Expand your network…even if they don’t work in PR

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Apr 3, 2009 in Networking

This morning I got a very nice e-mail from a CMU alumnus who I had interviewed last summer during my internship at CMU Public Relations and Marketing. He had stayed in touch from time to time, sending me funny pictures of drunken pumpkins and checking to see if I was going to the championship football game.

Today, he said he would be in town later this month and asked if I could meet him for coffee. It’s very nice that an alumnus who is a huge supporter of the university wants to meet me, a CMU student who interviewed him more than 6 months ago. It just goes to show how much of a supporter he is of the university. He doesn’t work in PR, but he still has an interest in the students.

This man truly knows the meaning of networking: Creating and building relationships with people, whether they are young or old, new or experienced, or in your career or outside your field.

I look forward to meeting him for coffee and expanding my network of professionals.



PRofessional Development Week Overview

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 24, 2009 in Career

I recently had a special series on A Step Ahead called “PRofessional Development Week.”

Here are the posts from the series, featuring many great guest bloggers:

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Networking ROI (PRofessional Development Week Extra)

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 10, 2009 in Networking

This post is a part of PRofessional Development Week. This special week, originally to last from March 2 to March 6, will be extended. Here is one PRofessional extra.

This is a guest post by Dave Baker, a student at St. John Fisher College. Dave is a PRSSA chapter president and has previously served as vice president of client communications at PRIMA Connections (SJFC’s student-run firm).

This week I received some great advice and I felt it needed to be passed along. I have been seeking some help on which career path to choose among the many that are available to the future PR practitioner. My new mentor handed me a brochure for an upcoming seminar.

Now, I am no stranger to seminars. I attend them whenever I can, but this time it was sort of different. I asked her who was speaking and she hadn’t bothered to look yet. I asked what the topic was and again she didn’t know. Not only did she not know but also she didn’t completely care. “It isn’t about the topic or the speaker, it’s about who you can meet and that’s why you need to go. And while you are there, you should see about joining.” By the way, the speaker received high praise, as did the topic once her point was made.

I never thought of it this way. Sure, the speaker matters, when you have the job, as does the content but I don’t have anything yet and that was her point. Early in your career, you join as much as you can and attend whatever possible just so you can meet people. It’s always been about who you know and what better way to find friends, mentors, internships and even the inside track on the job hunt than to get out there and talk to the people who make this happen.

This discussion made me think about the events I have attended through PRSSA and other organizations and I realized I have been going about my seminar selection all wrong. I looked at what I would like and see what I can get out of it. I realize that this isn’t a great strategy for networking at all. I should look at the event and determine who is going to be at there and decide if that is the group I want to get to know. The social media marketing measurement group is a world apart from the non-profit fundraising one but attending both would provide me with the least amount of crossover and the most contacts.

Like I was saying, I have gotten a lot out of what I have seen so far and as I am about to graduate I think this is the best time to pass along the tips I have taken away…

  1. Get there early. The best contacts are made before the food is served, as many people can’t invest the afternoon in socializing after the speaker is done.
  2. Bring a friend. Any experience you see as a good one is worth sharing. Plus, two people can work a room easier than one.
  3. Meet the people working the registration table. It is so nice to walk in to a room full of strangers and see that familiar face behind the registration desk. Not only can they expedite getting you in the room they can also be a great resource to connect you with a stranger.
  4. Get on the mailing list. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to rearrange your life if you are among the early invitees and you can pay online adding that “I’m a regular attendee” air about you.
  5. Meet the speaker. You just paid $25 for lunch that was probably chicken French and you sat through a presentation that every professional in the room saw as valuable. Maybe you should think about meeting this person that was identified as a valuable resource by the sponsoring organization.

The bottom line about attending any event is ROI. What is your return on the money you spent and time you invested in attending. What everyone fails to realize is in this case ROI is what we make it. No one is going to hand you the perfect job just for showing up or introduce you to a wonderful employer if they nothing good to say about you.

Put yourself out there at these events and reap the rewards of your efforts. It only takes one good contact to make an event a success but you have to take that first step.

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Why Twitter Is Great & Six Hashtags for PR Students/Professionals

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 23, 2009 in Social Media, Twitter

Tweet what?

I thought Twitter was the most ridiculous tool before I started using it. Even as I started to build my Twitter network, I didn’t quite get it. How was this such a great tool? What is the point?

Why I think it’s great

Months later, I think Twitter is great. It is a great tool for networking with other PR students and professionals, sharing interesting information, asking for advice and even promoting my blog. Since Jan. 1, more than 200 visits to this blog were via Twitter. I also met Julie Bonn Heath, who has offered me the opportunity to work with her virtually for her PR firm starting this spring.

Useful PR Hashtags

I’ve also discovered hashtags, which help organize posts. Here are some of the most useful hashtags for PR students and professionals I have found:

Why do you like Twitter? Do you have any great Twitter stories, like finding a job? What’s your favorite hashtag?

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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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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 2

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Dec 23, 2008 in Advertising, Branding, business, Networking

Over the next several weeks, I will be posting some content from my previous other PR blog. This was originally posted on March 26, 2008. Advertising 2.Oh! is a three-part series. Read part one here.

Lance said Gene Dewitt of DeWitt Media Strategies had said in five years, every company will need their own network. This doesn’t mean like taking over a network like Disney did, but every company will need its own network to help form digital relationships with customers. This gives opportunity for it to be the customer’s idea to form the relationship (and they expect you to be available for them).

Lance said the “old rules” still apply, such as understanding your brand, etc . But now the focus has shifted to two-way conversation. The consumer has more options now, so instead of just the original two options, ignore and engage, they now can reply.

Consumers will want to engage if the message is compelling (entertaining) or interesting (offers information). Responsive engagement includes brand offers, sweepstakes, etc. The audience creates (and usually controls) the conversation with interactive engagement.

Related posts:

Communication Tips from Bob Lutz of General Motors

Crossing Borders Through Communication: Global PR

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