Magic Tips to Land the First Post-College Job

If you’re anything like me, your goal is to have a post-college position (internship or entry-level) lined up before you finish up your last term of college.

To many of my friends and fellow students, finding that first position after college is really daunting.

I tend to have incredibly high standards for myself and I push myself really hard. So knowing that, I’m sure you can imagine how incredibly excited I was to sign my internship contract in mid-October (two months early – I graduate in December).

My instructors and fellow classmates were very excited for me and asked me to share my insights and experiences with them. After sharing my story and what worked and didn’t work, I realized that there were really only two (very impactful) things that made (or could potentially break – if you do them wrong) my job search so successful so quickly.

That’s why they’re magic. Because they’re simple and there’s only two.

MAGIC TIP #1: Informational Interviews

I’m sure you’ve heard of these. Professors tell you to research some companies of interest and reach out to a few employees to see if they’d be willing to conduct informational interviews with you. This may seem kind of like a chore, but seriously, do it.

I conducted informational interviews for about four months leading up to the position I got in October. I started with my personal network and that grew quickly into someone who knew someone who knew someone and the next thing you know I was doing an informational interview with my dad’s boss’ little sister’s best friend.

Sometimes the interviews were dead ends. Other times the interviews were impactful and helped me answer questions like: Do I want to work in-house or agency? What city do I want to work in? What type of position do I want to hold? What experience is really necessary? What do I value in an employer?

All of these interviews shaped my view of the working world and shaped what I was looking for in an employer, which is just as important in what the employer is looking for in me. Even though some informational interviews turned out to be a dead end, I valued them because they built my network and helped me practice talking with professionals.

Ultimately, an informational interview is what led to me to land my position. A colleague of mine put me in touch with the HR director for an informational interview, then came multiple regular interviews, a writing test and then the offer.

Informational interviews should be two way streets where both you and the professional get to know each other in a more relaxed environment without the stress or expectation of a regular job interview. It is your time to get the insider scoop from the professional and ask for his or her opinion, advice, etc. Here are my informational interview tips:

  1. BE PREPARED. Here’s a funny (not really) story – Once upon a time I connected with a professional and she wanted to do an informational interview. I was prepared as I usually was for other informational interviews. I knew a bit about the company and knew some general interview questions about myself. But this professional proceeded to interview me (like it was a real interview) for two hours and I wasn’t at all prepared. I completely failed. The worst part? The professional worked for my dream company. The end. So seriously, be prepared. You never know what will happen. Being over prepared is never a bad thing.
  2. BE ENGAGED. Put your cell phone away, take notes and ask questions. Always bring questions to the informational interview and be ready to answer questions about yourself.
  3. SAY THANK YOU. This leads in to my second magic tip for landing that first post-college position.

MAGIC TIP #2: Thank You Notes

Thank you notes can make or break your chances of landing a position. You rocked your interview? That’s awesome! Make sure to send a thank you note in a timely manner. If you don’t, that will say a lot about your character and all of a sudden, you may not be someone the employer wants to hire anymore.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.34.38 AM

Thank you notes give you the chance to reiterate your interest in the company and position, why you think you’re a great fit and to thank the interviewer or HR director for his or her time and efforts in interviewing you (or setting up the interviews). All of those topics are very valuable and can be covered in a short and sweet three to four sentence note.

If you’re feeling very confident about the interview, you can even write in the note that you look forward to hearing about next steps and will follow up with them in a few days.

A handwritten note needs to get in the mail the day of or day after the interview (depending on your location in relation to the company) to ensure that it arrives in a timely manner.

If you live across the country from the position your interviewing for, it may make more sense to send a thank you email (in the interest of time). It should consist of the same elements as the handwritten letter and should also be sent in a timely manner.

In my case, I wrote a handwritten thank you note and also sent an email. I still lived in Eugene when I was interviewing for this position in San Francisco. After I finished my three rounds of interviews, I immediately wrote a handwritten thank you note to the HR Director. I also decided to send a follow-up thank you email to reiterate my thoughts and because I felt that the timeline of this hire was moving very quickly and I didn’t want them to have to wait a few days to receive my handwritten note.

Thank you notes can make or break what an employer’s impression of you is. When choosing which type of thank you note to send, be sure to keep your situation in mind, but know that a handwritten note, if possible, always triumphs.

So there you are, you now know my magic tips for how I landed my position so quickly and relatively easily (knock on wood).

Ready to put these tips into action and land your own post-college position? Great! Ready, Go!

 

Photo by: sandy/ians

Advertisements

PR is Needy

PR needs time. PR needs devotion. PR needs attention.

Let’s face it, PR is needy.

Like any other job, PR needs a team devoted to its one sole purpose.

The biggest mistake I see in companies that need help with PR efforts is that there isn’t enough time and resources devoted to the practice.

Or in some situations, upper management is aware of public relations, but needs some persuading on why it will benefit the company. So in turn, PR efforts are minimal or are halted all together.

As a student, I’ve worked with a handful of companies and organizations that recognize that they need PR and ask me to help them launch social media, outreach efforts, etc., but when I leave, the company has no one to sustain it and the PR efforts I built fall to the ground.

Successful PR is not something that can be managed by part-time employees or a few very busy workers that added these responsibilities on to their plate.

Successful PR is an around-the-clock job. My college instructors always stress the fact that PR is not a regular nine to five job. It is weird hours, weekends, anytime and all the time. If a crisis involving your company happens at 5 a.m. Saturday morning, you’d better believe you’re going to be up and ready to roll for a long day ahead.

Public relations is all about relationships (just as it sounds!). Relationships aren’t a sometimes, kinda-sorta thing. Think about your best friend. Are you kinda sorta close and you’re friends and all, but only part-time when you aren’t doing other stuff?

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 9.33.55 AMNo. Or at least I’d hope not.

Relationships are a constant, growing, evolving, all-the-time sort of thing. Relationships need effort, attention and work.

Now let’s put this in a PR context. Let’s take social media, for example (it’s a tangible thing we’re all pretty familiar with).

It’s pretty cool when a brand interacts with us. If you tweet Nordstrom, for example and say “Just bought the CUTEST pair of @Nordstrom jeans!” It’s exciting when Nordstrom tweets you back saying “Glad you loved our new fall style!”

It’s exciting because you feel like you’re being heard; you’re being recognized. A brand you like is engaging in conversation and creating a relationship with you. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

We’ve all bought jeans (or some other product) on a Saturday (not in the normal Monday-Friday work week). If we went to tweet this brand and let them know what we think of their product, what happens from the PR side of things then? What happens when someone engages with you and there’s no one to engage back because it’s a Saturday, or it’s after 5:00 p.m.?

This is just one example of why there needs to be a full time team of people that are devoted to the public relations of a company.

Engagement and relationships don’t stop just because the workday stops. Public relations professionals need to be focused and devoted on this practice on a full-time basis.

Have you run into this problem before too? What other ways do you think can remedy this situation? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

 

Photo by: 1220Spotlight via Flickr

The Ice Bucket Challenge Sheds Light on the Power of Social Media

Who knew we could learn so much about the power of social media and public relations by dumping buckets of water on our heads? Sometimes knowledge comes from the most unlikely places…

This challenge is controversial on many levels across many issues, but I believe there is something we can all learn from this.

One side of the argument is that California is in a drought, so the Ice Bucket Challenge is very controversial due to the gallons of water that are wasted on a daily basis.

I am by no means an environmentalist, but I have been trying to educate myself on the drought and if/how the Ice Bucket Challenge is really impacting the drought in a big way. I’d suggest reading this article on The Wire to learn about some of the raw numbers regarding the California drought vs. the Ice Bucket Challenge argument.

The other side of the argument that I’d really like to focus on, is the donating-versus-dumping-water-on-your-head argument. And this is where public relations and the power of social media come in.

Statements, both sarcastic and passionate, are flooding my news feed saying that people are dumping water on their heads so that the don’t have to donate but can still feel good about themselves, and that dumping water on your head does nothing for ALS.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 2.22.01 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 2.24.01 PM

This is where I completely disagree. Dumping water on your head accomplishes leaps and bounds for ALS.

There are two parts to any public relations campaign, whether it is through social media or traditional PR:

  1. Raise awareness
  2. Create action

The Ice Bucket Challenge does both, successfully.

First off, it raises awareness for the disease. Everyone is talking about the videos and ALS, while simultaneously learning about the disease.

At the same time, it gives people the opportunity to take action and donate to the association to help find a cure.

If a charity, or any business for that matter, doesn’t raise awareness, no one will ever donate anything to that charity, ever. That being said, I firmly believe that one action is not better than the other. They both work in tandem together.

This very argument I’m making can be proven by the increase in donations that the ALS Association has seen since the start of the Ice Bucket Challenge. According to an article published on the TIME website, the ALS Association raised more than $16 million from July 29 through August 18, the same time period that the Ice Bucket Challenge has lasted for. In 2012, the association raised about $19 million total. The association has already raised over 80 percent of a previous year’s income in a period of three weeks.

According to TIME, charities can spend up to 50 percent of its income on fundraising, but the Ice Bucket Challenge proves to be hugely successful in raising awareness and donations, all at no cost to the charity due to the power of social media and the way messages spread like wildfire across all platforms. This is essentially a home run in the PR world.

Ogilvydo published a blog post illustrating why this campaign has spread like wildfire across social media platforms. The post explains that the campaign is successful due to its ease, popularity and ability to be customizable. These are all traits that people are drawn to, whether they are aware of it or not.

What do you think about the effectiveness of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Do you agree that awareness is just as important as action? Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below!

Chipotle’s “Guacpocalypse” Exemplifies Traditional PR Practices

Chipotle announced in a small section of its annual report that climate changes may stop the company from serving guacamole for a short period of time. This caused a bit of outrage from consumers. photo(2)

The story went viral on Tuesday after blog Think Progress posted a story reporting that Chipotle included a filing in the past month reporting that increasing food prices due to climate change may result in the company halting the sale of guacamole rather than paying the increased prices.

Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold assured that the section about climate change possibly stopping the store’s sale of guacamole was a regulatory filing. This disclosing is listed in the risk factors section of the company’s 10-K.

Chipotle spokespeople spent Wednesday afternoon aggressively spreading the word that consumers should not worry.

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 9.19.33 AM

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 9.20.36 AM

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 9.22.20 AM

The company adamantly preached that this is a normal, routine and regulatory part of a company’s annual report and this is not the first time the company has included something like this in the report.

This mini guacpocalypse crisis (No, I didn’t make up this word. I’m only that clever in my dreams) caused some uproar from Chipotle’s consumers, but the company did a good job of communicating its key messages to the general public.

Many articles on multiple media outlets put the guacpocalypse rumors to rest on Wednesday, including this article from NBC. It is articles like these that make it obvious that Chipotle worked in alignment with the news media to be sure that the correct messages were portrayed to the public. This is traditional PR at its best.

There was some communication from Chipotle spokespeople and news reporters about the truth of the guacpocalypse on Twitter and other social media platforms, but the vast majority of the messages were communicated through traditional news media outlets. This is a very important fact to recognize.

Many PR professionals argue that traditional PR has lost its momentum. News releases and print media could be on its way out, with social media coming in to take over the ball game. But that hasn’t quite happened yet.

This mini crisis proves a great point.  In this case, Chipotle used traditional PR tactics to combat the false rumors.  The success of Chipotle’s use of traditional PR tactics to combat the false guacpocalypse rumors shows that traditional PR is still alive and operating in today’s ever-growing online society.

Now, I’m going to go celebrate this traditional PR win with some chips and guac.

Photo via @ChipotleTweets

Wheat Thins Showcases Perfect Consumer Engagement

When it comes to PR and this new world of social media, consumer engagement is key.

Consumers want to see companies as more than just a clothing store or food brand. They want to engage and interact with their favorite companies.

I found an awesome example of consumer engagement on Twitter last week. Let’s all give a big round of applause to Wheat Thins because they hit the nail on the head. Here’s why:

Catherine Lowe (previously Catherine Guidici), Sean Lowe’s wife from Season 17 of ABC’s The Bachelor, tagged Wheat Thins in a tweet to praise the company for its Must Have Wheat Thins commercials.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 2.02.02 PM

Wheat Thins tweeted Catherine back about two hours later with these responses:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 2.02.20 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 2.02.34 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-03 at 2.02.44 PM

This is how consumer engagement is done! Consumer engagement is simply about responding to consumers when they reach out to show them their loyalty or business is appreciated.

Yes, Wheat Things gave Catherine special treatment because she’s a reality TV star, but it shows that the company cares about its consumers and appreciates their loyalty.

I had a simple, yet valuable, consumer engagement experience with Charmin (yes, the toilet paper brand) after I tweeted about my love for the toilet paper.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 2.17.39 PM

Within minutes, Charmin favorited my tweet.

Although you’re probably still trying to get over the fact that I actually tweeted about toilet paper, this is an important point.

Even after something as simple as a favorite, I felt like Charmin was listening and truly appreciated what I said about its product.

All companies should strive to make loyal consumers feel appreciated. Consumers value feeling noticed and heard in a world that is full of big businesses. And thankfully, social media makes these interactions easier than ever.

Something as simple as a favorite or response on Twitter will resonate with consumers. It is important for companies to take the time to engage with loyal consumers one-on-one in order to foster relationships.

The Guide to a Successful Infographic for the Design-Challenged

Infographics are not my best friend.

The last time I made an infographic was over a year ago and the experience was horrible. I struggled with everything from color palettes to pie charts.

When I sat down in my PR Strategic Communication class (the class I’m writing this blog for) on the first day and read the syllabus, I found that one of the assignments was to create an infographic.

NOOOO!!!! (Insert overly dramatic crying emoji)

Infographics tap in to the biggest source of my frustration about myself: I have an image in my head but cannot create it on a page. I never could. Ever since I was young, I’ve had good ideas in my head for drawings, crafts, magazine layouts and photographs but I could never translate those visions onto paper for other people to see.

I’m a PR major, my creativity naturally comes through my writing. Why do I need to force myself to translate that creativity into an aesthetically pleasing graphic design?

Because infographics are POWERFUL. Here’s why:

  1. People like facts, messages and stories.
  2. People like visually appealing things.

It’s simple, really. Why do good ads work? They present information and are visually appealing. Infographics are a brilliant way to communicate a message in a way that is simple and easy to look at.

Truth is, infographics have everything to do with PR. They function to tell stories and communicate messages in a visually appealing way.

I decided to do my infographic on the security measures for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The security in Sochi is a huge topic of discussion that got a lot of press before and during the games.

We all know that creating an infographic isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but this experience was much smoother than my previous one. Below are my tips for a stress-free infographic creation experience for those of you that are design-challenged like me.

  1. Pick a good topic. The topic is everything. The accessibility to numbers and facts will make or break your ability to create a good infographic. It is also important to pick a topic that people are talking about. What’s hot right now? What is your target audience interested in knowing?
  2. Sketch a draft. It’s just like writing a backgrounder for the media kit you’re putting together. Gather your facts and create a draft before you sit down to polish up the real thing. Grab a pencil and draw out some ideas of what you want your infographic to look like. That way, when you sit down at the computer, InDesign or Piktochart (InDesign for the design-challenged, a.k.a. my new best friend) won’t be so daunting.
  3. Pick a color scheme. Infographics need to be uniform, so pick a few colors that complement each other and stick with them. It will make your work much more visually appealing.
  4. Stay simple. You don’t need to go crazy. Don’t spend hours thinking of the most creative way to portray that 3 out of 10 people do this or that. Maybe the best way is to just put 10 human silhouettes on the page and make 3 of them red and the rest of them black. Simple, but visually appealing.

I will happily say, that after working for two weeks, I am happy with my infographic.

J452 infographic

Any and all comments and feedback about my infographic, my tips or my experience with infographics are welcome! I’d also love to hear from you about your experience with infographics and any other tips you have.

The Addictive Power of Facebook

I remember when I created my Facebook account in seventh grade. I was overwhelmed and excited by this social media platform and the many opportunities it gave me to express myself and communicate with my friends.

Shortly after I created my Facebook account, I became addicted. Every time I would go onto the computer and pull up the web browser, my fingers would automatically type in “facebook.com” even if I had no intention of going on Facebook. I’d logged on so many times it became a habit. Muscle memory for Facebook, freaky.

Screen shot 2014-02-24 at 10.44.09 AMI began to obsess over statuses, likes and pictures. I truly couldn’t stop myself. I would log on, browse around my News Feed, see nothing of interest and log off. Two minutes later I’d log right back on and do the same thing. It was monotonous, pointless and boring.

My overprotective parents noticed my Facebook obsession when I was in eighth grade and quickly disabled my account. I wasn’t allowed on Facebook for months. That was incredibly difficult for me at first, given my obviously unhealthy attachment to the network.

Although I hated it, my parents did the right thing for me. My addiction for Facebook died away as I rediscovered other fun activities to fill my time. For instance, actually hanging out with my friends instead of stalking them on Facebook.

Unstuck posted a study that concluded that Facebook may be harmful to the mental health of frequent users. The post says that the study reported that people that spend time looking at their friends’ vacation photos and comparing the number of likes on birthday posts between themselves and other friends. These types of obsessive comparisons can lead to loneliness and depression.

This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Facebook is a black hole that sucks you right in. As a middle school girl, I should’ve been outside riding bikes in the cul de sac with my neighbors instead of browsing through my News Feed.

There is something mysterious about the fact that it is possible have hundreds, even thousands, of friends on Facebook and still feel lonely, staring at a News Feed that is full of old news.

And maybe that’s what Facebook is: old news. According to an article on Mashable, Facebook use is on the decline, but seems to be leveling off. This article links to a few other studies that seem to point to the fact that there is a decline of teen users on Facebook. I hope this is true, because teenagers don’t need another thing to draw them into the black hole of loneliness and depression.

I’m not saying Facebook is all bad. I really like Facebook. I use it as a tool to stay in touch with friends and family. But there is a fine line between Facebook as a tool to stay in touch and Facebook as a tool that advocates loneliness and depression.

Bottom line: Limit Facebook usage. A fun and interactive social media tool can quickly turn sour if you spend too much time on it.

Photo by me via my Facebook account

How to Get an A+ in Apology 101

Apologies are at the core of crisis communication. Apologies are at the core of relationships, and relationships are at the core of public relations.

PR people make mistakes, editors make mistakes, CEOs make mistakes. When someone makes a mistake in the public arena, it is good public relations practice to address the issue and apologize for it in order to mend any problems that arose because of the mistake.

But that being said, there is a right and wrong way to apologize. A half-hearted apology is almost as bad as no apology at all.

The New York Times published an article discussing the large number of half-ass apologies we hear from influencers all too regularly.

Here are my five tips for great apologies:

1. Issue the apology immediately after the incident. Late apologies are sad. They’re just sad. It’s no fun to be offended by a comment someone made and not get an apology until a week or so later. Apologies should happen in a timely fashion. Ideally, an apology should be issued a few hours or a day (at most) after the incident. People generally respond better to apologies when they occur very recently after the incident.

2. Plan the apology before it is issued. Whether you are the PR pro writing the CEO’s apology or you are the CEO yourself, be sure to know what is going to be said in the apology and communicate these tactics to the person delivering the apology. Know what to say. And more importantly, know what NOT to say. Only the worst apologies embody an “I’m sorry” like offending people more than they already were by the original comment.

3. Include a call to action in your apology. The address needs to be clear and concise with a definitive call to action. Apologies are all fine and lovely, but what is going to be done about it? Include a call to action in the apology in a clear and concise way.

4. Follow-up with your call to action. The only thing worse than not having a call to action in the apology is to not follow up with the call to action that was promised. Be sure that the call to action is related to the mistake and is feasible to achieve, because the only way to have a chance to earn consumer’s trust back is to have something to show for it.

5. Be sincere. Nothing is worse than an empty apology. Yes an apology was issued, but was it really meaningful? If the apology isn’t sincere, consumers are going to feel even more disrespected than they were by your initial mistake.

It seems like many people apologize all too often and they do it in the wrong way. Take previous LuluLemon CEO, Chip Wilson. He went against two out of five of my apology tips (he gets an D in Apology 101).

He released a video apology one week after making a comment that the brand’s pants yoga pants are see-through because they just don’t work for “some women’s bodies” (strike one).

Wilson’s apology video was far from sincere. He looked forlorn and superficially sad, as though it was an act (strike two), saying he is “really sad.” So what if you’re sad? The thousands of women you offended with your comment are sad too.

Apologies are really important in public relations and are something to take seriously. These five tips I’ve provided give some specific guidelines of what is expected for a successful apology.

Photo by Raj Taneja via Flickr

McDonald’s Transparently Reveals Truths in “Our Food. Your Questions”

It seems like nobody really knows what is actually inside a Chicken McNugget. There’s a mysterious crunchy breading and the inside is white and squishy. The inside of the McNugget sort of resembles chicken but there’s definitely something not quite right.

photoIt’s not just you and your McNugget-loving friends that are confused. Consumers around the globe have questions about everything from McDonald’s food processing to advertising.

McDonald’s launched a campaign called “Our Food. Your Questions” to truthfully address consumer concerns and questions about food quality. The company set up a website (this is Canada’s website, but there are websites specific to many countries) and YouTube account to address these concerns and inform consumers about the truths of the company.

Recently, McDonald’s has been under a lot of heat for what is really inside of the McNugget, especially after a picture of some type of pink goo was released and was said to be the ingredient inside the McNugget.

In response, McDonald’s released this video to clear up the pink goo rumors.The video goes behind the scenes in the Cargill plant in Ontario, Canada to reveal the process behind the creation of the McNugget.

Although the videos and pictures that McDonald’s publishes in response to consumer questions don’t depict the most nutritious processes, they do depict transparency.

Transparency is one of the most important qualities a company can embody.

McDonald’s will build a more trusting relationship with its consumers if the consumers can tell that the company is communicating all of its truths.

McDonald’s presents itself with 100 percent transparency through the “Our Food. Your Questions” campaign, and I must commend the company for doing so.

Through this campaign, it is easy to see that McDonald’s is striving to reach complete transparency with its consumers. This is something that all companies should strive for in order to generate consumer trust and loyalty.

Photo via McDonald’s Twitter account

What do Yoga Mats and Subway Have in Common?

Azodicarbonamide. It’s a chemical found in yoga mats and Subway sandwiches.

Subway came out with a statement announcing that it will eliminate azodicarbonamide from its sandwich bread on Feb. 6. The ingredient is USDA and FDA approved and is used to strengthen dough. The ingredient is also used in yoga mats and shoe soles to increase elasticity.

photo(1)Many other restaurants, including McDonald’s and Wendy’s, use the ingredient in its bread. Food Babe, a popular food blogger, examined the ingredients of many food companies and restaurants that use azodicarbonamide.

McDonald’s acknowledged the inclusion of azodicarbonamide in its bread ingredients but defends its use of the ingredient by saying, “A variation of Azodicarbonamide has commercial uses and is used in the production of some foamed plastics, like exercise mats. But this shouldn’t be confused with the food-grade variation of this ingredient.”

On Feb. 4, Food Babe launched an online petition to stop Subway from including azodicarbonamide in its bread. The petition has over 83,000 signatures to date.

Spokespeople such as Michelle Obama and Michael Phelps advocated the nutrition of these sandwiches without knowing about the existence of this ingredient in the bread.

Will Subway incur any reputation problems by revealing this information? It’s hard to tell at this point.

Consumers may be weary about the fact that Subway’s constant self-promotion as a healthy eating option has stayed alive through so many celebrity spokespeople, and only now is this ingredient becoming an issue.

Subway’s Twitter doesn’t seem to have a lot of traffic but the restaurant’s Facebook does have some traffic from consumers addressing the azodicarbonamde.

It will be interesting to see if Subway gets a lot of heat from consumers over social media sites and how the company handles the situation.

As I argued in my previous posts about DiGiorno’s, I believe that it is always best to come forward with information and be open, transparent and apologetic about any questionable information, and I commend Subway for doing so.

Photo via Subway’s Twitter account