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Insanity versus Success

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 9, 2009 in Career

“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” – Bruce Feirstein

This past year has been pretty interesting. I’ve managed being in leadership positions in multiple student organizations, an internship, a blog and being a full-time student. My current job at Central Michigan Life has replaced my internship this semester.

Some people have asked me if I’m insane. How do I have time for anything when my schedule is so packed? Every week I have meetings for PRSSA, PR Central (sometimes twice a week), SGA, PR committee (for SGA), and multiple meetings related to CM Life.

That’s why I like this quote by Bruce Feirstein. Some people might think I’m crazy for taking on so much, but I did so for strategic reasons. I like to stay busy. But, I also had a plan.

Simply getting a degree in public relations isn’t good enough. I believe you need to find ways to develop your skills and make yourself stand out. I want to go into agency PR. So isn’t it genius that I have spent the past six months learning to manage my time between multiple activities?

What are you doing to make yourself stand out? Or, if you are a professional, what makes a resume stand out to you?

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Pre-Career Strategy Has Kept Me On Track

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jan 29, 2009 in Strategic Planning, Time Management

Nick Lucido’s post about being a career strategist really resonated with me. I knew I wanted to go into PR before I graduated from high school. At the beginning of my freshman year, I created a color-coordinated spreadsheet mapping out the next four years of my life. You might call me a pre-career strategist.

My Four-Year PlanI recorded each class I needed for my PR major and for my journalism and communication minors.

Reviewing all of the requirements to graduate and my course of study, I was able to make at least nine classes double-count and one class triple-count.

This academic map has kept me on track for graduation and has saved me a lot of money in tuition. During the semesters I could only afford twelve credit hours, I was able to stay relaxed knowing I would still graduate within four years.

I review this document every semester to rearrange courses and to see how I am progressing. I have four other spreadsheets to track more specific aspects: General Education Requirements, PR Major, Journalism Minor, Communication Minor.

How have you kept yourself on track in college and your career?

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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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The Role of Public Relations in Driving Strategic Business

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Nov 10, 2008 in event planning, National Conference, PRSSA, Public Relations, Strategic Planning

2008 PRSSA National Conference

The Role of Public Relations in Driving Strategic Business
Kathryn Oldham, Director of Corporate Communications, Little Caesar’s Pizza

Kathryn Oldham spoke at the conference about strategy. She suggests using strategic documents to keep programs on track. These documents demonstrate thorough thinking and planning when you are presenting to company leaders. Strategic documents allow you to track the roles and responsibilities of others, helps keep people informed on program details and help measures results.

Ask the following questions to develop a strategic document:

  • What do you need to know?
  • What do company leaders need to know?
  • What does your extended team need to know?
  • What types of issues and challenges might the program face?
  • How do different aspects of the program fit together?
  • Who needs to be involved

A strategic document should contain the following:

  • Overview
  • Key messages
  • Event schedule
  • Media plan
  • Story angles
  • Internal communication
  • Identification of open issues
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Contacts
  • Budgets
  • Lessons learned (afterward)

The overview should contain the five W’s and the H: who, what, when, where, why and how

Key messages will be what you want the media focus on and broadcast.

The event schedule should contain names of who is in charge of certain duties and their deadlines.

The media plan should be strategically focused on how you will develop media interest, get on their calendars. You should prepare releases, b-roll and interviews.

Story angles need to be made interesting for a variety of segments of the media. What would local be interested in? National? Niche?

Internal communication is important in building pride within the organization. This might include working with internal newsletters, Web sites, voicemail, etc.

Open issues are issues that need to be addressed. For the Veteran’s program, open issues included reaching out to social media, materials, locations, rehearsals, weather, parking, travel, budget and contingency plans.

Roles and responsibilities are important in determining who is in charge of what, especially if you are working with agencies.

Oldham suggested you follow up with the media with thank you notes. As we all know, relationships are extremely important in PR. These relationships come in handy when you are trying to expand a story to get more coverage or if you are trying to get coverage of media opportunities such as anniversaries, grand openings or awards.

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Six Steps To Splendid Features

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Oct 2, 2008 in Writing

For me, feature writing is fun. I enjoy writing features because they are a challenge. For large features, Neil Baker makes a feature plan. I think the plan is a great idea, but I have an entire writing process I generally go through for features. Here are my six steps to splendid features:

1. Brainstorm interview questions. I always come up with as many questions as possible–at least 20, even if they are slightly off-topic or strange.
2. Type questions and organize. It may seem a little OCD, but I feel more in control during interviews if I have the questions going in an order that makes sense and will flow. A print out of questions also is easier to read.
3. Use a voice recorder during the interview. It’s so much easier to listen and respond to your interviewee when using a recorder. I make notes in my notebook about key words and, when I hear a good quote, I look at my recorder and write down the time. And since you won’t be trying to scribble down those great quotes, you can actually think of follow-up questions you didn’t think of before.
4. Listen to the recorder with your fingers at the keyboard. After the interview is over, you’ll have a slight idea of the angle you want to write about. I always type up the quotes and information I’ll need to write the story.
5. Reorganize the information in a sensible way and complete the story. After typing up the basic information and quotes, it doesn’t take long to finish the feature.
6. Print, edit and repeat. A printed version is always easier to edit than the electronic version. I try to print and edit several times before sending it on to an editor.

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