Category Archives: Guest Blog
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.
And 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.
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 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.
[Jas’ note: I’m happy to welcome Samantha Dickson to the blog with a timely guest post.]
A quick glance at the headlines of any newspaper will tell a company that they should always expect the unexpected. Yet still, companies fail to realize the importance of preparation. I’m referring specifically to crisis management.
As PR professionals, we recognize our role within a company. We also see the value of our position when we are prepared for a crisis before it even strikes. So what happens when this forward thinking isn’t present? Negative brand reputation, drops in stock price, and loss of investor trust, just to name a few.
With such negative impacts on a company, it’s hard to imagine that some CEOs will still assume “Oh, that will never happen.” Sadly, it can, it will and when it does, you better be prepared. This is where the public relations role, and corporate communication position is of extreme value within a company.
Outline company threats.
In order to be prepared, a company needs to begin to analyze potential areas where a threat could arise. It is extremely important to understand your industry and what could be a problem for your company or client.
Taking the threats that you’ve outlined above, the next stage would be to strategically plan how to deal with the crisis. This might include identifying your stakeholders, potential solutions, and how to work on brand recovery once the peak of the crisis is over.
Develop pre-crisis communication material.
It is imperative to have audience messages and material ready to be disseminated. If you can identify a large threat that will impact your company or client, develop some material that can be tweaked should the crisis occur. It is better to have something prepared than nothing at all. This might be the shell of a press release, a prepared tweet if it’s social media related, or a letter from the CEO. If you have this material in advance, you’re able to act more quickly in the moment of the crisis.
The brands that are able to recover from a crisis are the ones that have a plan in place. The key takeaway is to do your research. If a crisis does occur, take the time to do a post-analysis on implementation and effectiveness. It is important to see what worked, what didn’t and ways to improve in the future.
Samantha Dickson recently graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, ON with a B.A. in Political Science. She is currently a graduate student at New York University in Public Relations and Corporate Communication. In her spare time, Samantha writes for her blog One Heel Ahead, provides freelance communication services and loves to travel.
[Jas’ note: I first met Corinthea Harris via Twitter and noticed she was at Rowan University. We then chatted at last October’s PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. It turned out we had something in common (aside from being from South Jersey): A great mentor.]
After a whirlwind year – having three internships, trying my hand at being an RA, resigning from the RA position to take a career opportunity, realizing I graduate in May and so much more – and when I say what I’ve accomplished out loud, I sometimes ask myself how someone so tiny could handle such a large work load? How did I possibly handle everything on my plate at one time?
The answer: my grand-slam mentor.
Enter Larry Litwin, APR, Fellow PRSA. Litwin acted as a teacher and mentor, won various public relations (PR) counselor and broadcast journalist awards, owned and operated Hello, Sports Fans!, umpired numerous baseball games and – most importantly – acted as a life coach to me and many other students and professionals.
I say grand-slam mentor and life coach because Litwin constantly went above and beyond. To prove it, I developed the following list of ways he helped me and others:
1. Available 24-7, like a true PR pro. No matter the task, Litwin had an ever-revolving door and inbox. He made time for his students in his office and answered emails even when he really didn’t have two seconds to spare.
2. Listened. Until Litwin, I hadn’t met a person who actually actively listened. He didn’t drop the conversation after you said what you had to say. Instead, he asked questions to figure out the next appropriate step. (And he had this ability to make you feel as though you were a top priority.)
3. Researched. Once he figured out what you wanted or needed, he would take you through a force-field analysis to ensure you made the best possible decision.
5. Stayed on top, if not ahead, of the industry. Speaking of research, Litwin kept up with the latest trends and best practices in the ever-changing strategic communication industry.
6. Taught real-world lessons. Litwin’s career accomplishments helped him teach real-world lessons in the class room and in advisement sessions. And he shared any new industry information he learned instantly. (Also, he wrote a book that acts as a go-to resource for many strategic communication professionals.)
7. Advanced students’ careers. Litwin cared more about others than he did about himself. He constantly put others first and did whatever he had to do. With this mentality, you could put money on the fact that he had plenty of connections to various public relations professionals – which he selflessly shared with students to advance their careers.
Seven may not seem like enough reasons to proclaim someone’s record-breaking personality, but I can’t simply put into words the countless things Litwin did for me and other students – leaving a lasting impression.
And since Litwin advocated for baseball and sports, I figured my “grand-slam mentor” metaphor remained appropriate.
He definitely helped me navigate the bases of my college career, pre-professional career and sometimes my personal life. He truly umpired my life and helped me build my personal brand, so that I would have the confidence in myself to one day hit a home run on my own.
I will never have enough at-bat opportunities (words) to possibly hit enough home runs (thank yous) to repay him for everything he taught me. I can only hope other people have a chance to score a mentor like Litwin.
Corinthea Harris is senior at Rowan University. She will graduate in May with bachelor’s degrees in public relations and advertising. Currently, she is the Global Communications Intern at Campbell Soup Company.
(Jas’ note: I’m thrilled to have Alex Crispino guest post on the blog today. She’s a fellow Temple Owl and someone I’m proud to call a colleague. She never backed down during her job search challenges and her story is something everyone can learn from.)
As a senior in college, I started my job search early, thinking I would find my dream job right after graduation. Most of my friends did the same. We worked hard during college and felt prepared to enter the real world. But, honestly, nothing prepares you for that.
Both graduating college and job searching bring a wave of emotions. You feel excited to start your life, but you’re also terrified that you will fail. My job search started in March 2012 and did not end until November 2012 when I landed my first job. Here are the three major lessons I learned, thanks to that process.
- Know Yourself: When I started job searching, I was so desperate for any job, that anywhere I applied, I either wasn’t qualified for or I didn’t like. You must know yourself, what you are passionate about, and the general direction you’d like your life to go in.
- Be Flexible: Yes, you can be somewhat picky. But, you must have an open mind, apply to jobs that utilize your skillset and are interesting. I thought I would only have a job in PR. However, my current position has little to do with PR. That doesn’t mean I don’t find it interesting and I use tools from my PR toolkit daily.
- See the Bigger Picture: Landing your first job out of college is very important. Of course, your goal should be to find a job you love that supports what you studied in school. But, your life, your existence, should not be defined by this first job. Your career will be filled with jobs, successes, failures and constant changes. Stay grounded and remember work is just a part of your life.
My job search taught me so much about who I am and what I want out of my life. I learned that you never truly know what you want and that’s okay. Each day with each job, you must work to better yourself. If you don’t continue to challenge yourself and set higher goals, you will become stagnant.
My job search became a soul searching mission. It helped me to align my professional goals with my personal ones as well as showed me my true strengths and weaknesses. Despite unemployment, I am grateful for my post-graduate journey and learned so much during the process.
Alex Crispino graduated from Temple University in 2012 and currently works at Pricewaterhouse Coopers as a Learning and Development Consultant. While at Temple, Alex was Director of PR for PRSSA, an Account Executive for PRowl Public Relations and a Resident Assistant. She currently lives in New Jersey, but enjoys working in New York City. You can follow Alex on Twitter, @AlexCharli and her blog, Rockstar in Training.
(Jas’ note: I’m thrilled to welcome back Jessica Malnik to the blog for a guest post.)
*A bit of a disclaimer: I left the journalism rollercoaster world for the adventures of marketing and PR a year ago. I haven’t looked back since. That being said, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t apply something I learned while at the University of Missouri Journalism School.
Is a journalism degree worthless? I’ve heard this question come up quite a bit over the last couple of months. As more and more traditional media outlets crumble or suffer massive rounds of layoffs, the skeptics come out and immediately question any college student or recent grad- like myself- who majored or is majoring in journalism. I think that’s a real shame.
It’s awful that countless numbers of high school and college students these days are being detracted and sidelined from pursuing a major in journalism. I firmly believe that a journalism degree is just as valuable today, if not more so, than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Here’s three reasons why.
1. The core journalism skills translate well for a lot of careers.
At the very core of journalism, it’s about communicating effectively. To be successful, you have to be articulate and a good writer. Both are very valuable skills at the core of dozens of jobs- from public relations and marketing to engineering and medicine.
Factor in that most journalism students today have at least a basic grasp of multimedia skills, and you have the core foundation to be successful at almost any pursuit.
2. It’s not what you major in that matters, it’s how you choose to use it.
This goes for everything from journalism majors to sociology and classics majors. So many people box themselves inside the parameters of what they decided to major in at college. When in reality, your major is just the foundation for your career. It’s how you choose to apply the core skills that you learned that really matters.
To sum it up, there’s no bad majors. Don’t be afraid to use your journalism degree- or whatever you majored in- in a different way. A journalism student doesn’t have to be a journalist. You can end up being a marketer, PR pro, engineer, lawyer, etc. The sky’s the limit.
3. Journalism breeds curiosity and solid listening skills.
Most people, who major in journalism, have one thing in common. They are all curious about the world around them. They seek out ways to ask questions and listen to the people around them to understand issues and convey messages to a larger audience.
The ability to ask tough questions as well as listen for subtle nuances and clues is an art form. It’s a skill that can take you far in whatever career path that you choose.