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The College Student’s Alternative to the Lottery

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Apr 22, 2009 in college

Today I sent in my application for another scholarship.  It sounded like something I qualified for, but I’m sure there are plenty of other great PR students applying for it as well.

But I started thinking: Applying for internships and scholarships is a good alternative to lotteries and casinos. At least they are judged on some sort of merit rather than random chance.

Even though I live near a casino, there’s a better chance of me getting this scholarship than winning the jackpot or a Harley Davidson. That’s why I invest the time and the postage costs into applying for internships, scholarships and awards.

I know I’ve spent more than $50 in the past few months on priority mail alone. Fifty bucks doesn’t sound like much…unless you’re a college student and advertising account executive working on commission.

It’s also tough to apply for scholarships because more often than not, you will not get them. Some people won’t bother to write the essay, gather the letters of recommendation and fill out the application unless it’s a sure shot.

So far, I’ve done pretty well “winning the lottery.” But, it really wasn’t luck. I’ve worked pretty hard to get where I am today. I know I wouldn’t have gotten any awards if I wouldn’t have had the guts to apply for them in the first place despite past failures. Sometimes, you need to take action over uncertainty.

For example, I applied for the Edelman Award and the Deveney Communication Summer Scholar Program. I may have lost, but I applied for the next great internship program I heard about, which was the Founder’s Award. I was amazed when I got it (even though I wanted it more than anything and I’m sure it showed in my application). At my own university, I also was given the Allan Schoenberg Award.

Every student has self-doubt. In an old post on Penelope Trunk’s blog, she suggests just pushing through it (with a box of Oreos if you need them).

So if you’re a college student, try the gambling alternative: Apply for scholarships, internships and awards. If you’ve worked hard, you might just hit the jackpot.

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My Tough Decision

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

Background

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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The Founder’s Award

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Apr 15, 2009 in Career, Fahlgren Mortine, Internships

Reflecting over the past three years, I realize I’ve put in a lot of hours in developing my skills for a career in public relations. Sometimes I wondered if it was going to make a difference when I started applying for my six-credit internship.

On Wednesday, I found out it had. I was offered the Founder’s Award. One month ago, I wrote Fahlgren Mortine Award: 5 Things I Realized When Applying. I was ecstatic and shocked when I found out I got it. The award offers a $1,500 scholarship and a full-time paid internship at $400 per week. Although I do not know how many great PR students I was up against, I’m sure there was some stiff competition.

Fahlgren Mortine is listed in the top 100 public relations firms nationally by PR Week. It is the largest firm in Columbus, Ohio, pulling in $5.2 million in revenue in 2007. They have earned PRSA Silver and Bronze Anvils in ’08, ’07 and ’06.

So you can see why I’m so excited.

I start the internship on May 20, so be sure to check back on this blog if you are interested in what it is like to move out of state to complete an amazing internship.

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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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Five truths about event planning

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 22, 2009 in event planning

I plan to write more about event planning soon, byt there are a few quick things I would like to note until I have time to write a post:

  1. What can go wrong, will go wrong. The best thing to do is be prepared and stay calm. One guest complimented me on my demeanor. He said that demeanor shows a lot about a person and I showed that I can roll with things even when things aren’t quite right.
  2. You don’t get to enjoy the event. I took about three bites of my food and I was back up again, checking on the buffet and going around the room. My job was to make sure things ran smoothly and enjoying myself was low on my list of priorities. Luckily, the waitress was nice enough to give me a to-go bag of all the food served. I enjoyed the food after the event.
  3. The event will probably start late. You can’t control what time people arrive, even if you tell them to get there early. It helped that I built extra time into the schedule to help with this.
  4. Event planning is harder than it looks. My friend Jena told me this last year after she planned this same event. I didn’t quite believe her until I was in her position. I’m sure some things I did was criticized by others. But until someone is completely in charge of planning an event, I’m not sure they have much room to talk. You don’t know the hassles and stresses of event planning until you’ve actually done it.
  5. If you expect it to be simple, it won’t be. I bought 10 glass vases from the local dollar store. Several of them started leaking after being filled with water. You wouldn’t expect glass vases to not be able to hold water.

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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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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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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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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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