Tales of a PR Enthusiast

Follow Heather as she takes on the PR world headfirst and read about her PR fab adventures along the way.

Born and raised in a small town in Ohio, I knew by the age of 10 I was meant to live the fast life in New York City. The energy, atmosphere and world of opportunity NYC offers captured my dreams and ambitions and I would stop at nothing to make it to the Big Apple.

When I was a junior in college I realized that if I really wanted to make NYC a reality after college I had to buckle down and get to work (literally). I got involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), I wrote for the school newspaper, I started interning and working part-time and I even moved in with my parents to save some extra money. For the next two years my life revolved around school, work and getting to NYC. But, there was one major component missing from my NYC equation: social media.

It was my senior year of college when I discovered the wonderful world of social media. I attended the ‘08 PRSSA National Conference in Detroit and every panel or discussion I went to the words “social media” were mentioned. I knew I had to get in on the action. The day I got back from the conference I joined Twitter, which I later discovered was a life changing decision.

When I first started out on Twitter, I had no clue what the point was or how I was going to utilize it. Then one day, it just clicked. Twitter was a perfect way for me to successfully reach my goal of moving to New York City and work in public relations. I started using Twitter, and other social media sites, like LinkedIN and Delicious, as a way to network and personally brand myself in the public relations/social media world. Through Twitter I landed some major job leads and I met amazing people from around the world. Unfortunately, I was graduating college into one of the worst job markets in two decades and after a year of rejection letters, I knew I wasn’t going to find a job in NYC while living in Ohio. So, I decided to take the leap and move to the city without a job or a permanent place to live. What did I have to lose, right?

My second week in New York is when I met my future work colleague, Alexa Scordato. I was attending a book launch event with a friend and we randomly started talking to this fun, spunky social media aficionado, who just so happened to be Alexa. After talking for a while I mentioned to her that I was looking for a job in social media or public relations. To my surprise Alexa said that her agency Porter Novelli was hiring a social media account coordinator. When she told me that, it was like music to my ears. The following week I interviewed with Porter Novelli and its social media department and the rest is history. I started working as the new social media account coordinator at Porter Novelli a week later with Alexa as my direct supervisor. Note: I also moved into a new permanent apartment the same week!

Without trying to sound too corny or cheesy, I am firm believer in that if you really want something bad enough you will make it happen. It might take a little while and hard work to get there, but it will be worth it in the end. Without taking the risk of moving to NYC without a job I would have never met Alexa. I am so lucky to have met her and have her as a colleague. I am extremely excited to be a part of the Porter Novelli team and I look forward to working on a team that consists of talented thinkers and do-ers that include Stephanie Agresta, John Havens, Karen Hartline and Alexa.

This week I participated in the weekly Twitter #Journchat, which is an hour long chat where journalists and PR students/pros come together on Twitter to discuss certain journalism and PR topics. There was one question in particular that caught my attention from last night’s chat. It asked, “PR pros: What's your advice for a traditional news/ editorial type switching to work in PR?” In 140 characters I answered this question, but now I want to take the opportunity to explain my answer in more detail.

One of the best decisions I have made as a public relations student and young professional is gaining journalism experience. In college I majored in public relations and minored in journalism writing. In doing this, I was able to write for the school newspaper for two years and take numerous journalism courses. In fact, I feel like I had taken more journalism courses than actual public relations courses. After graduation I continued to grow my journalism background through freelancing for a local newspaper and blogging.

As a PR pro I think it is necessary to have some sort of journalism background. Whether it is in college, after college, through internships or even back in high school, having journalism experience will help you grow as a PR professional and develop essential journalistic skills needed in the PR profession.

Integrating what you learned as a journalist into your role as a PR professional gives you many advantages. Besides writing, one of the most important advantages of having a journalism background is relationships. The relationships you built and maintained as a journalist will benefit you as a PR pro because that makes you one step ahead of the game. Many young PR pros face the challenge of starting and building trusting relationships with journalists and with your past journalism experience you have already established those relationships.

Another benefit a journalism background can bring to your role as a PR professional is that you know what journalists look for in a pitch and story. You are easily able to put yourself in their shoes and know what type of pitch a journalist looks for and how that pitch can help them get a good story. You are also more conscious of the journalist’s deadlines, which helps you to help them create the best story possible on a time crunch. Knowing the life of a journalist and understanding their profession will give you a better understanding of how to work with them as a PR pro.

Like I mentioned before, utilizing the journalistic writing skills you learned, like AP Style, and applying those to your writing as a PRo is extremely beneficial. In my opinion, more than half of the PR profession includes writing (i.e. press release, pitches, PSA’s, fact sheets, social media, blogging, etc.), so having that journalism background allows you to progress in this area of PR.

In conclusion, understanding journalism is extremely important in public relations. If you are in or looking to be in public relations and don’t have any experience or knowledge of journalism, get out there and get some experience as soon as possible. A journalism background will only help you grow and succeed as a PR professional.

He’s makin’ a list (a Twitter list that is). Checkin’ it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Clause is coming to Twitter.

Although Santa Clause lives in the North Pole, it’s not like he’s been living under a rock for the last year. Even Santa has a Twitter account. Santa has discovered the power of Twitter and how the micro-blogging site makes it much easier to follow whether you’ve been naughty or nice. In fact, Santa has even made a naughty and nice Twitter check-list. Read along and see if you’ve been a bad or good Twitterer this year.


1. Starting a Twitter feud – Twitter should not be used for fighting, at least not in a malicious way. A little Twitter disagreement here and there can be expected sometimes, it’s human nature. But, starting hateful and mean feuds on Twitter will definitely put you on Santa’s naughty list. At the top of Santa’s Twitter naughty list is @PerezHilton because of this very act. The notorious celebrity blogger instigates a Twitter feud with almost every single tweet he posts. One of the most infamous Twitter feuds of the year was between Hilton and Pete and Ashlee Wentz after Hilton began bashing the couple on Twitter. Although it was quite entertaining to watch, there were mean and rude comments exchanged between all sides. The Twitter war became so out-of-control that other celebs, like Joel Madden and John Mayer, started getting in on the action and firing back against Hilton. Santa watched in horror as the live stream of Twitter hatred scrolled down his computer screen and from then on, Hilton was placed on the Twitter naughty list forever.

2. Spamming/Creating fake Twitter accounts – If you’re on Twitter then I’m sure at some point you have been followed by those lovely Britney Spears spammers, people that consistently send you promotional direct messages or people that follow and unfollow you over and over again. I don’t understand why people feel the need to spam people on Twitter. I mean, what do they get out of it? A good laugh? The satisfaction that they are extremely annoying someone? If you have taken part in the act of spamming on Twitter this year, you are guaranteed to be on Santa's naughty list.

3. Twitter cliques – This might be a tricky one for Santa. Twitter cliques aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but in some cases they can be. Santa can put you on his naughty list if you’ve been involved with or a part of a Twitter clique that excludes others and just isn’t very nice. Sometimes you will find groups of people on Twitter that think they are above everyone else, they are snobby, they do not include others, they only tweet with certain people and they gossip and start drama. I rejoiced when I graduated high school, so please don’t make me feel like I’m back there again. Twitter is a place to make friends, meet new people and build relationships. Being exclusive on Twitter is defeating the whole purpose.

4. Stuck up tweeps – Santa does not appreciate snobbishness, especially on Twitter. People on Twitter that never follow back, reply or DM seem downright stuck up. Like I said before, the whole purpose of Twitter is to engage and interact. If you are using Twitter for selfish reasons to promote or scam people only, you can bet you are going to be at the top of Santa’s bad Twitter list.

5. Stealing tweets – Not giving people tweet credit when retweeting their posts is a major no, no. It is basically stealing credit for something you didn’t create. Remember when you were in second grade and would cheat off of the really nerdy, smart kid sitting next to you? Well, stealing tweets is the same thing. If you are guilty of this naughty act, don’t be surprised if Santa unfollows you or DM’s you a big image of coal.


1. Tweet for a cause – Using Twitter to better the world and raise awareness is a great way to take advantage of the micro-blogging site. Plus, it makes Santa very proud. Through Twitter you can ultimately reach millions of people to educate them and bring awareness about worldly issues. Whether you retweeted a post about fighting breast cancer or you became involved in a @TwitCause, these are the ways you can help the world through Twitter.

2. Sharing advice/Helping your tweeps – Santa would agree when I say you have been a very good Tweeter if you are always willing to help your tweeps and give good advice. My favorite people to follow are the ones that give me great advice. Whether it’s advice about work, job hunting, blog feedback or a personal matter, the tweeps that offer their advice and look for ways to help definitely make Santa’s nice list.

3. Passing along deals, discounts, event invites, etc. – Since I’m a poor post-graduate looking to move to one of the most expensive cities in the world, I really enjoy when my tweeps send me anything that includes a discount or something that is free through Twitter. For example, there are certain networking events around Columbus I like to attend but the cover charges can be pretty expensive. So, some of my Columbus tweeps will send me an event code to get free access to the event. Other examples include people sharing their Google Wave invites or passing along restaurant discounts through Twitter. Its actions like these that can brighten someone’s day…and Santa’s.

4. Taking Twitter newcomers under your wings – Thousands of new people join the Twitterverse on a daily basis and most of them have absolutely no clue what it is or how to utilize it. When experienced twitterers are welcoming and bring new tweeps on board, it is a good way to show the Twitter newcomers what a nice community Twitter is. A lot of times when my friends first start a Twitter account, I will sit down with them and give them a Twitter 101 session. I explain that they first need a goal and objective in mind for the utilization, they need a strategy and then a plan of implementation. I take them step-by-step as to what the different functions can be used for and I help them get started on their Twitter journey.

5. Helping tweeps with their job hunt – I couldn’t agree more with Santa when he put this Twitter action on his nice list. We all know that the job market is real crappy right now and as a ’09 grad trying to make it in New York City, the tweeps who have gone above and beyond to help me find a job should be on Santa’s nice list indefinitely. I didn’t even ask Santa for anything this Christmas because my Twitter friends already gave me what I wanted…a chance and an opportunity to reach my NYC dream by helping me find job leads, giving me great advice and believing in me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Update Number Two on the NYC Job Front

My New York trip next week is looking better than ever. Late afternoon yesterday I received an e-mail from another global communications firm in NYC asking to meet with me while I was in NYC next week. Obviously I said yes, so now I not only have one, not two, but three interviews in NYC! I am so ecstatic I can barely even concentrate on anything else. Of course I’m not getting my hopes up too high, but it would be an absolute dream come true if I ended up landing a position with any of these amazing firms.

Over the last few weeks I have been preparing non-stop for these interviews. I have been meeting with some of the best PR/social media mavens in Columbus to listen to their insight and advice, I have been turning to my mentors to help me prepare all of my interview materials and I have been researching, researching, researching. I even went as far as printing out these firms’ entire Web sites and reading them over and over again. Every time I read their Web site’s or Google them, I find something new and interesting about each firm. I am extremely impressed with both firms and I hope they will be just as impressed with me and what I can bring to the table for their company.

I am also extremely excited to be having a Tweetup with all of my NYC Twitter friends. I can’t wait to finally meet them, even though I have met some already, I am looking forward to seeing everyone. My NYC Twitter friends have all been so supportive of my goal to get a PR/social media job in NYC and I want to thank each and everyone for their help and guidance. It amazes me that people I have never even met in person are so willing to help me. Twitter is one of the best things that has happened to me over the last year and it has given me the opportunity to meet some of the best people I know. Plus, I’m really stoked that we are having the Tweetup at Justin Timberlake’e restaurant Southern Hospitality.

Even though I haven’t actually secured a job in NYC yet, I want to start packing my stuff and rent the U-Haul already. I am so ready to get out of Columbus and be in the Big Apple it’s not even funny. Hopefully after this week it will actually happen sooner than later. Stay tuned to hear how my NYC trip goes. Fingers crossed!

As a public relations enthusiast and an avid Twitterer, I tend to follow a lot of PR agencies on Twitter. Something I have observed from following these agencies is that their Twitter pages do not show as much potential as they could and should have. I keep looking at their pages and wonder if they are ever going to “get it.” I’m no Chris Brogan or Scott Stratten, but don’t you think if these PR agencies are using social media strategies to enhance their client’s business development that they should understand social media and how to utilize it themselves first?

Social media is becoming a necessity for businesses, small, medium and large, and a PR agency is where businesses turn to for social media training and implementation. If these businesses, who are already clients or are potential clients, look at a PR agency’s Twitter page and other social media sites and see a less than mediocre site, my guess is that they are not going to be running at the chance to work with that agency.

With this in mind, I came up with a few strategies and tactics for PR agencies to improve their Twitter page. A lot of these strategies can be used for their Facebook page and other social media sites as well.

1. Know the goals and objectives for the Twitter page

First and foremost, agencies need to plan out a Twitter strategy and what their goals and objectives are for their Twitter page. It would be a horrible decision for an agency to get on Twitter and have no clue why or how it is going to utilize it. Agencies need to know why they want to use Twitter and how it will benefit their company and clients. They need to know who their target audience is, how to brand themselves, what goals/objectives they want to set and how to measure their success. Setting goals, reaching them and measuring how successful those goals were met is key when using Twitter, as well as any other social media site.

Some goals could include: how many followers do we want to gain in a certain amount of time, how many media pitches do we want to send out through Twitter, how many media impressions do we want from pitching through Twitter, how many replies/retweets do we want to send and/or gain, how many Twitter lists do we want to create or be on, etc.

When measuring success on Twitter, agencies need to see results. To do this, they must monitor things like who is engaging and commenting on their Twitter page and measure brand awareness. PR agency Waggener Edstrom even created its own Twitter brand awareness measuring application called the WE Twendz Pro. According to its Web site, The WE twendz pro “provides you with impact metrics and key performance indicators such as your overall reach and influence within Twitter along with an audience emotion gauge to measure the impact of your messages within key audiences.” I think it is a great idea for agencies to create their own social media measuring application because every agency’s goals/objectives may be different and they need a measuring system that works for those specific goals/objectives.

2. The point of social media is to be social
When looking at some of the PR agencies Twitter pages, they are not social in any way, shape or form. To put it rather bluntly, they are lifeless with no personality showing and they are boring. Who wants to follow a Twitter page like that? Probably not too many people. So, here are a few tips for agencies to create and maintain an interesting and social Twitter page:
-Interact: One of the worst Twitter sins is to lack interaction with followers. If agencies continue to post the same formatted tweets every single time without replying, retweeting or hashtagging, followers will lose interest and unfollow, and potential followers will not even start to follow. PR agencies need to take advantage of the reply, retweet and hashtag functions. They are there for a reason, so use them. Agencies should be replying, rewteeting or hashtagging anything they deem relevant from their followers and the people they follow so they can begin conversations and a more personal relationship. Which leads to my next point…
-Be personal: The best part about Twitter is that it allows businesses to reach out to their target audience and potential clients on a more personal level. Agencies need to show through their Twitter page that they care about their audience and want to get to know them personally. Agencies don’t want to get too personal, but they should be able to show through their tweets who they are as a company, their mission and philosophies and any exciting or interesting projects they are working on. If people can see an agency’s personality through Twitter, they are more likely to follow and become aware of that agency.
-Post interesting tweets: Something I see a lot on PR agencies Twitter pages is the same formatted tweets with a headline and a link. The tweets never explain anything about the company or what they are working on, and I wonder what the relevance of their tweets is. As a follower, I want to see what type of company it is, I want to see their views and opinions on trending topics, I want to see what cool and exciting projects they are working on and I want to see how they incorporate their employees into their tweets. Agencies that connect and interact with their employees on Twitter show a lot about that agency’s culture and work atmosphere. Also, agencies should always, always, always continue to update their tweets on a daily basis. Without current or updated tweets followers will definitely lose interest. By incorporating interaction and personality, PR agencies should be able to create more interesting tweets that followers will be drawn to reading and responding to. Some examples of interesting tweets I have seen PR agencies post in the past have been tweeting Twitter contests for a client, posting interesting case studies, starting their own hashtag(s) or having Twitter awards for their company.

3. Package the Twitter page as a brand
When PR agencies use their Twitter page to create brand awareness, they should always consider every aspect of their page. For example, the Twitter background, font colors, the avatar picture and the profile section (name, location, Web site and bio). A good example would be digital agency 360i. 360i has a creative, colorful background that represents its company by including the company e-mail, blog URL, Web site URL and other social media sites it belongs to. Incorporating the company’s other social media sites on its Twitter page is a great idea because it will bring attention to all of those different sites and it’s easy for people to find them. Along with other creative settings, 360i’s font colors are the company colors and the avatar picture is the company logo. 360i’s profile section is short, sweet and to the point. In my opinion, Ogilivy PR’s digital Twitter page has a much better bio section because it is creative and more detailed. Agencies need to have an overall inviting Twitter page for their followers and potential followers.

4. Conclusion

PR agencies seem to be having a difficult time being their own client when it comes to social media, especially with Twitter. They need to treat themselves like their own client by forming a strategic social media plan with their goals and objectives thought out. Social media is still new to the business world and a lot of companies are using social media on a trial basis. I think it is good for a company to explore what works and what doesn’t when it comes to social media. If you don’t try it, how will you ever know if it works? Social media is changing the way our society communicates with one another and PR agencies need to start taking more advantage of all the social media opportunities that are out there.

As you all know, I have been working my bum off over the last few years to get to New York City and unfortunately, there haven’t been too many job leads coming my way. Well, not any more! This past week could possibly be one of the most life-changing weeks of my life. With hard work and a little help from some amazing people, I have had a serious breakthrough in my job hunting efforts.

Last Friday I was walking out of the office, looking forward to celebrating my younger sister’s 20th birthday that night, and all of a sudden I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. The first thing I noticed was the area code “212” and I knew this phone call could be major. I answered and it was a very nice lady named Karyn who is a PR recruiter in NYC. She said a colleague of mine had forwarded her my resume and she wanted to sit down and chat with me about my NYC/PR plans when I visited NYC in December. Even though the meeting isn’t technically a job interview, it is a meeting that could lead to a job, which is one step closer to my dream.

After my talk with Karyn on Friday, I was starting the new week off on a positive note and feeling oddly optimistic. When Wednesday rolled around I never expected what was about to happen. I was walking to my car from the office and I must not have gotten reception in the parking garage, but I looked down at my phone and had a voicemail. Thinking it was probably my mom or dad reminding me to let the dogs out when I got home, I was extremely mistaken. The voicemail was left by a woman from the global and award-winning communication firm Fleishman-Hillard in NYC saying she had received my resume and wanted to know my availability to come to the NYC office and meet with her and her team.

After hearing this jaw-dropping voicemail, I sat in my car for a good minute in complete and utter shock. Once I overcame the shock, I had a 20 minute freak out/screaming session in my car. People walking by probably thought I was either a.) having a seizure or b.) I was dieing. I finally calmed down enough to call the lady back. When I called back we set up a day (Dec. 11) for me to come in and meet her and the Fleishman-Hillard digital team. Although, she didn’t mention a specific position I would be meeting for I’m hoping that there will be a fit for me somewhere.

For the next three weeks I am solely focusing on preparing as much as possible for my two meetings in NYC. I am so ecstatic I can barely even concentrate. I know I haven’t secured a job just yet, but I’m actually starting to get somewhere and see some progress. I will keep you posted on how the interviews go and keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Part II: Is this the end of PR as we know it?

Ever since the news of the recession broke out, I have been hearing comments and reading articles that the death of public relations is among us. The word on the street is that companies are having to downsize and restructure their business, which means the PR department is the first one to boot. I have also been hearing that PR agencies are lacking in company earnings. For example, if you take a look at the “Earnings” section on the PRWeek Web Site(http://www.prweekus.com/earnings/topic/33/) you will see that almost every single agency listed is facing a decline in revenue.

I refused to believe all of this “PR death” talk, so I decided to do my own research. I visited the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and what I found was quite surprising.

According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, “Employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2006 to 2016, faster than average for all occupations. The need for good public relations in an increasingly competitive business environment should spur demand for these workers in organizations of all types and sizes. Those with additional language capabilities also are in great demand.”

On the other hand, the BLS also states that there will be a continuation of “keen” competition for entry-level public relations positions due to the number of qualified candidates exceeding the number of job openings.

There you go. The death of PR is NOT among us. Even the government tells us so and if you can’t believe the government, then who can you believe?