.
December 14, 2011
Guest Post from DeAnn Baxter, APR
Job seekers should take heed from guest post. DeAnn Baxter knows from personal experience in this recession the trials and tribulations of job seeking. Her story has a happy ending as she landed HER dream job. So will you, by following her advice:
We all know seeking a job is tough, especially these days. While things are improving on the job front, you still need to be patient. Your search may take weeks or months, but if you approach it the way you would a public relations campaign, your strategies and tactics will help you. The key is to stay focused and keep at it!
Target your search.
Understanding that link between what you want and what the employer needs is the way to secure employment. Don’t grasp at straws, applying for every job out there, hoping something will eventually stick. What interests you? What do you like about public relations? What kind of work environment do you find stimulating? That area where the Venn diagram overlaps is your sweet spot; apply for jobs in that space and don’t stray, or you’ll be looking again in six months.
Prove your worth.
Provide helpful tips in social media spaces. Start a blog to share your knowledge and demonstrate what you’re learning about a specific industry. Comment on industry blogs or answer questions on LinkedIn. Read industry newsletters to stay on top of trends and educate yourself on areas where you’re weakest. Whatever you do, don’t waste your time!
Watch your online profile.
When you post on Twitter, it’s there for the world to see. When you announce each job you’ve applied for, and follow-up with “…and it’s my dream job!!!!” people will not take you seriously. Instead, link to articles about public relations or your target industry to position yourself as an expert.
Looking for a PR job? join the Help A PR Pro Out tweet chat December 15 at 1 PM ET to get resume writing tips from professionals. Use #HAPPO on Tweetchat.com to join in.
Be persistent, but don’t overdo it.
When you’re in front of a potential employer, ask questions like “When will I hear from you again?” or “Would next Tuesday afternoon be a good time to follow-up with you?” Put your mind at ease knowing that you have a firm date as to when you and your potential employer will be in touch again. If you don’t hear from them by that time, you know you can call without being annoying.
Don’t take no for an answer.
So, you didn’t get the job. Ask what you could’ve done better. Some HR folks are unable to give that kind of feedback, while others are willing to give you pointers. Listen carefully, take their advice to heart, and press Keep the faith.
Don’t get discouraged. Find others in the same boat, or find a mentor willing to help. A second set of eyes on your resume can go a long way, as can a word of advice, a positive message, or a note of support.
When the call for an interview does come, be ready! Until that day comes, practice at least one interview question every day, update and have copies of your resume, get your portfolio in order, and dry clean your best suit. The last thing you want to do is scramble for an interview when your nerves are already kicking in for an impending interview.
What do you think? How can unemployment help focus a job search? What tips do you have to stay upbeat and persistent in this economy?
DeAnn Baxter, APR, works in corporate public relations. She holds bachelor’s degrees in public relations and speech communication from Penn State and a master’s in PR from Johns Hopkins University. Connect with DeAnn on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Other job search posts here:
Navigating the Job Market: The Interview
Tips for the Recent Grad Job Search
Networking, Follow-up Key to Job Hunt
Job Seeking PR Pros – The First Move is Yours
December 12, 2011
Always behave like a duck – keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath.
~ Jacob Braude
Public relations professionals are often known for their calm demeanor in stressful situations. However, most I know subscribe to this quotation as we often feel as though we’re moving as fast as we can to keep 95 balls in the air at once. It’s a good sign when our clients or bosses don’t realize we’re paddling so fast. During the holiday season, the paddling becomes positively ferocious!
Another factor facing all of us is the seemingly ever-increasing speed of change. As communications professionals, we are expected to be savvy about the latest social media tools and understand their uses for our clients and bosses. Staying on top of things can be stressful in and of itself.
Not that I always stay stress-free by any stretch of the imagination but I thought I would offer some of my techniques to keep up to date on trends and the latest widget to help us do our jobs, and also ask you for yours:
Instapaper is a wonderful application on my computer that give me the flexibility to read great articles later in the day or week. I mark them to “read later” and then read them on my iPad while relaxing in the evening so it doesn’t take time away from the workday.
Articles with interesting techniques or thoughtful messages get bookmarked immediately so I can always find them later. Using a tool like Diigo means others can access my bookmarks as well. This helps greatly with what we call the “tire kickers” who really just want to pick my brain, rather than hire me to help them. It’s easy to say – check out the articles I’ve bookmarked about “such and such.” I feel I’m still helping them but it’s not time consuming for me.
Dedicate a certain amount of time each week to learning
It’s very easy for me to get sidetracked and lose focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. So I try to set aside an hour (or two) a day just to learn from the social networks where I’m engaged. This could mean reading tweets, participating in a Twitter chat, or talking with other professionals about what they are learning.
Engage in professional organization networking
Throughout my career I’ve made it a point to be engaged with my professional organization – in my case PRSA. The dividends that involvement pays are absolutely enormous. Find the professional group that’s most active in your area and get engaged. Or, create your own network of people you share with. Set aside a regular time to get together and talk about business issues.
I don’t expect to be paid by clients for all the research I do to learn new tools but consider it a business investment. However, the fact that I work hard to stay on top of trends is a reason they seek my advice. That makes it an important part of my workweek.
As far as keeping the stress to myself, sometimes that’s harder than it I want it to be. But, I find focusing on slowing down and deep, slow breathing often do the trick. If I am heading to a client’s office, I purposely slow my pace before I get there, and walk slowly to the building/office.
How do you stay on top of trends and the “latest” widget? How do you keep from displaying your stress to clients or your boss?
November 29, 2011
This phrase from Sir Walter Scott (Scottish author & novelist, 1771 – 1832) has been coming to mind a lot lately as we learn of communicators practicing in deceiving manners. It’s very frustrating for the thousands of professionals who practice with ethical standards and commitment. It doesn’t seem that hard to me to observe the tenets of the professional Code of Ethics.
The basic tenets that guide my personal life also guide my professional life. I wouldn’t have it any other way:
I pledge to conduct myself professionally, with truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public; to improve my individual competence and advance the knowledge and proficiency of the profession through continuing research and education.
While the basic premise of the PRSA Code might seem fairly easy to understand and abide by, it seems some in the profession, and also many in the media, are hell-bent on showing what unethical professionals we are.
Take a few of the most recent examples. In each of these cases, professionalism, honesty, fairness and responsibility were overtaken by greed and ego. Additionally, once uncovered the perpetrators really didn’t seem to understand what they had done was wrong.
- Utah Mayor Mike Winder created a fake identity and provided his local newspaper with articles about his town…quoting the Mayor. He also used a guy’s photo found on Google Images as his alter ego.
He says he just used a different name to get the publicity his city deserved. But he had to lie to get it so did his city really win in this case? I don’t think so.
- LA-based Coglan Consulting Group created fake news sites for their clients so it looked like their clients were getting more news coverage. Gini Dietrich covered this quite well last week on SpinSucks as did PR pro Denis Wolcott when the story first broke in September.
In this case, I can’t really find a statement from either Coglan or their clients, namely the Central Basin Water District. So…no apology? No commitment to make changes in how you do business? Unbelievable.
- Facebook hired Burson-Marsteller to smear Google in the press. Then, when exposed, the agency deleted Facebook posts on its page about the incident. Burson really didn’t do a great job of cleaning up the mess.
This one hit especially hard because Burson is one of the oldest and most respected agencies in the US. It was founded by Hal Burson, one of the fathers of modern public relations. The agency apologized (called lukewarm by many) and promised to make sure their employees understand more about the code of ethics.
- Reverb Communication wrote fake product reviews for their software customers about a year ago. The FTC cited them but many media put all PR pros in this bucket.
In this case, Reverb said there were no rules against what they did. I was reminded of my Mom who would regularly ask us…if he asked you to jump off a bridge would you do that too? The answer, of course, was a sheepish no.
What’s missing from each of these stories is someone to say – hey don’t do that. It’s wrong. But also, what were the leaders at each company, client, agency or organization saying? For that matter, where were all the employees involved? It’s hard to believe it got this far without someone raising a flag. But I think it takes some guts to raise the flag today, when jobs are tight. However, one still has to feel good about going to work.
We need to feel okay in our jobs when we question a decision, especially when it’s a question based on honesty, transparency and decency.
One that’s so far from what we were taught as children we know it’s wrong. And, as senior leaders, we need to provide an environment where that line of questioning is allowed and even supported. We need to listen respectfully and promise to change. In fact, we need to teach ethical practices, demonstrate what high standards are, and reward those who support the ethical practice of public relations.