15 February 2011

New Ways PR: DePaul University PRSSA Regional Activity

One of my many benefits of joining PRSSA is the invitation to events like this. Every year, schools around the country compete to hold a Regional Activity at their school. These activities are meant to teach you about the PR industry, excite you about your future and hopefully introduce you to your peers around the area.

This year, our region has two activities, so if you missed this one (which I know you did, because I’m the only Boilermaker who attended!) you can still catch the next one at the school down south.

This was a great opportunity and I got so much out of it. I literally walked away wishing I were graduating in May and starting my “real life” immediately or transferring to DePaul.

The first day consisted of an agency visit, a young professionals panel and then a social at a chic Chicago Irish pub. I was very excited about my visit because I was assigned to Ketchum. Ketchum has a special place in my heart (you can read more about it here) and I was not disappointed. The visit was completely casual yet informative at the same time. It also showed me just how young and excited the agency world truly is. Professionals from different areas came in and out to talk about their role in the company and how much they loved what they were doing. They gave us great advice about informative interviews and continuing involvement with professional organizations like PRSA and The Plank Center. At Ketchum, I was also introduced to an avenue in the PR world that really interests me, new business development.

Next was the young professionals panel back at DePaul. This included four young professionals working at different firms (three in agency, one in corporate) working in three different industries. Two of the professionals were DePaul alumni and were sitting in my shoes, at the same conference, exactly one year ago. They talked a lot about what it takes to get from my side of the table to theirs. I think the biggest and best advice they gave was not to act entitled. Understand that you will have to pay your dues if you want to move up in the industry. Next, utilize informative interviews. One of the professionals built a two and a half year relationship at the agency at which she knew she wanted to work. If you know what you want to do and where you want to be, show your interest and your passion in a genuine way and you will be recognized. On the other hand, if you don’t know your exact path, use others to help guide you. Most professionals want to share their experience. Build relationships because you never know who might have the career starting tip for you. Lastly, be the very best at everything you do. That is hard, and it takes work, but there’s no better way to be recognized.

To end the first day, a networking social allowed the students to really talk to each other about their experiences and the knowledge they’ve gained along the way. This was relaxed and a lot of fun, and a great way to meet people with the shared interests and passions.

Day Two was all about development. The morning speaker sessions were awesome. Rick Murray from Edelman Chicago was the keynote speaker. He gave great advice and stuck around to talk with students for a few minutes after his presentation. I love his points, and I’m going to share them with you.

1. The PR world is changing, this is good. The job descriptions for what we all will be doing in five years will be written in five years. This is terrifying, but exciting. If that doesn’t excite you, you should probably become an accountant because that isn’t changing anytime soon, it will always be boring.

2. Tell compelling stories. This is where PR is and is going.

3. Never stop learning. This goes back to the changing thing. If you don’t learn to change, you won’t have a job in the PR world or anywhere else.

4. Live and learn global. Here are some nice statistics he threw out to think about: there are more English speaking people in China than in the United States and half the world’s population exist in two countries across the pond. Think about that. Now add the internet. You need to be worldly.

5. Find a network of people you trust. I think this is where being involved in organizations like PRSSA really comes into play. You can’t know everything, I’m sorry you just can’t. But you can know many people and combined you can know so much more! Learn from those around you and surround yourself with people who are going to push you to do the uncomfortable thing you will never regret.

6. Love what you do and who you do it for. Love makes it really really easy to work as much as you’re going to have to. I learned from the young professionals that it isn’t always glamorous and the hours are long, but it’s rewarding if you find your passion in work (and it may be somewhere you never expected.)

7. Create value every day. This means think about metrics. If you’re still worrying about the economy, you need to think of a way to prove how much PR is worth. If what you’re doing is valuable, you’ll have a position.

8. The future is yours to make. Take control of your own success. How do you do that? Have courage. The people you want to emulate are those who take chances, even if they failed (be sure to bounce back, failure is good.)

Even if you think you knew all of those things, you should hear the man speak. His success is inspiring.

I saw two more speakers (also good, but if I spilled all the beans, you’d have no reason to attend!) and went to a career fair and got to talk to representatives from some of the biggest players in the game of Public Relations.

Here’s my advice: go to a regional activity or come with me to National Assembly next October. They are exciting. You definitely won’t regret it. I met so many amazing people and I made so many connections. I have a head start on my career after spending just two amazing days in Chicago. If you want to work in Chicago, you have to go there. I know that Purdue sits right in the middle of these two great PR cities, but one big point is if you know where you want to be, you have to get there. Go to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, where ever. Do it through a regional activity somewhere far, far away and go alone! You will get so much out of it! Take a day, or two day, or even Spring Break and go to your city and interview as many practitioners as you can. You will look like a rockstar who is passionate about your life and you will feel like a rockstar afterward.

If you want any advice about informational interviews, email, tweet or ask me! If you want to set up a day in Chicago or Indy and you aren’t ready to go alone, ask me (or one of the other members of our PRSSA chapter). If you want to know more about my trip, ask me! I hope you are all jazzed up to go to Get_Social at IU in April. More information about the regional activity at Indiana University, April 8-9, can be found on twitter @GetSocial_PRSSA.

Blog written by Bateman Director, Kara McIver

31 January 2011

Working hard for clients

As public relations students, we are not always taught the little things that will help us be successful professionals when we graduate. Clubs outside the classroom, like PRSSA, are meant to help students grow beyond what the rest of our peers have learned. Just a few weeks ago in my COM 353 class (Problems in PR) we had a speaker come talk to us about what it is like working at an agency. Bob Dearing, President of HAAN Marketing + Communications, gave us a much needed agency guide including all of the things we should do when working with a client. His presentation was titled '20 Tips for Becoming Your Client's Consigliere'. Now before I go on, I think it is important to understand what exactly a Consigliere is, because I sure did not have a clue. The word comes from the famous movie "The Godfather" and to put it simply means to be a trusted adviser or counselor. The advice that Bob offered to our small public relations class made me realize one thing - Never underestimate what you can learn in the classroom.
These are the tips, along with side notes, that will help every single one of us be better public relations professionals now and in the future.

1)Client relations are like dating/marriage relations. Treat them that way. (Give them time to nurture and grow.)
2)Ask questions. Listen to the answers. (I once heard that if you ask where the bathroom is on the first day on the job, it is perfectly appropriate. Asking on the second day, makes it a dumb question.)
3) Know your audience. (Who are you talking to? And also realize where you are in your relationship with the client.)
4) Be honest. (This is the most important. Know that honesty gets you much farther in life.)
5) Stay calm. Avoid drama. (If you panic, it will in turn make your client panic. It is your job to make the client confident in what you and your team are doing.)
6) Only fight winnable battles. The one who cares the most wins. (What is the big picture? If it is not the most important thing, let it go.)
7) Be prepared. (Always. Do background research on the client and know who they compete with.)
8) Provide valuable ideas and insights. (If you research, you can collect this information. Outside views can be a good thing.)
9) Determine the decision-maker. (You need to know who ultimately makes the calls. If you do a ton of work and only get it approved by John Doe, then come to find out he has someone above him that makes the final decision, your whole proposal might be denied.)
10) Establish a single point of contact between you and your client. (You need someone who can filter all the other comments you might hear into one, concise comment.)
11) Go to bat for your client. (You have to be able to speak up for your client. You need to represent the client to your agency and your agency to your client.)
12) Hit your dates. (Make sure your whole team takes dates very seriously. If clients miss their dates you have given them, it may not be your fault, but it is your problem.)
13) Stay on budget. (You need to talk to them about what budget they are on and make sure you stay in those numbers. Give them amounts on paper and keep them updated.)
14) Don't worry about rewards. Worry about results. (Make sure you can deliver functional work to your client.)
15) Put it in writing. (Estimates, proposals, creative briefs... put it all in writing.)
16) Know your team. (There are always multiple ways to get things done. Know how your team can execute the solution in the best way possible.)
17) Keep your personal mistakes to a minimum. (Everyone is human, but you really need to keep the mistakes to a small number.)
18) Beware of technology. (Form a good relationship by taking extra time to use face-to-face communication instead of relying solely on technology.)
19) Turn off your cell phone ringer. (Do not answer your phone in a meeting, and if you have to, let the others know beforehand that something important might come in.) *This one is not just for professional meetings, it includes PRSSA meetings also.
20) Don't let your social life compromise your professional life. (Facebook should be kept on private if you use it for personal use. If you use twitter to connect with professionals, keep it professional. The internet is seen by nearly everybody now, do not let it affect you.)

I know that was a ton of information for one blog, but I felt it was so helpful. Please take all of these tips to heart and go out into the professional business world confident that you can become a trusted adviser to your clients.

Again, thank you so much to Bob Dearing of HAAN Marketing+Communication for these 20 tips of becoming a consigliere.