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10 Things I’ve Learned During My First Month at an Agency

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jun 16, 2009 in Fahlgren Mortine, Internships

I’ve been working at Fahlgren Mortine for a month now. Here are 10 simple things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Double check everything. And then check it again. Then, just to be sure, check one more time.
  2. Turn in work “client ready.” Make sure everything is in the right font, color and size. Check on text wrap and images.
  3. Someone is watching you…so be enthusiastic in everything you do and be memorable.
  4. Network.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  6. Take extra opportunities (like going to that optional meeting that starts at 5:30 p.m.)
  7. Pay attention to company culture and politics.
  8. Jump at any opportunity to get experience.
  9. Don’t be afraid to come in early or stay late when needed.
  10. Realize you’ll probably make a few mistakes. Own up to them, learn your lesson and don’t obsess about it too much.

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Agency Life: Tracking Time

Posted by Rachel Esterline on May 28, 2009 in Career, Fahlgren Mortine, Internships

This is the first part in an ongoing series about working at an agency.

Even though it’s a very small part of working at an agency, tracking your time is very important.

For each task I do for every client, I must track how much time I spend working. I’ve discovered that this actually makes me more productive. At the end of the day, I have a quantifiable record of what I accomplished.

Tracking time also gives you a better idea on how long it takes to complete a particular kind of project.

Here are a three tips to make tracking time easier:

  1. Write down the start and stop time of each task you do. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to remember the times an hour or two later, let alone at the end of the day.
  2. When you complete the task, quickly calculate the amount of time you spent on the task. I hate doing a lot of math, so doing this saves me time and aggravation when it comes time to enter my hours in the program.
  3. When entering time and tasks into the program, highlight each task after you’ve entered it. This will keep you from entering it twice.

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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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Fahlgren Mortine Award: 5 Things I Realized When Applying

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 18, 2009 in Internships, Public Relations

I recently applied for Fahlgren Mortine’s Founder’s Award, which provides a paid summer internship and a $1,500 scholarship to a sophomore or junior. I had to submit a cover letter, resume, application form, two letters of recommendation, two writing samples and several completed assignments.

First of all, this was the most intensive internship application I have ever seen. To be totally honest, it was more work than some classes I have taken.

But, believe it or not, I had fun working on the assignments. The assignments enabled me to show the professionals at Fahlgren Mortine how I used my research, writing and PR skills.

Here are five things I realized (or was reassured about) when applying for this award:

1. Tweet to connect. Through Twitter, I found a news anchor who worked for the channel I wanted to pitch to. When researching, I was having trouble figuring out who exactly I would pitch to. I explained what type of client I was working for and what the pitch was about and she gave me several ideas of who I would contact, if this were a real pitch. Twitter once again is proved as a useful tool for communicators.

2. Brainstorm for ideas. One assignment was to create an event agenda.  I think I could have written a conference agenda with my page-long list. But, by brainstorming a lot of ideas, I was able to pick out the ones I thought worked best.

3. Crazy creative. I can’t completely suggest to be crazy creative, I guess, because I haven’t heard back about the internship. But, I created a logo for the client. The assignment didn’t say I needed to, but I felt the project would look better if it had one. Hopefully they don’t think I’m crazy for putting in the extra work.

4. Research, research, research. When creating the event agenda, I didn’t just choose speakers and activities that I thought would be good. I also researched venues in the city.  I was even able to choose which rooms I wanted to use for my event.

5. Paper matters. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but I felt better putting my materials on nice, thick paper. It looked professional and clean. It might cost more money, but isn’t your career worth it?

Challenges inspire me. I’m not sure if it is because I like hard work, or if I just want to prove something, but I love a good challenge. The Fahlgren Mortine application was challenging, but I saw it as an opportunity to improve my skills. And, maybe I’ll even get an internship out of the deal! It was a great learning experience.

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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.

Internships

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.

Resumes

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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