The Value of Mentoring in Public Relations by Juliette Nivar

 

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, mentorship is the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution. Mentoring is the process whereby one person is sharing their skills, knowledge, and assistance to aid their mentee’s growth in life or their career. The intention of most mentors is to “give back”, by spreading the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired over time. A mentor and mentee relationship is a combination of trust that one develops through a friendship, and guidance that one may receive from a parent.  This role surpasses simply “giving advice”; a true mentor genuinely empowers you to reach your full potential as an individual.

Today I am fortunate enough to say that I’ve had a mentor to not only aid me in my career development, but also in the real world. Temi Sacks has been my boss and mentor for almost two years now, and I credit her with being a catalyst in my life which has fostered my growth. I arrived at T.J. Sacks’ office an eager college intern, ready to soak up every bit of knowledge like a sponge. Over the course of my mentee and mentor relationship I’ve grown to understand the Public Relations industry, improved my skills while acquiring new ones, took on leadership roles, and broadened my reading interest. Like a true mentor, Temi has pushed me to reach for more, but with the reminder that hard work is always the driving force behind success.

Throughout this journey, I’ve not only acquired a phenomenal mentor, but also a network of women who have gone through this process before. At least twice a year, Temi will host an intern gathering in her house, with all her past interns. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. Through this network I’ve been able to gain insight into the current professional PR world. At the gatherings, each one of us will go around and briefly explain our current jobs, positions, and what that position entails. We chat about work environments, and the PR industry as a whole. More importantly we share anecdotes of our time at T.J. Sacks & Associates, and experiences working alongside Temi. Just like me, these young women have had the opportunity to experience a true ongoing mentorship from Temi. A former intern, bought me a book to read on a guide to finding a job. It was so thoughtful, because I am now a senior, and will soon be experiencing applying to the job market. I’m fortunate enough, to have a professional network of women who will always be there to guide and support me, whether it be professionally or personally.

I am Afro-Latina, and was born and raised in the South Bronx. The opportunities I’ve encountered and strived to obtain throughout my lifetime, are not the same for many women of color where I come from. Temi and I constantly discuss the influential women of color who are paving the way for success within their marginalized communities. Temi has pushed me to see my capabilities to one day become a leader and impact the world the same way these women are. Through her mentorship, I’ve become inspired to one day reciprocate one of the most important relationships a young girl should have in her life. Women of color especially, need women mentors to lift and guide them to reaching their true potential. I am happy to say that today there are more women of color in fields than ever before. However, our strength lies in working together. Developing a network allows us to change the world around us, and achieve our goals more quickly and effectively than working alone.

 

 

Do Your Parents Understand Public Relations?

 

So I had been working in public relations so 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?

 

 

Why Cats Need Better Public Relations

 

Cats are the most popular pet worldwide, outnumbering dogs three to one, yet dogs are given the label of man’s best friend.  How did this happen? I know from my own experience of being owned by several cats over the years, that they do have some characteristics that well, could use a good public relations professional.

  1. Bad reputation. For years cats have been portrayed as aloof, distant and unloving while simultaneously portraying dogs as loyal and heroic.  Having had both at the same time I can attest to the fact that my cats have been more like Tao, the loyal Siamese cat in The Incredible Journey while my dogs, instead of being Lassie, Ole Yeller or Air Bud were more like Beethoven, the lovable slobbering big-hearted giant.
  2. Image as villain. Movies and television have portrayed cats as villains in films like The Godfather, Austin Powers, and Inspector Gadget. And of course there was the movie Cats & Dogs where a secret war between cats and dogs for world dominance was depicted. Even Garfield is shown as conniving and mischievous.    Even documentaries on Animal Chanel and NatGeo depict cats as “little lions” ready to break out of their homes and go on the hunt killing small rodents and birds.  But really, whose fault is that? If humans would just understand that cats are really home-bodies, and just want to remain indoors and sleep all day, this would go a long way to help reposition their reputation as a heartless predator. Cats don’t save the day in the media; they are either the bad guys themselves or they are marginalized.
  3. Marginalization in the media. When not being depicted as a villain, cats are shown as a cheap form of entertainment on the Internet with the likes of Grumpy Cat, Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat. Although statistics show that 15% of all Internet traffic is related to cat videos, most of them display cats as morons either falling off the back of sofa, chasing phantom red dots or falling into water-filled bathtubs—and even worse is how they are portrayed as bad spellers with poor grammar.
  4. Need for rebranding. What about the cat in Florida that is shown letting the alligators have it with a left jab? Here’s a brave lad who needs better public relation services. If you Google “dog chasing alligators” on You Tube you don’t see a darned thing. And when it comes to displaying affection, cats just do it differently. While a dog will slobber in your face, a cat is far more subtle in its gestures: tail up in the air and body rubbing against your leg.
  5. Image problem. Yup, cats have an image that warrants the attention of a full-service public relations agency.  The problem has stemmed from and has been perpetuated for years by the media, so it is via the media that a new image must be developed.
  6. A call to arms. I am calling out to all cat owners who are also public relations professionals to do their part in helping to stem the tide on the feline image.  Social media pages dedicated to your feline friends is indeed a start.
  7. For my part. I have heard the call to help the cat reputation and for my part have written and will soon be publishing a book entitled Slick: The Cat That Stole Christmas.  It will be available via Amazon in the fall. Forgive my commercial message but at least I have taken pen to paper, so to speak, in an attempt to help recraft the cat image.

 

Where Do PR Big Ideas Come From?

 

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 unremarkably creative venues in which I have come up with the Big Idea:

  1. The bathroom break. I have gotten so good at coming up with either the lead sentence for a feature article, 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.

Know When to Go—Exiting a PR Firm

 

There comes a time in every public relations staffer when all of the stars line up and it’s very obviously 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
  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?
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    1. 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
    2. 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.

 

5 Qualities of a Good PR Client

 

A bad public relations agency client is like a really bad meal—miserable but not life-threatening.

Still, it’s good to avoid them as much as possible.  And the best way to do that is to know what qualities to look for in a good client/agency relationship. So I present these qualities for your review:

  1. Good clients have a realistic budget. Unless the new client has had a former relationship with a public relations agency, he is likely to be clueless about the cost of a public relations program.  But, hopefully, a good client will realize that he has to spend money in order to make it.  So, it is your job to help educate him as to how you work: What is your monthly retainer? How much do you allocate to fees vs. expenses? What is the average length of your contractual arrangement? Good clients take the time to be educated.
  2. Good clients are interested in working with someone they can trust.   When a client trusts you as a communicator they take your opinion seriously, especially if your opinion is contrary to theirs. No client likes to hear the word “no”.  But, after all, they have put their business in your hands and are depending on you to be the monitor of their brand image.
  3. Good clients are willing to accept advice. A good client is eager for advice, that’s why they hired a public relations agency to begin with.  They allow you to become a part of their marketing team—working with them and not necessarily for them.  I have had the good fortune of working with a number of good clients who have even sought my advice on matters from my opinion on their advertising campaigns to how they should appropriately congratulate their boss on his promotion.
  4. Good clients have a single point of contact. You’re on a deadline and you need that quick approval—who do you call—the client contact.  You don’t want to have to deal with several point people, when one will make your life so much more effective. Make certain that you get that point person, and then go on to earn their trust—they’ll be your client for life.
  5. Good clients participate in the process.  Now that you’ve got that point person, you want to make sure they remain involved and engaged in your public relations program– but not too much. An uninformed client is not a good client.  Assure them that part of your job is to make their job easier, and that you value their opinion.  A good client will review your monthly status reports and not merely file them—and if possible, you’ll develop monthly review meetings so that you keep the client informed.  An informed client is an advocate for your agency.

7 Tips for PR Pros: How to Write a Strong Press Release

 

Press releases are essential in any public relations strategy.  They detail product launches, special events and other newsworthy activities that a company produces. Because media outlets are flooded with stories and pitches daily, it is imperative that you make yours stand out from the rest. Here are a few helpful tips to make your press release stand out, look professional, and attract reporters to your story.

1. Grab their attention with a strong e-mail subject

A strong subject on an email will peek the reporters’ interest, and lead them to read your release. Keep a subject 5-7 words highlighting the most important takeaway from the release.

2. Get right to the point

Assume that the reader won’t read more than the first paragraph. Get the message out quickly, every point should be addressed in the headline and first paragraph, with supportive information in the subsequent paragraphs.

3. Always use quotes when possible

Including quotes from your client makes them an authority in their profession. It is important to have a source to attribute the information to so what you are saying is validated by a trusted source.  Quotes can also clarify any information that you have in the press release while attributing it to your client.

4. Check your grammar, then check it again!

Always proof your press releases; if there is any grammatical errors, this can turn a reporter off. It is unprofessional and looks sloppy for anyone who works in PR to have spelling or grammatical errors in their press releases. Remember, the only thing that we produce as a profession is words on paper: They should therefore inform and impress.

5. One Page is best

As with most good writing, shorter is usually better; limit yourself to one page. This will force you to condense your most significant information into a more readable document, which is something that journalists always appreciate.

6. Provide access to more information

Just because your press release is limited to one page doesn’t mean that you have to leave out information. Provide relevant links to your client’s website where prospective writers can learn more about their mission and what they’ve accomplished. Don’t make writers search on their own for more information; it is important to guide them as quickly as possible to your website, and keep their interest in your message.

7. Always provide your contact information

A common oversight that can render a press release ineffectual is a lack of contact information for reporters. Whether you or someone else at the company is the point of contact, don’t forget to include an email address and phone number on the release. Media people aren’t shy; if they have a question they will contact you.

5 Qualities of the Best PR Interns

 

I always said that I could tell a good PR person within minutes of meeting him/her. And the more that I have worked in the business, the more I see that it is not necessarily age and experience that are the best qualities,but often it is their native ability.

Recently I had attended a recruiting fair at a local college and received numerous dropped off resumes from students as young as freshmen to as old as grad students. Since I manned a desk at the event, I was able to chat briefly with many of them, and I could tell the difference between those would fit in at my agency and those who might not. There are “tells,” subtle indications of a person’s true nature, that are revealed in a matter of seconds.

Let me reveal some of the “tells” that encourage me to pursue a candidate.

  1. The elevator pitch. The candidates have to recognize that they only have a minute to inform and impress their potential employer. They should rehearse, rehearse, rehearse how they are going to sell themselves in less than a minute. Practice the handshake, the eye contact, and the smile in a mirror so that you see what your employer sees.
  2. Confidence. They say that confidence comes with experience. I disagree. I have met with young college student who have terrific presence and confidence. I actually had one critique a client’s packaging colors in a manner that actually impressed me so much that I hired her on the spot.
  3. Enthusiasm. I can’t overstate that genuine enthusiasm seems to come from within. Although it may be hard to learn to be enthusiastic about something that you aren’t, if you can master this, then you are on the road to a successful internship. Not all public relations agency clients are glitzy and glamorous, so if you can be enthusiastic about, let’s say a product that prevents diarrhea, then you just may have the qualities to be a good PR intern.
  4. Look the part. If you are meeting with a prospective employer of a successful PR agency, dress like you are already working there. Yes, I know that some firms allow for jeans and t-shirts, but please don’t come to my office wearing that dress code even though others are. You are applying for a professional position, look the part.
  5. Perseverance. So you are lucky enough to land the interview, make sure to follow up with the employer with a brief and personal thank you email (no phone, please) restating why you believe working for her agency might be a benefit to both of you. Then, wait it out. Sometimes it may take longer than you think for the company to make its final hiring decision.

 

Tips for PR Pros on Pitching Journalists Via Social Media

 

Tips for PR Pros on Pitching Journalists Via Social Media

Social media offers an opportunity for PR agencies to reach out to journalists in a more intimate space. But beware—not all channels offer appropriate outcomes.

There are right and wrong ways to use social media to query reporters, because you don’t want to come across as a stalker to a reporter. Here are a list of the Do’s and Don’ts for PR professionals of approaching reporters on social media.

Don’t:

  1. Don’t pitch journalists through Facebook.
  • Facebook is a place for friends. Even though Facebook has become a place for business too, journalists consider Twitter a professional tool, not Facebook. Also, when you message someone you aren’t friends with on Facebook, it goes into their “other” folder, which often goes unchecked. Avoid posting on their wall or to pictures to get noticed– journalists want to maintain some privacy on their Facebook page.

 

  1. Don’t mass pitch reporters on Twitter
    • Remember, when your tweet can be seen by everyone. Don’t try to get noticed by a lot of reporters at once by pitching multiple accounts at once through tweeting. As soon as you pitch a journalist, they will likely click on your Twitter profile to learn more. If the reporter sees that the last several tweets are copied and pasted to different multiple people, they will lose interest quickly.

 

  1. Don’t contact another journalist to get his colleague’s information
    • It’s unprofessional to contact a reporter to get through to another one. Even though one reporter might have less followers than another, and it might be easier to see a @mention with that person, reporters are being pitched all the time—so they don’t need to be bothered with  a PR person trying to reach their colleague through them.

 

  1. Don’t follow up more than once
    • The point of pitching on social media is to keep it short and sweet. If you follow up more than once, reporters will automatically mark you as spam and you won’t be able to contact them in the future.

 

Do:

  1. Find out the reporter’s beat before you pitch them
    • It’s your job to do the research and theirs to determine your pitch’s relevance to the audience and publication. You can find this out by seeing what the reporter is tweeting or retweeting, and also by investigating their bio; it will usually say what topics they are interested in or what their beat is.

 

  1. Use Twitter to pitch
    • Twitter forces PR pros to keep their pitches short and catchy. It is okay to pitch journalists through Twitter because they treat their accounts as an extension of their reporting, so they might be more willing to chat with you on Twitter about topics relating to their beats. When pitching reporters on Twitter, @mention the company you are working for and a link to some news–if they recognize the organization they maybe more likely to respond.

Public Relations Agency ABCs

 

Public Relations Agency ABCs

They say “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Well,  it takes an entire bowl of alphabet soup to implement our role as public relations practitioners. Here’s a guide to your public relations agency ABCs:

A= Advertise, Advise, Agency, Amplify, Analytics
B= B2B, Blogger, Branding, Brochures, Bottom Line, Budget, Business Development
C= Cause-Related Marketing, Collateral Materials, Communications, Conferences, Consumer, Content, Core Values, Corporate Communications, Corporations, Curate, Counsel, Crises Management, Crowdfunding
D=Deliverables, Digital
E= Engagement, Earned Media, Education, Efficiency, Evidence-based, Events
F= Facebook, Feature Articles
G= Global, Gorilla Marketing, Granular
H= Hacker, Hands-on, Hazard Analysis, Head Hunter, Honesty, Humility
I= Integrated, Integrity
J=Job Description, Job Enrichment, Job Performance, Job Security, Joint Venture, Just in Time, Justification
K=Knowledge-based
L=Leverage, Literature
M= Market Entry, Marketing Plans, Marketing Research, Media, Media Tours, Media Training, Metrics, Messaging, Monetize, Multiplatform
N= Narrative, Negotiate, New Business, New Media, Newsletters, News Syndicates
O= Organic, Outbound, Outcomes
P= Performance, Pinterest, Platform, Positioning, Presentations, Press Releases, Product Launches, Program, Public Relations, Publicity
Q= Qualify, Qualitative, Quantitative, Question
R= Reddit, Reputation Management, Research, Resonate
S= Sell, Seminars, Services, Situation Analysis, Social Media, Solutions, Speaker’s Bureau, Spokespersons, Strategy, Surveys
T= Tactics, Traction, Trade Relations, Traditional Media, Transparency, Twitter
U= Uncontrollable Costs, Uncontrollable Factors, Underutilization, Unintended Consequences, Unique Opportunities, User Friendly, User ID
V=Value Proposition, Viral Marketing
W= Website, Wire Services, Workforce, Workplace, World Wide Web, Worst Case Scenario
X= XmR Chart
Y= Yahoo!, YTD (Year to Date)
Z= ZBB (Zero Based Budgeting), Zero Growth