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“You’re graduating this spring?? Oh no, I’m Sorry!! I mean… Congrats?”

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Ok, ya, I get it: It’s a terrible time to graduate from college… terrible economy… undergraduate degrees don’t count for anything anymore because everyone has one…. I’ll never get a job… Thank you, I know, I’ve heard it all and frankly I’m tired of it.

I am aware that it is a challenging time for anyone to get a job, not just those of us in the public relations industry. But crying about it or feeling discouraged is as pointless as sitting around and burning your resume and cover letters in the fire place while listening to Whitney Houston’s  “I Don’t Really Wanna Fight No More” on repeat.

You feel me?

I know that as a recent college graduate it’s going to be a challenge. Ok. Great. I’m up for a challenge. Actually, I’m excited about it and I encourage others who are in my position to adopt this mindset: how often is your life going to be so full of mystery and potential? Soon we will be stuck in the routine of our careers and no doubt looking back nostalgically about that time when were were 22 and couldn’t get a job and did god-knows-what to make money in order to pay the minimum on our student loans 6 months after graduation. 

Maybe I’m being idealistic. 

Don’t get me wrong; I want a job. And I want a job in public relations. But all I’m saying is that all you can do is your best. If you are graduating right now you have your education behind you, your internship experience if you chose to partake, and you need to market yourself to potential employers as someone worth paying. 

Ryan Anderson recently posted a blog about this subject. In his post “Working the bottom rung” he offered 7 tips for the junior PR people, like me. They are the following:

  1. Be reliable.
  2. Have an eagle-eyed attention to detail.
  3. Figure it out.
  4. Become a better writer.
  5. Enjoy the grunt work.  
  6. Be patient.
  7. Bring a big brain.

In my opinion, these tips are pretty straight-forward, and I don’t disagree with any of them. Well, actually, I disagree that you have to honestly enjoy grunt work. As long as you do it, do it well, and do it with a good attitude, I think that’s fine. I know that I have completed a ton of grunt work in the past that I would be lying to myself if i said I actually enjoyed. That is a side-comment though. 

If I were to add one tip to this list it would be this: Make someone’s job easier. If you are hired it is because someone has too much on their plate. I recently went an international career fair summit and one of the business owners said, “I will never hire someone who says to me, ‘I want to work here because I feel like I could learn so much from you.’ As much as I want to say I care about teaching you, why would I pay you for that? I will hire someone who says to me, ‘I can reduce your workload by taking on this…’ That is a reason for me to pay someone.” That stuck in my head. It makes sense. You need to offer value and be able to prove your value and worth at a company.

Bottom Line: When you are trying to get a job: Ask not what you potential employer can do for you, ask what you can do for your potential employer.

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To-Do Lists, Etc.

todolist1Week 10 of winter term here at the UofO has arrived, aka the BUSIEST week of the term.

Throughout my college career, I have been a planner person. Completely dependent on my planner. Recently I have discovered the world of on-line organizational tools. These tools have been extremely helpful, and believe me, if they can help get me through this week, I bet they can help you too. So in honor of this week I present:

Melissa’s Top 5 Favorite On-Line Organization Tools

1. http://www.tadalist.com : This is an extremely easy-to-use site. It is a simple structure and creates a list of activities that you check off (or click off) as you complete them. When you are finish a task, it is removed from the list. You can also invite other to add to the list if you have shared activities. The site is free and very easy. Also it is a perfect tool for those of us who like the instant gratification of checking things of lists!

2. http://www.rememberthemilk.com : This site is similar to TaDa but it organizes your tasks into the following categories: Personal, Study, Work. You can prioritize your tasks or postpone them. Also, if any of your tasks become overdue, this tool will send an e-mail reminder. You can share lists with others and publish your lists. 

3. http://www.voo2do.com : This site is good for work to-do lists because it allows you to manage many different tasks. Additionally, the tool allows you to publish and share lists with deadlines and has a function to include notes about a task with your collaborators. It also saves your history of tasks so you can keep track of what tasks you have completed.

4. www.zohoplanner.com : Zoho is a more complex on-line organizational tool that has a to-do list feature that is very similar to TaDa. It also offers a feature that allows you to set email reminders, and a notes section. This site does not allow you to publish or share tasks. 

5. http://www.backpackit.com : This tool is similar to ZoHo. It allows users to add to-do lists, upload files, photos and notes and it separates all of these tools on an easy-to-navigate site. You can share all of these features or keep them private. 

Do you know of any helpful on-line organizational tools that I have not mentioned? Let me know by leaving a comment!

If Interesting is the Rule, is Informative the Exception?

Giving a good interview is an integral part of achieving success in the PR world. On the most basic of levels, most PR jobs (and pretty much every other kind of job) require an interview during the hiring process. 

Once you’ve gotten over that initial hurdle, more interviews are sure to follow. But in these interviews the dynamic has shifted: you aren’t just representing yourself anymore; you are representing the all important client. In addition, the interviewer is not a potential employer, but an outlet giving you an opportunity you to create the perfect sound bite and (hopefully) generate even more buzz about the aforementioned client. 

These are the kind of interviews that Penelope Trunk recently blogged about, offering “Three ways to give a good interview, and one way to shake things up.” 

The first rule of good interviewing, according to Trunk is to “be interesting.” She expanding on this fairly broad bit of advice in the following excerpt: 

“The questions people ask you are not really what they want to know. It’s what they think will be interesting. They would ask you about the price of tea in China if they thought the answer would be interesting. So your job in an interview is to give an answer that is entertaining and thought-provoking and all the other things that people like. You don’t need to answer the question as much as you need to answer the need for interestingness.”

I don’t exactly agree that journalists ask their interview subjects questions, the answers to which they aren’t interested in learning. If you go to an interview to talk about your client’s latest product, you should answer questions about that product and provide information first and foremost. That is what you’re paid to do. Now I don’t think you should be boring in the process, but an interview is supposed to inform, not simply entertain. 

Trunk’s third point was to “be conversational.” She expanded on this point, writing the following: 

“First of all, it tells the audience that the person interviewing is interesting in their own right, because you are asking questions back to him or her. And a room with two interesting people is better than a room with only one interesting person. The second thing is that the conversation becomes a little less scripted and there is more risk and more space for unbridled passion, on either side of the conversation. And spontaneity makes conversation more engaging.” 

I think Trunk makes a good point in the last two sentences. The best interviews that I’ve seen always seem the least scripted, and spontaneity does tend to grasp and maintain viewers’ attention. 

The last few thoughts Trunk made the point that often judgments are made about you within the first couple of minutes of meeting someone; therefore, it is important to make those first two minutes count. She offers ways to successfully market yourself in the first couple minutes of an interview in the following excerpt: 

“Be upbeat is also a rule. I think. But why is this a rule? I’m not sure. I think it is like the rule about the first two minutes – or whatever the time frame is that someone forms their judgment of you. You want them to meet someone who is fresh-faced, chirpy and upbeat.” 

This is another point that I can’t say I agree with completely. I know that for me personally, chirpy is not a trait that I highly value in a person; in fact, the first thing that comes to mind when I read the word chirpy is the word annoying.

I do agree that it is important to give the best first impression that you can, by having a positive attitude during an interview- or in any situation in which you are going to be interacting with someone new. However, I would argue that you still need to be yourself. So, if you are fresh-faced, chirpy and upbeat by nature, then I say go ahead and offer that up. But if you’re not, then don’t fake it because it will seem phony and you will lose credibility. I think that the best bet in an interview situation is to be yourself.

Measuring Social Media

This week I completed my first podcast. It was quite exciting actually. I learned to use Audacity, which is a great tool for recording and audio- and it’s free! I thought it was a lot easier to use than Garage Band. Anyways, my podcast covered the topic of measuring social media. In this post I will share some of things that I learned while researching this topic for my podcast.

“Why should I care about measuring social media?”

Simply, if you participate in social media of any kind whether it be on a personal level, or professional level you are a brand. Whether your brand is your company, agency, product or you yourself- whether you like it or not, or accept it or not, that brand has a reputation in the eyes of others in your social media networks. Of course reputation is important; it can make or break a business. Measuring social media is an effective way to monitor your reputation by listening to what is being said about your brand by Web users.

“So what’s the bottom line here…?”

Social media has changed the way that organizations communicate because networks of on-line users are now free to engage in two-way communication and interact with the content that they are presented with. For those of us in PR, it’s easy to get carried away with excitement about these new opportunities- but first we must be aware of the bottom line: It has to be measureable. It has to be measurable. It has to be measurable.

I just read Katie Paine’s report titled “Measuring the ROI of social media.” Katie is the CEO KDPaine & Partners, which is a Web-based measurement firm. In her report she wrote the following about what you need to effectively measure social media: 

You need real humans, members of your audience, listening. You need people who can integrate the various monitoring and research tools, do the correlations, draw conclusions and make recommendations.

I like this quote because it’s accurate in describing the complex nature of measuring social media. It is a multi-tiered process of monitoring, analyzing, tracking, and engaging. Traditional marketing or PR folks who try to measure the effectiveness of a social media strategy by simply tracking “hits” on a website, are missing the MAIN point of social media: SOCIAL MEDIA IS ABOUT LISTENING. 

“How can you measure social media by ACTIVELY listening?”

Well, some fantastic people have developed some great Web-based tools that can help you take the first step, by monitoring on-line buzz about your brand. These Web-based social media monitoring tools, sometimes known as on-line reputation monitoring tools, allow you to plug in keywords and these sites will monitor on-line buzz about these keywords and relay that information back to you. 

“What tools are you talking about and where can I find them?”

There are many social media monitoring tools on the Web. Here are three that I think are pretty neat and easy to use:

1. Google Alerts: When I think of monitoring on-line buzz this is the site I think of. It’s free. It’s easy. You type in keywords and Google Alerts will email you either daily, weekly, or as it happens with recent web and news alerts that feature the keywords that you input. The alert also provides you with the link to the article, or Web page. The Web address is http://www.google.com/alerts.

2. Scoutlab: I have read several blogs and reviews about this tool recently and everything that I have read has been positive. The tool provides users with qualitative data about your keywords, rather than simply quantitative data. The site filters the on-line buzz about your keywords into categories negative, positive, neutral, which I think is pretty cool.You can try the service free for 30 days by visiting www.scoutlabs.com/tour but after that you’re going to pay about $250/month for it.

3. Radian6: This is a Web dashboard feature that tracks and monitors social media. This site track blogs, social networking Web sites, photo and video sharing sites, forums, mainstream media, and microblogging sites. I also like the fact that this site allows users to draft and export reports, spreadsheets about tracked findings, which is a helpful way to share information with co-workers and management.  Radian6 can be found on the Web at www.radian6.com.

“Sweet so these tools measure social media for me?”

No! These Web-based monitoring sites are simply tools that help you measure social media. Remember, measuring social media is a multi-tiered process of monitoring, analyzing, tracking, and engaging.  These sites don’t do the work for you because it takes work on behalf of real humans to engage with and measure social media. Just remember the magic word when it comes to social media: LISTEN. 

Do you have a favorite Web-based social media monitoring site that I did not mention in this blog? Leave a comment! This topic of measuring social media is complex and I would very much appreciate your thoughts! 

 

 

 

Social Media Conflicts: How to Deal

Some folks may consider the transparency that comes with social media both a blessing and a curse. The more involved you are in the world of social media and the broader your networks become, the greater your risk of running into someone who has conflicting ideas with your organization. 

Sharlyn Lauby recently posted a blog addressing this issue titled “HOW TO: Deal with Social Media Conflict.” She wrote the following:

No matter how knowledgeable you are and how much research you do, there will come a time when someone disagrees with something you write. Might be a friend on Facebook or a stranger on Twitter or your blog. How you handle a differing opinion will speak volumes about you and can either enhance (or undermine) your personal credibility.

Bottom line: negative feedback is essentially inevitable. You are not going to be able to control content coming from your network of users, but that is the point! Social networking Web sites are not the place for controlling content. In addition, I argue that responding to negative feedback on social media Web sites is a great opportunity to highlight your organization’s key messages. Similar to writing an effective argumentative paper, it is important to introduce the opposing viewpoints, and then logically and respectfully debunk them. Social media Web sites are the perfect outlet for this. If your organization has nothing to hide, dealing with negative comments on social media sites should not be unnerving.

Here are some ways to effectively deal with conflicts that may arise on social media outlets:

Step One: Don’t get defensive. 

When someone leaves a negative comment on one of your social media outlets, it is often natural to get defensive, which can come off as being aggressive or hostile in tone. Take a step back and don’t take the comment personally.

Step Two: Listen.

Be able to appreciate an opposing viewpoint and realize that there may be at least some merit in their argument.  As Lauby pointed out in her post:

Don’t forget when responding to differing views that conversation is key. It’s obvious that this person felt comfortable expressing their negative or alternative view with you. The last thing you want to do is betray that trust.

This is important. Remember that the goal of social media is to facilitate two-way communication between you and your target publics, which in this case is your entire social media network. If you can’t find one bit of common ground in the opposing argument, you are not actively encouraging input from your network.

Step Three: Respond in a timely manner.

The quickest way for a crisis to build fuel and get out of hand is by not dealing with it quickly. Respond publicly to the negative feedback within 24 hours if possible. As with any public relations crisis, responding with “no comment” is the worst possible solution.

Step Four: Highlight your key messages.

Responding to negative feedback is the perfect opportunity to remind your social media network of your organization’s key messages. Just remember: when highlighting your organization’s key messages, use specific examples to establish credibility.

Social media is all about facilitating two-way communication. So with this goal in mind, we must take the negative feedback with the positive. Does anyone have any other tips for dealing with social media conflicts? If so, please comment!

“Just kidding,” claims Facebook. “We don’t really OWN your life… yet…”

There has been a lot of buzz lately surrounding Facebook’s changes in its terms of service. Essentially this is what the controversy is about: Earlier this month, Facebook updated its TOS. The new text read as follows:

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Ok, so basically Facebook is free to do whatever they want with my content and there is nothing I can do about it because even if I cancel my account, they still own everything? Sounds pretty sketch to me.

Many other Facebook users felt similarly.  The Daily Dogg’s recent post “Facebook Faces the Music: As the Multitudes Lash Out Over Privacy Infractions, Social Media Giant Reverses Its Policy” pointed out some forms of retaliation from angry Facebook users:

“Thousands of indignant members either canceled their accounts or created online petitions. Among them were more than 64,000 who joined a group called “The People Against the new Terms of Service.”

The Facebook team is now trying to back-step (maybe a little crisis management). They claim that they have listened to the concerns of Facebook users and have revoked the recently modified TOS, for the moment. According to the Daily Dogg’s post:

Earlier this week, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg tried to quell the controversy by saying the company’s philosophy is that “people own their information and control who they share it with.”

Oh, ok, Mark Zuckerberg. I think I got you. When you say people own their information, by people you mean… You. Right? 

Well maybe, maybe not. As of now, Facebook’s TOS are in limbo as Zuckerberg and his team draft up the proper language for the new terms. Zuckerberg says that the new TOS will be “written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.”

Hmm… Ok, Facebook, if this is really the case then please tell me, as a Facebook user, through what means should I give you my input. Because I have some input. And so do a lot of other users.

I think that the way this controversy plays out has the capacity to make or break Facebook’s success. As much as I love my Facebook, I tend to agree with the tone of Jacob Morgan’s recent post on the subject “Facebook Changes Terms of Services Again- Make Up Your Mind!” He wrote, 

Basically facebook said, “yes we are going to screw you over and keep your content forever…just not yet.” 

Prove me wrong, Facebook! How do you think Facebook is dealing with this controversy? Leave a comment!

Shift Happens

I was introduced to the original “Shift Happens” Youtube video last term in my International Public Relations class. When my teacher, Pat Curtin, showed it everyone in the class was on the edge of their seats. This is the updated 2.0 version of the same video, with updated statistics. Check it out:

Interesting, huh?

Sometimes it is easy to get wrapped up, thinking inside your own little box. However, with the rapidly shrinking, and changing world around us it is particularly imperative that public relations folks have a world-centric mindset.

As social networking Web sites continue to expand, world-wide connections between public relations practitioners and their target audiences and publics will expand as well. So how can you make sure that your cultural sensitivity is in check? Well start by something simple: I recommend reading world news on a regular basis. Maybe try replacing your local newspaper with http://www.wn.com. Learning about current events in other parts of the world will force you to put yourself in the place of others, and will make you a more empathetic PR practitioner.

Here are some other links that may be helpful for folks working or interested in International PR:

1. CIA: The World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
2. Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions Web site: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_australia.shtml
3. The World News: http://www.wn.com