Stephanie Heckman

Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

Hope to work in public relations? Prepare now!

In Branding, Career, College, Journalism, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media on April 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm

How to prepare for a career in media or PR while still at college

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Still in college? Fear not! This is the best time to focus on your career.

1. Choose the right major

Considering majoring in journalism, broadcast journalism or a writing-intensive public relations, communications, mass media, advertising or business communication. Some mass media or communications programs require no or few writing courses. If this is the case, back up your major with writing-intensive elective or minor courses. I chose a major in strategic communication, with elective courses in journalism and creative writing.

While many publicists started with a major in English or other liberal arts subject, this will not prepare you for specific PR job skills. It will teach you critical thinking and essay writing skills; however, you should be focusing on learning journalistic writing and marketing techniques.

If you choose to major in English or a similar subject, make sure to also work for the student newspaper, write freelance articles and learn business and technical skills. If you attend a larger university, I highly recommend choosing one of the more journalistic majors alongside other courses in business, marketing, public relations techniques and communication theories.

2. Select a complementary minor

Everyone should make time for a minor or even second major before graduation but choosing the right minor is tricky. Every hopeful journalist, publicist or marketer should take courses in technical skills such as multimedia journalism, audio and video editing, graphic design, digital photography and Photoshop. If your college has a program in a relevant technical subject, consider adding a minor or at least taking enough elective courses to become proficient.



I chose a critical theory-based, liberal-artsy type minor because I enjoy working for nonprofit organizations and social justice causes. If this sounds like you, consider minoring in a subject related to the type of nonprofit organization you hope to work for. Examples include environmental studies, public health, women’s studies or political science. If you would prefer a corporate or agency environment, you could major in business, economics, finance or marketing.

I think it’s perfectly fine, even advantageous, to add a minor or second major in any subject that interests you, as long as you choose a core major that will give you the skills you need to succeed. If you enjoy a subject, you will do better and learn more than you will in a subject that seems more career-intensive but causes boredom, frustration or poor grades.

3. Get involved!

Join the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) if you are a current student. Your school likely has a chapter and will allow you attend meetings, if you can’t pay to become a member. If you are a recent graduate or soon-to-be graduate, join the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Consider joining other student or professional groups related to journalism, marketing or advertising.

Write, write, write! Join your school’s newspaper or magazine as a reporter or editor. One of the best things I did during college was to become a student reporter. It taught me how to come up with story ideas, decide what was a marketable story, track down potential interviewees, conduct interviews and write effectively in AP style.

But I don’t want to become a journalist, you say? I’m sorry to break the news, but to work in public relations, you must be an effective writer, reporter and editor. Public relations requires knowledge of AP style and the fundamentals of journalism, the ability to write news and feature stories and an awareness of how editors think. You must be able to pitch your own stories to the media and this means that you need to know how to think like an editor. The important aspect is that you get experience now.

Furthermore, get involved from your own computer. Create an online presence by starting a LinkedIn profile and a professional Twitter account. Learn to effectively use many social media websites, as social media skills is an important skill in this industry. Delete inappropriate photos and content from Facebook and Twitter pages. Employees do Google you and they don’t need a photo of you passed out drunk in a puddle of tequila.

4. Find an internship — better yet, do several of them.

During university, I’ve had four internships. Is this excessive? I don’t think so. Each one taught me more about what I wanted out of a career. Did I want to work for a tiny office or a huge organization?Do I prefer a well established one with a century-long history and much bureaucracy or something new and energetic with a young leader? Should I do grassroots community work, administrative type tasks or event planning? What kind of coworkers do I want to spend over a third of my day with?

Internships are short — typically 2 to 6 months — which gives you much more flexibility in choosing the right career and job environment. In my opinion, this is much more effective than waiting until your first job after college to decide if you like what you do. Having many short internships is normal while job hopping after college is frowned open.

Speaking of jobs, public relations and other communications careers are very competitive. They seem glamorous, are frequently shown on popular TV shows and movies and are highly desirable to people in all majors from business and marketing to English and art history. Try doing a search for entry-level jobs in PR or related jobs. Not only are they difficult to find, but many of them require one to two years of experience. Yes, “entry-level” jobs require experience, on top of having a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

If you want to work in the media, marketing or communications industry, you will be competing against people with family connections to the industry. Create an advantage by gaining more experience than your peers. How do you find an internship? Check out my prior post on obtaining an internship. Keep your ego in check and be willing to work hard and for little or no money. If you put the time in now, soon enough, the jobs will follow. You will likely have to do an unpaid internship or much relevant volunteer experience before you start getting offers for paid internships, fellowships and freelance work. Take whatever experience you can get now.

5. Post-graduation tips

What if you have already graduated or are about to graduate in an irrelevant subject or without enough experience? Consider graduate school. There are many Master’s programs in journalism, public relations, advertising, corporate communication, broadcasting and various other subjects. A master’s degree will give you a heads up in the job search while simultaneously giving you more time to focus on gaining experience.

Can’t attend grad school? Consider taking post-grad classes or workshops in crisis communication, multimedia journalism, feature writing, PR campaigns and other important courses. You may be able to complete a certificate in a short amount of time. Workshops can also be included in your resume under the education section.

If you can’t find a job, find a fellowship or internship. If you can’t find an internship, volunteer one day a week for an organization or freelance for several organizations. What’s important is that you keep gaining relevant experience. Even if you need to work full-time in your current job, find a few hours a week to gain experience.

If you are a current university student, what are you doing now to prepare for graduation? For graduates, what helped you find your current job? What advice can you give to other readers?

Check out my past articles on career advice:

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Twitter Tips: Seven steps to increasing your Twitter potential

In Branding, Career, Marketing, Social Media on March 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm

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Twitter is an effective tool whether you are a representing a company, organization, cause, other person or yourself. However, it can be a time-suck if you don’t know how to use it effectively.

1. Know the basics

What do you plan to use Twitter for? Twitter is not a time waster if you use it wisely. You can use it to connect with people who have similar interests, network with professionals, keep up with news and industry trends and promote your brand, organization or even your own personal brand. Make sure your tagline includes important tidbits that reflect who you are and why you are on Twitter.

Finally, if this is a personal Twitter account, include a good picture of yourself. People are more likely to follow an actual person than someone hiding behind a picture of someone or something else. If it is for your organization, include a recognized logo.

2. Develop a plan.

Like any good marketer or publicist, you shouldn’t devote time to social media without developing a strategic plan first. Even if this is for your personal Twitter account, it makes sense to think of a general strategy. Consider what are the main topics you would like to tweet about. Try to stick to less than five main categories of interests and include these in your description.

Try to tweet every day or use HootSuite schedule your tweets. HootSuite can also be used to manage your Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media profiles. It’s a great tool if you manage many social media accounts for yourself or for clients.

3. Make everyone word count.

A mark of a great writer is one who can express herself in few words. If you are a communications professional, you should have great writing skills by now. Put them to work by writing Tweets that are concise, grammatically correct and meaningful. Find ways to get your point across in 140 characters. When you include links, use a URL shortener such as Bit.ly to make every character count.

4. Make effective use of #Hashtags

Try to include relevant hashtags in every post but #don’t #hashtag #every #single #word. See how annoying that is? Useful hashtags for the communications industry include basics like #PR, #PRSA, #SocialMedia and #PRjobs.

The documentary film and movement to change the representation of women and girls in the media, Miss Representation, created the hashtag #NotBuyingIt to call out sexist advertisements. That hashtag received many tweets during the Super Bowl and other large events. They’ve even created a #NotBuyingIt app for smart phones.

Another example is when animal shelters and rescue groups use hashtags like #AdoptDontShop. It’s easy to remember, cute and can be used to find homes for specific animals.

Consider “trending topics.” Many are silly but sometimes you can tie your cause, organization or company into a trending topic. If you are creative, you can use trending topics to gain more followers, many of whom might have never come across you.

5. Remember that Twitter is meant to be SOCIAL.

Always follow users back if they are not spammers and do seem to provide quality content. If you are representing a business or organizations, you should always follow other Twitter users to show. Your organization is not an exclusive club.

Develop relationships with others in the Twitter community. You cannot promote yourself or your organization if influencers do not follow you and retweet you. Who are influencers? They are the Twitter users who have a large amount of active followers that they can mobilize to action. If you want to develop a base of followers and have your content retweeted, you need these influencers to become your loyal supporters and advocates. If you are representing a nonprofit or a cause, make partnerships with relevant organizations or activists by retweeting them regularly.

Retweet any followers who are providing relevant information or interesting links and photos. While it makes sense to retweet users who are posting information about your product, service or organization; you always want to retweet those who are posting about anything relevant to your industry or cause. Even general interests stories and links may be quality retweets.

Ask questions. Answer others’ questions. This is a great and easy way to create interaction and build community. Thank others for when they retweet you. You need maker others feel appreciated.

6. Don’t forget about TweetChat!

If you don’t know what TweetChat is or haven’t used it yet, take advantage of it now. TweetChats are used to talk live with Twitter users from around the globe, about any particular topic of interest. It’s a great resource for many connections, finding followers and learning new information. Use Google to find a list of relevant TweetChats in your industry.

For public relations and marketing professionals, there are many relevant TweetChats such as #BlogChat every Sunday at 9 p.m.. Small Business Buzz (#Sbbuzz) is from 8 to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays. #JournChat is for journalists, publicists and other communications professionals and is held Mondays at 7 to 8 p.m. #PR20Chat is for PR professionals and is at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.

7. Don’t use Twitter as a hard-sell.

No one gets on Twitter to be sold products or services. Yes, sometimes coupons or links to events are wanted. However, it makes you look like a spammer and many people will unfollow you if you never post other information. Instead, post links to newsworthy articles, whether it’s industry-relevant or a general news or human interest story that is trending. Retweet others’ content. Tweet pictures and videos. Even if you are representing a company or organization, show the human side. Let your personality and interests come through in your tweets.

For more social media tips, check out:

Friending, Tweeting, Pinning.

Friending, Tweeting, Pinning

In Branding, Marketing, Social Media on March 7, 2013 at 4:46 am

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What social media networking sites can benefit you?

Twitter
As the second most popular social media site in the world, Twitter is also one of the fastest growing. Twitter is an excellent social media site for any organization trying to reach an audience in their teens, twenties or thirties. It’s also a necessary tool for any communications student or young PR professional that wants to market their own brand. Twitter is a great tool for creating a personal brand or image if used effectively.

To make the most out of Twitter, choose an appropriate and memorable handle that your followers will remember. Tweet many links and photos, both of which are more likely to be retweeted. Choose a well-rounded selection of accounts to follow, including many news organizations, favorite brands, charities and other professionals.

Retweet any interesting tweets and make sure to thank your followers when they retweet you. Make use of Tweet Chats to connect with other followers and learn new information. What’s important is to remember that Twitter is a type of social media, so use the website fully to make connections, network and promote your brand.

Facebook

Facebook is an important social media site for practically any organization. With Facebook, you can post pictures and videos, link to articles, share updates, create public pages or private groups and ask for direct feedback from your audience.

Another benefit to Facebook is that it draws in a very wide demographic. As the most popular social media website, you can reach an audience ranging from teens to older adults of all ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, genders and interests. Unfortunately for organizations hoping to target a younger audience, Facebook seems to be losing some ground with young adults.

Post pictures. Regardless of whether they are funny memes, infographics or simply cute photos, pictures receive the most shares and likes on Facebook. It’s also helpful to include links. Instead of simply linking to your organization’s products and services, try linking to stories about current events, pop culture or anything else that your target audience may want to read about.

Make sure that all photos and links you share are noncontroversial and do not take a political stance. If you’re not representing an organization that lobbies or promotes a political cause, candidate or religion, don’t go there. Exceptions are promoting a noncontroversial cause or organization that seemingly everyone supports such as cancer awareness or disaster relief.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a great tool for many companies and organizations yet is surprisingly underused. If your target audience is women, ranging in age from teens to middle age, you need to start using this valuable resource. Pinterest is also worth using if you are a college student or young professional who hopes to enter the fashion, beauty, crafting or food industry.

On the other hand, if your target demographic is men, younger kids or older adults, Pinterest may not not the right social media site for you. You would be be better off focusing your energy elsewhere. Pinterest is also not right for companies or organizations that don’t have a visual product or service. Pinterest is great for showing off retail products or images with quick advice or facts.

To effectively use Pinterest requires the ability to select interesting photographs or infographics that link to a website with useful information. Don’t use Pinterest just to blatantly promote your brand. If you’re doing the social media for a fashion company, make sure to also pin images from other brands and include links to general interest fashion stories. No Pinterest user wants to be slapped with blatant advertising.

LinkedIn

If your company has more than ten employees, it needs a LinkedIn page. It can be used to recruit the best employees and to promote your organization. If you are a student or professional, you also should create a LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is where your personal branding begins.

To get the most out of LinkedIn as a student or young professional, you should aim to find at least fifty connections. This should not be difficult if you search for past coworkers, classmates and others that you meet at networking events. Include a brief summary that highlights your personal qualities, career or educational history and information that makes your stand out from others in your field. Make sure that your work history only includes relevant jobs and contains bullet points with useful descriptions.

LinkedIn has features that allow you to sections showcasing projects you have worked on, articles you have written, personal certifications, awards, course descriptions, interests and career highlights. Try to incorporate as much relevant information as you can onto your LinkedIn page. Consider it to be an extended version of your resume that includes portfolio work and a reflection of who you are as possible. Lastly, use LinkedIn to join professional groups and to follow companies that you may hope to work for in the future.

Six Tips for Finding an Internship

In Branding, Career, College, Public Relations on February 27, 2013 at 1:27 am

Finding internships during college is the most important step one can take to starting a career. Internships are the new entry-level jobs, especially in PR. During these challenging economic times, most “entry-level” jobs now require one to two years of experience and many technical skills. The question many recent grads ask is: “How do I gain experience without having experience?”

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1. Increase your marketability. If you are majoring in journalism, communication or public relations, consider adding a minor in another marketable subject such as business or nonprofit management, professional writing, video editing or graphic design. If you have in a liberal arts major such as English, consider increasing your relevance in PR through taking elective courses in editing or business writing with perhaps a double minor in a communication or journalism with one of the above minors. Any courses that can increase your amount of marketable skills should be considered. Try to find a way to connect your education with the specific field you are interested in joining.

2. Keep gaining experience. Writing is the most important skill you can have in PR. By becoming a college reporter for at least a year during college, you can learn important skills in reporting, interviewing, writing and editing that many hopeful PR professionals did not learn in college. After you gain experience as a reporter, considering venturing into becoming an editor or a freelance writing. Many local publications and start-up online magazines do not pay writers or pay very little. However, these writing clips can be used for your portfolio and may lead to paid writing gigs. You should also consider doing volunteer PR, fundraising, social media or event planning work for a local nonprofit that you support. Even a few hours a week can lead to an internship.

3. Develop your personal brand. Even if you are a first-year in college, it’s important to start promoting your personal image and brand. Create a professional Twitter, Facebook. Pinterest and LinkedIn used to follow important brands and organizations in your industry, industry news and media. Use these social media websites to share links to relevant news stories, articles in popular marketing, advertising and PR journals or magazines and recent academic news. Create positive relationships with journalists, communication professionals and others in industry. By having professional social media accounts, you not only demonstrate to your future employers that you have social media experience but you also show that you are a go-getter.

4. Talk to your college’s career service office. Most universities and colleges have an underused career service office. Through career services, you can have your resume improved and learn interviewing skills. Many times, you can also gain information about internships and jobs. Your university may also have a webpage that can be used for job searches.

5. Look through your department’s website. I found my most current PR internship through my university’s School of Communication. There is a huge amount and diversity of organizations seeking interns. You should also be able to find internships through the school of arts and sciences. If you have a minor, it may help open you to even more internships in related subjects.

6. Utilize your resources to find the perfect internship. Think about what industries you would most like to enter. Are you a finance type? Or are you more interested in museums and galleries? Do you want to promote politicians or celebrities? Or are you more interested in book or music publicity? Write a list of companies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and boutique agencies. that you would like to work for in the future. Begin following them on LinkedIn and trying to connect with professionals in these fields. Many times you can find information about internships directly through the organizations’ websites.

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