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ExPRessions :: Public Relations

Archive for the ‘ Public Relations ’ Category

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?

Whenever someone asks what a normal day at an agency is like, I laugh. Normal?

Here’s an example: Your neat to-do list is on your desk and you’re checking things right off. By 4 p.m., you feel like you’ve had a productive day. All that’s left is a news release, some web copy to write and a few media calls to make.

You’re working away on the news release that has to go out before the end of the day and another client calls. They have a new project for you. Oh, and they needed it yesterday.

Meanwhile, an e-mail comes in about another client’s crisis situation and other e-mails trickle in about various other small projects that require intense research. These projects are due ASAP.

So what do you do?

Throw that to-do list out the window and make a new one. Prioritize what’s most important on that day and realize this is normal. You don’t get a syllabus, course outline or rubric in real life, especially if you want to work at an agency.

And, that’s why I was so drawn to working in an agency environment. Every day is different and your skills are challenged.

Here are a few tweets about working at an agency. What would you add?

@rebeccaodell Hectic and rewarding. Agencies move at a quick pace and give you an opp to work on various projects for varying clients.

@smt504 As an intern: It’s a fast-paced and fun learning experience. Be ready for anything and everything.

@achatel311 ever changing and keeps you on your toes. A strong team environment is vital for successful campaigns.

@Top_Drawer It’s like being inside a box but thinking outside of it!

@JasMollica My firm has been the most challenging and rewarding PR post I’ve held. Everyday is something different. Great learning exp.

Accepting a job…in Michigan

April 26, 2010 12:05 pm | 11 Comments

Last summer, someone told me that I was “too talented to stay in Michigan.” At that time, I was seriously considering moving away after graduation. There are many reasons to leave…The economy. The crime rates in Detroit, Flint and Saginaw. The lack of jobs. The unbearably cold winters.

25 percent of young professionals plan to leave Michigan…

But, I recently made my final decision: I’m here to stay. I’ve accepted a job offer with AGP & Associates in Midland. I actually knew I would be receiving an offer after a discussion with the CEO last February, but I received the “official” offer last week.

In the past year, I’ve learned a lot of things about myself and this state. I discovered I am passionate about marketing communications, rather than just PR. I actually like B2B work (in the textbooks, it sounds incredibly dull). I prefer the culture of a small agency. And, I like…maybe even love…mid-Michigan.

I recently attended Future Midwest. I suggest my fellow Michigan college students and grads watch this video from the conference.

So, what are your post-grad plans and why? Where do you want to go? Or, why are you staying in your state?

Photo Credit: Esterline Photography

Sometimes journalists gripe about PR professionals. And, PR professionals also get frustrated with journalists.

I could be considered a double agent, leading the double life of a marketing communications professional and a freelance writer. And while I have monitored HARO for clients, I had never sent out a query as a writer until last month.

After 42 pitches, from top PR agencies as well as small businesses, I was overwhelmed. Few pitches were great and some were honestly a shot in the dark or just terribly written.

As a freelance writer who knows PR, here’s 10 tips for responding to a HARO query with a great pitch that will get you noticed:

  1. KISS. Keep it short and simple. I don’t want to read more than a paragraph about you or your company.
  2. Tell me what you can do. Do you have fact sheets or statistics I can use? Do you have a top expert? Give me the details.
  3. Don’t shoot in the dark. If I ask for a health insurance expert and you want to give me an insurance lawyer, I’m going to be irritated, not interested.
  4. Write in AP Style and use correct grammar. Not that AP really matters for the pitch, but I will see you as a more credible source. Correct grammar should be a given.
  5. Don’t brag unless you can back it up. One pitch started out with, “I’ll be happy to help as I’m a fairly well-known expert…” If you are an expert, give me your credentials that prove it.
  6. Don’t call me “inquiring reporter” or some other lame title. Just get to the facts. Also, don’t say “great query.” Nobody likes a suck-up.
  7. Quotes rock. Sometimes I just need a quick quote to round out the article. Feel free to maybe answer a few questions you think I might ask and let me know that I am free to quote you. It saves us time from playing phone or e-mail tag and you might just get a great mention for very little effort.
  8. Let me know where you got your facts. I can’t just take your statistics on good faith. If your source is 20 pages long, tell me where to find the source and what page it was pulled from.
  9. Don’t Type Like This. Initial Capping Every Single Word For 10 Paragraphs Does Not Emphasize…It Just Makes It Difficult To Read. WRITING LIKE THIS ISN’T COOL EITHER!!
  10. Keep track of your pitches. One person sent me two pitches, with different introductions. Clearly she wasn’t paying attention.

Sadly enough, all of these tips stemmed from my first experience using HARO as a journalist. And, some of the pitches came from agencies.

So, if you are planning to pitch your story to a reporter through HARO, please keep it concise and on target. It will save both PR professionals and writers valuable time and inbox space.

What tips do you have to offer to people pitching to HARO? What tips do you have for people providing a HARO query?

Don’t Worry, Be #HAPPO

February 17, 2010 11:11 am | No Comments

HAPPO Media FlyerMany of you who read this blog are bright, ambitious young PR professionals…who are starting their career in an economy that clearly sucks (especially here in Michigan). I know countless recent grads who are still job searching and working in jobs that are completely unrelated to their fields. They have to. Those student loans won’t pay themselves.

I’d like to encourage everyone who is seeking a job, or or is stressing about finding one after graduation, to participate in HAPPO, an initiative founded by Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon.

On Friday, February 19, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. CT PR bloggers, agency leaders and PR
professionals from across the country will donate their time and talents to help fellow PR pros
connect with employers as part of the first-ever “Help a PR Pro Out” (HAPPO) Day.
Help a PR Pro Out Day was co-founded by Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon as a community-
based initiative to help friends and colleagues who are struggling to find jobs in the current
economic climate.
A laundry list of prominent PR bloggers and influencers have been engaged across the U.S. to
support HAPPO including:
o New York: Valerie Simon, “PRCog”, Deidre Breakenridge
o Minneapolis/St. Paul: Arik Hanson
o Chicago: Sarah Evans, Gini Dietrich, Allan Schoenberg
o Boston: Doug Haslam
o San Diego: Jennifer Wilbur
o Atlanta: Kellye Crane, Jeremy Porter
o Dallas/Fort Worth: Richie Escovedo/Lauren Fernandez
o Toronto: Danny Brown
o Kansas City: Justin Goldsborough
o Washington D.C.: Michael Schaffer, Shonali Burke, Heather Huhman
o Ohio: Heather Whaling
o San Francisco/Silicon Valley: Adrienne Biggs, Michelle Dugan Stewart
o Philadelphia: Anne Buchanan
o National: Jeremy Pepper, Mary Barber
o Phoenix: Abbie Fink
o Pittsburgh: Deanna Ferrari
o Florida: John Sternal, Jamie Floer, Bonnie Upright
o Indianapolis: Adrienne BailOn Friday,HAPPO Media FlyerFebruary 19, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. CT PR bloggers, agency leaders and PR

On Friday, Feb. 19, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. CT, PR bloggers, agency leaders and PR professionals from across the country will donate their time and talents to help fellow PR pros connect with employers as part of the first-ever “Help a PR Pro Out” (HAPPO) Day (find them on Facebook too).

For those in Michigan, be sure to talk to Nikki Stephan (@EstrellaBella10). Check here for an updated list of HAPPO Champions across the nation.

The Spindustry? Ummm, no.

February 12, 2010 12:23 pm | 4 Comments

I love working in PR. From research to writing to pitching to clients, I find my work exciting.

But, PR has a lot of sterotypes. From Samantha on Sex and the City to Kell on Earth, the profession isn’t always portrayed accurately.

Sure, you’re crazy busy, but I don’t think my job of writing copy for marketing materials and pitching social media to clients is really reality-TV material. And those things that might be good for TV can’t be shown because the client needs us to keep it confidential.

This morning I heard that Kim Kardashian is producing a PR Documentary called “‘The Spindustry.”

Ummmm, no. Real PR professionals aren’t focused on spin. They are professional communicators who help clients get messages to their audiences. I really don’t want my profession tied to Kardashian, spin or any of the other negative stereotypes.

This show is going to give so many people the wrong idea about PR. What do you think?

In my public relations case studies class, I was required to write my own code of ethics.

What’s in your personal ethics code?

Code of Ethics

Enter the contest to win a PR/social media book by commenting on this post. Information here.

QuestionsConferences related to public relations are a great opportunity for networking and professional development. Although I won’t be attending the 2009 PRSSA National Conference, I do have a few tips for the students who will be. I’ve attended several PRSSA conferences at CMU, one national conference and a Ragan Unconference.

1. Swap business cards to connect with people after the conference. You’ll be meeting countless people, so write short notes on the back of the cards to help you remember who they were and what you discussed. (Example: “Met at dinner. Discussed agency work. Has planned a professional development event before.”)

2. Never sit next to the same person twice. Networking was the most fun when I sat beside complete strangers and struck up a conversation with them. If you only sit with people you know, you won’t get as much out of the conference.

3. Ask questions. Whether you are in a session or sitting next to someone you don’t know, ask questions to get a conversation going and to learn more. Strive to get as much out of the conference as you can.

4. Know the schedule. You’ll make your life 10 times easier if you know what sessions you plan to attend and where they will be held. Plan to get to sessions as early as possible. This gives you time to network. Also, remember that some sessions fill up fast (in my experience, event planning and entertainment PR sessions were the fullest).

5. Take good notes. You might be able to refer back to them for a project or write a blog post about what you learned.

6. Be a professional. Even though you are a student, you are at a professional conference. Have fun, but act professional. There are PRSA professionals nearby and some of the students could be your future coworkers.

7. Dress nice, but comfortable. Professional dress is the norm at many conferences. Keep comfort in mind. For example, flip flops are unacceptable, so buy some gel inserts for your heels or have a comfortable pair of flats.

8. Get a decent amount of sleep. With a full day of sessions and a night of socials, it’s hard to find time to rest at conferences. But definitely try to get some sleep because you don’t want to miss a good session because you’re exhausted.

9. Take advantage of every opportunity and session. You aren’t required to show up to sessions, so you might be tempted to enjoy the San Diego beaches instead. Don’t miss out on opportunities to network with your peers and learn from professionals though.

10. Follow up with those you met. When you go home, you’ll be incredibly motivated about your career. Be sure to send notes to people you met and thank the speakers for attending the event. It’s great to make that last connection and you will stand out in their mind.

I won’t be there to experience the 2009 PRSSA National Conference, but I’m sure it will be a great experience for those who are attending.

Looking to enter the contest to win a PR/social media book? Information here.

I’m always looking for writing opportunities. I’ve written for Central Michigan Life and Grand Central Magazine at CMU. Whenever I can, I try to guest blog. Right now I’m writing for Vision Mid Michigan and I have another possible opportunity in the works.

Working as a journalist will immensely help you succeed in your public relations career.   Here are ten reasons why:

  1. Finding the story
    – As a reporter, you are given story assignments. But often enough, you aren’t given clear direction. Or, other times, you are given a possible angle and it will completely flop. So what do you do when the idea you were given just doesn’t pan out? You dig deeper and find the story.

    – As a PR professional, you are pitching the story. You want the editor to assign it to the reporter. If you win that battle, then you must work with the reporter. If you have ever been a reporter, you will know that they want a great story. Helping them find the story will make you more successful and their job easier.

  2. Working on deadline
    Reporters have incredibly tight deadlines. I can’t even imagine how it must be at a daily newspaper. I have a professor and an acquaintance who do though. But, I do remember getting last-minute story assignments at midnight.  I’m guessing the reporter prefers PR professionals who return calls quickly, but don’t bug them with too many follow-ups.

    – PR professionals have deadlines. I know from experience that agency life is incredibly demanding. One of my mentors, Lara, is a complete social media nut like myself and we have had discussions about how hard it can be to find time to blog (let alone take care of other priorities).  My suggestion to new PR professionals is to get back with the reporter ASAP. If you are waiting on some key information, let them know. And as much as some reporters hate it, follow up on pitches. There have been many times when I have called a reporter and they told me to resend the pitch because they hadn’t seen it, but were possibly interested.

  3. Clear, concise writing is key
    – One of my mentors, Dan, always told me to “write tight.” Basically, get rid of the unnecessary. The key to improving any skill is to practice. A lot. When you are a reporter, you spend a decent amount of time writing and editing. You learn how to sum the story up in the first few paragraphs and improve your AP Style skills.

    – Once you become a PR professional, you will already know how a reporter thinks and writes if you have worked as one. So when you’re writing a pitch or press release, you will know what the reporter expects to see in the area of writing.

  4. Interviewing skills
    – Whenever I do an interview, I always prepare as many questions as I can beforehand. Interviews don’t always go in the direction you think they will, but it’s always handy to have questions ready. Reporters do countless interviews to find their story.

    – When working with clients, you might be their spokesperson or you may have to help prepare them to answer interview questions. If you have worked as a reporter, you might be able to quickly draft answers to potential questions to prepare for the interview ahead of time.

What experiences have you had that have helped you succeed in public relations?

Win a PR/Social Media Book

October 13, 2009 11:10 pm | 11 Comments

International Communications StrategyI’d like to celebrate my new blog launch with a contest and you can win a book! I might add more prizes, but for now I have two books. Read on to find out more:

The Prize:
International Communications Strategy: Developments in Cross-Cultural PR and Social Media by Silvia Cambie and Yang–May Ooi (There will be two winners because I have two copies) – each worth close to $50 each

How to Win:
The two winners for this giveaway will have gained the most points by Nov. 1, 2009. Here is how you can get points:

  1. Comment on blog posts. You must leave insightful, good comments. “Good post” does not count. Add to the conversation. Tell me what you think. 1 point per blog post
  2. Tweet about blog posts. Send a tweet such as, “4 Ways Being A Reporter Can Help A Future PR Pro: (link here) by @RachelEsterline.” My Twitter handle has to be in the tweet to get points. 1 point per tweet (unless you tweet the same article so many times that you annoy people)
  3. Post the link to my blog and let people know they can win a book on your own blog (or other site). 2 points
  4. Write a great guest post about PR, writing, Gen Y, career, design, etc. Submit a guest post to me at EsterlinePublicRelations [at] Gmail.com to be posted in the future on this blog. 10 points

The Rules:

Don’t lie or cheat. If I think you did something wrong, I reserve the right to choose a different winner. If your blog post doesn’t make sense, is riddled with errors, etc., then I have the right to deny it and not give you points. If  you have any questions, comment or e-mail me.


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.