Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Looking into our Future: Some Words from a PR Grad

Looking into our Future 

Some words from a PR Graduate 

As you may or may not know, my friend Toni Shelton graduated from the Mohawk Public Relations program last year and is well on her way to a successful career. Her insight into the industry is very optimistic and encouraging so I asked her a few formal questions to pass on to the rest of the class.

How did the Mohawk program help you in your public relations career? Did you feel prepared?
"The PR program at Mohawk gave me the practical skills I needed to pursue a career in the industry. More importantly, it gave me the soft skills that are often the toughest to learn. Interviewing, resumes, networking are all things the program taught me and that ultimately are what helped me land my first job."
What did you enjoy most about the Mohawk program?
"It is well-rounded and touches many aspects of the PR industry. It reflects working in the industry."
Are you enjoying your experience in the public relations field? 
"Working in PR is not for the faint of heart! However there are so many paths to take and industries to be part of, you will never feel like you’ve pigeon holed yourself into working something you don’t like. PR is literally the best job in the world, you can do anything you want."
What's your favorite aspect of your career so far?
"It’s a constant learning curve and that makes it interesting and rewarding. Plus, doing something you love, like writing and being creative, never feels like you’re working."

Toni currently works as a Communications Manager for Collective Arts Brewing, a beer company fusing the craft of brewing with the inspired talents of emerging artists and musicians. Check them out below! 

Career Advice by Jay Robb

Our class was privileged to have Jay Robb, Communication Director at Mohawk College, as well as Sean and Regina, discuss career advice with us. They reviewed several different topics and provided valuable insight for our careers as young professionals. Below I will highlight what was discussed and the positive conversation that ensued.

Informational Interviews
§  Make an effort to participate in one informational interview per week. In order to do this, ask for 30 minutes of the individual’s time to conduct the interview.
§  A major benefit to the informational interview at this stage in the game (i.e. pre-graduation) is that stakes are low and the pressure is off because it is practice. Although you would like to make a great first impression, it is important to seek feedback and guidance for future improvements.
§  In order to succeed at an informational interview, you should have researched the company and person conducting the interview prior to engage in conversation about the institution.

Scrub Your Accounts
§  When employers are hiring, they are looking into the depths of your social media history and it is important that your online presence portrays the message you want.
§  It is likely that your social media accounts will cost you more jobs than it will provide you.
§  Social media provides an easy forum to be extremely critical and negative to things others have said. It is necessary to consider if these are truly a reflection of your beliefs or if you were caught up in the ‘pile on’ concept whereby you fed off of others.
§  If you are regularly tweeting 50+ times a day, an employer will wonder if you would do this all day while on the clock. Will this individual work independently, or will they be online social media during office hours?

Clean, concise and compelling copy
§  Writing is the foundational skill of Public Relations, and for that reason, your writing skills must be strong. It is very likely that you will be writing much of the copy for the organization; therefore, it is necessary to take every possible opportunity to review your writing.
§  It is also necessary that you are able to write quickly as deadlines can appear in 20 minutes and you are not always given a two-week deadline.

Telling Stories
§  It is crucial that you are able to tell a compelling story, as this is a main function of Public Relations. You will be consistently required to pitch stories to media, write releases or create video.
§  A lousy writer is a lousy storyteller.

Ace the Airplane Test
§  Are you likeable? Will you fit in with the team? Could your boss travel on a plane with you, stay with you for two nights, and fly home with you? These are the questions employers are thinking about.
§  Typically employers know within the first 30 seconds of an interview if you are the right fit for the team. Fit is important and likely what the employment offer will be based on, not solely your qualifications for the position.

Be great at one thing
§  Find your niche and excel. For example, Sean has great video skills and is able to shoot a video and have it ready between 2-3 hours later. This is a fantastic skill to have. Sean mentioned that he learnt these skills online, and everything he knows was self-taught.
§  Don’t be afraid to try something new as you never know when it may become useful.

Stay Curious
§  Always ask why or how? If someone else is doing this, how can we do this? Is it possible we can implement the same measures? Why would this be beneficial?
§  Have a hunger for knowledge.

Read voraciously
§  In order to become a better write, which you need to be, you have to read. Start by reading daily media, as it is necessary to know what is going on in the world. This knowledge leads to asking questions such as, how can this affect me? My job? My clients?
§  Magazine subscriptions are relevant. Subscribe to Times Magazine or The Economist and do not worry if you do not understand all the content. It allows you to re-invent the wheel and re-use ideas you have read from renowned sources.

Biggest Changes in the Industry

§  The Newsroom is hollowing out – mainstream media is fading and PR is directly filling this void. In fact, some PR departments are set up like a newsroom.
§  It is necessary to go directly to the audience rather than having the audience come to you.
§  PR Professionals are no longer pitching ideas, rather they are providing the entire story in hopes of having the story garner coverage.

Take away messages

Jay: To be successful in PR – it’s not about you; it’s about whom you’re serving!
Regina: If you wouldn’t say it in front of a group of people, then don’t post it!
Sean: Excel at one thing and don’t be afraid to try something knew!

Our classroom discussion around the aforementioned topics was rich and valuable. Jay provided a wealth of knowledge to the Public Relations postgraduate students and we are grateful Jay had the time to share his experiences with us.

The Importance of Joining IABC or CPRS in your PR Career

When entering a profession such as Public Relations, it is important to take advantage of every resource at your reach.  Fortunately in PR, there are many resources at reach; two in particular are International Association of Business Communicators commonly known as IABC and the Canadian Public Relations Society that is shortened to CPRS. 
Each organization holds its own benefits for young professionals or recent graduates seeking a career in Public Relations.  They cater to students in many ways, which can benefit the start of you career as well as helping you throughout the length of your career. 

The Difference Between IABC and CPRS
The IABS is a network of business professionals with expands globally around the world in 70 countries. Whose purpose is to improve networking, communication and career growth and development.  This organization includes not only PR professionals, but expands to Marketers, Advertisers and other positions in the business profession.  The organization holds conferences and events all throughout the world as well in its own local chapters. 
CPRS is similar to IABC, however the organization specifically caters to only Public Relations professionals, and is limited to professionals in Canada.  The organization connects PR professionals on a National level, compared to the IABC who communicates globally.  The organization consists of 14 member societies all throughout major cities in the country.  The purpose of the organization is to advance the overall profession of Public Relations by regulating the profession to protect and benefit the public’s interest.  The organization holds many networking and professional development events that are available for its members.
Each organization has an annually fee that it requires its members to subscribe too.  However, both societies offer a subsidised fee for students in the profession. 

There are many benefits of joining an organization such as IABC and CPRS, one of the most important and effective benefits of these organizations are the networking opportunities it provides.  Networking is particularly important in the beginning of your career.  In public relations, many positions are received through recommendations and references before they are even posted as vacant positions.  This networking can lead to a referral or even a reference for a position that could be vacant.  Networking can also expose you to many learning opportunities.  As young professionals who lack experience and knowledge in the PR field, speaking with experienced professionals can provide us with insight in the profession, which could provide us with the tools and knowledge that may be required to enter the field such as tips for seeking employment in the field.  Many professionals keep in touch with those they network with in the beginning of their career.  It is common for many professionals in the field to have mentors, which can be obtained through networking at the events held by the organizations. 

Professional Development
IABC and CPRS offer many opportunities for young professionals to gain experience and knowledge through networking events and workshops they offer.  An example of one being the Student Networking event held by CPRS where experienced professionals would preach to PR students the importance of networking in the field and tips as to how to network effectively.  Student positions and volunteer positions are available within the organizations such as student representative positions and the opportunities to volunteer at the events they hold.  The volunteer positions that are offered to young professionals stand out on their resumes when applying for jobs, for both organizations are highly respected in the PR field. 
After gaining experience in the field and becoming a respected professional, IABC and CPRS still hold value to your career.  Both societies offer professional development events and workshops for their members, which allow them to refresh their skills and keep up with current and developing trends in the field.  

For more information on the organizations you can visit the their websites or watch these two videos!

History of PR: going all the way back

            Public Relations is viewed as a relatively new discipline in the world.  This is wrong but understandable.  Public Relations is experiencing a hey-day right now with governments, corporations and many other entities using Public Relations for vast amounts of services.  The truth is that Public Relations has been a developing field since the ancient era.  After Caesar, had defeated the Gauls in modern day France who was it that handled the huge propaganda campaign that celebrated his victories across Rome.  When Alexander the Great conquered all the way to India he had people that created propaganda for his success.  While the work these ‘rhetoricians’ did for these great leaders isn’t the exact same work we find ourselves doing today, it is still the same principles at work. 
            In ancient Greece Plato refers to a certain ‘rhetorician’ by the name of Gorgias of Leontinium in Sicily practiced persuasive skills for a living and used those skills in many ways.  Many ancient historians in ancient Greece noted that public opinion was one of the most important factors in society and politics.  It determined matters both large and small.  Considering Greece was partially democratic with its oligarchic government form there many reasons to keep the public happy.  If someone was searching for a public office he needs to be voted in, this requires promotion of the self and ideals.  Public relations were developing based off of pure necessity within ancient Greece.   
            Consider the crusades during the High Medieval period.  Pope Urban II has just called for all Christians to march on the Holy Land and take back Jerusalem.  This was a massive social event and required the word to be spread out all across Europe.  The tactics they used to spread awareness included having messengers reach all the churches in Europe and have local priests recruit for the crusade.  This hits the targeted audience, devout Christians, right at home and ensures they are made aware of this call to action.  Crusaders had their own attire and their own symbols which further spread awareness for the crusade.  The Catholic Church in the middle ages was a power house of information and education.  Catholic monks wrote most of the text during this time. 
            Fast forward roughly 700 years to the late 18th century in England.  An anti-slavery movement was gaining momentum.  People were calling for the freedom of all slaves.  An English Poet wrote, “We have no slaves at home – Then why abroad? Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are free.  They touch our country, and their shackles fall.  That's noble, and bespeaks a nation proud (Rhodes, William Cowper: Selected Poems. p.84).  This poem made it onto leaflets and posters all over England.  This movement was very similar to modern day movements.  Written text was used in abundance, spokespersons spoke out against slavery, slogans were chanted repeatedly and awareness of this was spread over all the English colonies.  In the end the goal was achieved, slavery was abolished in England in 1833.
                Fast forward a little farther to the 20th century where the world wars shaped the way we view public relations.  Propaganda was used en masse to keep war time morale high and people to encourage people to support the effort and join the armed forces.  Posters were seen all over Canada, recruiting officers attended events organized by the government to promote the war effort.  Disney even took the opportunity to create a series of cartoons that demonized the enemy and made heroes out of allied soldiers.  These tactics were used again in America during the Vietnam war as well.  

              It would be a crime to create a history, even a brief history, about public relations without talking about "the father of public relations," Edward Bernays.  With the sudden spike in urbanization and population abilities to influence the public were necessary as Bernays referred to humanity as irrational due to the "herd instinct."  watch the video below for more on the father of public relations.
                Public Relations takes many forms and these early forms starting developing as far back as ancient Greece.  As the population of the world grew so to did the need for ways to communicate with the ever-growing populace.