My Tough Decision

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Apr 21, 2009 in Career, professional development, PRSSA


I joined PRSSA when I was a freshman. This year, I was on the executive board. There is no doubt in my mind that PRSSA and PR Central, the student-run firm, have given me priceless experience.

Opportunity for growth

As the semester has progressed, I faced a difficult decision. At first, I was sure that I wanted to run for executive board again and serve as PR Central president.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to freelance and pursue other professional avenues. I kept pushing that thought from my mind until I received two e-mails in one week that told me about two paid opportunities offering great experience.

Making the decision

The first thing I did was contact several mentors who have experience in varying areas of public relations. Two mentors told me that although PR Central and PRSSA are great experiences, there was more potential for me in freelancing and the other opportunities I had. Then, two other mentors told me to “follow my heart.”

I’m a very logical person, but my gut was telling me to take the tougher trail. Freelancing isn’t easy and the other two opportunities I was pursuing weren’t a sure shot.  With the support of my mentors, I made my decision to not be on the PRSSA executive board or in PR Central next year.

The results so far

Since making this decision, I’ve been offered the position of press secretary of the Student Government Association. As one mentor put it, this position will show a more diverse area of experiences. Additionally, I will expand my network to other majors and will get paid to do what I love.

I’ve also been offered a paid position as a manager for an upcoming corporate event. I still have the chance to be a leader because I will have the opportunity to hire about 15 other people to work with me.

One person in my network told me she has a few leads for me in terms of freelance work. I’ve also been given several great accounts for next year at Central Michigan Life.

Without a doubt, I am happy with the decision I made. I have enough leadership positions on my resume. And, like one of my mentors said, “Good leaders know when to let others lead.”

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Pitching to Potential Clients

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Apr 7, 2009 in PRSSA, Public Relations, Student-Run Firms

I recently had the opportunity to write for The Firm, PRSSA’s student-run firm newsletter. Here is my article about pitching to potential clients. Or, click here to read the entire newsletter.

Pitching to Potential Clients
The Firm, March 2009

Pitching potential clients is a good way to gain business for a student-run public relations firm. Before pitching a potential account, follow these three steps:

1. Research the account before the meeting.
Before you meet with a potential client, you should have a general idea of what type of work they do and who they serve. You also should be prepared to ask questions to further your knowledge about the account.

2. Research the industry and review competitors.
To come up with the best pitch, you should research the industry and the client’s competitors. Additionally, it is helpful to see what other businesses or organizations similar to the client are doing. This will give you competitive ideas.

3. Evaluate the client’s Web site, brochures, newsletters or other promotional material.
In addition to coming up with new ideas to help the potential client, you should tell them how you can help improve their current strategies and tactics.

The first meeting is very important. If possible, you should pitch the potential client face-to-face. This is when first impressions will be formed and the potential client will decide whether to work with your student-run firm. To sell your firm and services, follow these four steps:

1. Present yourself as a professional.
Although you are a student, you also are representing your firm as a professional. This not only means you should dress nice, but you also need to be prepared and act professional.

2. Be ready to explain exactly what public relations is.
Some businesses or organizations might think public relations is advertising or marketing. Have an explanation ready for the client about what public relations is and how it is valuable.

3. Bring a portfolio.
Have samples of work ready to show to the client. This will help you explain your ideas on how you can help.

4. Find out the client’s problems and areas of concern.
By asking questions and finding out problems and concerns, you can find ways to best help the client.

After the meeting, your job isn’t over. To show that you are proactive, you need to go beyond meeting the client and discussing ideas. The next four steps can help you bring in the client and build a solid reputation for your firm:

1. Send a thank you note.
Write a short, thoughtful note to thank the potential client for taking the time to listen to your pitch.

2. Brainstorm more ideas on what you can do for the account.
After mulling it over, you may come up with new ideas. Brainstorming will help you find more ways to help the account and will create a strong image for your firm.

3. Research strategies on solving the client’s problems.
If the account has a specific problem, researching how other businesses or organizations have solved it can be helpful. For example, if the account needs to increase awareness, find out how similar businesses or organizations have done this successfully.

4. Prepare a proposal.
Whether you’ve gotten the account or they are still on the fence, a proposal should be created to outline the exact strategies and tactics you would complete on a specific timeline. If you’ve gotten the account, then they will be impressed that you prepared a proposal quickly. If not, the proposal will be an additional piece of information to help the potential client decide if your firm is right for them.

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Achieving Success: Making the Most of Your Potential

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Apr 2, 2009 in Career, PRSSA, Public Relations

At the 2009 PRSSA National Assembly, Gary McCormick gave an inspiring keynote address. His presentation, “Achieving Success: Making the Most of Your Potential” provided valuable insight and advice to PRSSA members. You can see the slides from the presentation here.

McCormick talked about the ideas in Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and related them to PR students. Here are a few notes from his presentation:

  • There are three things that impact success: Competence, Consequence and Competition
  • Competence in PR
    – Are you urgent? Do you work fast and get restless when you have little to do? Are you an intense person?
    – Are you  flexible? Do you thrive in change? Do you look at multiple perspectives? Can you work with multiple distractions?
    – Are you analytical? Do you enjoy complex games and puzzles? Do you find solutions easily?
    – Are you a strong communicator? Are you relationship-focused and issues-oriented? Are you entrepreneurial? Do you have a strong character?
  • Consequence in PR
    Many things affect who you are, including your culture, family, history/legacy, ethnocentricity and opportunity.
  • Competition
    Gladwell’s book found a 10,000 hour rule. It takes about 10,000 hours of practice to reach the point of greatness. Those who are born early in the year have a distinct advantage also.
  • PR Success
    – You are your brand and you have access to opportunity, growth and change.
    – PRSSA builds on your 10,000 hours. So do internships and relationships.
  • Networking is key.
    It provides access and opportunities.
    – It leverages someone else’s 10,000 hours.
    – It eliminates a lot of the competition.

  • Read Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz
    You must deliver value to other people first.
    – It is, “What can I do for you?”
    – Don’t worry about who gets the credit – everyone wins.
  • McCormick’s Recommendations
    – Protect your brand.
    – Always do what is right and ethical.
    – Avoid ethnocentricity (filtering).
    – Learn to network.
    – Recognize opportunity.
    – Keep learning.
    – Be passionate.
  • In regards to relationships with PRSA professionals:
    – Define what you need.
    – Give a time measurement. How long do you need their help? How much time do you want from them?
    – What do you need their help for? Why are they important?

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Event Planning is Unpredictable

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 25, 2009 in event planning, PRSSA

Event planning is one small aspect of public relations. I’ve met a lot of people who say they would love to go into event planning. There also are people who have no experience in it, but think it’s just fun and easy work.

I’ve been planning an event called Member PRemier, which is an annual luncheon for PRSSA members, families and friends. It has been quite the rollercoaster. With just one month left to go, I’m starting to feel the pressure of the event.

Here’s a short list of how it has gone so far.

  • October: Five months to go and no worries. Set date. Find venue and food. Still relaxed.
  • November: Struggle to get members to commit to joining the committee. I don’t want to plan this by myself! Play with budget. This will cost how much?! Choose the name First ImPRessions.
  • December: Not much accomplished. There was one meeting that nobody came to. Put together information on online collaboration Web site. It’s very cool, but everyone is to preoccupied with exams and holidays to care about helping me plan the event.
  • January: Get a few people to join committee. Learn to delegate better. Have outline for the program done. Have sponsorship opportunities outlined. Assigned projects to people. Must get all of this stuff approved by adviser ASAP.
  • February: Go crazy. Advisers want location changed. Go someplace bigger, they say. Call several places. E-board votes: we’re sticking with the original location. Adviser says to change event name because it’s too similar to another name. Edit everything. Find and contact keynote. Design save-the-date cards. Design invitations. Copiers say invites are the wrong size. Fix it. They need more changes. Fix it again. Finally, invitations are to press. Edit the budget and decide on cost to attendees. Start pitching sponsorships. Decided, with one month to go, that event planning is unpredictable.

And as crazy as it sounds, I still kind of like planning events.

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Allan Schoenberg Award

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 24, 2009 in PRSSA, Public Relations

Today I got a letter in the mail. I opened it slowly, hoping it wasn’t a rejection letter. I read the first word, “Congratulations!” and relaxed. The letter said I was the 2009-2010 Allan Schoenberg Award recipient.

I’m thrilled and honored. I’m looking forward to meeting Allan Schoenberg in person at our PRSSA conference. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit already via Twitter.

The letter said, “The Allan Schoenberg Award was established to recognize an outstanding member of PRSSA or PR Central who shows leadership potentials and commitment to the field of public relations.”

I will be recognized as the winner at the PRSSA Spring Conference, but Dr. Krider and Allan Schoenberg said it was fine to share the news early.

The hardest part of the application was the essay. I had to define my philosophy of public relations.

I wanted to say something Natalie Ebig Scott tweeted to me once: “It’s PR, not the ER. I’m influencing lives, not saving them.” But, I don’t think that was essay appropriate!

So, I wrote, “Overall, I believe public relations is positively influencing people’s ideas and opinions through communication to achieve strategic goals.”

You wouldn’t believe how long it took to come up with that! Coming up with a philosophy is harder than I thought. I talked to the recipients from the past two years and they said they felt the same way.

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Agency Life, Internships and Resume Advice with a Ketchum AAE

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 20, 2009 in Career, Internships, PRSSA, Public Relations, Resume

A few weeks ago I talked on the phone with my mentor I was paired with through the Mentorship Connection. Kevin Saghy, an assistant account executive at Ketchum, graduated from Ohio Northern University. He  served as PRSSA national vice president of chapter development during his junior year and was national president his senior year.

Here are a few of the great points he made:

About Agency Life

Kevin said agencies have an exciting work atmosphere and provide an opportunity to work with really smart people and on a variety of accounts. The hardest thing, he said, is to balance time between several clients and manage deadlines.


Kevin suggested getting as many internships as you can get and have completed at least two by graduation. Agencies generally like to see some prior experience at an agency, but varied experience helps too.


Kevin, who has had an inside look at Ketchum’s hiring processes, said relevance is important and experience trumps education. He suggested I organize my resume with relevance in mind; I had been unsure of whether or not I should list all of my experience (which would put my last internship towards the bottom), or sort it by professional and college experiences. By sorting these experiences, I was able to put my internship right up top.

My favorite thing he said about resumes: “It’s not a formula. You don’t need to listen to career services to get a job.”

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2009 PRSSA National Assembly

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 5, 2009 in PRSSA

Tuesday evening I was chosen by the Dr. Diane S. Krider chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America at Central Michigan University to be the chapter delegate at the 2009 PRSSA National Assembly in New Orleans.

I’m both honored and excited. I have wanted to be a delegate ever since my freshman year when I first heard about it. Finally, I have the opportunity to do so.

Feel free to comment if you plan to attend!

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The Importance of an Offline Network

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 2, 2009 in Career, Conferences, Guest Post, Networking, PRSSA, Public Relations

This is a guest post by Nick Lucido. Nick is a public relations student at Michigan State University. He is the chapter president at MSU PRSSA. Check out his blog, PR Start.

The Importance of an Offline Network

As the world continues to transition online, one thing that many of us forget is the importance of the human connection. I don’t think we’re at the point where a direct message on Twitter is worth more than a lunch meeting, nor do I think that will ever happen (hopefully). The key is to maximize both tools in order to meet new people while maintaining the connection with those already in your network.

It probably seems difficult to cold call a professional and ask for some of their time, so I put together a list of three places to build your offline network:


Attending national, regional and local conferences is essential to meeting new people. While building your network locally is important, knowing people around the country can be helpful in job searches and, down the line, finding business relationships. Have you ever heard of someone knowing too many people? Probably not. Having a far-reaching network, especially as a student, shows commitment and skill.

When you attend these conferences, bring business cards that have not only your cell phone number and e-mail address, but your different online contact information. This way, you can build the relationship with your new contacts and hopefully open the door for more in-person meetings down the line.

Professional Associations

I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, but it’s important to get involved with your professional community. Associations such as PRSA and PRSSA are a great way to meet and network with people in your profession. Being active within those organizations is even more important because it demonstrates your thought leadership within the organization. People look up to thought leaders and allow for easier networking.


While building your number of followers on Twitter, friends on Facebook and subscribers on FriendFeed, don’t be afraid to meet them in person. I’ve experienced the awkward “Oh, I follow you on Twitter!” many times. I stumbled into Scott Monty (@scottmonty) at the North American International Auto Show, Tim Wieland (@timwieland) at the EMU Student Development Conference and Shonali Burke (@shonali) by phone through the Mentorship Connection.

One principle to keep in mind with networking is really important for students. The objective of networking should not be to give your resume to that person – it should be to build a relationship. Helping out the professional either by interning with them or giving them a suggestion is important to do in a business relationship. Once you help them out, they will be more inclined to help you out.

As students, it’s pretty easy to be intimidated to ask a professional for a meeting. Once you get over your fear, the results will pay off. After all, it’s know what you know, but who you know.

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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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