The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 1, 2009 in Books, Career

More than a year ago I cut out an article from the USA Today. It was about Cathie Black and her new book, Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and Life). Cathie is the president of Hearst Magazines. I thought her book looked interesting and I kept the article as a note to myself to read the book.

Over Christmas, I walked into a bookstore and saw the book on the top shelf. Remembering the article, which was collecting dust at my desk, I bought the book.

For all of the young professionals and students who read this blog: Get this book!

The back cover really sums it up well: “Every woman dreams of having a wise, funny mentor who understands the challenges she faces.”

Cathie offers great advice to apply to your career and life. There are chapters about drive, risks, fear, power, passion, attitude and leadership. The book contains five case studies, in which Cathie gives you real-life situations in which she or someone else was able to step ahead in their career. There are four “Black and White” sections, which offers practical, every day advice in a list-type form.

This book really is essential. Even though Cathie isn’t in PR, her book offers a glimpse into the world of media which really is beneficial in the PR business. You also might be interested in reading a Marie Claire interview with her. At the end of the interview, you can listen to a few tips from the book.

Here’s a video from Forbes with her. It talks a little bit about the book, but also gives you an idea of who she really is. She is incredibly successful, but she knows how to balance her work and life.

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10 Ways I’m Being Brazen

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 15, 2009 in Books, Career

First of all, I think Penelope Trunk is a fantastic writer. She’s the kind of writer that makes you think.

You can check out Penelope’s blog here. She’s down to earth and doesn’t mince words. She’s not scared to write about controversial subjects or her personal life.

I read her book Brazen Careerist in early January. Even though there were some parts I wasn’t sure of, there were a lot of points she made that got me thinking. Her book has inspired me to change 10 things about myself.

While everyone was making new year’s resolutions, I was inspired to come up with 10 ways to work on my career and life after reading her book.

10 Ways I’m Being Brazen:

  1. Accept uncertainty. Since I don’t know where I will be in five years, I am focusing more on how to develop the skills I will need to have perfected in five years.
  2. Be adventurous. There are so many opportunities to try new things. I’m heading to New Orleans in March to go to the PRSSA National Assembly. That will be an adventure in itself!
  3. Work on marketing. My Web site, blog and resume are all tool that market me and my brand. In mid-December I had launched a new design for my site. Now I plan on reevaluating my blog and resume so I can market myself better.
  4. Study harder. I’m not talking about school here. I’m studying the PR industry harder so I can be more knowledgeable when I get my summer internship.
  5. Become a negotiator. In order to get what I want, I need to be able to negotiate. Penelope offers great tips on negotiating salaries, which can be applied to other situations as well.
  6. Solve problems. I think Penelope said it best when she said, “Your success depends on your ability to get control of a problem and solve it.”
  7. Clean up the inbox. A few weeks ago, I had more than 250 e-mails in my inbox. I’ve followed Penelope’s advice on getting a “real to-do list” and have been able to keep my inbox organized by filing away and deleting messages as soon as I get them.
  8. Make time. When my schedule is packed, I don’t have time to think. When I do start thinking about stuff, I don’t have time to work on the ideas I have. This semester I’ve squeduled all evening meetings on Monday and Tuesday. I now have more time to breathe, think and blog.
  9. Be organized. According to Penelope, having a messy desk makes you look incompetent. I’m usually fairly organized at my desk, but not at home. I now have a better system of keeping things together at my apartment, which has made me more productive.
  10. Delegate. I used to say, “I might as well do this myself so it gets done right.” Since I have committees and teams in the various organizations I am in, I have started to delegate work more. Not only does this give them experience and portfolio pieces, but I also have more time to do things that matter more.

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The Insider’s Secrets to Getting Press

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 7, 2009 in Books, journalism, Marketing, Public Relations

Last December I read an interesting book called “The Confessions of an Ink-Stained Wretch: The Insider’s Secrets to Getting Press,” by John Persinos.

Persinos offers witty advice for public relations and marketing professionals. He includes information on:

  • Writing good press releases and marketing pieces
  • Holding press conferences and events
  • Handling media interviews
  • Working with the integration news including web, print and cable
  • Getting messages to bloggers, podcasters and others in new media
  • Influencing politics
  • Future of the press

His book is easy to read because of the many lists. It’s something you could easily have read in a week’s time.

I really thought this was a great book for a young PR professional and I would suggest checking it out if you want to be better able to work with the press.

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The Process of Launching and Promoting

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jan 22, 2009 in Books, PRSSA, Public Relations

Recently I started Learn it, Live it, Love it. It’s been an interesting process of brainstorming, designing, launching and promoting.


When I started working on the idea of a book group, the first thing I did was tweet about it. The majority of my followers are PR-related and I immediately received great feedback. Next, I did a Google search. I found other book groups and created a list of ideas. After creating an outline, I seeked feedback from both Nick Lucido and Jared Bryan.


The design was fairly simple. The logo was actually something I created several months ago for my store. A WordPress blog is fairly simple to launch.


This was the hardest part. I probably edited the copy for the launch about 100 times. I also stared at it for about an hour, deciding if I was ready. Were people actually interested in this?


My blog automatically posts an update on my Twitter when a new blog post is created. While my “tweeple” were checking out the site, I created a Facebook group and invited the people I knew from PRSSA and PR classes. I also posted a link on the wall and information in the forum of each PR-related group I was in already. Additionally, many other members have helped promote the group through their social networks.

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Public Relations Book Group: Learn it, Live it, Love it

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jan 17, 2009 in Blogging, Books, PRSSA, Public Relations

The Public Relations Book Group

Since posting about my idea for a public relations book group, I have received many comments on the post and via Twitter.

I’ve decided to call the book group “Public Relations: Learn it, Live it, Love it.” It’s a saying I’ve always liked (I even created a shirt in my store with it) and I think it tells exactly what I am trying to accomplish with the book group.

Read on to find out more about what the group can do for you, how to join and where the group blog has been launched!

Learn it.

To “learn it,” public relations students and professionals who join will increase their knowledge by reading books on public relations, professional development, social media, business, career, writing, advertising, marketing and more.

Live it.

Through blog, forum and chat the book group members will discuss how the book and the knowledge they’ve learned can influence their careers and lives. The “live it” aspect is learning to apply it to real word situations.

Love it.

I feel like every PR professional and student I know is passionate about their careers. They “love it.” In addition to enhancing their careers through knowledge, members will be able to network with each other and discuss share their passion for public relations.

How does it work?

One member will post to the blog about the book. Other members will comment to continue the discussion. The forum and chat will be additional tools to the conversation.

Where is Learn It, Live it, Love it?

Check out the blog at http://www.learnitliveitloveit.wordpress.com.

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8 Tips to Finding Good Stories for the Media

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Dec 13, 2008 in Books, journalism, Public Relations, Story Pitching, Writing

Earlier this week I was at the library looking for some books on advertising for a final paper. I came across The Confessions of an Ink-Stained Wretch by John Persinos.

The book intrigued me. Although I have a good amount of writing experience, I don’t have a lot of story pitching experience. I’ve heard a lot of my peers say that we don’t get enough experience in this area, therefore I felt it would be a good idea to read this book.

With the recent cuts in journalism jobs, I think PR will be very important. With less staff on hand at publications, the remaining journalists will need quality press releases and sources to make their jobs easier.

I would like to take note of a few good tips Persinos offered on thinking like the media. Although his tips were mostly about money, some of them can be applied to general stories as well.

8 Tips to Finding Good Stories for the Media

1. Money matters. Have you ever heard of the term “CREAM?” It means, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me.” If there is a lot of money to be lost or gained, then you’ve got a story.

2. Localize, localize, localize. Things tend to be more important when it affects the local people. CNN has had a lot of coverage on the automaker bailout recently, but it’s much more compelling to me when they relate it to how it will affect the people I grew up with.

3. Remember your audience. Don’t use financial jargon that only bankers understand. Most of your readers, unless you write for the Wall Street Journal, aren’t going to get it. Write the story so they can understand it.

4. Check your work. Remember hearing that in fifth-grade math? It still applies. Make sure you got the numbers right.

5. Tell what’s really going on. So, there might not be an automaker bailout, right? GM goes bankrupt. That’s about money. But what’s the real story? How about the story about the man who won’t have a job to support his five kids?

6. People love rags-to-riches stories, especially when they are localized. Tell the media about how your client was homeless and on the streets before he became a billionaire (well, only if that is true).

7. Use money language that people can relate to. They will relate better to “gas prices denting their wallets,” rather than “oil prices continue to rise.”

8. Namedrop when you can. People know brand names. If you say, “Teflon accused of…” people will pay attention more than if you said, “Some companies that manufacture cooking utensils…”

You can go to Persinos Web site, Ink-Stained Confessions, to get a copy of the first chapter or to download his podcast. I will write a full review of the book once I am done.

Related Posts:

Alternative Story Forms

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Social media, PR, and what I’ve been up to

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Aug 8, 2008 in Books, CMU PRM, Freelancing

I’ve been reading blogs lately, but haven’t had time to post. I think once I start classes again, and am not working full-time, I’ll be able to post more often.

Chris Brogan, a blogger I recently came across through Google Reader, posted links to 20 free eBooks about social media. I haven’t had time to blog, let alone actually look at these books, but his blog is great so I’m sure the books are too.

Also, if you are a PR person, I would suggest checking out Bill Sledzik’s debate on what PR is and is not. I find the posts interesting. A lot of people have been commenting on it, which makes it even more interesting.

What I’ve been up to:

First of all, I’ve been working full time for CMU PR & Marketing…and loving it.

I have been working on editing the copy for my pro-bono client. I found a graphic design student at CMU who was able to create some wonderful new logos for them to consider as well. I meet with the client Tuesday, for lunch, to show her what I’ve been working on.

I designed a flyer for the United Way/CMU Silent Auction. Everyone seemed to love it, which is great considering I have only had a short tutorial from Dan on using InDesign.

My freelance project with Young Money magazine should be starting up soon. I’ll be writing on ‘green living’ and I’ve already been getting ideas and trying free products (most of which were sent to me for free, making it even better).

And I’ve been seeking other freelance opportunities. If you see any good ones, send them my way!

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Marley and Me makes great story

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jul 19, 2008 in Books

Yesterday I picked up Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan at the library. Seeing as Grogan is an alumnus of Central Michigan University’s journalism program, I was interested in reading his book that had become a New York Times Bestseller.

I began reading it late last night, figuring I would get a few chapters in before going to sleep. The next thing I knew, it was 3 a.m. and I was still laughing at Marley’s antics. As soon as I woke up this morning, I picked the book back up and finished it.

Marley and Me is a touching story of a trouble-making lab and the joys and pains of his family. Grogan is a fantastic storyteller and I felt as if I were having a face-to-face conversation with him while I was reading. The book made me both laugh and cry. I am looking forward to seeing the upcoming movie.

Reading Marley and Me has reminded me of the fact that I would like to write a book someday and it is inspiring to read stories by CMU alumni.

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