Blog Archives

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.

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Develop Your Hustle

“Nobody’s hustle is like anyone else’s” – Robert Downey, Jr.

I’ve been very open about how much of a fan I am of Robert Downey, Jr. He can act, sing, and he’s pretty good with a crowd. He’s also someone I derive inspiration from.

A few months back, I watched Downey on “Off Camera with Sam Jones.” It was a great look at how the Academy Award Nominee prepares for a role and how he views his impact on the world. Downey said something during the show that really hit home for me.

I think the greatest gift anybody can give anyone is the opportunity to develop your hustle. Sam, you didn’t
wind up with these great pictures on the wall and documentaries in the can because it was all handed to you. You have to develop that, and nobody’s hustle is like anybody else’s you know?

Think about that for a moment. You can’t fit your career goals, ambitions, and dreams into someone else’s box. 20140731-075807-28687361.jpgSo, while you may look to people for inspiration, your trip in this life will not mirror what they have done. Nothing is ever handed to you.

In 2010, I landed hard after getting let go from my job. But, I didn’t expect any handouts and wanted to work for everything. That is absolutely what you need to do, as well. Focus on your hustle… Make your hustle like no one else’s.

Over the coming weeks, I am going to focus on people who have developed their hustle. These will be folks that haven’t been given a handout; they’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into their careers.

I’m excited to feature these hard-working and great folks.

Blog Series: Re-invent Yourself Often

In 2008, I came to the realization that public relations was changing. Facebook was just starting to make an impact; Twitter and YouTube were still fairly new. I noticed that more and more forward-thinking PR pros were adapting these social platforms into their thinking. It was going to be the future.

What was I to do though? Should I just forge ahead with the old ways or should I start integrating them into my practices? I chose the latter, thankfully. Those months of changing my ways and learning more about social media led to me re-inventing myself. It also helped me move on to a new agency job a year later. Ultimately, it was also the building block to my business, JRM Comm.

Here is what this should mean to you. While you may feel like you are good, you can always do more and be more. Every single day, you can look at ways at being better and being more than you are already.

re-invent1) Don’t fall into the comfort zone- I mentioned this in part two of my blog series. The more comfortable you get, the more we become lackadaisical. Find ways to learn something different to make yourself unique and resourceful. This will not happen in one day. Over time, your peers and co-workers will see you are the “go-to” person for new, fresh ideas.

2) Challenge your own mind- I worked in television and radio for years. I knew after a while though that it wasn’t going to give me what I ultimately wanted: Control. So, I challenged myself to do something different. Sure, many TV/radio folks transition into PR nowadays, but I still knew it was going to be a different way of life. I dove in head first and immersed myself into learning as much as I could. I wanted the challenge… and so should you.

3) Risk… understand it- By re-inventing yourself, you are taking a risk- calculated or otherwise. Understand that by trying to change-up what you’ve done for years isn’t exactly something you flip the switch on. The risk is that it may not work, but how many times did Steve Jobs try before he became successful. Believe that risk is part of your plan and you’ll have a better grip on your future.

Remember, change is good. But you have to believe it. Don’t think you can be this new, re-invented person overnight. It may take a few months or up to a year to really feel comfortable. BUT, if you believe… it WILL HAPPEN!

Three Steps for New Pros

[Jas’ note: I’m thrilled to welcome Niki Ianni, a fellow Temple University alum, to the blog with a great and timely post.]

Six months ago to the day, I put on my new Macy’s clearance rack suit, smoothed my hair, double-checked my briefcase for all the basics and took a deep breath as I walked confidently into the next phase of my life – the start of my post-graduate career.

The all-nighter study sessions, thousands of draft edits and hundreds of internship hours… everything I worked for in the past four years had finally paid off. While getting here had not been an easy feat, full of dozens of applications, gallons of coffee and the occasional mental breakdown…with hard work and determination, I secured my dream job working as a public relations specialist at the largest animal protection organization in the country.

For those who are preparing to start their careers or have already just begun, here are my three biggest pieces of advice for you that these past six months have taught me:

It takes time. You know the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Well, there’s actually a lot of truth to it. I’m not sure why I thought I could leave my first day of work knowing everything and being able to do everything – but I did. When it came time to submit my first press release to my director for review, my stomach was in knots.

I remember apologizing in the email… something along the lines of, “Here is the release for your review. I’m sorry it’s not perfect!” I’ll never forget her response: “Niki, I don’t expect it to be perfect… nothing ever is. You’re still learning.” Sometimes you just need to remember that all of your colleagues who have been there for years started off exactly where you are and eventually they grew, too… with time.

You’re going to make mistakes. Probably more than you’d like to admit. But that doesn’t make you a failure – it makes you human and it teaches you lessons you might had otherwise never learned. I’m a firm believer that it’s not the mistakes themselves, but how you handle them that really defines your character. You can cry and hope the mistake goes away, or you can take responsibility and fix it. I’ve sent out releases with a typo, or hit send too soon. I mean, in my first month I accidentally called a reporter in Seattle at 6 a.m. (I forgot about these things called time zones) and woke her up. Not my shining moment.

While I was horrified and for a few brief moments thought, “Okay…surely this is the one to ‘end’ my career,” I instead found ways to resolve each problem and instilled practices that would prevent them from ever happening again. Because that’s the thing about mistakes – it’s okay to make them occasionally, so long as you never make the same one twice.

You have a voice – don’t be afraid to use it. I’m fortunate to work with a team of highly accomplished and talented professionals who have been honing their craft for many years. So naturally it was a bit intimidating to call these people my colleagues because in comparison to their experience, I felt way out of my league. Remember you were hired for a reason. Yes, your co-workers may have been in the industry for a decade and have a great deal they can teach you, however don’t discount the skills and knowledge that you can bring to the table as well.

Sometimes it’s your lack of experience that can be your greatest asset as you’re able to bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that may have never been considered before. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and opinions – it will only make your team that much stronger.

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can remember is to believe in yourself. Believe in your talents, your knowledge and your skills – because this opportunity didn’t just come to you; you created it. Never lose sight of that.

Niki Ianni is a recent Temple University graduate where she majored in strategic communication with a concentration in public relations. At Temple, Niki served as the former director of PRowl Public Relations, Temple’s first student-run PR firm and was an executive board member for Temple PRSSA. She now resides in the Washington, D.C. area where she works as the public relations specialist for The Humane Society of the United States.

Follow her on Twitter @NikiMIanni or read her blog at www.whenthegirlmeetsworld.wordpress.com.

Tuesday Tip: Getting Ready for 2012

In today’s Tuesday Tip, I discuss how you can make 2012 even better, by learning from 2011’s successes.

How are you getting ready for 2012? Let me know in the comments.

The Day I Lost My Job

Tuesday, Sept. 5 started off a little different for me. It was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, so there was a ton of excitement. I hopped in the car after getting her on the bus and headed to work.

I got in the office at 9 a.m., by 9:25, my boss told me I was being let go. So, I grabbed a box, packed up my stuff and around 9:45 a.m., I walked out the door for the last time.

It’s no secret that I have wanted to start my own business for a while now, but I never expected to lose my job before that happened.

The minute I got let go, I thought of Matt Cheuvront, the man behind Life Without Pants and one of the great folks at Proof Branding. Matt wrote a post in early 2010 when he lost his job.

One of the three pieces of wisdom he wrote was:

I’m upset – I’m sitting here, writing this, two hours after being fired. The blogger and writer within said that this is something I need to write about, to vent, for closure, for support, and to look back on later and appreciate that every single thing happens for a reason – that it’s all a part of the journey. But it’s also OK, from time to time, to wear you emotions on your sleeve. You can’t see me right now, which is probably a good thing, but believe me, I’m a little broken down. The battle may have been lost, but not the war, right?

My first hours after losing my job were filled with anger, hope, frustration, and enthusiasm. What am I going to do? How am I going to make ends meet?

Well, first things first. I got home, sat down, and started planning my next steps. I looked at what I had been working on to start my own business eventually. Now, I put those things into serious motion.

If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re destined to fail.

Sure, I had my moments of doubt. Can I do this? Am I good enough? I keep coming back to the belief that I know I can make it on my own. Why shouldn’t hold true to that. Just because I was let go, doesn’t mean I stink. I believe in my skills, my knowledge, and that businesses need a solid communications plan, involving the marriage of social media and public relations.

If you have lost your job, be ticked. It’s fine. But don’t let the anger and frustration consume you. This isn’t the end of your career. It’s the start of a new journey with better results!

How are you moving forward after losing your job. Let me know in the comments!

Get to Know: Michael Baron

There are some of us out there that work for a living, but find the time to do something extra because they enjoy it.  That’s the case with Michael Baron.

Not only is he an accomplished photographer, Michael also writes for one of the top sports blogs around, Metsblog.com.  He does all this while working a day job.

I recently talked to Michael about how he got his start, the work balance, and his challenges.  I think you will find his answers helpful whether you are just out of college or a seasoned pro.

Jason Mollica: How did you get your start in taking photos?

Michael Baron: I started taking pictures at Met games in 2002. I didn’t own a camera at the time, but I had borrowed my friend’s Olympus point and shoot camera to take on a trip to Las Vegas, and still had possession of the camera for an extra day so I decided to take it to Shea Stadium and shoot a game between the Mets and Phillies. From then on, I was hooked, went out to get my own point and shoot, and I’ve been taking pictures at games ever since.

JM: Did you intend to create MetsPhotos.com or was it by “accident?”

MB: It was really by accident. I originally launched it as MichaelGBaron.com as a place to keep a diary of my thoughts about the Mets, which was separate from MetsBlog. I wanted to incorporate my pictures from the start, but it turned into a Photoblog of sorts. I think it’s still a work in progress, but Matt has been great in helping me develop the site and create the brand.

JM: How did you start working with Matt Cerrone at Metsblog.com?

MB: Matt and I first traded emails about two years ago, and when I first contacted him, I just introduced myself and sent a link to my pictures. We began to speak regularly about the Mets, blogging, and picture-taking, and he offered me the opportunity to begin writing for the blog at that time. Originally, I didn’t want to write for the blog because I didn’t consider myself a writer, and outside of college, I have no experience writing. All I wanted to do was provide photographs for his posts, as well as his co-writers.

In Spring Training of 2009, I sent Matt numerous pictures from Port St. Lucie, with no intention other than that I was there and figured he might be interested in the photos, and he posted them to MetsBlog and they were an instant hit on the site. We then discussed the possibility of me writing for MetsBlog again, and once again I said I would rather provide pictures for him and his co-writers.

Around Opening Day in 2009, Matt and I met at Citi Field and we once again talked about me writing for MetsBlog. I

Michael G. Baron

once again simply wanted to provide the pictures for the site, but he wanted me to write and act as a backup to him when he would be unavailable. I decided to give it a shot, although I was uncertain how it would go, because like I said, I don’t consider myself a writer.

He has helped me a great deal along the way with my writing, he has taught me a great deal about the business side of the Mets and we have such great communication on a daily basis.

JM: Was there a moment when you doubted yourself and how did you overcome it?

MB: Every post I write, I doubt myself. Like I said, I know I’m not a writer, and so I am always concerned about how I express my ideas, and making sure I am clearly expressing my ideas. I know, as a fan how I feel and what I want to say about a particular topic, but I know that at times, I have trouble transferring those ideas from my brain to the blog.

The way I overcome it is, if there is not a time sensitive post, I read the post as though I am a reader in preview mode, and make sure as a reader, my ideas are clearly laid out. I try to remind myself that the reader doesn’t know what I am thinking about the topic, and I have to make sure I understand fully what’s on the screen as a result.

I also need to remind myself, at times, that this is blogging, and I am entitled to my opinion whether people agree with me or not. As a former player, a student of the game, and a long time and hungry Met fan, I think my opinions are often unique and misunderstood because of the vantage point I’ve had, but it is still my opinion and I try to convey all three of those angles when I write. That said, I need to always work to be clear in my expressions, and it will always be a work in progress for me.

JM: How do you balance the day job with taking photos and posting for Metsblog.com?

MB: At times, it’s difficult, and I often forget things that need to be done as a result. I care very much about writing for MetsBlog and photographing games, and there is also the social media aspect of all of this and the interaction on Twitter and Facebook, which I think walks hand-in-hand with the whole adventure. But let’s not forget about my wife and family, and I need my day job and fulfill the responsibilities there, and so it can all be difficult to manage and often quite exhausting.

Matt knows I have a full-time job, and I cannot get fired from it, and so he never expects me to be available all of the time. I try to adjust my schedule for him as best as I can, because I know he has other responsibilities as well and MetsBlog is an important presence not just for the Mets, but also throughout Major League Baseball.

JM: There are those that say you need to have an “eye” for being a good photographer. Do you agree?

Michael G. Baron

 

 

MB: I think the eye of the photographer is completely subjective, and it would be unfair to say one person doesn’t have a good eye, and another person does. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, whether he or she is photographing sports or the Grand Canyon. What I find appealing, you may not, and vice versa, but that doesn’t make one photographer better than the other.

JM: Greatest compliment you have received so far in your photography career?

MB: I get a lot of appreciation from the folks on Twitter, and I am very humbled by their support. I always say, without people’s interest, there is really no point in spending the time to photograph. Matt has also been very complimentary about the photos, which I appreciate very much. However, my wife’s opinion means a lot, because I need her support more than anyone’s because the greatest sacrifice I make in writing for MetsBlog and going to games and photographing is the one I make in spending time with her. She loves my work, and she also respects the level this is on now, and that means a lot.

JM: I’d be crazy, as a Mets fan, not to ask this: What does your gut tell you about what they will do this off-season?

MB: It’s so hard to tell right now, because they are essentially starting from square one by hiring a new GM and manager. For the first time in many years, I really don’t have any idea where they will begin, but I think by rebuilding the culture and philosophy with the team, there will be a significant improvement without any changes made. Of course, I think there will be some positive change, although if they aren’t willing to increase their payroll during the off-season, it will be difficult, at best, to bring in a premium free agent.

A huge thank you to Michael for taking the time to answer these questions and allowing the use of his great photos.  You can follow him on Twitter @MichaelGBaron.

You’ve been caught… going for a job interview!

Let’s be honest.  At some point, someone – maybe even you- skipped out of work to go for a job interview.  Believe it or not, your employer probably knows it.  But, if you get the new job, so what if anyone figures it out?  Well, what if you DON’T get the job and you have to walk in the door at your old job.  It’s bound to get awkward, especially if you are confronted by your boss.

There is absolutely nothing preventing you from wanting to move up in the world, but there are professional and tactful ways to go about it.

1. Address it… IMMEDIATELY. We talk about being open and transparent to our clients, so do the same with your employer.  Tell him/her that you are sorry they found out the way they did.  Explain that you’ve had great experiences with the company, but you need to explore your options. You don’t want to burn the bridge.

2. Compliment your boss. I’m not talking about being a brown noser, though. Tell your boss (honestly) that you’ve learned a great deal while working for the company.  Even though you would want to leave, he/she has probably taught you a thing or two.  Tell them that they’ve set a great example for your career moving forward.

3. Don’t show up in your interview outfit. If your office is causal dress, don’t stroll in with a suit.  At least change out of what you interviewed in. Tip 3a: Try to set up any interview after work hours or take a personal day. This will alleviate any possible conflicts.

4. Don’t flaunt that you’re interviewing. Word travels fast, especially in a small company.  Be respectful of your colleagues and practice discretion. This does not mean you shouldn’t ask advice from trusted mentors. Just keep your chatter to a minimum.

5. Be prepared for some backlash. There could be hard feelings, especially within smaller companies.  Just because you tell your boss afterwards, it doesn’t mean he’ll be all peachy.  There may be a trust issue moving forward.

Keep in mind how you would handle the situation if you were in your boss’ shoes.  It provides good perspective now and in the future.

Been caught or know of someone who was? Let me know your thoughts on this below.

Everything you need to know can be learned at a wedding

(Jas’ note: I’m thrilled to have Stephanie Florence offer a guest blog.  She’s currently working at JSH&A Public Relations in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. and writes a terrific blog of her own.  You can connect with her on Twitter @StephanieFlo. After a recent wedding, she was inspired to write this post.)

The rituals of a wedding vary based on tradition, religion and culture, but the general theme of coming together to celebrate a beginning remains constant.  This weekend I worked a wedding for a family friend – it was an evening filled with gestures of friendship, love and true happiness. It also proved that inspiration can arise from any situation, as long as you take the time to look. Raise a glass of bubbly and enjoy the life lessons straight from the source of all things good: the wedding reception.

Tell people how you feel – I watched as my friend Emily gave her maid of honor speech for her sister. Emily had the guests laughing out loud as she talked about their childhood and brought the room to tears when she discussed the woman her sister has become. Here’s the takeaway: you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to tell someone how you feel. People thrive from hearing positive affirmations and cherish the good things you have to share. This week pick up the phone, send an email or meet for coffee with someone you appreciate, and make sure they know it.

Capture the experience – The bride and groom set up a photo booth. Someone recorded the best man and maid of honor speeches. Guests signed a book with thoughts for the new couple. There were photos being snapped all night. These photos and messages will be looked at for years to come and bring back the memories of this celebration.

Dance like no one’s watching – Guests definitely shook their groove things and for good reason. You have the most fun when you put everything aside and live in the moment. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, throw on some tunes and let your feet do the work.

You can’t plan everything – There are times when it all does not go exactly as planned. Rather than let this interfere with the situation look at the surprises as a way to add to the overall experience. Sometimes the best decisions are made on the fly.

I only listed four life lessons – what else can be gained from a wedding?  For the married folks out there, what important lessons did you find during your big day?

What did you do with your summer internship?

Now that we have blown past the Labor Day holiday, summer is unofficially over.  From the look of the tweets of those I follow on Twitter, posts on Facebook and those I talk with in person, folks gained a ton of knowledge and experience from their summer internships.

Whether you travelled hundreds of miles or worked ungodly hours, you (hopefully) learned a few things. But what did you REALLY learn? Will you apply the skills you picked up this summer or just forget all about it?

Here are a five suggestions to make sure you don’t lose all that valuable experience.

1. Keep in touch with your internship leaders. Drop a line and ask about getting together for lunch or just touch base to keep your name fresh in their heads. I’m not talking about bugging them about possible openings every other week, though.  Do ask for advice about your resume, cover letter, etc. Keep the lines of communications open.

2. Compile your work and add it to the portfolio. If you were asked to work on a specific part of a project, then put it to your portfolio.  Make certain you include the finished product to show your contributions on a wider scale.  When it comes time for that first official job interview, you want to show a prospective employer that you’ve got what it takes!

3. Practice what was preached. You certainly learned more of what to do and not to do in public relations and marketing.  Don’t just sit on it, apply it.  If you don’t blog, start one.  Not involved in your school’s PRSSA chapter? Join. The only way you’ll continue to hone your skills is if you stay active and grow as a practitioner.

4. Be active in Twitter chats. This may be a given for many, but if you are an aspiring PR/marketing pro, you need to join in on these valuable chats. There’s #U30Pro, #PRStudChat, and #journchat to name a few.  There are many current pros who take part and they are more than happy to offer advice and guidance.

5. Finish strong! PR and marketing pros never get anywhere by just giving 50%.  Whether you are a junior or senior (freshmen and sophomores, too), your grades are of the utmost importance.  I’m always impressed when I see a new grad’s resume with wonderful experience AND good grades.  It shows the prospective employer that you have both book and job smarts.  Keep that in mind.

Don’t just take what you did this summer and pass it off as “just credits.” That internship could just lead to your first gig.  It did for me.

What advice would you offer? Let me know in the comments section.