Last week TJ Dietderich, of PR Breakfast Club fame, posed a simple question to me: I get a lot of questions from friends looking to switch to PR as a career. What are the best online resources to send them to?
Good question, right?
A number of blogs and Web sites came to mind immediately, but then I thought more about the term TJ used–“resources.” We’re talking about more than blogs here. What would really help someone looking to break into PR learn more about our profession, who we are and where we’re going in the next 10-15 years.
After giving that some additional thought over the weekend, I came up with the following list. I really think the blogs, sites, podcasts, lists and other resources below would give someone thinking of making the switch to PR a pretty good glimpse of our industry:
* Journalistics. Follow the heart of PR by subscribing to Journalistics, where Jeremy Porter and crew talk about all things at the intersection of PR and journalism. What I like most about Journalistics is that it doesn’t tend to cover the trendy, social-media-based topics of the day all that much. Sure, there are posts that include discussions of Twitter, Facebook and social tools du jour, but for the most part the blog sticks to topics PR and journalists would care about–tips for creating a great elevator speech, how to think like a reporter (for PR wins), and how to keep your news release from getting deleted.
* #pr20chat. A fantastic weekly Twitter chat hosted by Heather Whaling and Justin Goldsborough that focuses on the PR “2.0” world. Topics range from social analytics to educating the next generation of PR pros to writing and consulting basics. I can’t think of a better way for someone looking to break into PR to get up to speed on what’s happening in PR right now.
* For Immediate Release podcast. One of the longest (if not *the* longest) PR podcasts on record (since April 2008). Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson typically record two podcasts a week taking on various topics in the PR and corporate communications industries. They usually use one podcast as the “report” for the week–think of it as a 45-minute CNN-type newscast for PR types. And, the other podcast each week is dedicated to an interview or panel discussion of sorts (just recently they featured a great discussion around social media analytics). I don’t listen to Shel and Neville as much as I used to (all due to time constraints), but when I did, I loved the fact that they included their audience in their shows. They had regular correspondents. They respond to voice mails. Real interaction with the audience. And, it makes the show. But the real reason I suggest this to those considering a career in PR–it’s a podcast; you can listen to it on the way to work, over your lunch hour, or while mowing the lawn (hey, I think I just convinced myself to start listening again!).
* Follow HARO for a week. Like it or not, media relations is a big part of PR. And, contrary to popular belief, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What better way to learn more about what reporters are looking for and how they frame up stories than to follow HARO for a week? I mean, really follow it. Read the inquiries. Try to understand what they’re looking for and what kind of story they’re developing. Reading HARO for a week will definitely help you get a sense for the kinds of stories and angles reporters take–and what they want, need and expect from PR pros as a result.
* HAPPO. (Disclosure: I’m a co-founder of HAPPO). If you’re looking to make the move to PR, this may be where you find your first job. That’s the hope at least. And, it a part of the reason HAPPO exists. However, HAPPO isn’t all about jobs. It’s about helping other PR pros. That can mean, providing news and information. Connecting others with potential mentors. And, meeting new pros from across the world–all via Twitter. All of which I would think would be hugely beneficial to someone just looking to start a career in PR.
* Bad Pitch Blog. Sometimes as much as it makes sense to learn how to do a job well, it also pays to learn from others mistakes. Exactly why I would encourage newbies to read the Bad Pitch Blog regularly. What I’ve enjoyed most about Kevin Dugan and Richard Laermer’s takes over the years–they’re not afraid to take on tough issues and “A-listers.” Case in point, this post which was fairly critical of Peter Shankman and his Klout-based holiday party last year. Of course, they also talk about everyday issues and lessons that impact us all–like the recent post on typos and proofreading. For either reason, I’d suggest BPB as a must-read for those considering a career in PR.
* PR Breakfast Club (diclosure: I’m a contributor to PR Breakfast Club). Founded by Nathan Burgess, Keith Trivitt, Marie Baker and CT Michaels, the Breakfast Club is a great place to get all things PR–on a daily basis (sign up for the daily email–always one of the first things I read in the morning). Here’s why I would recommend the Breakfast Club to PR newbies–you can get a sampling of a number of PR voices in one daily email. Just since April 1, the Breakfast Club has featured a whopping 20 different authors and bloggers from across the Web (and country). So, you don’t just get one person’s perspective on PR–you get a number of different views. And, many of them are younger professionals (30 or younger), so you get a glimpse into what it’s like to start out in PR. One of the better group PR blogs on the Web.
* Start following some great PR blogs. I mentioned a few already, but start a list of 10-15 PR blogs and follow them religiously for two months. I guarantee in those two months, you’ll learn a ton about the industry. Start by pulling blogs from lists that already exist–Journalistics, Paul Roberts and Jeff Domansky’s lists are good places to start. If that doesn’t do the trick, check out Alltop for a more comprehensive list of potential PR blogs.
* PR books. While the online resources I’ve listed here are great, I’d still recommend picking up a good, old-fashioned hard-cover book every once in a while (or download one to your Kindle, if you prefer). Obviously, there are hundreds of books to read around the topic of PR–where to start? I compiled a list a couple years ago based on PR pros recommendations–still a good starting point. I particular like Kellye Crane’s suggestion of Elements of Style and Lauren Vargas’ recommendation of Never Eat Alone (not a PR book technically, but a wonderfully useful read). If that’s not enough, you can see what I’m reading this year–a number of great PR reads in here.
What about you? What online resources would you suggest to someone considering jumping into the PR industry?
Note: Photo courtesy of WSDOT via FlickR Creative Commons.
For the last two years, I’ve been a Droid owner. I bought the original Droid the day it came out. It was a thing of beauty–at the time. But, over time a number of things started to really bug me about the phone. The battery case kept falling apart (I wasn’t the only one with this problem). Sound quality on calls was rough. And, even as far as the Android app market has come in the last year, it still pales in comparison to the *quality* of iPhone apps.
In the meantime, we’re a full Apple family. Two MacBooks. One iMac. One iPad. And an Apple TV.
The iPhone was inevitable.
So, last week I broke down and pulled the trigger. Bought the new white version, too. And, I immediately ordered this case.
Now, all that’s left to do is learn how to use the damn thing 😉 Oh, and figure out what apps work best and fit in my work routine and lifestyle. Off the top, I know I’m going to be a heavy Posterous user with my new BadAssShoes blog (and others). I’ll probably also use Pandora a fair amount. Crackle, too. But, I was curious what other apps other people like me use.
So, I started asking PR and marketing folks like me the simple question: What’s the one iPhone app you absolutely cannot live without?
Here’s what I heard:
Sarah Evans: Hootesuite
Jennifer Schmitt: Wall Street Journal
David Murray: Evernote
Jeremy Pepper: TripIt
Jillian Froelich: Beer Cloud (I’ve always liked Jillian 🙂
Alex Tan: Pulse News
Kevin Watterson: Google Reader
Rochelle Veturis: Twitter/Yelp
Todd Defren: Yelp/IMDB (also mentioned: Angry Birds. Echofon. Flixter. Weather Channel. Kindle)
Mary Barber: Twitter (also, Grocery IQ)
Patrick Strother: MLB (also, Twitter)
Narciso Tovar: Seesmic (also, Pandora and Words with Friends)
Kate O’Reilly: Tweetbot (also, Things)
Chuck Hemann: Skype
Mark Ragan: Compass
What’s the one iPhone app YOU can’t live without?
Note: Photo courtesy of chrisphoto via FlickR Creative Commons.
It’s so retro to love Saved By The Bell these days. But, I was one of the true watchers and fans back in the 90s. I spent WAY too much of my college career soaking in Tiffani Amber-Thiessen and Lark Voorhies.
The show was admittedly very campy, but it did tackle tough issues from time to time. Remember the episode where Jessie took the speed to stay up all night so she could study? Or, what about the episode where Zack made the fake IDs to impress a girl? OK, so maybe that’s not a completely serious issue, but the show did have some teeth, right? OK, fine, maybe not.
But, I think the show did teach us something else: A number of PR lessons.
That’s right: PR lessons.
Wait, you’re saying Screech, A.C. Slater and Mr. Belding were actually PR professors in disguise?
Not quite. But, you can glean a number of important lessons from the show. Bear with me for a moment:
Persistence doesn’t always pay off. Over the course of their high school careers, how many times did Screech proposition Lisa? The number is probably north of 500. How many times did Lisa say yes? Probably a similar number, right? But, darn it, Screech never gave up. He looked for new angles. Tried different approaches. But, unfortunately, in the end, Screech did not end up with Lisa. The lessons? Persistence doesn’t always pay off. In PR, that means badgering a reporter won’t necessarily get you the placement. In many instances, you need to work smarter–not harder.
When everyone is zigging, try zagging. Remember some of Screech’s outfits on the show? Borderline outrageous right? But what Screech realized far before most of us is that when everyone is zigging, you should be zagging. That is, when your competitors are telling the same story and lauding the same benefits over and over, you should try a different tack. Don’t be afraid to go a different direction in your blog posts–even if it’s not a wildly popular opinion. Or, on your Facebook page, take a stand on a critical industry issue. You might be surprised where all this “zagging” leads you.
Success is never as easy as it seems. Think back to the episode where Jesse took the speed pills so she could stay up all night studying. Jesse was that kid in school that got straight As. The kid that seemed to get it all so easily. The kid that was going to an Ivy League school–on a scholarship. But, as it turns out, life didn’t come so easy to Jessie Spanno. Turns out, she had to work just as hard (if not harder) than everyone else to keep up those grades. And, that’s the key lesson. Those people that appear to be KILLING it and winning by leaps and bounds? Chances are, it’s not easy. They’re probably putting in 80 hour weeks to start. On top of that they probably don’t see their family as much as they would like. And, there’s no question that they are absolutely working their tails off. So the next time it appears that someone is “making it look easy”, don’t assume that’s not coming without a pretty heavy cost.
Regular communication is key to productive relationships. Did it ever seem odd to you that Zack was in Mr. Belding’s office virtually every day? Or, that he came to class to talk to Zach at least once an episode? Sure, Zack was the class clown, and it was all well-deserved, but was Mr. Belding just riding Zack, or was it part of his genius plan to build a stronger relationship with Zack in hopes of helping him realize his full potential? OK, that might be taking it a bit far, but you see what I’m getting at. Constant and regular communication is the key to any productive relationship. Think about the client/agency relationship. If you don’t have open lines of communication–and regular meetings–things can go haywire quickly. Think about what the lines of communication look like between: You and your team, you and the agency that assists you, and you and your boss. Make sure you are honest, forthright and punctual. And, that you always respond in a timely manner.
What about you? Learn anything from Zack, Slater and Jessie back in the early 90s?
Let’s be honest: Millennials have a pretty bad rep. Some of it is earned–I see the same thing everyone else does with this group. A bit of the entitlement attitude. And unrealistic expectations when it comes to salary and climbing the ladder.
But, you know what? There are a whole lot of stars in that Millennial group, too. Just look at some of the bigger movers and shakers nationally on the PR and digital marketing side–lot of millennials in that group. Nikki Stephan, David Spinks, Scott Hale, and Rebecca Denison just to name a few (follow the #u30pro chat for more examples–these stars are everywhere within that group).
And locally, right here in Minneapolis we have no shortage of millennial stars. I know I’m biased, but I continue to say we have one of the more talented and diverse creative communities in the nation. Yes, right here in fly-over country.
Over the last couple years, I’ve been lucky enough to get to know a few of these people as they’ve entered the workforce and made their way up the ladder and/or taken new roles and jobs.
So today, I thought I’d highlight 7 young PR pros that I believe have extremely bright futures. These are colleagues and people I’ve either worked with directly or indirectly over the last few years (how else would I recommend them?). ALL of these people have extremely bright futures in front of themselves (and, to be clear, I qualified “young PR pros” as anyone under 25 years old).
Allison Janney (@allisonjanney)
Allison’s a year into the workforce, but she’s already making quite a mark over at Exponent PR in Minneapolis. I first met Allison a couple years ago at a PRSA event. She approached me at the event, asked me questions (note to students: This never happens and is one of the many reasons Allison stands out) and a few months later, I was speaking with her university’s PRSSA chapter. Allison is the one person on this list that I haven’t officially worked with yet, but I’m sure at some point down the road we will have an opportunity.
Sarah Anderson (@sarahjander)
To be fair, I’m a little biased here. Sarah is a current intern with ACH Communications and has worked for a client of mine in the past year (Select Comfort). I met Sarah about a year ago. She asked me to coffee. What impressed me most was that Sarah came to that first meeting prepared with thoughtful questions and she had clearly done her research on me. We later reconnected about the job search after her internship with Select Comfort ran up–and that, of course, led to her working with me.
George Fiddler (@georgefiddler)
The brains and management behind Fast Horse’s successful Intern for a Day idea, George has really impressed me in my interactions with him the last two years. And apparently, I’m not alone. George started as an intern at Fast Horse, and was hired soon after thanks to his tenacity and big ideas. One of the hardest working young pros I know.
Kristin Gast (@kristingast)
I had the opportunity to work with Kristin (while she was at Tunheim) on a client account in my first six months after I started my firm. At the time, Kristin was probably only a year out of school. We worked together on a client education session and I found her to be professional, organized and very well-spoken. After all, we were in front of an executive team with our client–and Kristin came across as someone with 5-7 years experience, easily. Definite rising star.
Katie Schutrop (@kshoop)
You learn a lot about someone when you plan an event with them (ask Chuck Hemann about planning an event with me). Melissa Berggren and I asked Katie to help us with the Minnesota Blogger’s Conference last year. And wow, what a great idea that was. Katie was instrumental to the success of the event in many ways. She helped us with the Web site. She helped us with logistics. But most of all, she was responsive and hit every deadline. Oh, and by the way, she started the wildly popular Young Professional Communicators Group from scratch a couple years back.
Sara Benson (@sbenny35)
I worked with Sara for a bit on a PRSA committee a few years ago. At the time, Sara as a year or less removed from college, and the committee had a roster of heavy hitters from agencies around town. But, Sara held her ground, contributed and added a lot of value to the team. I enjoyed working with Sara so much, I reached out to her to interview her about her work at the Minnesota Zoo last year.
Bridget Jewell (@bmjewell)
One of the hardest working young professionals I know, it’s no wonder Bridget’s working in her “dream job” (her words, not mine) at the Mall of America. I’ve had the pleasure to know Bridget since she graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2008. I worked with her on a PRSA committee for two years. And a little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to work directly with Bridget at the Mall. In all those experiences, Bridget always followed through, met all her deadlines and was a joy to work with. I’d take her on my team any day of the week.
Obviously, I don’t know everyone in this town. And, I certainly haven’t had the opportunity to work with every millennial in the Twin Cities. So, who have you worked with–and who would you add to this list?
It’s a common debate among folks in the PR world: What makes more sense: obtaining my APR or getting an MBA? Before we get into this discussion, note that I earned my APR a number of years ago. I do not have my MBA (although I took one class at the University of St. Thomas several years ago).
Before we go any further, let’s start by looking at the pros and cons of each:
* Opportunity to get a whole lot smarter about the business side of any organization–financial accounting, operations and how to read a balance sheet.
* On the corporate side, an MBA can often be an unofficial requirement for many senior-level positions.
* Like many advanced degrees, by attending class and sitting in various group meetings, the networking can be invaluable.
* Cost can be high. And, unless your company is footing the bill or chipping in, that can get spendy quickly.
* The process can be time-consuming. If you’re only taking one class at a time (which is all some people can take), an MBA can take as long as 4-5 years.
* Competition. Who doesn’t have an MBA these days? I mean, besides me 🙂 In all seriousness, it seems like more people are obtaining their MBA every day. Is it still a differentiator?
* More journey–less destination. I always thought the APR process was much more about the process than it was putting those three letters after my name.
* The APR opens all sorts of doors on the PRSA side. So, if you want to sit on your local chapter board or have aspirations of sitting on the National board some day, this is the ticket in.
* Supporting the industry. By getting your APR, you are, in fact, stating your support for the PR industry. Not a huge personal benefit, but industry-wise, it is.
* It’s affordable. At just $410, the APR is a bargain when compared with an advanced degree like an MBA (apples to oranges, I know).
* The APR certification doesn’t have near the credibility of an MBA–especially on the corporate side of the fence.
* It’s organization-specific. You need to remain a PRSA member to keep your APR–it’s not organization agnostic. Not sure most would label this a “con”, but I am for the purposes of discussion here.
Next, I think you need to consider your current–and future–employment situation. Do you work on the agency side? Corporate? As an independent consultant? All have different angles when it comes to the APR vs. MBA discussion.
* Corporate side. MBA has a huge advantage here. In many larger, Fortune 500 organizations, an MBA is an unannounced requirement for senior-level positions (see above). On the client side, an MBA is really a form of advanced business training, whereas the APR is barely recognized by those outside PRSA circles.
* Agency side. The APR probably carries more weight here. Many agencies owners and leaders cut their teeth in agencies, so they’re very familiar with PRSA and the APR. And, the learning process you go through to obtain the APR, can be extremely valuable to the PR agency counselor. But, is it necessary? That’s the debate.
* Independent consultant. I’d probably give the slight edge to the APR here, too. Merely for credibility. Most clients still know little about the APR–but by listing those letters after your name, it’s really just a conversation starter. On the other hand, the MBA does little for the independent consultant, in my view. Similar to agencies, indie consultants get paid for ideas. They get paid for creativity. The MBA really doesn’t get at either of those. Sure, you’d better understand business (including how to run your own), but I’m not sure that really helps from a consulting point of view. And remember, getting an MBA is expensive and you’d be on the hook for the entire cost. In my view, it’s simply not worth the added cost and time commitment.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I earned my APR a number of years ago. It took me about a year to go through the APR process. I took a series of classes locally with about 10 other aspiring APR candidates. I met new friends. I met speakers who came in to talk with us about key areas of the test. For me, the APR was far more about the journey than it was adding those three letters after my name (beating a dead horse now).
But, it’s important to note, after earning my APR I didn’t see any noticeable professional differences. That is, I wasn’t treated any different by my boss. I didn’t have a legion of prospective employers barking down my door chomping at the bit to hire me. And it certainly didn’t make a difference in my pay.
However, as I alluded to before, from a PRSA standpoint, all sorts of doors started to open as a result of my new APR.
I was asked to co-chair the programming committee within MN PRSA.
I was later asked to sit on the board.
I was asked to judge the Willard Thompson scholarship candidates.
And, in the process, and as a result of much of this work, I met a number of wonderful colleagues I am proud to call friends. People I lean on for advice and ideas on a regular basis.
And, as it turned out, that’s what obtaining my APR was all about. Much more journey. Far less destination. And, I’m not sure there’s a price tag I can affix to that.
I can’t really speak to the MBA side since I’ve never really pursued it. Since I didn’t envision myself staying on the corporate side for the long haul, frankly, I didn’t see the value in it. But, in the business world, the MBA carries significant weight. In both larger corporate jobs I’ve had in my life, as I said above, the MBA was basically a unannounced prerequisite for senior-level positions.
And, I would argue the same “more journey, less destination” theorem also holds true for the MBA. Many folks I know that have earned their MBA met all sorts of wonderful colleagues along the way. And, maybe more importantly, they got really smart about the inner workings of a business. In other words, they learned how to better solve business problems—not just PR or marketing problems.
And that’s the big rub with the MBA. It’s your ticket into the corporate game. Tough to serve as a CMO when you don’t know how to read a financial report. And, from a business owner standpoint, it could make sense, too. After all, there’s a ton of value in learning more about how a business works. But, then again, you’d be on the hook for the full payment—whereas on the corporate side, many companies will pay for or chip in toward your degree. That price tag has to figure in when you’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars for some of the more prestigious schools. In fact, if it was me, I’d look long and hard at the “ROI” of that degree. Would I get enough out of it to warrant a $30,000-plus price tag?
So, back to my original question: Which makes more sense? I think it depends on a few different factors: your current and future employer(s), your level of patience and your financial situation.
Now, I want to kick it to you. Which do you think makes more sense in today’s world? Is the MBA dead for agency and solo consultants? Is APR irrelevant on the corporate side? Would love your thoughts.