The Next Step for Communications Pros

To go back to school or to not go back to school: that is the question.

And this is the very question Jason blogged about recently — one that almost every working professional grapples with at one time or another. Especially in the communications field, if you’re already gainfully employed, you wonder how anything learned in a classroom could possibly trump real-world experience.

7ladderAnd then there’s the prospect of giving up said job to go back to school for two years, or, better yet, having to relocate to chase a master’s degree from your dream school on the other side of the country. Online education, however, has been a complete game-changer in terms of flexibility, and we’ve seen the quality of the experience elevated to meet — and in some ways exceed — the on-campus one.

I’m totally biased on this front because I work on behalf of an online program. Newhouse School recently announced a new Master of Science in Communications delivered online: Communications@Syracuse. Specializations include public relations, journalism innovation and advertising, taught in live classes by Newhouse faculty. But this post isn’t about me.

Looking Ahead

It’s a great time to be in this field — employment of PR specialists is projected to grow 12 percent through 2022 (from 2012).

And let’s face it: communications and public relations are constantly evolving. Tactics that worked for PR pros even five years ago may seem antiquated today. Attention spans are short and competition for real estate on the web and in print is more intense than ever. Creative storytelling and unique content is paramount to separating your client from its counterparts.

“It’ll be back to the future for PR in 2015,” says Ellen Ryan Mardiks, vice chairman, Golin. “As the PR business grows and expands its remit, we’ll keep doing more, better. Clients will turn to us at an even greater pace for compelling content delivered across all forms of media.”

As a modern-day professional, you want to remain grounded in the fundamentals, while also staying up-to-date with new strategies and tools. To stay competitive, in some cases, advancing your degree, online or otherwise, is the next logical step to help hone your skills and position yourself as a leader who gets results for clients. But, as Jason wrote, you have to ask yourself if continuing your education will be worth the inevitable sacrifices you’ll have to make. It’s not a decision to be made lightly, nor should it be made based on what anyone else thinks — “do it for you.” Other things to consider:

  • Accreditation: Is the institution accredited? This is something employers care about and, if it’s not, could hinder your chances to advance.
  • Credit-transfer policies: Make sure the previous credits you’ve earned and the work experiences you have are taken into consideration.
  • Faculty and student support: Are your professors invested in your success? Will you have access to the resources you need?

Bottom line: There are pros and cons of on-campus versus online — both offer a unique set of challenges. The key is to prioritize what’s important to you (staying put versus relocating, etc.) and commit to the decision 100%. Success in today’s public relations environment will require innovation, adaptability and greater accountability — it’s up to you how you get there.

Erica MossErica Moss is the community manager for Communications@Syracuse, a masters in communications online program, offered from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. In her free time, she enjoys all things pop culture and connecting with people on Twitter @ericajmoss.

The Grad School Debate

For years, we’ve heard the steady drumbeat of those that say it’s imperative to get your Master’s Degree if you want to move up in the public relations or marketing field. There are also many that disagree, saying it’s not at all necessary. I disagree with both schools of thought. It’s not imperative, but it’s also wrong to say it isn’t necessary. Let me explain.

Late last month, I was accepted into Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication for its online master’s degree program. I’m beyond excited to get started and continue to better myself as a professional from a great university. My internal debate about grad school started with a simple question: “Do I WANT to go or do I NEED to go?” And that is the question you should ask yourself if you are considering the same.

The argument that it isn’t necessary, or that you shouldn’t go is silly and antiquated. This isn’t me learn-64058_640saying to you that you MUST go for your MBA, Master’s in Communication, etc. This is me telling you that it is YOUR CHOICE and not someone else’s to make.

I went back and forth for years about whether to get a higher degree. After I received my undergraduate degree from Temple University (yes, I’m #TempleMade), the thought of going back to school was not something I was keen on. However, as I got older, the idea of challenging myself to be more than what I am now became exciting.

Here’s what my thought process was:

1. Research- It’s one of the pillars of public relations, right? Well, I researched a ton of schools and spoke with a number of trusted colleagues and friends. My wife is a professor and she just attained her Ph.D. in July of 2014. So, I had plenty of good information about what direction to go in.

2. How will it help me- Look, it’s ok to be selfish here. You aren’t just going to get a higher degree because it would be great fun. You’ll work hard so that it can help YOU in the long run. Not anyone else. Do it for you. Not for what your boss thinks, your friends, or anyone else. Your name will be on the diploma.

3. Online or on campus- Since going to campus would be tough with two kids and two parents working, I sought out the highly reviewed online programs. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out what the “brick and mortar” programs offer. I will say that distance programs no longer come with the “Oh, you are doing online?” stigma. My wife earned her Ph.D from the Medical University of South Carolina’s online program , save for a yearly residency week on campus in July.

4. Time- If you can’t commit the time to put in the work, don’t go for your degree. We budget time for clients, social postings, and more. You need to do the same for that Master’s Degree. Once I was accepted, I went into planning mode and created calendar dates. The more you plan, the more time you’ll have to study and focus.

5. Believe- Can you do it? Of course you can. I’ve used this quote from Robert F. Kennedy for years. “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” From the moment I committed to applying for my Master’s Degree at Purdue, I asked “why not?” Why couldn’t I do this? Why not now? Believe in your talents, skills, and determination and you’ll succeed.

Remember, you don’t HAVE TO get a Master’s Degree, or any higher degree for that matter. What you do have to do is listen to what you WANT TO do. That’s what is most important.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Better Social in 2015

So, we are on the verge of a new year (already?!). It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments and the good things we’ve done. It’s also a time to take a hard look at ways to improve for the year to come. I’m sure that whether you are a business or an individual, there are things you’d like to do better in 2015. Maybe it’s improving your bottom line or re-packaging your current brand.

IM2_PROLOGUE_VFX_12In December, I love to take stock of where I stand, personally and professionally. It gives me a chance to take a critical look at how I’ve served my clients and whether I’m growing. I want to be better, as a business owner, a person, and a professional. These improvements also include social media.

There’s been good social and bad, just like every other year. However, I hope that in 2015 we see social media improve. Here’s five ways to do that:

1. Be smarter with your posting- Far too often this year, we’ve seen mistakes by brands and individuals. There are more “gotcha moments” (see Franco, James) and hitting the send button before a post is really looked at closely (see U.S. Airways). Don’t rush to update your Facebook page or that Instagram photo because you want to be funny or beat another brand to the punch. Think your posts through. You’ll be better off in the long run.

2. Don’t cross-post from Facebook to Twitter- Or vice versa, for that matter. No matter how many times myself or one of my colleagues says that Facebook and Twitter are different social channels, there’s always a brand that decides they are too lazy to come up with separate posts. Cross posting from Twitter to Facebook shows you don’t really care about your audience, your message, or, frankly, your brand. People notice and they’ll eventually stop listening.
3. Don’t be so “salesy”- By now, you’ve probably seen that Facebook is going to get tough on businesses, big and small, that have posts that are heavy with sales speak. While some businesses are worried, they shouldn’t be. A smart business strategy on Facebook should involve posts that speak to fans, not sell to them. If you follow a brand on Facebook or Twitter, you probably like the product. Brands need to remember this and speak to customers as people, not numbers. And that leads me to…
4. Take the time to understand your audience, customers- This should really be a no-brainer, but, sadly, it isn’t. There are still plenty of brands that would rather treat their followers and fans as numbers, instead of as an important part of their business. Social media isn’t just a platform to get your messages out, it’s also a chance to connect with your audience and make them more of a champion for you. Don’t look at followers as numbers. View every one as a prospect!
5. Plan ahead- Remember the old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This is absolutely true when it comes to social. A social media posting plan is something that you need to have. No questions asked. Now, when I say plan ahead, it doesn’t mean that if you schedule posts, you are in the clear. If you are a social media manager, it’s important that you keep your eyes and ears on the news and what is going on around you. Scheduled posts can come back and bite you if they don’t fit the tone of the day. The bottom line? Have a posting plan, but be ready to change at a moment’s notice.
Social media is still growing and it’s important to understand that we can all be better at posting to the large number of networks that exist today. Make 2015 that year to be better, more strategic, and more focused. Here’s to your social success!

Generation Labels: Limiting or Limitless?

On Oct. 21, I posed this question on Twitter:

 

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the labels that are placed on generations. I don’t hear much about the tags on Generation Y or Generation X, and when I did, it wasn’t hammered home like the Millennial label is now. I accept the Millennial tag, but I often wonder whether it really is a badge of honor or a label that is unnecessary. Many in the millennial generation, however, embrace the tag. So, I left it to the Twitterverse to see what they felt. I received some really great answers.


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You’ve heard some of the thoughts from Twitter. Now, what do you REALLY think about generational labels. Are they a hinderance to your success? Do they make you feel more confident? Let me know in the comments!

Five Things I Learned at PRSSANC

Another year and another Public Relations Student Society of America National Conference has come and gone. This was my second year presenting and I can tell you that I had just as much fun as I did in Philly last year.

The National Committee did an outstanding job of giving PRSSA Chapters and members all the opportunities to hear and learn from some outstanding people, like Rebecca Timms of the Philadelphia 76ers and Powell Tate president Pam Jenkins. In other words, there was no reason why you couldn’t leave with some great ideas for your chapter and your career.

As much as the conference is for students, I always come away learning a ton. As pros, we should never stop learning or take the thought process of, “what can students teach me?” Last year, I was able to take things I learned in Philly and put them to use in my business. What did I learn this year?

PRSSA gift1. Make adjustments- Even the best laid plans can be thrown for a loop. While I have to stay on my toes daily, I realized that instead of just keeping my presentation the way it was, I made tweaks about an hour before my talk. I learned something very valuable after talking to Utah Valley University’s award-winning PRSSA chapter. That is…

2. Never pass up a chance to network- For the second straight year, I sat with UVU PRSSA to talk about career, life, and how to approach a job interview. Talking to these impressive future pros reminded me why I love speaking and teaching. The opportunity to pass along the wisdom you’ve learned over the years, can be very helpful. And you never do know when a former student can assist you in your career. Seeing friends from University of Delaware, Illinois State, Temple University, as well as Chris Bonelli and Adam Piccin, reminded me that social conversations can turn into real life ones.

3. Embrace Your Moment – take the opportunity to share your ideas, thoughts with those around you. I relished hearing so many great ideas from the future pros gathered in D.C. Following many members on Twitter, I saw each share knowledge from the sessions they were attending. This was their moment to share what they were learning. I love that!

4. Ask Questions – Whether you are in a large group or in a one-on-one situation, never turn down the opportunity to ask questions and get answers. During my session on “Understanding What the Media Want,” I welcomed questions in the middle and the end. I expect to have people question what I’ve talked about. Why? Because I want to make sure I’m giving you the answers you are looking for about media pitching. Don’t just settle for what you think may be a good answers. Ask questions to get answers you need, especially in our industry.

5. Don’t Forget Where You Came From – I’m a proud alum of Temple University. When I graduated back in 1997, I dove right into my career and lost touch with being an Owl. I feel blessed to have been able to reconnect with my alma mater in the last number of years, thanks to Temple’s outstanding PRSSA chapter. Now, at every opportunity, I try to meet with these great Owls and help them when they need it. They make me proud to be a Temple alum, and I’ll never forget where I came from… A Cherry and White Wonderland!

Let me leave you with one last thought. Remember, it’s never too late to have a life and it’s never too late to change one. Go with confidence in your career… And in life!

What did you learn in D.C. this year? Let me know in the comments!

The JourneyCast Podcast, Ep. 10- Heather Whaling

JourneyCast Podcast with Heather Whaling

In this edition of The JourneyCast Podcast, we chat with Geben Communication president Heather Whaling. One of the most-trusted social influencers because of the hard work and dedication she -and her team- put in, Heather can be found speaking at conferences, being a thought leader through her blog, and setting the standard for what it means to be a true pro.

Heather discusses how she founded Geben, her work with the Columbus Marathon, being a new mom, and her love of the New York Yankees.

Heather can be found at prTini on Twitter and her blog. You can also follow Geben on the web and on Instagram.

Check out the latest JourneyCast Podcast episode!

Quick Hit: The Players Tribune… brilliant or sportswriter’s nightmare?

Derek Jeter’s blue Jumpman cleats haven’t even be cleaned off and he’s got the next phase of his life lined up. Much like his preparation for a baseball season, Jeter was ready for retirement and what lies in front of him. Earlier this week, the now former Yankee captain rolled out “The Players Tribune,” a site where athletes can directly connect with fans, unfiltered, and beyond 140 characters.

Jeter has already recruited Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson as a senior editor. Wilson’s first post was heartfelt and honest. However, the site hasn’t been met with the same aura that Jeter carried during his sure-to-be Hall of Fame career.

After being lauded for his humbleness, work ethic, and respect for the game, Jeter is now being criticized by the same peoplethe-players-tribune for lauded him over his playing career. Why? Some sportswriters are cranky because they feel their jobs are being done for them. Really? Last I checked you can still interview these players before and after games, practices, and sometimes at public appearances.

There will always be a need for sportswriters. However, some of them were the same ones that complained about blogging a while back. Now, they are using for story supplements, first-hand reporting, and live blogging. You will not see papers laying off sportswriters because Derek Jeter has started a website.

At the end of the day, we, as sports fans, would love to learn more about our favorite players. Do I need to know about their personal lives? Not really, unless they’ve been bad (ahem, Ray Rice). I do look forward to learning more about how they’ll make an impact while playing or after their career.

Besides, I’d rather hear what Derek Jeter has to say over ESPN’s Keith Olbermann any day.

The JourneyCast Podcast: Jessica Lawlor

The JourneyCast Podcast is back and I’m thrilled to welcome my friend and fellow Temple University graduate, Jessica Lawlor. It’s no surprise that Jessica has become one of the more respected pros in our industry because of her drive, honesty, and work ethic.

If that’s not enough, she’s also the driving force behind the “Get Gutsy” movement. On this edition, we’ll talk about that, as well as how she’s been able to have success so early in her career. Enjoy!

To listen to the podcast, click this link.

The NFL’s Ray Rice Problem

Sept. 8-UPDATE: Ray Rice had his contract terminated by the Ravens and was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. The NFL released the news on Twitter, however the commissioner still has not commented, which continues to speak volumes. What is written below still stands: The NFL still has a problem.

By now, you have most likely heard about the infamous tape of Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiance. It was an absolutely disgusting scene and horrendous thing to do to someone you apparently care about. The National Football League, after viewing the tape, suspended Rice for two games, which came under intense criticism from fans and activists alike. Then, on Sept. 8, TMZ Sports released another, more graphic video which showed how brutal the beating Rice put on the woman who is now his wife.

The NFL created a public relations issue by only giving Rice a two-game ban for this assault. It now has a bigger issue because it appears the league had seen the more brutal video, but denied it initially. The problem is three-fold for the league, the Ravens, and Rice.

  1. The NFL handed down a light suspension to someone who knocked a woman out.
  2. The Ravens and their owner stood in support of Rice at a May press conference.
  3. Ray Rice’s first “apology” was not very heartfelt, saying “I apologize for the situation my wife and I were in.” Hitting Ray-Rice-Court.finalyour now-wife isn’t a situation, it’s an attack. The second wasn’t much better.

Rice is not the first athlete to hit a woman and he won’t be the last, sadly. But, in this day of social media and outlets looking deeper into news, videos like the one mentioned in the first paragraph will be more prevalent. Look how quickly the Jay Z/Solange Knowles video spread like wildfire.

The NFL opened its season on Sept. 4 with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks defeating the Green Bay Packers and then had a Sunday stacked with games. Many of them were really exciting. The league was hoping it would have the focus on the two Monday Night Football games, one featuring the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions. Those games will not be the focus. The focus is going to be on the more brutal video of Rice and what the league hasn’t done.

If the NFL wants to repair their image as one that looks lightly on domestic violence, they need to act now and suspend Rice for the season. They were tough on Ben Roethlisberger after he was accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia woman in 2010. Those charges were eventually not filed and he was suspended, ultimately, for four games.

Here’s what Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote to the Steelers’ QB after Roethlisberger was not charged:

“I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.”

“You are held to a higher standard as an NFL player…” The Commissioner should go back and read those words again, because Ray Rice wasn’t held to a higher standard. The NFL and its leadership are faced with fans in an uproar over a lenient suspension. The next step could be sponsors pulling their money and even NFL players criticizing the league.

The NFL needs to act, for morality’s sake, and for their image.

 

Hustle Series: Darren Meenan and The 7 Line

You’ve all heard a story that intimates that a successful business that once started in “the basement of their home.” In the case of Darren Meenan, this isn’t a stretch. It’s fact. What started with Darren, a huge New York Mets fan, wearing a simple t-shirt he made that stated “I Survived” in 2009, ended up becoming the wildly successful, “The 7 Line.”

Meenan didn’t just settle on the fact a number of people asked about that one shirt. He sensed an opportunity and created his hustle. It began with equipment he bought on eBay and he created a few shirts in his parent’s basement. Since Mets fans (myself included) haven’t had too much to cheer about since 2006, Darren used these t-shirts to echo fans sentiment. One design said, “I Was Born into This Mess.” What Mets fan doesn’t feel that way sometimes? As 2009 turned into 2010, his hustle and entrepreneurial spirit began to pay off.

Photo Courtesy- ESPN.com

Photo Courtesy- ESPN.com

By wearing newer designs to Citi Field, the word began to spread about The 7 Line and Darren’s quality of work. It also didn’t hurt that he worked hard to spread the word, as well. Darren held signs with his website around the ballpark, some of which showed up on TV. More shirts, more exposure equals needing more space. So, Darren moved into a warehouse not too far from the ballpark.

While Darren’s story sounds like it happened overnight, it didn’t. He needed to work hard to conceptualize, print, and distribute everything with little help. His hustle has been featured on, among others, CNN Money and in the New York Times. Oh, and a little show called “30 Rock” featured Darren’s shirts, by request from the producers.

Darren has even been able to get the support from Mets’ players. A few years back, he traveled to spring training a gave a bunch to hand out in the clubhouse. Now, that’s hustle (and smart marketing, too). Mets players loved them and can be seen wearing the shirts before and after games.

Despite the Mets struggles, you’ll never hear a negative word from Darren. While fans may be frustrated, his hustle has helped create a new faction of fans. He thought it would be a great idea for Mets diehards to sit together, cheer on and support the team. “The 7 Line Army” was born. That one game spawned into the army not just going to games at Citi Field, but Wrigley Field in Chicago, Marlins Park in Miami, and AT&T Park in San Francisco to name a few.

Darren’s ability to bring fans together with his infectious attitude and excitement is a testament to dedication, hard work, and a never-ending hustle. See, Darren loves what he does because he works hard at it. He doesn’t cut corners. No one who hustles the right way does that. The Mets even noticed and The 7 Line now has a kiosk at Citi Field and is a licensed Major League Baseball brand.

What’s next? Darren has mentioned in interviews and on Twitter that he wants to open a bar one day next to Citi Field. If his hustle with The 7 Line is any indication, the bar will be a huge hit.

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