Check out !gnite

August 19, 2011 3:39 pm | No Comments

While it may seem like I’ve been slacking, I’ve been quite busy. From writing articles for magazines to planning a large social media conference, I’ve had my hands full.

First of all, if you’re a subscriber, switch your feed to www.rachelmesterline.com. This is where new content will be posted from now on. (It will show up in an RSS feed, but does not show up on the site yet because I don’t have much content yet).

Second, please check out !gnite, mid-Michigan’s first social media conference. Here are some details:

!gnite, mid-Michigan’s first social media conference, will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, at the H Hotel and Conference Center in Midland.

The event, co-hosted by Social Media Club Great Lakes Bay and The Midland Daily News, will teach professionals about the latest social media and Internet trends and provide strategies to help them reach audiences and build their social networks. You can enter for a chance win a free ticket if you go to the next networking event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 30 at Oscar’s Bar & Grill at 140 E. Main in Midland.

There will be sessions for professionals at all skill levels, from beginner through advanced. Session topics include:

  • When fans aren’t enough: Developing a successful social media strategy to drive business growth
  • How nonprofits can harness the power of social media
  • Create buzz and build an effective social strategy for your B2B company
  • You got any stuff? Content marketing for social media
  • Best practices for using social media to ignite business
  • Taking off the training wheels: Tips and tricks to get your business’ Facebook presence up and running
  • No budget? No problem! High-impact, super-cheap digital marketing
  • One dynamite panel, two digital tactics: Search engine optimization (SEO) & paid ads (SEM)

Tickets cost $75 for professionals and $50 for students. Businesses may receive a discount for purchasing three tickets for their employees. Lunch is provided.

To purchase tickets, visit creatingconversation.eventbrite.com, or contact Dave Dauer at (989) 839-4221 or ddauer@mdn.net.

Learn about other Social Media Club Great Lakes Bay events by visiting facebook.com/SMCGreatLakes.

Recently, my good friend Mikinzie Stuart blogged about balancing priorities. Lauren Novo also recently wrote about her blog taking the backseat.

These two blog posts echo my own thoughts about work-life balance and blogging.

I typically work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Afterward, I try to catch a fitness class to keep myself in shape (and sane). My evenings are spent managing Vision Mid Michigan, planning events for Social Media Club – Great Lakes Bay and writing freelance articles for magazines. I also manage to fit in some freelance PR work sometimes.  I’m also a 2012 bride-to-be. Blogging has obviously fallen to the wayside.

I love what I do, but there’s more to life than just work. Through managing all of these responsibilities, I’ve learned a few things to help me balance everything and avoid burnout.

1. Say no. It’s easier said than done. But, when something comes up that I know I can’t handle right now, I simply refer the project to someone else. This has actually helped me build great working relationships with other freelancers.

2. Think outside the job. Reading fiction on my Kindle has become a great way to refresh my mind. Sometimes I even read a few chapters while eating my lunch. I’ve downloaded several business books, but lately fiction wins every time.

3. Break a sweat. Working out after a busy day is one of my favorite ways to relieve stress. I personally love Pure Barre (disclaimer: I do some PR for the local studio…but I’d promote it even if I didn’t).

4. Go out with friends…And, don’t discuss work. I recently had a coworker and her husband over for dinner, beers and Wii mini-golf. I laughed so hard that night that my face hurt.

5. Disconnect. You really don’t need to be accessible at all times of the day, even though most of us feel like we should. This is sounds really simple, but I don’t think many people do it these days. Give it a try.

What do you do to balance your career with your personal life?

Overlooking small details can be a big mistake for PR professionals. Misspellings, bad links and poor planning can erode your credibility with clients, coworkers and bosses.

Here are 10 ways to help you catch mistakes before they affect your career:

  1. Start at step one. Review all of the input before getting started on a project.  Be sure you know where the main focus should be and what the goal is before putting your pen to paper.
  2. Back to basics. Spell the company name right. This sounds really simple, but mistakes do happen. Add your company or client’s name to your Microsoft Word dictionary to avoid the embarrassment of a simple misspelling. Learn how through Microsoft Support.
  3. Go out in style. A style guide can help you and your coworkers produce consistent work that gets it right every time, such as standard wording for a disclaimer or a phrase that’s always capitalized. To save even more time and effort, you can copy and paste often-used verbiage from a style guide to help you avoid typing mistakes.
  4. Let Me Google That For You. Does the product require a ™ or ® mark? Do you have the entire company name? Google will become your best friend for making sure the details are correct.
  5. Kill a few trees. Print out every piece of work you produce and review before passing it on to the next level. Your eyes could be glazing over small mistakes on the computer screen. If you feel guilty, plant a few saplings and be sure to recycle your bad drafts.
  6. Save the comments and criticism. The best way to learn is from your own mistakes. Keep notes on things you often forget to do or have done incorrectly in the past.
  7. Think like Jason Bourne. Don’t trust anyone or anything. People may inadvertently give you the wrong number or a misspelled name. Always double check information or compare it against valid sources, even when the information comes directly from the client.
  8. Don’t become the weakest link. Try out every Web address to be sure it goes to the appropriate place, whether it’s a Web page or e-mail. If you’re working on a print piece, type in the exact address shown to check it out – even if it looks correct and you know exactly where it leads.
  9. Be personally responsible. Do you assume that someone else will check the links? Do you hope someone else caught any potential spelling errors? Never assume and double check everything to ensure its correctness.
  10. There are no stupid questions. But, try to find the answer yourself first. There’s no shame in asking questions, but it’ll save everyone time if you try to find the answer yourself. (Go back to No. 1 and 4 to learn how.)

Small, simple details are the easiest to miss. And, they may affect your credibility more than one big, unexpected mistake. Detail-orientation is an acquired skill. By paying close attention to the work you do, the things your produce will be more thorough. The devil is in the details.

Set goals, not resolutions

December 3, 2010 11:26 am | 1 Comment

After six months, less than half of the people who set a New Year’s resolution were able to keep it. That’s a pretty depressing statistic.

Forget the resolutions. Set specific goals and outline the steps you need to take achieve them.

MindTools offers a SMART mnemonic device to help you set goals that is helpful when setting goals:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Time-bound

Goals that follow these guidelines are more precise. Measureability will help you know exactly when your goal is achieved. Time-bound will give you a deadline.

I also think that your goals need to be realistic. If you have a goal that may be a bit more difficult to achieve without prior planning, consider setting smaller goals that could lead to the bigger one.

For example, if you are a PR student interested in working at Edelman someday, set smaller goals that can help you achieve that one. Your smaller goals might include:

  • Read and comment on the 6 A.M. blog weekly to help the staff recognize your name.
  • Request an informational interview before graduation to learn more about the agency.
  • Obtain an internship at a local agency to gain experience next summer.
  • Network with Edelman staff members in person at local events and via social media regularly.
  • Create an online portfolio and blog to demonstrate PR skills and knowledge before graduation.

These smaller goals don’t seem like much. But, together they could help you achieve your larger goal.

I’ll be posting my goals soon, but I’m interested in knowing what your goals are for next year.

What do you plan to #AchieveIn2011?

**Image by iDream_in_Infrared

As an account executive and social media specialist at AGP, social media has become an integral aspect of my career. In between working on marketing communication plans and writing copy, I am tweeting and posting Facebook updates.

Distractions are imminent. As soon as I log onto Facebook to do research, I come across a slew of updates from friends and family. My Twitter feed is non-stop.

I manage to avoid some distraction by:

  1. Having specific links to client Facebook pages, helping me to avoid my personal feed.
  2. Using Twitter lists to categorize tweets. My Tweet Elite list keeps me connected to people I tweet with on a regular basis. I also have several lists for PR professionals, PR students and marketing professionals.
  3. Avoiding things not related to my job (except during lunch, when I will sometimes write blog posts such as this one).

So, how do you manage social media distractions at work? And, do you think it’s appropriate to read/tweet about things not related to your job during the day?

Get the job done right (now)

September 23, 2010 3:27 pm | 2 Comments

Attribution: Alexander Smolianitski

Working at an agency can be hectic. Inevitably, you will have tight deadlines.

Despite the pressures to get the job done quickly, it’s important to do it right the first time too.

Here are my top 10 tips for meeting impossible deadlines:

1. Get the right input. Whether you get the assignment directly from the client or from a co-worker, be sure to get all the details. Often, the person giving you the information will be in a hurry and may miss some important points – such as the angle of the news release, the focus of the direct mail piece or the audience of the marketing e-mail.

2. Compare to previous, already approved pieces. Since I’m still fairly new to B2B, there are many terms I don’t understand or “rules” that I don’t know. Check out items that have already been sent to the client to proofread for small details – such as whether a product name is italicized or if all web addresses are in bold.

3.  Revise, cut, proofread and repeat. You’re delusional if you think everything is perfect on the first draft. It never is…

4. Under promise and over deliver. Don’t agree to meet a deadline that you don’t think you’ll be able to meet, especially if that means the work might not be of the best quality. Rushed projects often result in errors that would have otherwise been caught.

5. Have an outsider take a look. Sometimes we know too much about a project and that affects our judgement. I often ask our secretary or a friend to take a look at what I’ve written. They can point out holes in the writing or design of a piece because their point of view isn’t clouded by knowledge of the client or project.

6. Save your previous drafts. Save changes in a new document. Sometimes people will say, “I think I liked it how you had it in the second version.” It works best if you save by numbering your drafts in the file name so you can refer to previous versions if needed.

7. Work efficiently. Turn of the distractions (Facebook, cell phones, etc.) and flip your productivity switch – whether that means playing soft jazz or working from home (if your office allows it). I recently spent a morning working from home so I could rehearse a presentation without interruption. I was more productive than I’d been all week.

8. Don’t give in to “writer’s block.” The beauty of technology is that we have “Backspace.” Don’t waste your time waiting for inspiration. Just start writing. You can always click “Delete” if the words don’t come out correctly.

9. Problem-solve with others. Sometimes I go to Lindsay Allen, frustrated that I can’t find the perfect word or annoyed that copy isn’t flowing. We go back and forth with suggestions until we settle on a solution.

10. Delegate. If you know you won’t be able to do something, pass it on to someone else as soon as you can. Don’t hold onto the project, hoping that time will magically slow down. It won’t. If you pass it on early enough, the other person will be able to make the most of their time to get the job done right (now).

What tips would you offer to accurately and efficiently complete a task on a tight deadline?

What Gen Y brings to the table

September 16, 2010 1:08 pm | 6 Comments

I am the youngest employee at AGP & Associates (not really a surprise, since I am only 22 and just starting my career) and am always trying to learn from my coworkers. From marketing strategy to the rules of writing, their skills certainly outrank my own.

But, over the past year, I’ve also learned that there’s a lot I can offer. As members of Gen Y, we bring many great things to the workplace.

Intuitive web skills. Once a coworker asked me how I figured something out on a website. Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s intuitive. We grew up using the web, therefore we have the advantage of being able to dig up information and figure out how web tools work – quickly, efficiently and with little instruction.

Social media understanding. I joined Facebook before I left for college, started my first professional blog in February 2008 and have been tweeting since September 2008. I don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent using social media. But, the time you have spent using social media has given you knowledge you are expected to have as a member of Gen Y.

Fresh perspective. I refer to it as “shaking things up.” As a new hire, you have the opportunity to question the traditional ways. I recently created a presentation for a conference I spoke at. Instead of following our branded template, I used fun pictures from Flickr and included very little copy on the slides. Don’t be afraid challenge the traditions and suggest new, different ways to do things in your job.

Peer understanding. If a client’s audience is in their 20′s, you’ll be able to offer valuable insight on the account. For example, we were recently brainstorming giveaways for college students for a project. I immediately nixed several ideas based on personal experience. Free t-shirts are never the right size, cheap canvas bags get tossed and ink pens are pretty generic (though useful). I thought students would like shot glasses, but that might promote the wrong idea…

What do you think we bring to the table as members of Gen Y?

I recently founded Social Media Club – Great Lakes Bay, a new SMC chapter for Michigan’s Bay, Gladwin, Isabella, Midland & Saginaw counties. And, I’m excited to announce our first event! We will be hosting a seminar about the ROI of social media with Speaker Charlie Kondek from MS&L Digital. Go here to learn more (and to register). After the seminar, we’ll move onto our Afterglow Cocktail Party at Bar Oxygen.

I really want to thank Kristen Pelkki (who, did I mention, is a young PR pro seeking a job?) and Ryan Battishill (who designs everything for us) for helping me get this chapter off the ground.

Additionally, thank you to Dave Murray and the rest of iDetroit (including Brandon Chesnutt). Dave encouraged me to start this chapter after we met at Future Midwest, and later at (PR)Evolution.

I’m sure after the event, I’ll have a blog post with tips for other people looking to start a local chapter.

If you have started a chapter, or currently are in one, what would your tips be for me and others starting one?

I recently created a new business pitch in the form of a PowerPoint. While I had to create countless PowerPoints as a student, these presentations are twice as important. It can mean the difference between taking on or losing a client or campaign.
Here are a few things I keep in mind when creating these kinds of presentations:
  1. Use the client’s language. Does the client refer to people as customers, clients, travelers, patrons or guests? Be sure that the content of the PowerPoint is understandable to the client.
  2. KISS: Keep It Short and Sweet. The text on the slides should be concisely written. When presenting, you can elaborate more to discuss the information not on the slides. This can help the audience to pay more attention to you rather than simply reading the slides.
  3. Be consistent. It’s easy to use multiple terms for the same idea. My example is e-mail marketing – it may be referred to as e-mail promotions, e-promotions, e-marketing, and in a variety of other forms. The key is to consistently use the same term throughout the presentation in order to not confuse the audience. Also, be sure that style, punctuation and voice are consistent.
  4. Prove your points. It’s not really effective to tell a client that social media can help them reach more customers. Why should they believe you? Try to find case studies and statistics (preferably within the client’s own industry) to support the points you want to make.
  5. Call to action. A presentation to a client shouldn’t just inform. It should motivate them, selling the services you can offer (if you work for an agency, anyway).
  6. Review the presentation. Have several other professionals go through the presentation. They can tell you if you are being clear, if there is too much jargon and if the slides are too long.

What would you suggest to a young professional creating a PowerPoint presentation? As a young professional, what kind of trip-ups have you experienced with presentations and how would you prevent them?

Lying on LinkedIn

June 28, 2010 11:26 am | 6 Comments

I was shocked this morning when I was referred to someone’s LinkedIn page that stated this person worked on a particular project. Since I also was involved on this project, I knew the truth. This person did not actually do what was claimed on LinkedIn.

Lying on LinkedIn is a bad idea. If you elaborate on your resume and cover letter, only the employers you apply with will see it (still, it’s a bad idea). But, LinkedIn is open to not only employers, but also previous coworkers.

Someone once tried to tell me that your resume experience is all about how you spin it. You should make the best of each and every experience, even if it does not relate to PR. But, you should not blatantly lie.

As a young professional, how do you make your experiences look great? Should you list projects, such as events, that you did not contribute much to (or had just a minor involvement)?

As an employer, how do you combat inaccurate claims?

About

Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.