Blog Archives

The Four Pillars of Personal Branding

They say you can’t go “home” again; I say that’s dead wrong. On March 21, I went back to a place I called home for my college days, Temple University. Walking around the campus, which has changed by leaps and bounds since I was there, brought back lots of great memories and emotions.

The reason for being on campus was the second annual TU Invitational, hosted by the university’s outstanding PRSSA chapter. I’ve been lucky to get to know many members, both past and present, over the last few years. They make me incredibly proud to be an alum and to now call public relations my career. I spoke at this year’s Bell Tower at Temple Universityevent on being the “CEO of You.”

When I was at Temple in the mid-1990s, I had no clue about personal branding. However, I always tried to uphold the traits that I now speak about when giving talks around the country. Those traits are the pillars of my CEO of You sessions. If you want the best out of your brand, online and off, you need to embrace these four pillars.

Trust– There isn’t a brand around, personal or otherwise, that can survive without having trust. Never put your brand in a position where you sacrifice the trust you’ve built.  I would rather you be last and right, than first and wrong. Do it right the way first!

Honesty Being honest about the expectations of your brand. Never oversell something you aren’t able do, or be something you can’t. You also need to be honest with yourself. How many times have we met people who try to be someone else, or something else? That isn’t honesty. Never over inflate your abilities.

Transparency– We often ask clients to be open and transparent. That means, there is no way someone can look at you and not know who you are or what you represent. Being transparent also helps if you are in a crisis. CEO’s that hide are believed to be keeping something important a secret. Don’t hide behind secrecy.

Responsibility– You need to take responsibility for who you are and what you do in person and as a professional on social networks. Having a Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram account, and a blog should be handled with great responsibility. You have the power to enact change as well as lead with these tools. Use them smartly and wisely.

At the end of the day, your personal brand needs to be real and have passion. If you can’t or don’t want to be real, you are wasting your time on social networks. Your brand will be fake.  It’s harder to correct your brand than it is to be real from the start.

People gravitate toward passion. They can see through your BS a mile away. If you aren’t passionate about the work you do – or if you try to fake it – those you lead will pick up on it immediately. To truly inspire others and establish yourself as an expert, you have to love what you do. The drive to be the best is fueled by passion, without it, you may tend to view your work or activities as something you have to do, rather than something you get to do.

How are you upholding these four pillars? Let me know in the comments!

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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!

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: 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.

Personal Audits and Your Brand

On Oct. 26, I’ll be speaking at PRSSA’s National Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. (Cue the Rocky theme!) It’s an incredible honor to be back in the city where I got my degree (#TempleMade) and my first job.

The title of the talk is “The CEO of You,” which focuses on personal branding. Whether you are a freshman, graduating senior or new professional, your brand online is extremely important. Here is my latest Thursday Thought on doing a personal audit as part of your brand.

How are you checking yourself weekly, monthly, or quarterly? Let me know in the comments.

Monday Minute: Setbacks into Accomplishments

One of the worst feelings in the world is having a setback. It puts doubt into your mind and makes you feel miserable. My colleague -and fellow Temple alum- Jessica Lawlor has a great e-newsletter that you can subscribe to on her website.

In Monday’s newsletter, she discussed pushing through despite personal setbacks. She wrote:

I hope that no matter what you may be going through in your personal life…despite whatever challenges you’re facing or whatever hardships may be thrown your way, that you can find a little ray of sunshine somewhere in the mess. I hope that when you find that little spark of light, you’re able to hold onto it and know that better days are ahead.

Today’s Monday Minute is a way to show you how to turn clouds into rays of sunshine.

How do you move forward? Let me know in the comments.

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.

If you could speak at commencement…

“Members of the Class of 2012…” Those words are going to be uttered by college presidents and deans, and commencement speakers over the next few weeks. It has been 15 years since I graduated college. It’s a day I remember like it was yesterday, though. Bill Cosby’s wife, Camille, spoke at Temple University’s commencement ceremony at the Spectrum in Philadelphia that day. It was inspiring. Mr. Cosby even got up to say a few things.

After seeing blog posts and tweets about student friends that were graduating, I began to think. So I posted this on Facebook on Thursday.

I didn’t initially plan to make a blog post out of these, but the responses were wonderful. So, I share with you what friends in the social space would tell a graduating class.

@MattLaCasse– Your profession is likely practiced in every state in America, and most everywhere else in the world. Your happiness will be more dictated by where you are than what your job is. Do your job someplace that makes you happy.

@JBMHR (Jeannine Brown Miller)- ‎”Listen” to the direction that you are intended to be going..if you keep running into obstacles..stop and reassess where you are, what you are doing and determine change necessary to remove some of them. If we keep doing the same thing that isn’t working, we will get the same results (the old insanity thing). Embrace change, recognize that challenges bring lessons and blessings, and be open enough to be able to find the good in all that comes your way!

@JoshfromMaine (Josh Morris)- You don’t choose a life, you live one. There are no such thing as limitations, only fears. Pursue a position based on people, profession and location, and paychecks will come. Don’t get cable.

@BigGreenPen (Paula Kiger)- Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have all the time in the world/don’t think you are above doing the unnoticed little work to get familiar with an environment you want to be a part of.

Temple University commencement

courtesy: Temple U. Col. of Liberal Arts

@PaigeHolden– Stay in your own lane. You only start to doubt yourself when you worry about what everyone else is doing. True success has nothing to do with conventional measurements like position, wealth or winning thing. It has to do with finding a balance that works for you, and only you.

(I liked the honesty with Rachel Donner’s answer) @RMiriam– The next 6-8 years are pretty much going to suck. You’ll be at a frustrating entry-level job with lots of work and no authority. You’ll likely drift away from most of your college friends, and have to establish new relationships. Don’t let it get you down and doubt yourself. You’ll get through it and be better off for it, knowing much more clearly who you are, where you want to be and the path ahead.

And finally… @Buffalogal (Nicole Schuman)- You cannot plan every aspect of your life. Embrace change!

What would I tell a graduating class? “People are going to tell you that you can’t. You can. People are going to doubt you. Don’t doubt yourself. Most of all, you will be faced with adversity. Don’t turn away from it. Take it head on and conquer it. The only way you’ll grow is if you face failure, doubt, and negativity. Why? Because all those things will make you stronger. It’s up to you to use the failure, doubt, and negativity, and make it positive. Go with confidence.”

I’d love to hear what you would tell a graduating class. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Crisis PR: How “Bizarre.”

[Jason’s note: I’m thrilled that Jessica Lawlor is providing this guest blog.  She is a senior public relations major at Temple University, graduating in May. She is the president of Temple’s PRSSA chapter. Jessica is currently searching for public relations positions in Philadelphia and New York City. Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn or check out her Web site.]

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful and informative public relations event in Philadelphia. Drexel University’s PRSSA chapter was selected by PRSSA National to host a regional activity called Bizarre PR.

credit: Philly.com

One of the most interesting sessions I attended was about crisis PR. The session was led by Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Chief Press Officer, Jerri Williams. For those familiar with Philadelphia, SEPTA is our form of public transportation whose trains, subways and buses serve more than one million commuters a day.

Crisis PR is something that Jerri Williams deals with on a regular basis. In November 2009, three crises struck in the same week.

November 2, 2009: At 3:00 a.m. SEPTA’s union went on strike leaving several commuters frustrated that day when they left for work. The strike lasted six days.

November 4, 2009: A major fire broke out on SEPTA’s regional rail, the only form of transportation not disrupted by the strike.

November 5, 2009: A SEPTA employee was killed by a train.

Wow! What a bad week for SEPTA…Jerri Williams outlined her tips for dealing with crises.

  • Never underestimate a crisis
  • The media will show up before you…be ready for them
  • The media will cover the story with or without your input
  • Not responding does not mean the media will go away
  • The media always needs a good guy and a bad guy. Know who these “people’ are before speaking with the media.
  • Be patient with reporters.

Williams also introduced us to the art of putting together a press statement. She suggested using a press statement when your company does not want to elaborate or entertain questions. She described it as a tool to use, “when you really can’t say anything.” Williams said that it’s important to display empathy, be sure to say that you’re determined to make things right and share the concern of the public and the media.

In addition to sharing her crisis PR tips, Williams told us about four fatal fiascos when communicating during a crisis.

1. Saying “no comment.”

2. Lying

3. Losing your temper

4. Losing eye contact

Have you ever dealt with a PR crisis? How did you handle it? What are your crisis PR tips?