So,you got yourself that interview with a public relations agency. Here are some tips on how to prepare for your interview:
Review their website. I can’t stress enough the importance of being familiar with the agency, its philosophy, client categories, client list, and work samples. This information will help you discern whether this is the place for you. Also, be familiar with their blog posts and what their point of view is on industry issues?
Prepare 3 questions. At the end of an interview, I always ask a potential employee if they have any questions. To my surprise, the majority say “No thanks. You’ve covered everything.” Well, that’s not good enough. I don’t care what you ask, but as long as you ask something. This shows me that you can communicate and think on your feet.
Due diligence. It is important for you to implement due diligence. This means becoming a detective and finding out everything you can about the firm’s reputation, working environment, and staff members. Do they have a good industry reputation? Have they won awards? what kind of work reputation does the president and top executives have? How happy or unhappy is the staff? Ask your friend if they know someone who currently or has worked there before. However, don’t ask current staffers because you never know.
Google search. Atta girl. You know haw valuable an Internet search can be. Now’s the time to implement a search on the company itself. How does it hold up and compare to competitors? What is its reputation and how have they managed it?
Decide on the appropriate attire. If you are interviewing for that fashion boutique, you better look the part. In addition to everything else, you will be judged on your style and presentation. Not that other public relations agency specialties don’t demand a good appearance, but make sure you dress the part.
Arrive early. It’s always wise to get to the destination earlier than needed. This way you’ll never be late for an interview, which can be a real turn-off. Go for coffee or take a walk around the block. Then get yourself together and go gettum!!
How many times have you wished you could read your client’s mind? Or even better, read the mind of the prospective client?
I remember pitching a cruise ship line several years ago. They called me because I had previously worked with another cruise ship company. After the preliminary niceties, it was decided that I would fly out to Seattle and present our initial public relations program. But first, I asked if they had a budget. Their response was the dreaded “zero-based budget”. Although they probably did have a budget, they refrained from telling us because they probably had the belief that we would ask for less, allowing them to “save money.” How foolish.
To remove the suspense, I didn’t get the piece of business. Why? Because when the client heard my proposed budget, he screamed, “On my goodness, this is much higher than our budget!” Now, if this potential client had only told me his budget, I would have been able to create the best public relations program suited to that number. But because I couldn’t read his mind, I came in too high and could never salvage the client.
So, what has this taught me? Here is some insight into what potential clients are thinking:
Can I trust them? Remember, it’s the presenter, not the presentation that gets you hired. They want you to look them in the eye and make them believe that if they give you their business, that you can truly help to solve their problems, make them richer, and sell more products.
Will they be there for me? Back in the day, I remember a notable PR firm mandated that their staff wear pagers even when they went to the bathroom. Today, with everyone’s mania about not going anywhere without their phones, the need for a mandate has been eliminated. Clients want to know that they can reach you anytime and anywhere. I know that can mean nights and weekends, but if your client has a sudden crises, like a cruise ship fire off the coast of Alaska, they want to make sure your team is there for them.
Will they be the monitor of my money? So you developed a suggested budget, but things happen. During a public relations program you may need to spend additional monies. Never spend big money without getting client buy-in. I have never had a client tell me “no” to spending unanticipated money. I have only seen clients go ballistic when huge, unanticipated expenses come through.
Will they make me look like a hero to my boss? Everyone has a boss. When you’re hired, it’s your job to make your boss look good. Make their superiors believe that hiring a PR firm was a meaningful corporate expenditure.
I’ve been living with cats for most of my adult life and let me tell you, they are the leaders of the house and sometimes of my life. The first year that Johnny, my current 13-year-old cat, lived with me, I hardly knew he existed. He hid from me, played hard-to-get, and, quite frankly, I thought he hated me. At one point I actually said to my sister, “OK I’ll keep him, give him free room and board, but we’ll never bond.” Well, was I wrong. Thirteen years later he has gone on to show me some interesting public relations skills that can be used in the industry.
1. Be creative. I always thought the manufacturers of cat toys were not cat owners. Why else would they develop some of the least exciting toys ever? Just leave it to a cat to find creativity in a small piece of silver foil, ribbon, or fallen paperclip. Great leaders find creativity in areas that the rest of us mortals may never explore. They go off to turn a problem over and come up with a creative solution.
2. Be observant. It fascinates me to see Johnny staring off into space. There could be a multitude of reasons as to why he’s doing it. Trying to determine the scope of the universe? The distance between Earth and Mars? The square root of 16? Great leaders know how to observe, listen to other points of view, and to, thereby, help avert conflict. They can help solve marketing problems or just bring new perspective into an old marketing plan.
3. Be engaging. Whereas dogs have an in-your-face style of engagement, cats are far more subtle. They will quietly appear whenever you least expect them, bringing warmth and comfort. A good leader does likewise, often in the form of a fresh approach, problem-solving guidance, or just warm words of encouragement.
4. Be an explorer. Open a door or take out an empty shopping bag, and low and behold, faster than a speeding bullet, your cat will be inside exploring the new space. And if you use encouragement, you’ve got the beginning of a brand new game. A great PR leader does the same. They explore new ways of thinking about old problems, bring news challenges into your thought process, and help you to expand your own creative process.
5. Don’t be judgmental. A cat doesn’t judge you by your appearance. If you never put on makeup or shave your beard, your cat won’t care. A good leader doesn’t judge someone for trying out new ideas or new strategies, or for not knowing the next step. And they certainly never judges a book by its cover. Hiring someone who doesn’t seems to fit your traditional mold can often lead to new out-of-the-box thinking.