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Editorial Calendars for Blogs

Posted by Rachel Esterline on May 26, 2009 in Blogging

Today I spent a lot of time looking at editorial calendars. During this time, I really began to see the use of them.

One of my goals for the month of June will be to develop an editorial calendar for my blog. I actually think this will help with writing and consistency of postings. There are some weeks when I am too tired to think of good subjects. Outlining them beforehand is a great idea.

Here are a few things I am considering:

  • Having monthly (or weekly) sections, like interviews with professionals/students, book reviews, etc
  • Varying subjects on social media, PR, marketing, advertising, etc.
  • Guest post features
  • How-to and tutorial type posts
  • Sharing links to great articles

What do you think? Any ideas to add? Have you done this before or considered doing this? Have any advice?

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My Journey to Getting A Step Ahead: The Blogoversary

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 26, 2009 in Blogging, Public Relations

My blogoversary is this Saturday. I started blogging about public relations a year ago.

Below is my first post at my previous address for A Step Ahead:

In the world of public relations, being a step ahead is important. You need to know what could happen…and what you will do if things go wrong. You need to know about the up-and-coming ways to getting things done so your competition doesn’t leave you in the dust. I really don’t think any professional strives to be “a step behind.”

Being a step ahead isn’t just about keeping up. You also need ambition – a motivation to move forward. To stay ahead.

That’s what this blog will be about: The steps I take to get ahead to reach my aspirations and true potential as a public relations professional.

I’m currently an undergraduate student, majoring in integrative public relations and double minoring in communication and journalism at Central Michigan University. I am a very active member of the Public Relations Student Society of America and a consultant for PR Central, our student-run PR firm.

This is my journey. This is what I’m doing to get A Step Ahead.

I feel like I’ve leaped ahead since writing this post on Feb. 28, 2008. I never saw my blog coming as far as it has come today. It really amazes me.  Since my first posts, I have developed my own style and niche. I’ve met many great people online, and even a few of them in person.

What are you doing to get a step ahead?

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Negative feedback from non-bloggers? Too bad.

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 19, 2009 in Blogging, Career, Social Media

All Things Workplace says you should work on being likeable to be successful. I thought this was interesting. Recently I had a conversation with Jessica Lawlor from PRowl Public Relations about negative blog comments, which obviously mean there are a few people who don’t like you.

According to All Things Workplace, “your like-ability impacts your credibility and your credibility impacts how influential you become.”

I think this is interesting. I don’t work too hard at trying to make people like me. I think you learn in elementary school that you can’t be everyone’s best friend. I’ve been very focused on being driven, credible and ambitious. I am always willing to help people out, so I thought that made me likeable enough.

But, I’ve found that some people find it strange that I spend so much time blogging. Some have even reacted negatively.

In a reply to a Twitter post by Penelope Trunk, I said, “I’ve found that people think I’m not normal because I have a blog…I tell them that I’m just ‘driven’ and ‘ambitious’

A PR professional I follow replied, saying “That’s ridiculous…

It is. But this is how I replied: “If they only knew the doors my blog has opened for me in my career…they would be starting one too!

And it’s true. This blog has opened countless doors and windows. I’m pretty sure the roof is about to blow off.

I’ve met a lot of great PR students and professionals through this blog. I’ve also attracted the attention of those who are offering internships. I’ve been blogging for almost a year now. It has helped me develop my own style in writing, has improved my skills overall and has taught me a lot about PR and social media. It also has given me confidence-I would never have written such a personal post six months ago.

Maybe these people are just jealous (link from Guy Kawasaki). But they could have a blog too. It’s not very hard to start one. Maybe they simply don’t understand.

How do people outside of the blogosphere react to your blog?

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The “Idea Bank” Method

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 1, 2009 in Blogging

Lately I’ve been making an effort in posting to my blog daily. Sometimes I create a few posts at once and space them out, so I might be cheating on this a little bit. Writing a good blog post takes a lot of time. Copyblogger’s post on speed-blogging has some great tips.

I recently started keeping an “idea bank.” Whenever I get bored in class or am suddenly inspired with a blog post idea, I write it down in a small notebook. When I was bored earlier today, I came up with 10 new ideas. Some require research and interviews, but others are posts I could write right now.

Copyblogger also suggests lists. I have found that a lot of people read these types of posts and usually will comment. These are easier and quicker to read, which is important for your time-pressed audience.

How do you come up with great blog posts?

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Eight Steps To Making Time For Everything

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jan 27, 2009 in Blogging, Time Management

Created using Excel to manage my scheduleFinding time to do everything is pretty hard these days. Somehow, I managed to make it through last semester alive (with good grades!). This semester, my schedule is very busy. Not only did I get a new job working with Central Michigan Life, but I also must manage several leadership positions, organizations and committee meetings in addition to class and studying.

Step 1: Before the semester began, I created a schedule map using Excel. I blocked out different times with different colors for each activity I must do every week (see left).

This map has helped me figure out when I could schedule committee meetings and how to fit in studying. I also left myself open time. It is important to have time to yourself. Often, I use my time to read blogs on my Google Reader, read a book, check my Facebook or just relax.

Step 2: Last weekend I forced myself to sit down and clean out my inbox. I had let 245 e-mails accumulate. Previously, I had used my inbox as my to-do list. But it was difficult to know my priorities when I was so unorganized. Keeping them sorted and filed has helped me keep my sanity already.

Step 3: Instead of using my e-mail as my to-do list, I got a real one. I have a little purple notebook with an attached pen (free from Franco – it was from the recent PRSSA agency tour) that I keep in my purse. Whenever I think of something I need to get done, I write it down. When I sort through my e-mails and find something I need to do, it goes in the notebook immediately.

Step 4: I keep a very detailed FranklinCovey Planner. There are two pages for each day with a prioritized task list, daily tracker, appointment scheduler and daily notes area. This has been the best planner I have ever had. My dad purchased the binder for me and I purchased the refills. It looks very professional and it’s useful. My class assignments and schedule are organized (my to-do list is too small for all my tasks!).

Step 5: I spend time writing several blog posts at once, instead of trying to fit a post into my daily schedule. After writing the posts, I schedule them to post on different days. This makes my life easier because then I can simply check for comments daily without worrying that I’m not posting enough.

Step 6: Finding time for family and friends can be difficult. Last semester, I had meetings nearly every evening. This semester, I scheduled all of my meetings to be on Monday or Tuesday. This gives me Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings to be with the ones I love.

Step 7: It’s hard to do, but just say no. There are so many things I’d like to add to my schedule. But right now isn’t the best time. As much as I’d like to write for Grand Central Magazine, establish myself as a freelance writer, do volunteer PR for local nonprofits and more, I just don’t think adding more activities to my busy schedule is very smart.

Step 8: Make it all count. I seem to be an expert at this. In order to graduate, I will need 124 credits. If my calculations are correct, I will graduate with 126 credits with a 59-credit major and two minors. How did I cut it so close? I made many classes double-count and even a few triple-count. This has saved me time and money. Another way I make things count is by making all of my leisurely reading relate to PR or professional development. I learn while I relax.

How do you manage your time effectively?

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Stepping Ahead with Personal Branding

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jan 20, 2009 in Blogging, Branding, Career, Public Relations

A year ago before I started blogging, I had never heard of personal branding. I didn’t fully understand the concept until I had read several blogs about it.

Last February, when I started “A Step Ahead,” I leaped into social media and personal branding. Social media is a great tool for creating and communicating your personal brand.

  • Blogs
    My blog has been my top tool for building my personal brand. My original intention when starting blogging wasn’t to build a brand. I wanted to write about my personal experiences as a public relations student. My blog has not only improved my skills as a writer, but I also have built a brand. People, like Dave Baker, have recognized who I was because they have read my blog. Professors, classmates and friends have asked me to explain blogging.  My brand includes social media knowledge, public relations experience and writing skills due to this blog. Commenting on other blogs helps your brand as well.
  • Twitter
    My dad always said, “Birds of a feather fly together.” Basically, you are who you associate with. On Twitter, I am able to associate with and talk to PR professionals and students from around the world. Twitter also is one of the top referrers to my blog. A few months ago, I thought Twitter was one of the most ridiculous tools I had ever heard of. But, as I have used it and seen its effectiveness, I believe Twitter is a great tool for networking, brand building and public relations
  • Facebook
    I recently launched Learn it, Live it, Love it, a public relations book group open to all PR students and professionals. After starting a Facebook Group, I invited probably close to 100 people from the PR field. Many of them accepted the invitation. Through Facebook, I was able to reach many people and spread the word about a group I started. This has helped strengthen my brand (because I am the founder of Learn it, Live it, Love it) and also the new brand of the book group. I also posted information about the book group in various PR-related Facebook groups I am a part of.
  • LinkedIn
    I love how LinkedIn works as a virtual resume. When people “connect” with me, they are able to view my experiences and other professional details. This helps build my brand as a knowledgeable, ambitious PR student.

How have you built your brand? What has worked best for you? How has branding affected your career?

Related Posts:

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Advertising 2.Oh! – Part 1

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Dec 12, 2008 in Advertising, Blogging, Branding, PRSSA, Public Relations, Social Media

Over the next several weeks, I will be posting some content from my previous other PR blog. This was originally posted on March 20, 2008. Advertising 2.Oh! is a three-part series.

Today I attended an event hosted by the White Pines Chapter of PRSA. It was called Advertising 2.Oh! Blogging, Vlogging, and Slogging Your Way Through The New Media Jungle presented by Steve Lance. He made a lot of great points and I learned a lot, even though I felt much of it was targeted more so to people in advertising rather than public relations. Click here to find out more out this Emmy Award winning speaker. I managed to take three pages of notes, which I will break up into three different blog posts.

Advertising 2.Oh! Recap #1

Lance said that television is no longer the dominant form of entertainment. He proved this point by asking how many people spent more time on the Internet than they did watching TV. The great majority of attendees did.

Another great point Lance made was if you manage your content, you control your brand’s destiny. His example of this was how Walt Disney had a two-hour premiere when Disneyland was first opening. Eventually, Disney “swallowed” the network (and bought it).

Another example that is more current would be Home Depot. They offer workshops, such as how to put in your own bathroom floor. These workshops are taped and offered to networks. The networks like these because they don’t have to pay for the workshops. Home Depot gets promoted so it’s great for business.

From what I understood, Home Depot also offered advertising time to their product’s companies (for example, if they did a workshop on flooring, Pergo could advertise its floor products). They also have the information on the Web site in the form of five minute vignettes (in print only). From these, they build cross-promotional platforms. One example given by Lance was having links to the vignettes on magazine Web sites in which they advertise in, such as home and garden sites.

Lance showed two models about advertising, content and messages. In the “old” model, the content is separate from the advertising. Now, in the “new” model, the message is the content. This means “total consumer engagement.”

He also emphasized that the consumer is at the center (this was shown in another model, in which ‘consumer’ was in the center circled and at each quarter outside of the circle was ‘positioning,’ ‘execution,’ ‘brand’ and ‘idea’). The brand is no longer at the center as it was before, according to Lance.

Check back soon for Advertising 2.Oh! Recap #2

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Lessons in Blogging: What I’ve learned

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Dec 8, 2008 in Blogging, Public Relations

I recently read 5 valuable lessons you can learn from blogging.

Blogging is about the journey. I’ve recently looked back at posts from last February and March. I never imagined I would have come this far with my blog and I certainly never thought my friends is PRSSA would start asking me about how to do it. I starting blogging for myself. I wanted to keep a journal of what I was learning about and how my experiences were furthering my education. If you are starting out as a blogger, don’t worry about your readership. Worry about your content. Readers will begin to find you if you are a good writer.

Blogging takes work. You have to write and engage your readers. You have to go through and approve comments. There are days you don’t even feel like getting on the computer or writing, but you do anyway. The hard work does pay off. Keep at it.

Blogging builds your network. There are many great PR professionals and educators I have met through my blog. It’s important to read other blogs and comment. It will not only bring readers back to your blog, but also build your professional network.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned in ProBlogger’s guest post was that blogging can get your name out there. If you are in PR, journalism or another communications-related field, this can be a great perk to blogging. There is nothing cooler than having people say, “I know who you are. I’ve read your blog.”

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Social media improves your personal brand and influences your career

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Nov 26, 2008 in Blogging, Public Relations, Social Media, Writing

Some people are saying social media is the future of public relations and it is changing the field of communication. But, I’ve noticed a lot of students are still not involved in social media.

Through Karen Russel’s blog, I came across 13 Ways Social Media Can Improve Your Career by Dave Fleet. I thought it was a really great post about how you can use social media to your advantage. The following post is a real look at how social media is helping me stay “a step ahead.”

First of all, according to Fleet, social media expands your network. I’ve met several students and professionals through Twitter and this blog. Kasey Anderson, a CMU alumna, introduced herself through Twitter. I met her in person several months later when she spoke in my public relations writing class. Dave Baker introduced himself to me at the 2008 PRSSA Conference. He was following me on Twitter and reading my blog before we met in person. There are many other professionals I’ve met through blogging, including Allie Osmar at Edelman PR. Social media expands your social network beyond what was even imaginable B.S.M. (Before Social Media).

Through sites like LinkedIn, you can get references. I got my first reference earlier this month. It’s like a virtual resume…potential employers can read testimonials about your work ethic and skills before they even interview you.

There is another Rachel Esterline out there, so I always go by Rachel M. Esterline when online. It helps distinguish me from the other Rachel. Owning your online brand is important. Google yourself and see how you stand. Of the first 10 results of “Rachel Esterline,” seven are mine. Sixteen of the first 20 results for “Rachel M. Esterline” are mine also. You also should consider building your brand using a blog, personal Web site, Twitter and other methods. I also use a universal image on my Web site and business card.

Social media also can be used to find jobs. I am following the Human Resources Coordinator from Edelman’s Washington, D.C. office on Twitter. I also have talked with an agency through Twitter about internships.

Social media can help you stay current with the latest trends. I subscribe to more than 100 different blogs with Google Reader. Readers save a lot of time. If you do not use a reader yet, I suggest you try Google Reader. There are many new trends I have first heard about through Twitter. Actually, the first time I heard about Google Chrome was through Twitter.

Current events also carry into the social media atmosphere. During the presidential election, all I had to do is check my Twitter to know if either candidate had said anything interesting (or stupid).

Social media shows that you are interested in the latest trends and participating. Fleet described is as being on the “leading edge.” It also helps you learn from others (from their experiences and from what they read, enjoy and then post for you).

Lastly, social media can improve your writing skills. My skills have improved immensely. I also am a better editor and better at clarifying my thoughts clearly and concisely. Blogging makes you find something interesting and write your point of view. Twitter makes you write tighter because you only have 140 characters to get your point across.

Overall, if you are a future PR professional, social media is something you need to know about and understand or else you will be left behind in the dust.

Related Posts:
BG: Before Google
Communication Tips from Bob Lutz of General Motors
Crossing Borders Through Communication: Global PR
Social Media, PR and What I’ve Been Up To

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What makes a blog successful?

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Nov 19, 2008 in Blogging, Networking, Public Relations

Penelope Trunk says good blogging is simple. Classmates and PRSSA members often ask me about blogging. How do I find things to write about? How do you have a good blog?

Penelope makes a simple, but great point. Write good posts.

I also really liked how she said is that what makes a blog successful is it “helps you to reach your goals— either career or personal.” I started blogging for three reasons; (1) to improve my writing skills, (2) to establish my name as a writer and to brand myself online, and (3) to network. This blog has achieved every one of these goals.

Trunk made another good point: “Find a very popular topic and then write at the very edge of that topic. If you write in the center, that’s where everyone else is and it will be hard to present something that is unique.”

I could easily write posts on how textbook PR. I could write about how to write a press release, but do you really want to read that? Realistically, you could just buy a textbook or go to a PR class. I’m sure many of you already know how to write a press release anyway.

A Step Ahead and my online portfolio serve as a professional development and networking tool for myself. I didn’t create either to make any money (although I did recently start a store to sell PR-related clothing and other items). I created them to develop my writing and critical thinking skills in PR and to learn more about the profession.

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