A Day In Two Top PR Firms

As you know, I want a job in public relations and I want that job to be in Atlanta. I’ve been getting tired and burnt out from applying essentially everywhere that Atlanta has to offer and began to think whether I should expand my location options. Back to Baltimore/ DC? Seattle? Anywhere that would hire? OK, that’s a little dramatic. I value family friends very highly, so moving out of Atlanta would be a last resort. So when I got a call from a professor I had at Berry about touring two top PR firms in Downtown ATL a couple of weeks ago, I was eager to join.

So on Thursday, October 1st, I met the Berry College tour group right on Peachtree Street downtown. Although I was the only graduate in the group, it was nice to catch up with classmates and hear what’s been going on at my alma mater (uh, like our third year football team is first in our conference???).

We started at Edelman, which has been named the number one PR firm in Atlanta for a number of years. Located on the 31st floor, their office offers an unbelievable view of downtown. We broke into small groups, toured the office, then reconvened in a meeting room where a panel of four professionals discussed every day life at Edelman. I will admit, just thirty minutes before listening to that panel, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to work in a large firm. After listening to how passionate their employees are about their work completely changed my mind. It was so refreshing to see people so invested in what they do and truly believe in a company’s mission and values. My thoughts about working in a firm did a 180 after our discussion with the panel.

After Edelman, we made our way to Jackson- Spalding, which was right across the street. JS, a smaller firm, just moved into a new office that features a “coffee house” feel to it. Employees suggested this design because coffee shops are where they all tend to feel the most motivated… which I loved! JS has “neighborhoods” in their office for clients, such as Delta, Chick Fil A, and so on. With a panel of six professionals, JS offered a ton of insight into what they do in their office in ATL.

I won’t write a novel on everything that was discussed, or give you the whole ‘welcome to my crib’ about the offices. Both were extremely interesting and motivating.

So, why did I write this post? Aside from talking about my awesome day, it’s to show that if there is opportunity, you should take it! I was skeptical about going, since I was no longer a student, but I ended up feeling refreshed about the job hunt and I also made new connections on both of those tours. It was more than worth my time and I encourage everyone to consider the options that might not be a first priority. Because you just might end up changing your mind.

Media Ethics and the Virginia News Shooting

Today was certainly one for the books, especially in the journalism world, due to an early morning shooting of a Virginia news reporter and videographer/ photographer. Alison Parker, 24 and Adam Ward, 27 were shot and killed on live television during an on- air interview in Moneta, Virginia. For hours, the gunman (I will not be publishing his name) proceeded to evade the police and then attempted to take his own life, in which he failed and has landed himself in critical condition in an unnamed hospital.

So aside from this senseless shooting happening on live TV, why should we look at how it is being handled by the rest of the nation? Because for once, news outlets are doing the correct thing: keeping discussing the shooter to a minimum.

Ethics in communication was probably one of my favorite classes I took in undergrad and its something that my school, and I’m sure many others, requires as a capstone if you are receiving your degree in communication. A “communication” degree encompassed journalism, public relations, visual communication, and sports communication, depending on what one decided to concentrate on. So jumping to the point right in the class title… ETHICS. Basically all semester, we asked ourselves what in the hell was ethical in the complex world of broadcast, print, PR, and so on and so forth.

That is why today is so strange and such a powerful lesson and a time to learn for all news outlets and entities included. First and foremost, the shooting occurred on live television. The public (especially Ms. Parker’s family who could have been potentially watching to support her) witnessed murder today. In general, news outlets have reacted respectfully, and if some have chosen to link the video (for some ungodly reason) then I don’t know many people who opted to watch it, including myself. This was eerily similar to a scenario we were given in ethics: do you straight up show what happened (edited or not), do you give the public the option to view it on their own time, or do you take away the option to view it altogether. Most people that I have had the opportunity of talking about this situation have opted not to look for or view the video. Thank. Goodness. I’m not sure how many news outlets have given the option to view the video and I was made aware that the shooter had actually recorded prior and posted to his twitter which resulted in the video being taken down along with his account (Go, #Twitter!).

I didn’t want to spend so much time discussing the idea of a video being out there of this unfortunate event, because there will always be strange people that are hell bent on finding it regardless. The most we can do as the general public is to respect the families of those who lost loved ones today by not permeating the event itself.

The next part of this that I think is very important is who news stations across the country are talking about. I’ll give you one hint too… It’s not the shooter. I watched three different local #ATLnews outlets this evening and all three were primarily focused on the lives and work of Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward. Over the past two years, give or take, and the amount of highly publicized shootings such as the Aurora, CO shooting, Newtown CT, etc., we were hearing all about the shooter(s). Many hate this due to the fact that sometimes the main cause for a mass murder is to gain attention. They want their fifteen minutes of fame and most of the time receive it, regardless of whether they are alive to witness it or not. I’m just so thankful, as a person and a communication professional, to see how this horrific situation has been dealt with during these first 12 hours of development.

The Job Hunt

So I posted a while back about what I think is most important to remember when you get a job in PR… but I wasn’t really prepared for the difficulty of actually finding a job.

Let me warn you… it’s hard.

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Yes.

After about a full month of full time job hunting and basically living on Indeed and Glassdoor, I’ve come up with some helpful tips for anyone else going through this dreaded process.

1. Know what you’re willing to give and take. 

This means having a set pay/ salary in mind before entering the job market. You don’t want to come off as naive, especially when discussing benefit options… or if you want to opt out of certain things… or take a lower pay with the possibility of maybe getting to what you really wanted. Ask experienced professionals! Talk to your parents, talk to friends that have been in the “real” world for some time now, talk to anyone that has the potential to give you insight on all the fine print of your first job.

2. Know how to work the job search engine.

When I began my search, mostly on job search sites, I happily typed in “public relations” because well… that’s what I want to do. The top jobs listed on every site were for coordinator, manager, CEO etc., positions that required 10 years of experience. Obviously this was not ideal. What I needed to do was start adding words such as “entry level” or “internship” or “assistant” and more jobs suited for my skill level started to pop up! Use any key words, because we all know how important SEO is on the Internet, and it will make the search much smoother.

3. Don’t be fooled.

While searching for a glorious PR position, I encountered a great opportunity with a company that I will not mention, in the perfect location and the stars in the universe were aligned and I was pumped. Should’ve known it was too good to be true. After going through two interview processes, I was told that I would begin my job working for 3-5 months in sales and retail. I kindly declined simply because it was not the job I was lead to believe I was being considered for and because I have no desire to pursue that career. After talking about this with some of my peers, this apparently happens often. So.. beware! When you have a degree in and want a job doing “communication” based tasks, then you can get a wide array of jobs that aren’t even close to what you imagined. (Refer back to #1 though and just ask yourself what you’re willing to trade off).

4. Don’t be discouraged or lower your standards.

Sometimes it takes a while to find that great first job where you know you’ll be comfortable and will learn from understanding and passionate coworkers. Just because the job search is taking a little longer than expected does not mean that the four years of diligent work put into your degree are slowly going down the drain. Remember your worth and what you’re truly passionate about– your work!

5. Start small, then progress.

If you wanted to graduate from college and get called up by the corporate office of your dreams or the big PR firm in the area, then you might have had a reality check by now. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of what smaller firms and companies have to offer to new graduates and young professionals. Most of the time there are less entry level positions or interns, which means you will gain more experience during your time there. Your first job will provide great lessons and help you get your foot in the door and it is more than likely temporary.

Use it wisely and efficiently to make your resume shine.

Top 5 PR Essentials

As I near graduation and a career in public relations, I have been working on a list of the top five things that I find most important when working in PR.

So to start us off:

1. Know AP style. There hasn’t been one thing drilled into my mind more than being familiar with AP style. Knowing this and being able to do it well will set you apart from other young professionals who might not be as well versed. So go buy yourself the newest copy of the Associated Press Stylebook and brush up… because it makes all the difference.

2. A crisis is always possible. Even with the most unsuspecting companies and in the most unsuspecting ways! In this day and age, you could be working for a company, firm, or client that has a track record better than Jesus himself, but that won’t stop one angry customer from tearing it down. Other times, the crisis isn’t directly the client’s fault, but you’re going to be the one cleaning up the mess either way. So create a detailed crisis communication plan to make sure when a crisis does happen that you’re prepared.

3. Network. You know, people are always saying it’s not what you know… it’s who you know. Well in PR, know both. Building relationships with local journalists and reporters will benefit both you and the other person. More likely than not, you’re looking for a publication or a way to get your story out while the journalist is looking for information to fill space.

4. Be prepared. When giving information to journalists and reporters, a key part of the process is to always have materials prepared. You don’t want to waste the reporters time, especially if they are in a crunch. Have media kits, photographs, releases, stories, and anything other essentials ready to send if they were not already attached to the first message.

5. Stay true to yourself. I believe more than anything that a person should always stay true to their values, morals, and ethics. I highly recommend to young professionals to write out a list of values (trustworthy, honest, etc.) that they want to uphold in their job along with what is expected of them ethically in that profession. Occasionally a job might ask you to do something that is uncomfortable morally or ethically and I do not think that it is worth it.

Hopefully these reminders will benefit others who are beginning their journey into the real world. I can’t thank my amazing communication professors enough for preparing me to the best of their abilities 🙂

Visually Fueled

So the other day, I wrote about how Netflix does public relations. The following day, I had to give a presentation to my PR Writing class on the same topic. The class consists of about 15 people and we each chose a different company to critique and let’s just say that most companies were surprisingly lacking. What were the big things that they were missing? Visuals.

In multiple writing classes, I have been told that the U.S. population has the reading level of about a 3rd grader. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “But wait, I graduated high school/ college.” You probably passed a few English courses along the way and if you’ve gone to college then you have possibly experienced the wrath of upper level literature courses. But you will always, always be more inclined to read news stories that have graphics and pretty pictures.

We are visual creatures.

Haven’t you ever wondered why you like Buzzfeed so much?

OHHHH

So how does this affect companies and their PR tactics? 

Nearly everyone who presented in class noted that the company they chose to critique was missing graphics such as high-resolution pictures to promote the product, pictures to go along with their press releases, and B-roll (video). This is a an area that should not be lacking.

Personally, I think that when it’s done correctly, pictures and video can help a company and increase website traffic. Press releases with pictures are more likely to be picked up and dispersed in different news outlets. Customers will be more able to put a face to the name if the managing team of the company has head shots. Customers are also more likely to purchase the product/ be interested in the company if what they’re looking at is aesthetically pleasing.

*For those of you wanting to see some great examples of companies that utilize all visual aspects to better their promotion… here you go:

Netflix: Kings of PR

So most of us already know what Netflix is. You know… that thing that has over 60 million worldwide users that can stream episodes of TV shows or popular movies. How has it gained such a loyal following and managed to promote TV shows that don’t even air on television? An awesome public relations team has made this happen.

Social Media Edge

If you know anything about modern day public relations, or PR, then you know that social media is the reigning platform for promoting just about anything. This is what Netflix does best in my opinion. They form a relationship with their audience and find the perfect balance between friendly and corporate. There are even official Netflix accounts for every country that Netflix offers their services to, therefore everyone can join in on the fun.

Media Center

Netflix has a portion of their website dedicated, as it should be, completely to the PR aspects. They call this page their media center. This page include b-roll, photographs, timelines of show releases, and more to help promote what they’re doing. This is what is great about their media center: they are ORGANIZED. Any entity, person, or even a dog that wanted to promote Netflix would know exactly how to navigate their site to get what they want.

Although Netflix has been around since 1997 (yes, that long) they have seen a rise in members in the past few years and I’m near certain that it is because of their great PR tactics.