You’ve learned a lot in college, including algebra, U.S. history and how to text under your desk. But once you leave your beloved alma mater behind, you may realize there are some very important life lessons that you never learned.
If you want to avoid that terrifying task of entering the real world without many of the skills you need to succeed, take the time to learn these things, before graduation day rolls around. 1. How to manage your money. So you land a job in a New York public relations agency right out of college and the company provides you with the option to join its 401K. Without a basic understanding of the stock market, which is almost never taught in school, you will be dead in the water. 2. How to cook. Overprotective parents are not doing their children any favors. Upon graduation they not only don’t know how to slice a tomato, but have no understanding of how to buy groceries or prepare them. 3. Home repairs. Another area where parents should take responsibility for initially putting that hammer and screwdriver in their kids’ hands and explaining the basics of how to hang a nail on the wall for a painting or remove a screw. 4. Social skills. The best jobs require social skills, according to recent findings published in the New York Times. As a kid in kindergarten you learned to play well with others. Then, as you moved along in school these skills were replaced by impersonal lecture-style teaching of hard skills, with less peer interaction. In such fields as public relations, the softer skills like client interaction and counseling, motivating colleagues and being a team player are emphasized. 5. Leadership skills. A good leader’s job is to get work done through people. Skills like how to hire the best people, how to provide mentoring, and then how to get out of the way and let them do their job are skills that unfortunately are often left for on-the-job learning. 6. How to sew. So, what do you do when you have to sew on a hanging button? Either befriend your local tailor or learn this valuable skill. 7. How credit works. Just because you were able to secure a credit card doesn’t mean you should use it foolishly and mindlessly. With some credit rates as right as 28%, it could take you years to pay off a $1,000 balance. So, don’t party hardy unless you can pay with cash. 8. How to find a job. The very basics of how to go about researching and landing a job are skills that unfortunately are often self-taught. Seek out professors and counselors as well as taking advantage of career centers for assistance in this vital area.
There comes a time in every public relations staffer when all of the stars line up and it’s very obvious that its time to start the job search—while you are currently employed. There are lots of reasons for taking that next step; these are just a few. 1. Stay for a year. Unless the job is excruciating, the rule of thumb is to remain at a position for a full year. Why? It gives your time there validity. It shows that you decided to leave on your own terms instead of being asked to leave after a few months. 2.Exception to the one year rule. If the position absolutely is intolerable, or worse yet, you just made the wrong public relations agency decision, get out of there sooner than later. Why? Because a mistake of a few weeks/months can easily be erased from your resume—which means, not included at all. 3. Your boss is a terror. The interesting thing that I have witnessed about newly minted bosses is that in most cases the company has put little, if any, effort into creating an environment whereby junior people are shown how to be a manager/boss. In most cases, employees learn from example—they see how other managers manage and hopefully they extract the most outstanding leadership qualities. But, that’s assuming that their bosses have great qualities that can be emulated. I’m all for leadership and managerial training. If your company doesn’t provide training, look into courses at such institutions as Dale Carnegie. 4. You’re not learning anything new. Yup, there may come a time when you feel like you are just running around in a hamster cage—doing the same tasks every day with seemingly no opportunities to learn new skills. That may be a time to first talk to your supervisor and explain your situation. If your request for growth opportunities is ignored, well, then that is definitely a sign to start updating your resume and posting it on LinkedIn. 5. You weren’t promoted. So you think the time has come for you to get a promotion—and it didn’t happen. And even worse, someone who you think is your equal got the promotion. What to do? a.Make a plan with your boss. A former employee of mine did just this. She desperately wanted to be promoted to Account Supervisor. So, she made an appointment to meet with me to get me engaged in a plan to help her gain that promotion. We laid out a six-month plan and low and behold, she kind of had me between a rock and a hard place because at the end of the six months she had accomplished all that we laid out—and she received the promotion. b. You can just look elsewhere. But this is often a hard one because other public relations agencies usually require new hires to already be doing the work of that position. There’s the conundrum. 6. You made a big mistake. Now, how do I sensitively approach this one? OK, first is that I need to explain what may be defined as a big mistake. a.An office affair. In most instances and in most agencies, this is a big no no, especially if your affair is with your boss. There’s been a lot already written about this one so if you need it to be spelled out for you, go to Google. b.You’ve been dishonest. This is another big no no. This can include anything from taking money from the company by turning in falsified expense reports to searching for a new job on company time. For greater insight here’s an article from Small Business Chron.
So I had been working in public relations for about a year when my parents asked me, “What exactly is public relations? Is it like advertising?” If your parents or spouse don’t understand the difference, don’t be surprised. A recent survey of 1000 PR pros found 72% of them say their parents don’t understand what PR is, and another 41% say their spouses don’t know either.
So, in an effort to try to educate my parents I drove down to Philadelphia and gave a full two-hour public relations presentation to both my parents and an uncle. The case history revolved around a current client at the time, Mannington floorcovering. I brought down sample pitch letters and media lists, explained the difference between earned media and paid-for media, and even went so far as to show them final media placements for the client in both magazines and newspapers.
Although I wasn’t surprised when they asked why my by-line didn’t appear in these content-driven articles that had been basically lifted from my press release, I felt confident as I drove back to New York that my family definitely had a much clearer understanding of the difference between earned content and paid-for advertising.
And then, about two weeks later, I got a letter from my dad. The contents of the envelope contained a full-page, four-color ad of Mannington floorcovering appearing in the recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Penned proudly at the top of the advertisement was a hand-written note from my dad proudly saying, “Great job! Love the work you did for your client.” That night I called to thank him for his continued interest in my success. What more could I say?
So, you are challenged with coming up with the proverbial Big Idea for a new public relations campaign. Where to start? How to begin? Well, I for one have always fallen upon a Big Idea in the most remarkably unremarkable places. Sometimes I find that if I leave the tumult of the office behind and literally remove myself from the everyday commotion that is forever going on in a busy office, that creativity soon follows.
Here are some of the most unremarkable creative venues in which I have come up with PR Big Ideas:
1. The bathroom break. I have gotten so good at coming up with either the lead sentence for a feature article, or a tag line to a brand launch or the Big Idea itself that, for years, I have never gone to the bathroom whether in the office or at home without a pen placed firmly behind my ear. Then, with relative ease, the roll of toilet paper becomes my writing surface.
2. The shower. I guess that it’s the sense-numbing sound of the water mixed with the penetrating heat that causes my mind to melt to mush and allows freethinking to emerge. Now, if someone would only invent a doodle board and pen that writes in the shower, that person would surely become the next tech millionaire.
3. The dog. I am fortunate to have a large black Labrador retriever who not only serves as my muse, but allows me to walk aimlessly around Manhattan, pen and note paper in tow, creativity flowing. And if I dare leave the house without pen and paper there is always my cellphone where I either jot down or send myself an audio message chocked full of Big Ideas.
4. The river. I live two blocks from the Hudson River and afford myself to glorious opportunity to walk its banks on an almost daily basis. During good weather, its banks are filled with bike riders, skaters and joy-seekers. But during the colder months of fall and winter I often feel as though the river and its hidden pathways belong to me alone. Looking out at the sturdy little tugboats pushing the larger unwieldy barges through the currents gives me peace of mind…and a peaceful mind often spawns creativity and great Big Ideas. Again, make sure to record your gems either my hand or via cell because trust me, you’ll never remember them once you return to office or home.
Life is a journey…and Big Ideas often lie in its path. Take the time to smell the roses, pet your pooch, take a shower or just meditate (with pen and paper handy). You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to close one door of your mind and open the other to a creative moment.
It’s been more than 15 years since I opened my own marketing/public relations agency and during that time I have come to realize that an entire new lexicon has developed while I was sleeping, so to speak. I’m a pretty curious gal, try so when I come across a new word I immediately Google it. And lately, more often than not, I find myself rolling my eyes, shaking my head and then just going back to reading.
The reason I resort to the eye-rolling is that marketing people now, more than ever, feel compelled to invent new words for us to learn and to replace the older, less exciting words. When I hear the younger generation of marketers uttering the newspeak, that’s when I once again find my eyes rolling.
Really? Do we really need a new lexicon to define what we’ve been doing all along? For your ease, and to enable your own eye rolling, is a list of newspeak:
1. Analytics—We used to call these reports.
2. Content—We used to call this writing.
3. Curating—We used to call this organizing.
4. Earned media—We used to call this public relations.
5. Evidence-based—We used to call this research.
6. Engage—We used to call this commenting, sharing, listening, viewing.
7. Infographics—We used to call this pictographs.
8. Layering—We used to call this researching.
9. Metrics—We used to say measurements.
10. Monetize—We used to call this value.
11. Multiplatform—We used to call this entertainment.
12. Narrative—We used to call this the story.
13. Optimize—We used to call this improve.
14. Organic—We used to call this connecting, referring.
15. Owned media—We used to call this promotion.
16. Paid media—We used to call this advertising.
17. Resonate—We used to call this shared emotion.
18. Traffic—We used to call this circulation or viewership.
19. Transparency—We used to call this what everybody knows.
20. Value proposition—We used to call this core values.
21. Verbiage—We used to call these words.