Tag Archives: communications

You Don’t Know PR

After more than 12 years in the business of public relations, it still amazes me how little people know about it.

I got my start in PR simply by chance. I looked for months for my first job out of college with little luck. Then a guy I used to babysit for recommended me to someone he knew in the city and that’s how I got my start.

I began working in beauty and fashion public relations in 2001. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea for a variety of reasons (low pay, no benefits; think of a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ environment where this Jersey girl just didn’t quite fit in) but I made it a little over a year there before I knew it was time to make a change. Ahh, how much easier it was to quit your job and decide to ‘start fresh’ at 23 than at 36. What I did take away from that job was that there was always a way to get something done, no matter what obstacles stood in your way.

I spent three years at a PR agency where I felt I learned everything I needed to get my start. The hours were awful and the management was mixed, but the pay and advancement were awesome. I got to work with some cool media companies and really got my start at understanding the power of public relations and why having a team of professionals like myself was so important to a brand.

Moving on to the non-profit world, there weren’t as many fancy raises or title changes, but there was so much more satisfaction. Managing and creating a communications department (where one didn’t exist) and knowing that the work you did was directly impacting lives and the bottom dollar that helped your organization grow was an indescribable feeling. There was also this warm and fuzzy feeling you got collaborating with your co-workers.

When I got laid off from my favorite job ever (see above), I spent a handful of months unemployed before I singlehandedly started running the PR department at a large media agency. It was here, after nearly a decade in the business, that I finally accepted how completely clueless people were about public relations.

With the exception of my first PR job, I have spent my entire career explaining what I do and what public relations really is, even to those who have hired me. Granted, that’s I’m there for, but within the last 10 years, nearly every client or company has been in the dark about this craft. That’s what can make it a lonely job, especially if you’re the only one running PR. People don’t understand your plight and companies usually don’t know where to put you. In fact, many don’t even have a communications or public relations department to begin with. Who is talking to the press for you? Who is advising you on internal and external communications? Who is making sure your messaging is in line? I could go on forever. In this day and age, with all the social media, real-time blunders, amongst other no-brainers, PR should be a requirement, not a luxury.

It takes a special person to work in PR. You have to be storyteller; you have to have patience, understanding, a thick skin and the ability to turn nothing into something. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain that everything is not “PR worthy.” Translation: not every burp and fart is newsworthy. People aren’t interested in every executive move your company is making, nor do they care about internal “rebrands.” Companies will give you a million reasons why they think “this is a great story,” and when you advise them it won’t get much, if any coverage, they don’t follow suit. I finally started calling reporters I had solid relationships with and asking them why they weren’t interested in covering something I was forced to make a story out of. It’s turned out to be one of the best and most honest tactics I have used in my career.

Another thing that aggravates the hell out of me (and is probably my biggest pet peeve of all) is when the PR person is left in the dark. All public relations heads should be at the executive table. We don’t care about your bullshit office politics, we just want the information before it’s spreading all over the office and we’re clueless when the press starts calling because some joker leaked it. This is a huge blunder companies make – they don’t think their PR person is important or plays an integral enough role in the business, primarily because they are not a revenue generator. What they don’t realize is that we can help save your brand. When the CEO leaves unexpectedly, when someone dies, a huge client is lost or you’ve got a scandal on your hands, you need your PR person in the loop. I’ve never understood how executives can manage billions of dollars and thousands of people, yet have zero idea how to communicate externally.

Public relations practioners get little recognition. Many say it’s a thankless job and quite frankly, it can be. When you get a great press hit, win an award or execute a successful campaign, the people behind it are usually forgotten. The brand gets visibility, the company, the executive(s) behind it, and while internally you may get some positive feedback and hi-fives, no one on the outside world really knows how it got on the front page of The New York Times, and you know what, they don’t care.

So why I have been doing PR for so many years? I’m good at, I like people, I love to write and there’s this feeling I get when something I spearhead goes from my desk to being broadcast nationally on TV or in the news. I landed in PR by chance. I’m now a stay-at-home-mom who very occasionally consults and tries to keep up with the trends. In the meantime, I hope Olivia Pope and all the other ‘fixers’ and ‘problem solvers’ out there are continuing to pave the way for us PR heroes.

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How’d You Get THAT From My Resume?

Information Security Analyst. Licensed Practical Nurse. Project Engineer. Screen Printer. Speech-Language Pathologist. Intern.

Do any of these scream Public Relations / Communications professional to you? Yeah, me neither. But for some reason, they always seem to pop up in my daily job alerts.

I subscribe to a lot of job boards that automatically send you searches each day in an effort to “weed out” the jobs that don’t match your skill set or preferred job type. I have tailored these alerts time and again to meet my specific criteria.  After a year of job hunting, I have come to the conclusion that these saved job searches are a piece of crap.

I don’t know how anything in my resume would qualify me to be an Information Security Analyst. My specialties are internal and external communications, writing, and media strategies; not cyber threats and computer technology.  C’mon CareerBuilder, get your act together!

While there might be some similarities in the words in my resume and the professions listed above (can anyone say COMMUNICATIONS?), doesn’t nearly everyone have communications in their resume these days? Don’t we all possess communications skills in one way or another? Interpersonal, oral, visual, written, etc.? In this day of technological advancement, isn’t there some tool that can separate these jobs from one another? I mean, are the nurse, screen printer and project engineer getting my PR listings?

The job hunt is a daily struggle in and of itself.  The last thing any jobless person needs is a worthless job alert.  So to all the career sites out there that send automated job alerts, please do your due diligence to the unemployed and send the right jobs to your subscribers or don’t send any at all!

Today is HAPPO – NYC PR Pro Ready for Action!

I’m selling myself for Help a PR Pro Out Day (HAPPO), taking place on February 19 and April 30. Everything else I have done to find a job hasn’t worked so maybe this will help me and all my creative PR friends find jobs again and we’ll live happily ever after.

So for all you employers out there looking for a talented PR professional with nearly 10 years experience in communications, public relations and writing, you have come to the right place. Here I am! Hire me!

Most recently, I worked with the American Red Cross of Northern New Jersey as the Director of Communications.  I experienced things in this role that I never thought imaginable. I traveled to disaster ravaged areas in a public affairs role, meeting with local and national media to deliver the message of the Red Cross. I was humbled by families who were impacted by disaster and built bonds with colleagues from across the nation.  I was N.J.’s lead spokesperson during two of the most notable aviation disasters in the northeast: US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River and Continental Airlines flight 3407 in Buffalo. I watched miracles and heartbreak occur within a month of one another.  And then they eliminated my department.

Whether I was on the ground or behind a desk, it was my job to make sure the mission of the organization was relayed to the public. I built a department from nothing. It was a challenge but something I am so proud of.  I did everything PR related.  Press releases, media interviews, collateral materials, editorial web content, fundraising and crisis communications, strategic planning, managing umbrella chapters’ communications; should I keep going?

Prior to joining a non-profit, which was a life-long dream, I worked with agencies in New York City handling the day-to-day duties of public relations.

In addition to my work in non-profit and media/entertainment, my industry experience spans corporate, beauty, fashion and consumer. I am also a contributing writer with a local newspaper in Essex County, New Jersey and a writer for Examiner.com

What I love about PR is bringing groundbreaking news or technology into the lives of everyday people. I like seeing an idea that seems lifeless suddenly grow leaps and bounds, all because of careful execution, determination and skill. I miss that. I miss being a part of that. Help bring me back there!

I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter and you can read my inner workings here. I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks for helping out this community. It’s been a rough year for our industry.

The Poorly Written “Form Letter Thank You” From Potential Employers

I am not a huge fan of form letters. Maybe it’s because I am a communications person, but I appreciate the personal touch of being thanked or recognized for something. Otherwise, I almost don’t want to be noticed at all.

I’m not talking about thank yous from friends or family. That ship has sailed. I’m talking about the form letter job seekers get from potential employers when they apply for a job or actually make it through the interview process, either through email or actual snail mail. Can you believe that, some of us actual get rejection letters and thank yous for applying via the U.S. Mail? Now I think that’s a nice touch, even if you are rejecting me.

I don’t mind the automated email informing me that Employer A has received my resume,  my background and qualifications are being evaluated and if I am suitable match or fit, that I will be contacted. What I do mind, is when Employer B sends me the thank you for interviewing with our company email, “It was pleasure meeting you and you were an outstanding candidate, but we have chosen to move in another direction. We will keep your resume on file for one year in the event your skills match another role in our organization.”

Really, you’re going to contact me when my experience matches another job in your company? Has any company ever done that for you? Similar positions open up all the time at companies you and I have applied to, maybe even interviewed at already, but no one ever gets that call saying, “Hey, Jane, this position opened up and it has your name written all over it!”

Maybe it’s some human resources law that says these companies need to send these types of correspondences to folks. And I understand, I really do, and I am not trying to sound bitter, I just think there is a less fake approach, shall we say, to go about this. Tell job seekers to keep looking, not that you’ll find a match for them; we know you’re not going to reach out to us if some keyword matches something on our resume with a job at your company; you must have a million resumes on file! Don’t sell us that short, please!

And while we’re on the topic of selling us short, take a look at the email below which I received this summer from an organization I applied to telling me I was not the chosen candidate. Not only was it not personally addressed (undisclosed recipients!), it left the “insert position here” empty and in plain sight for me to see!! So HR professionals, CEOs, hiring managers, whoever sends these emails and letters to those on the job hunt, please take note, have a bit of compassion or don’t send anything at all. Sometimes no news better than any news at all!

To: undisclosed-recipients

Thank you for the opportunity to interview you for the $(customtext1} position. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Although your credentials and work experience are most impressive, another candidate whose qualifications more closely meet our needs has been selected.

Your interest in this position is appreciated.

Why Career Fairs are a Waste of Time

On Friday, my husband and I attended a career fair in New York City, sponsored by Careerbuilder.com. We thought it would be a great way to network ourselves and get in front of employers versus sending resume after resume via email for yet another day. 

The night before, we printed out about three dozen resumes at Staples. That in and of itself was a struggle, as the machine printed our resumes crooked and stapled everything incorrectly. At the time, it was utterly frustrating; looking back, we have to laugh, but nonetheless, it certainly was not worth the $9 we spent.

I have been to career fairs before and left thoroughly disappointed, so I don’t know why I expected this one to be any different, but I did. I guess I thought because there are so many people out of work, employers would be eager to help out (or at least look like they wanted to help out) the 5 million of us who have lost jobs. Basically, I had some hope. Unfortunately, I was wrong. 

We waited on a line that was around the block. It wasn’t too bad, but maybe that was because I had someone to wait with. 

My husband and I knew the list of employers weren’t directly in our industries, but we took a shot anyway because the event was sponsored by companies like AOL and PIX, and we were open to exploring new opportunities. Boy, did we misjudge this one. 

There must have been about 10 employers at this thing and at least 500 people in attendance by the 10 o’clock hour. Every job seemed to be in sales. And if that wasn’t bad enough, all these employers, who we all were getting the chance to meet face-to-face and make that lasting impression with, told us to apply for the open positions available at their companies online.
What?!?

So we stood online, as did hundreds of other people only to be told that we should go to the company’s website and apply in their career center portal? Why the hell was I here? Additionally, there were so few jobs that offered anything but sales. I felt like I was back at college at their career fairs. I’m not knocking sales jobs, don’t get me wrong, but every career fair I have ever been to, since I was an undergrad, everyone is always looking for salespeople, never any broader, niche occupations, like public relations, marketing or communications.

While we did make the effort to talk to some employers and shake a few hands, there was nothing there for us. And anything that seemed relatively worthwhile, we were told to head to the website and apply for the open position there. Oh, and let me tell you about that one: the website they gave us didn’t even work (Prudential)

Even though the career fair wasn’t for us, I really hope that the hundreds of other people that attended the event found it worthwhile because people need jobs. It’s amazing, yet daunting, how many people are looking for work right now. I saw a million types of people standing on that line or walking around the less than full room of employers. 

Unemployment does not choose. It’s like a disease. You can’t control who its bestows itself upon, it just happens, by no fault of your own. No matter how hard you may have worked, no matter how long you may have worked; regardless of race, gender, age, or religion, unemployment can happen to you. We are just one of millions of people looking for a cure.

What I Want to be When I Grow Up…

Before losing my job or trying to find a new career path, I always wished that I was doing something else. Doesn’t everyone? I always believed that the grass was greener on the other side. Isn’t it?

Since losing my job (oh, and we can’t forget the job I got but was taken back), I have been contemplating what my next step will be. Maybe this is the time to really delve into my writing (trying to do that). Maybe I should volunteer or give back somehow (applied to be a volunteer – I worked for Red Cross, I know how valuable volunteers are!). My mind is running aimlessly and endlessly.

Having been unemployed before, I understand the value of having this “free time.” The last time I lost my job, I was about eight weeks away from getting married. While I still interviewed and tried to find a job (I even landed a gig six days later but it wasn’t for me…is there a pattern here?), I also came to the realization that I had the opportunity to finish planning my wedding and start fresh on the employment path just a few weeks later. This time around, it’s a little different.

When my husband lost his job, I told him this was his opportunity to do a lot of the things he always wanted to do that he couldn’t because work got in the way, such as travel, play guitar, see family and friends. Of course, you’re still looking for work, but at some point, you burn out after hours at the computer, networking, phone calls. If you’re unemployed, you know the drill.

There is so much I want to do and be right now. It’s so confusing. I recently turned 31 and while I am still young (in my eyes at least), I feel like I have lost this huge opportunity to start something new, which I know is outrageous. I would completely discourage someone from that state of mind if they told me that.

So here are some of the things I have wanted to be since I lost my job and even while I was pitching stories and being the media maven that I have been for the last eight years:

  • Writer
  • Lawyer
  • Doctor / Surgeon
  • Detective
  • News Reporter
  • Reality TV Star
  • Radio Announcer
  • Actress
  • Postal Clerk
  • Scientist

While some of these occupations are completely attainable, some are so out of reach given where I am in life; at least that is how I feel. For example, if I wanted to be a doctor, I would have to be in school for like eight years and by then I would be almost 40 before I’d even be a resident or something. How would that affect my plans for the future, for a family, how would I pay back all those student loans? And let’s not get into the math and science aspect. I work with the other side of the brain, which brings me to the detective and scientist.

Sometimes I think I chose the wrong career. Communications is so broad; I wish I had a more definitive specialty. But I have excelled thus far and maybe my skill set can help someone down the road somehow, including myself. Maybe it’s just time to “nut up” and try something new and different. We’ll see. In the meantime, while I wait for Hollywood to call, maybe I’ll brush up on my math and science (and reruns of CSI and Law and Order can’t hurt either, right?).