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Networking Isn’t About You, It’s About Them

September 14, 2009

Professional networking can be hard. It can be intimidating. It’s about putting yourself out there and hoping you don’t fall flat on your face and ruin a potential career connection.

But guess what? It’s not about you.

That’s right. Networking is not all about what you get out of it.  Say what? “Isn’t networking supposed to be about how I can advance in my career and make connections to help me?” you might be asking.

Here’s the thing:  Have that mentality, and you’ll probably discard professional connections as fast as you acquire if they can’t do anything for you immediately.

n23927556_36482126_4698It’s easy as PR professionals to think we automatically know how to communicate. It’s in the job description, right? But just because that’s your chosen career path doesn’t mean you can communicate easily.

The fundamentals of relationship building are the key to networking. Make those relationships with anyone you can. You never know – the fashion columnist you met during an internship might be your next boss – in technology PR.  They could be a great mentor. Trust me, though – it’s just as easy to ruin them by only using people for your own gain.

So how can you combat the ‘me me me’ attitude?  What is the key to successful networking? Why aren’t all communicators great networkers – or do you think they are?

*Picture of some great friends and fellow North Texas PR alums – Jake, Hess, Libba and Shawn. This was taken at an alum networking event. Notice the smiles – it’s all about shooting the breeze.

Introducing Katie Wall: How To Have Something Worth Saying

September 11, 2009

LAF Note: Katie Wall is the second regular contributor on the LAF blog. Please welcome her!

Like Chevis, I was more than honored when Lauren asked me to contribute to her blog. Every day I scroll through countless Twitter posts and find myself drawn to people who I consider “valuable contributors” or “key players.” I can’t help but marvel at the content and worth of the information they share and wonder how they do it…

Why didn’t I think of that?!

Before I ever post anything on Twitter, I try to ask myself “Do I really have anything worth saying?” “Is anybody really going to care?” or “If no one responds to my questions or re-tweets what I say, does that mean I am not saying something that matters?”

On August 16 David Spinks wrote a post on his blog entitled “Are You a Social Media Expert or Evangelist?” I was intrigued. He talked about enthusiasm for social media versus actual application of the medium, and how, as a social media evangelist, it’s easy to share someone else’s ideas or advice, but experts build their own content and add value to the conversation.

*Sigh* I’m just an evangelist.  But why?

First there’s the issue of having time to create valuable content. I’m sure we’ve all been there before: sitting & wondering “How the heck does *generic PR person on Twitter* post so many things that I want to read in one day?!” It seems that no matter how many times I revisit Arik Hanson’s post on the LAF blog PR pros: Overwhelmed by social media? Stop complaining and start taking action, where he encourages PR professionals using social media to stay focused, take time and start small – I still tend to be distracted, rushed and try to take on the world.

Then there’s the matter of understanding the medium as a tool for generating conversation and disseminating information. I think this has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my recent transition from college life to the professional world. I’ve grown up on social media – it’s just something you do. I guess I still need to learn how to change my mentality from a simple college status update (i.e. “5th floor, Davis Library—come find me (and bring chocolate)!!”) to a thought provoking post that can get people talking.

So how can we change that? How can we learn? Any secrets to share? I’m all ears.

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Katie has an ever-playing jukebox in her head, and when writing this,  all she could think of was the song “Q” by Cartel http://tinyurl.com/ltkxxy “If you’re not getting answers ask better questions…”

Does Technology Make Us All-Knowing?

September 9, 2009

If you’re a Gen Y-er, technology sometimes makes you believe you are – brand knowledgable, that is. Meaning:  you understand how to execute campaigns from a full strategy plan.

Think about it.  20 something’s straight out of college are being entrusted with huge brand campaigns in the form of Computer-Trashsocial media. The reason? Some (not all) older generations that don’t understand aren’t willing to buy-in and learn, but are willing to pass off their hard work and the foundation they’ve built in their brands communications to an entry-level.

It’s bound to make some feel pretty important. The 20 something is now the face of your brand. With the evolution of technology, social media and how people get their news – they are more than likely to turn on a computer than flip open a paper. They are more likely to look at Twitter than your company Web site. Why? Ease and people on the go need information quick.

How does this work? Why is this now the trend? As 20 somethings, what can we do to make sure we don’t endanger the brand? This doesn’t mean 20 somethings aren’t qualified – if they approach it correctly. Many just aren’t ready, and that’s a fact.

My thought? Stratagize with your boss. Ask them for advice. Ask them what messaging they want to see. Have them monitor it for a bit to make sure you are on the right track. Show that you want to earn their trust and you deserve to have it.

What do you think? Why is this the trend? Is it right? How can we make it so the brand doesn’t take a hit?

Introducing Chevis English: What Makes Us Qualified?

September 8, 2009

LAF Note: Chevis English will be a regular contributor to this blog – so make sure to say hi and welcome her!

When first approached by Lauren about being a contributor for her blog, I immediately thought, “I can’t do that, I am not qualified to write on Her blog.”  I then stopped for a minute, because I did not understand why I had this thought.  I have always stepped up to a challenge and consider myself to be a doer, not a be’er (New word alert: Be’er, the noun form of to be.)

What really makes one qualified anyway? Is it a college education? Experience in the workforce? Reading books on various subject matter? Being mentored by someone who has been deemed qualified?

Well, I know everyone has their own opinion about what makes one qualified, but I feel like it is a mixture of the things stated above along with actually doing the things you fear you may not know how to do.  It is by doing things for ourselves that teach us the most.  I read a quote recently by Marissa Mayer, vice president of search product and user experience at Google, who said, “Do something you’re not ready to do. In the worst case, you’ll learn your limitations.” (Who says Vogue can’t feed the mind?)

It seems like everybody these days considers themselves to be a guru or expert of something, and who is to say they aren’t?  I definitely do not consider myself to be a PR or social media expert, but I am a learner of the practice and as long as I continue to do and not just be, then maybe I will eventually become very knowledgeable of the industry.

With all that being said, I am very happy to be a part of the LAF blog and I look forward to learning from all of your feedback on my future posts!

From {Young Minds}: “Excuse me, the offer is how much?”

September 7, 2009

This guest post is part of the Young Minds Series, and written by Kate Ottavio.

Forgive me if I make an overgeneralization here, but it seems us Gen Y-ers come off as a bit “entitled.”

Boss: “We’d love to have you be a part of our firm. We will start you at $XX,000.”
Kid fresh out of college with a PR degree: “Um, excuse me? $XX grand? That’s it?”

FileYes, my dear, that’s it. Face it, even with that expensive college degree, your experience level and skill set hasn’t yet made your time “worth” much more.

It’s the young people who react in such a way that give a less-than-wonderful name to many of those happy to work hard and bust their behinds in their brand new careers as PR professionals. When Lauren first introduced me to her Young Minds series, I was thrilled and flattered she asked (of all people) me to contribute. In my humble opinion, who am I?

This reaction reminded me though, that I (hopefully) have my head screwed on straight. Some in my age group can really harm the value of the work so many others put forth.

Gen Y-ers seem to have given themselves a bad stereotype that we deserve the world and more. What’s important for me to get across here is that there are so many young professionals out there willing to work hard…willing to take constructive criticism…willing to better themselves. Check out Michael Coffey for example. Michael directs a Young Professionals Group aimed at connecting young pros across the country to share networking ideas and best practices for their local groups.

We young people have so much to share, so much to say. I recall a story from when I was born, the nurse told my mom: “this ones going to be a talker.” Ha! Little did she know…I digress. Let us first, before we spew our thoughts unnecessarily and expect great praise, learn from professional mentors…be sponges and soak up every bit of knowledge we can from those more experienced. It is then we can truly process and produce worthwhile, fresh and fantastic ideas! I will quote a friend of mine, Kathy Hokunson, who recently commented on a post where I discussed “self-labeling” with the “expert” title:

“The reality is that there are some very important traits and skills that come from wisdom – time in the trenches. No matter how smart or educated you are it takes time to really learn and understand the important nuances of what we do.”

As a young professional myself, I’m the first to say I don’t have all the answers. So what do you think? Are you a young professional who has made great strides? Are you a more experienced professional willing to contribute your thoughts on how we can shatter this stereotype? Please share…I will happily be the sponge.

Kate Ottavio is an Account Coordinator at Co-Communications. She maintains and writes for the firm’s new blog and contributes to PRBreakfastClub.com.

PR Pros: It’s Never Our Work, but the Brand’s Work

September 3, 2009

So I was feeling a little blue yesterday because a press release I wrote went through two people, but then was edited hardcore by the third. We’ve all felt it – we put a lot of effort into something, and it comes back with a ton of red. Sometimes we take it personally, but as PR professionals, we have to brush it off as constructive criticism and learn from it. This time, it felt like I wasn’t doing a good job, and I want to produce the quality that I expect of myself.  I was told that I had, but this stuck with me when discussing it with my boss:

“It’s never our work, but the brand’s work.”business_branding

True? Absolutely. Is it hard to be humble in this profession? At times. Do we do it? Yes. Guess what? It’s not about us. It’s what being said about the brand. You might strategize with the CEO, but they are the ones saying it. Press releases have the stamp of the brand on them – not your stamp. Press releases are a team effort – and they are vital to your organization. I’ve always viewed it as PR professionals leave their mark on materials, efforts, events, etc – but the brand leaves its impact on the public. Is this wrong? Why is it called public relations if that’s the case?

So how do we overcome that feeling? Is there such a thing as too much editing? We all think differently. Some people edit just to edit, but many others have great ideas that you never thought of.

Being a PR professional can be different than being a working professional. Our hard work is recognized internally, but it resonates with the public in a variety of ways. Could this be why it’s so hard to define our jobs?

The Difference Between PR and Publicity

August 31, 2009

Yes, there is a difference. Publicity might be a component of public relations, but there is a whole other world that is just about publicity.  I have previously interned for both 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures in a field office, where hard work, perseverance and long hours paid off in the form of packed advanced screenings, grass roots marketing success and red carpet hits.

kim-kardashianHere’s the thing. Everyone seems to be complaining about Kim Kardashian and her new reality show with Command PR – which touts how it’s about public relations. Actually, it’s publicity, but why complain? There will be a spotlight whether we like it or not. Let’s take this opportunity to educate – this is a key component as a public relations professional. When something WRONG is being stated about our client, profession, whatever – it is our job to educate and show the positive facts about it. PR professionals communicate on a daily basis and engage in their communities. So, why don’t we?

Differences between PR and publicity:

1. Publicity is all about grass roots marketing.
2. Publicity rarely encompasses press releases, but focuses on media alerts and blast e-mails, phone calls, etc.
3. Publicity focuses on planning events, and crisis tends to arise a bit more frequently – but on a smaller scale.

But guess what? They both work just as hard. They both deal with media. What else would you add? Do you disagree? Are you disgusted by the reality show, or do you think it’s an opportunity?

*Photo copyright of People Magazine.