Interview with Cameron Blair, Digital Media Consultant at Wilkinson Group

This week for my Interview Series, we have Cameron Blair, Digital Media Consultant at Wilkinson Group, talking to us about his career path, blogging for PR, staying on top of news and trends and where the communications industry is headed.

1. Can you tell us a little about your career path so far? Have you always been working in the communications industry? 

Well, I started out as a photographer, snapping pics for a local newspaper in the Philippines while I was travelling through the southern island of Mindaneo. When I moved to Sydney I started my own business shooting weddings and events. I also did a bit of web design work as well.

2. Did you ever utilise social networking services like Twitter or LinkedIn in any of your job hunts?

No not really, although I do see many people using those sites to find work, I myself have only used social media for reputation building and personal socializing. I suppose the people on Twitter are more interesting than my real life friends. Just kidding

3. As a contributor to Wilkinson Group’s blog, what sort of role do you think blogging plays in the PR?

Blogging is a fantastic tool for clients. Firstly, (and most importantly) it helps companies drive sales through e-commerce and SEO.  Secondly, it allows companies to maintain and increase a positive reputation. Finally, it gives companies a voice and lets them join the conversation.

4. You’re a Digital Media Consultant at Wilkinson Group as well as the Director of Communications at IPREX Global PR and Communications, how do you manage to balance your work / life effectively? Or do you just not sleep?

Sleep? What’s that? Yeah it’s pretty full on, but I do manage to have a great work/life balance. I do work very hard and long hours, but I love what I do, so I don’t mind. My wife might have another opinion on that though.

5. Communication professionals have to perform a wide range of tasks during their day-to-day; monitoring campaigns, writing and updating content, advising clients, developing strategies, etc. But what do you think is the single most important skill for a communication professional?

Integrity, I can’t stress this enough. If you’re not honest in this game, then you’re quickly found out and that’s the end of you. Always be honest.

6. With social media, digital technology and communication platforms evolving at such rapid speeds, how do you stay on top of industry news and trends?

Ever heard of Jeff Bullas? He’s probably the guy I read the most. Mashable is also pretty cool. There is so much information out there that it is pretty overwhelming.

7. What would be the top 3 blogs / websites that you visit most frequently?

Jeff Bullas, Mashable and… hmmm… PR Daily News… yeah PR Daily news is great.

8. And lastly, in the next 5 years, where do you see the communications industry headed?

From a PR perspective, I think it will boom. Especially for Australia because many Chinese businesses are looking to expand in overseas markets, and, thankfully, they will need public relations to develop their brands and communicate their key messages to the media.

***To get in touch with Cameron say hi on Twitter @CameronJamez***

PR Student Blogs: Good Idea or Not?

Does blogging help PR students with their job hunt?

A couple of weeks ago I posted up my blog post “Getting Started With Your PR Job Hunt” onto a LinkedIn group (#PRintern | #EntryPR) discussion board

It was a rough guide to starting a job hunt for PR students and involved steps such as:

  1. Start up your own blog
  2. Subscribe to other blogs
  3. Participate in conversations
  4. Internships

It turned out to be one of my most popular posts yet and there was a lot of discussion, particularly around the first step – starting a blog.

For some people, they didn’t think blogging was necessary for PR students and maintained that Twitter can get the job done, while others preferred having just a website where you can highlight your portfolio, professional accomplishments, without having the hassle of constantly updating it.

Upon reading the comments I found that there were a lot of great points raised such as the importance of Twitter conversations and blogging topics for PR students, but let me tell you why I’m so keen on PR student blogs.

For me personally, blogging has been the most beneficial step to my career so far.

It’s taught me:

  • how to strategically promote my blog posts through social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and StumbleUpon.
  • how to analyse search engine terms, referrers, subscriptions and website traffic.
  • how to manage my time because between managing a blog properly in between work and uni studies can be kind of hectic
  • how to adapt my writing to the online environment by using less words, smaller paragraphs and maintaining a conversational writing voice

But most importantly, blogging has put in touch with PR professionals like Roger Christie, Head of Digital at Sefiani Communications, who after a Q&A, arranged for an information interview to discuss my studies, career goals and internships.

So while blogging may not necessarily be essential for a PR student, I would definitely recommend it!

Interview with Roger Christie, Head of Digital at Sefiani Communications

For this week’s addition to the Interview Series, we have PR professional Roger Christie discussing his transition from journalism to public relations, his role as Head of Digital at Sefiani Communications, internships, job hunting via social networks and his collaborative venture PRINKS.

Q1. First thing’s first, tell us a bit about yourself. What was your career path like?

I left school wanting to become a journalist as I had a real passion for writing.  After two-and-a-half years of my course, I suddenly realised that I wasn’t so sure and decided to give PR a go instead.  The appeal of working alongside businesses to advise on their communications needs appealed to me and gave me that corporate edge that I was after.

I did my first internship at Edelman working with their Health team, before moving to Five Star PR in Manly – a two-person team.  Having exposure at both ends of the spectrum gave me an early look at agency life and where I saw myself working best in the future.  As I finished my degree, an opportunity came through at Sefiani and I jumped at the chance, as a friend had recommended the firm.  Almost five years on, I’m still here.

Q2. You’re the Head of Digital at Sefiani Communications, which sounds like a pretty cool role. What’s a typical day like?

The PR digital space is fascinating.  We’re at a point where our profession is rapidly coming to grips with a changing dynamic from proactively seeking to build client profiles to actively and reactively managing their reputation in a vocal online environment.

As such, my day can change in an instant should a conversation suddenly flare up online and we need to advise a client on managing that issue.  That’s the great thing about working in the digital environment though – you enjoy a much more fluid, real-time relationship with stakeholders and can see immediately whether people are responding to your ideas and approach.  And, if you’re wrong, they’ll tell you!

Q3. Aside from working at Sefiani Communications, you also co-founded an organisation – PRINKS – which is described as a “social group for communications professionals and students that provides an opportunity to meet with fellow industry and colleagues and share ideas each month.”

How did this come about and where do you see the group headed in the future?

Just on two years ago I met a fellow young PR practitioner (Gemma Crowley) for a drink with a former colleague of mine who was a mutual friend.  It was very informal and we talked about various things – work and leisure – but what we realised after our chat was that it was great talking to someone who understood the industry and the challenges of working in comms.

Then and there the PRINKS idea was born as we wanted to give all people working or looking for an opportunity in communications to learn from one another and understand how each individual discipline operates.  Not in a networking environment, but one that is relaxed and informal – that’s where you make your best connections.  I’m extremely grateful we took the plunge and gave it a go as I’ve met some wonderful folk and made some good friends over those two years.

We’ve since also established the PRINKS Facebook Page and Blog as two useful resources to discuss interesting ideas, campaigns or concepts relevant to those in the industry.  This includes our job board which provides us with a way to give back to the community – each job post requires a donation to the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation – which is an area we’d like to explore further.

Our ultimate aim is to hopefully provide better working relationships between PR folk, journalists, marketers and the like – by understanding what the other goes through in their jobs, we can work together more effectively to help everyone be the best in their profession.  What exactly that looks like I’m not quite sure, but we’re always open to ideas.

Q4. What were your internships like?

I didn’t really know what to expect when I first started at Edelman.  I’d been set on journalism, so the idea of PR hadn’t quite developed for me at that stage.  I quickly discovered that internships are a fantastic opportunity to learn what the ‘real world’ will be like, and even the mundane tasks have real benefits for your future career.

Sitting in meetings and just absorbing the discussion, or seeing a campaign through in its entirety – even though I wasn’t always actively involved, understanding the process helped me see how the job worked.  I’m also extremely grateful that I tried very different roles as it’s amazing the differences, good and bad, you experience when spending time in a global agency and a two-person agency.

Q5. How important were social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn in your job hunt?

Funnily enough, social networks didn’t really ‘exist’ when I was finishing uni.  I was on Facebook but more from a personal perspective than professional.  When I was starting out, I used to email and cold call agencies, or see what opportunities came up on the uni noticeboard.  It’s also important to lean on your personal networks and don’t be afraid to ask for help or an introduction which is how I ended up at both Edelman and, ultimately, Sefiani.

What social networks have done today is simply provide new tools to do the same things for job seekers.  Your networks are now enhanced online, and cold calls are now ‘cold tweets’ – finding the right people is so much easier and faster.  LinkedIn is a little trickier for students as you don’t have a professional profile behind you, but make contact on Twitter and then give LinkedIn a go.  It’s almost becoming the norm now, and students these days should be harnessing those avenues available as it only takes a quick search on Twitter to find agencies in your city to start a dialogue – tools I wish I had when I was graduating!

Q6. And lastly, what’s your top advice for PR students on a job hunt?

Be proactive.  Hearing from someone who’s read a blog post of yours or is following you on Twitter immediately puts them above anyone replying to a job ad.  I subscribe to the theory that if you want something enough, go out and make it happen, and this certainly applies to finding a job.  Why compete with the other 35 CVs that come through to the grad manager’s inbox about an ad they’ve just posted when you can contact them out of the blue for a coffee?  They may not be hiring just yet, but by putting yourself under their nose and forging that connection, when a role does come up, you’re in a much stronger position.

***To contact Roger, get in touch via Twitter @rogerchristie or check out his thoughts on the communications industry at PRINKS***

Getting Started With Your PR Job Hunt

A PR job hunt guide written by a PR student on a job hunt … sounds logical enough right?

I’ve been lucky enough to talk to quite a few PR professionals over the past few months and they’ve all provided me with some great advice.

So for all the PR students out there who may be feeling a little overwhelmed with their studies, job hunting, managing their social networks and having a life; let me break it down step-by-step.

Step 1. Set up a blog

WordPress, Blogger, whatever.  Setting up your own blog is the most important thing in my opinion. And I don’t mean one where you talk about what you ate for dinner last night, that awesome bar you hit up the other night or the latest Harry Potter film. Sure, you could write about all that, but if you want a blog that’ll help you find that PR job: keep it focused.

Not only does a blog let you hone vital online writing skills, but it also allows you to share your views and opinions on the industry, put you into contact with other bloggers and teaches you things like blog promotion, social media marketing, reader feedback, website traffic, which are all important aspects of this digital era.

Step 2. Subscribe to other blogs

While it’s extremely important to keep updated when it comes to the fast-moving world of PR, I also find it motivating when I read other PR student blogs. Doesn’t matter if they’re in North Carolina, Toronto, New York,  Melbourne or Sydney, everybody’s got tremendous insight and experience to provide. I’ve learnt a ton about job hunting, internships and social media just by reading other people’s blogs.

However, I’d advise that you don’t limit yourself to just the communications industry. PR professionals have to be deal with a wide range of things, so keeping up-to-date with issues in politics, technology and business is also essential.

Some of the blogs that I read on the regular.

  • Brian Solis – Defining the Convergence of Media and Influence - Brian Solis is one of the leading thinkers and writers when it comes to public relations and social media.
  • Craig Pearce Strategic Communication - Australian communications veteran explores his thoughts on the PR, marketing and social media industries.
  • PRINKS - A collaborative blog run by Roger Christie and Gemma Crowley that aims to create a community of communications professionals and students.
  • Social PR Lifestyle! - One of the first blogs I ever read as a communications students  and definitely one of the most helpful when it comes to PR internships, portfolios and social media.
  • synapses – Dan Fonseca’s blog isn’t your average PR blog but he’s written some of the most interesting and thoughtful posts I’ve ever read. Well worth checking out.

Also, you should subscribe to For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report - a fantastic weekly podcast hosted by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson covering communication and technology around the world.

Step 3. Participate in conversations

I think it’s pretty crucial in your job hunt that you demonstrate an ability to participate and discuss. There are some great conversations going on over at #prstudchat on Twitter as well as on various LinkedIn groups. I’m part of groups like:

  • Public Relations and Communications Jobs Community
  • Public Relations Institute of Australia
  • Social Media Australia & New Zealand
  • Students and Recent Grads
  • YoungPRPros

Starting conversations by commenting on a blog is another really effective way to get discussions going with fellow PR students / professionals. I don’t there’s a better way to learn and keep up-to-date with the PR industry than to just share your ideas and opinions with others.

Step 4. Internship(s)

 If you read some of the Q&As in my Interview Series, you’ll find that the importance of work experience is a recurring theme.

Gregory Tan, digital analyst at Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence, likes to think of them as “a form of self-discovery, of knowing whether you’ll actually like what you’re studying,” while Kelly Ahern, a blog and content manager says “interning also allows you to network and build up a professional database of credible professionals who may be able to either write you a recommendation or keep you in the loop about potential job openings – a total win-win.”

And Lauren Gray, a PR student whose had countless experience with internships, said “My classes have been beneficial, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve definitely learned the most when I was pushed into real-world experiences.”

But even getting that internship is one of the first of many steps to getting a job. So continue to develop relationships, network around, introduce yourself and talk to companies, keep reaching out, keep learning and never stop writing!

Good luck!

Interview with Stephen Waddington, Managing Director at Speed Communications

This week for my Interview Series, we’ve got Stephen Waddington, the Managing Director of Speed Communications, a UK-based PR agency.

This actually isn’t the first time Stephen’s appeared on my blog. He was one of the first PR professionals I interviewed for my post - Top 6 Career Tips from PR Professionals - and he provided some incredibly helpful advice:

Use your time at university to get ahead by immersing yourself in publishing tools and social networks. Build an online portfolio on LinkedIn, create a Twitter network and engage with PR practitioners and journalists, and create and publish your own content via a blog, Flickr, YouTube. You’ll stand out from the crowd and will create all sorts of connections that will put you in a strong position when you graduate and look for work.”

This time, Stephen discusses what he looks for when hiring new team members, using social networks to build professional relationships and PR blogging.

Q1. You’re the Managing Director of Speed, what are you looking for when hiring a new team member?

We’re looking for enthusiasm above all else and that is almost always best demonstrated through action.

Q2. How important do you think social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn are for building professional relationships and creating opportunities?

Twitter is particularly valuable as it completely democratises relationships. You can connect to anyone, monitor their feed and over time engage. But if you’re dull or you spam you won’t be followed back and ultimately you’ll be blocked.

Both LinkedIn and Twitter enable you to build relationships while you are studying. Graduates are able to enter the workplace with a ready built network.

Q3. Would you say that having a blog is absolutely essential for a PR student?

It’s not essential but it’s a good way to showcase your work and your opinions. But make sure that you do it well; a good blog will almost certainly get you hired. Yet the internet is littered lousy PR blogs that have been abandoned or aren’t managed properly.

Q4. In your opinion, what are the top 3 characteristics of a great PR professional?

  • Enthusiasm, 
  • Drive 
  • An understanding and engagement with the changing media landscape.

Q5. You’ve already provided us with some fantastic advice on how to get ahead with job hunting, but what would be your number one advice when it comes to developing a long and successful career in what seems to be a rather volatile industry?

Apply to join Speed.

***For more information visit Speed Communications or say hello to Stephen on Twitter @wadds***

Interview with Tabish Bhimani, Deputy Convener, Media Relations at World Partnership Walk

This week in the Interview Series, we have Tabish Bhimani, a communications professional from Montreal, Canada who is currently working with the World Partnership Walk; Canada’s largest fundraising event against global poverty. In this Q&A, Tabish discusses his love for PR, career paths, time management and the importance of social media and blogging for job hunting.

Q1. Looking back, what do you think was the number one reason that made you realise you want to work in the Public Relations and Communications industry?

When I took my first and only PR course, I learnt that PR is about creating win-win situations. It’s about creativity, its about people, and its about trust. This is in line with the way I think, and what better way to sustain that faith than to be a part of an industry that exists in that mindset? Every single person I have come across in PR or a similar field is about people. They are about helping people, about connecting with people, and about building relationships. And we’re about telling stories. These are the most natural human instincts. Getting paid to live life? Heaven yes!

Q2. At the moment you’re working as the Deputy Convener at the World Partnership Work, what type of career path led you to this current role?

Great question! My role as the Deputy Convener for Media Relations at the World Partnership Walk is a purely voluntary role. The Walk is run by volunteers, and a 100% of the funds raised go directly to development work, and not one cent is spent on administrative costs.

Since the spirit of volunteerism runs high in my community, what better an opportunity would present itself than working in Media Relations? I was suggested as the next DC for the Walk by my previous DC, Naila Jinnah (@NailaJ). I learnt a lot from her, and I continue to do so.

On a day to day basis, my involvement has been to write pitches, talk to journalists, scope opportunities to Talk the Walk, work on organic Social Media growth, and in general, get people involved in a wonderful, pragmatic cause. It was definitely the logical step for me to take in pursuing my career in PR. It was a great playground, we could try out new ideas, and at the same time, I could sharpen my skills working in a professional environment. It was kind of a year-long internship!

Q3. You’re also the owner of Konception, a development/design company, how’s that going?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. The entrepreneur gene runs through the veins in all of my family members. So even when I was 14, I started conducting business in the creative world. I started Milestones Montreal recently, which is an ethnic wedding planning company. The way I conduct business is through personal references. While studying, my time was limited, so I focused on working only with clients I knew through a personal reference. I wanted to evolve and so I moved on to event planning from design. Each activity I’ve undertaken has subsumed the previous and so design becomes an integral part of Milestones Montreal. I don’t spend a lot of time on either companies, marketing myself. So, how’s it going? Great! Just the way I want it to!

Q4. Between working, running your own company and managing your own blog, how do you find the time?

If there is one thing I learnt at university, it was time management. Being in the family business, running my own personal ventures, and keeping a blog, its difficult. I haven’t updated my blog in over a month. But remember, great content and great relationships last a long time. Life, technologies, ideas, and people. We all continue to evolve, to grow. So I want to keep updating my blog and touch base with my colleagues and associates to keep the spark alive.

Even now, I read some blog posts on PR Daily, and things that some of my most esteemed colleagues like Lauren Gray (@laurenkgray) share, and they spark great ideas for me to write blog posts on. My professor, Scot Gardiner who passed away last week said that he writes arbitrary thoughts and ideas on a piece of paper and puts them in a shoe box. Several months later he opens the shoe box and finds that the ideas have been talking to themselves, conspiring to create something greater! That’s what I’m doing with my involvements. We all evolve together. See? Win-win!

Q5. In your opinion, do you think having a blog is essential for all PR students?

A blog is essential. Most definitely. Why? You get a chance to hone your writing skills: brevity, wit, timing. You develop these through a blog, and in turn, they develop you. In our industry, writing is crucial, but so is non-verbal communication. Choosing the right photograph or imagery is also essential. A blog is like a playground. You get to do all these things AND you can track your progress.

I also want to quickly mention why timing is important. Just over two years ago when my previous university’s teaching assistants went on strike, I happened to be right outside the ratification hall at 10 PM. I asked one of them who had come out about what was going on. She shared the results with me. I went home, and promptly blogged about it. I have never, to date, received the number of unique hits that day. I was the first person to break the news. A blog allows you to appreciate the importance of timing. It is about relevance.

Q6. What about social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook?

To an outsider, all these social networks are the same. But I’ve picked up certain nuances about the networks. I don’t use Twitter for the same reason I use Facebook. My use of LinkedIn is admittedly limited, but I find several commonalities between Twitter and LinkedIn, at least for the PR Industry. I meet new people more on Twitter than I do on LinkedIn, and I meet some very cool people now on Facebook. Facebook is more private though, and not everyone who follows you on Twitter may want to be your Facebook friend. You have to experience the dynamics and take note.

A word of caution though, and this comes from my own experience. Don’t get on too many social sites and networks. Don’t create Twitter accounts and Facebook pages for the companies that are your clients as an obvious tool in your arsenal. This could really fall flat on its face. Do you have the resources to continue to manage those pages and profiles? Let it all be organic. Remember, its just an extension of real life, although the dynamics are altered. But behind every technology there is a person. Think of it this way: I want to talk to the Air Canada representative at the airport. They have a booth. But is there a person behind it? You have an account. But is someone monitoring it? Talking back? Get back to the basics.

Q7. And lastly, what’s the most importance advice you can give to a PR student?

I have only two pieces of advice. Believe in yourself. You are only limited because you haven’t tried. Hold true to your purpose which makes up your faith, and in everything you do, live your purpose. And be specific okay? The other piece of advice? Don’t sell yourself short. Especially to yourself.

***To contact Tabish, get in touch via Twitter @TabishB or check out his blog***

Interview with Dan Fonseca, Blogger and Communications Student

This week in the Interview Series, we have Dan Fonseca, blogger and communications student from New Jersey, talking to us about blogging, time management, personal branding, internships and job hunting.

Q1. What do you think was the one main reason you chose the media and communications industry?

Essentially, music was my gateway drug. My high school years were spent writing, playing, recording, and promoting my own music online. That was when I really first got exposed to social media. After initially going to Northeastern University for Music Industry, I found that it was too limiting and that I wanted to think about media on a larger scale. I had watched how the Internet had disrupted the music business and began to see the trends take hold in other industries. I guess my curiosity took over from there.

Q2. Looking at your LinkedIn profile, you’ve got quite a lot of things in the pipeline with your studies, blog, HypeGenius. How do you manage your time?

Lists. I am a self proclaimed stickie junkie. Until I starting using Evernote, my physical and digital desktops were stickie war-zones. I find that I free up “intellectual space and processing power” when I write things down as weird as that sounds. It also makes it easy to take a macro or micro view of a project or my life if need be. It essentially puts things into perspective and focus, I find that helps manage my time and priorities.

Q3. I’ve been reading your blog – Synapses – and judging by a few posts, it’s not your average communications student diary now is it? What are you aiming for with Synapses?

Synapses is really about breaking down mental models. I find that the disorientation that comes with the initial breakdown and the subsequent rebuilding not only forces me to understand ideas and notions better but also gives me more insight to them; sometimes even the opportunity to challenge them too.

Since it’s online for the world to see, it forces me to have a better grasp on it than I would generally have. In a way it is a check against my laziness. I am also reminded that it’s my reputation that I am playing with. In another light, it’s great to archive your thoughts. I can’t wait to look back a couple of years and see where I have grown.

Q4. In your opinion, how important is a blog for a communications student on a job hunt?

Personal branding is everything. I’d like to challenge everyone to develop a blog no matter how in depth they would want to go. The blog does wonders for the job search in my mind. The resume is great when you want to aggregate credentials and experience points but truthfully that is only part of the overall employment equation.

Company culture is critical. How will a resume and a short interview really get a grasp on whether you are a good match or not? In my mind, a blog communicates your thought process, values, and communication skills, all vital components to a proper employment situation. Let your blog separate you from everyone else. After all with competition always on the rise, what else are you doing to do?

Q5. Rank these in order of personal preference: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Personal Blog

Ouch that’s like picking a favorite child but you leave me no choice…

1. Personal Blog

2. Twitter

3. Facebook

4. YouTube

5. LinkedIn

Q6. What was your internship at Glassnote Records like?

Fantastic and terrifying. New York City can be overwhelming in all aspects. Getting used to the city’s speed and the people’s personality was initially tough. My time at Glassnote taught me a lot about the music industry but the real education take aways were in regards to small business relations, power dynamics, decision making, and ultimately how I felt towards what I learned.

It was more of a personal development opportunity than a traditional “experiential learning” internship. Loved it but I don’t think I would jump into it again. I would, however, recommend it to anyone. The people at Glassnote really know what they are doing.

Q7. What do you think are the top 3 most important things to keep in mind when looking for a job in the communications field?

  1. Learning and personal growth opportunities. Companies invest time and resources in you and you do the same. What are you getting from your “investment” apart from the unimportant, possible, monetary reward? How will this job help prepare you for the next chapter in the industry and your life?
  2. Freedom from the work place, you work to live not live to work. You need a proper balance between the both. You decided what that means to you.
  3. Play up that personal brand. Use all the tools available to communicate who you are, your strengths, dreams, and personal conflicts. What are you passionate about and how can you channel that towards the employment and self actualization process?

Q8. And lastly, for all the students out there looking to intern, what’s your number one advice?

Think of an internship as the safest way to fail miserably. Internships are a great way to “taste” industries, departments, companies, culture, and management. It’s better to find out that you HATE something before it’s too late. That gift is invaluable.

Nothing against the music industry and Glassnote Records but thanks to my internship I found out that I did not necessarily enjoy the record label atmosphere. For that, I can’t thank them enough. The opportunity to learn and bail after a period of time in any employment setting is rare outside of an internship. Don’t overlook this opportunity.

***To contact Dan, get in touch via Twitter @whoisdanfonseca or check out his blog Synapses***

Interview with Vu Nguyen, Director of Advertising at Residence Hall Association

This week in my Interview Series, we have Vu Nguyen, an advertising student from Lansing, Michigan, talk about his internship experiences, using LinkedIn to network and the importance of a portfolio.

Q1. So currently you’re completing a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising. What was it about the advertising industry that drew you in?

The creativeness of the field! I learned Photoshop my Sophomore year in high school and I thought it was the most amazing thing ever! So coming to college, looking at all of the different majors, minors, and specialization’s was quite overwhelming. After talking to some counselors about advertising, I had found my perfect degree!

Q2. You completed a couple of internships back in 2010, tell us what your experiences were  like?

I was a Freshmen in college at the time and was told I wouldn’t be able to get any internships because of my lack of experience. I managed to get two internships, one as a graphic designer for a realtor and a production’s intern for a government access channel. I learned a great deal about myself and advertising. Having an internship is a great way to receive real world experience, you make a lot of new friends and learn how to work in a team.

3. Did social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn play a part in finding internships?

Social networks did indeed play a huge role. I used LinkedIn a lot to connect with professionals from my city and they were impressed that I was contacting them and that led to a lot of opportunities.

4. How important do you think having a portfolio or blog is as part of a job hunt?

I think having a portfolio is one of the most essential things you could have. It displays your abilities and creativity, things you need in the advertising industry. If you don’t happen to have a portfolio, bring in a sketchbook with different designs or copy to show the company you’re full of ideas!

5. And lastly, what’s the most important advice you would give to a university student looking to get into an internship?

Some important advice I would give to students would be to NETWORK! People are here to help you, talk to friends, counselors, professors, and use university career pages to find employers who are looking for jobs or interns. I also definitely suggest having an online portfolio, it makes things a lot easier for you and the people who want to hire you!

***To contact Vu, get in touch via iBelieve.vu@gmail.com or check out his work at www.vunguyendesign.com and www.behance.net/believe***

Interview with Kelly Ahern [Blog and Content Manager at Astonish Results]

Up to this point in the series, we’ve had Gregory Tan, digital analyst at Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence, talk about his career path and the importance of internships. Next was Lauren Gray who provided some fantastic insight into her life as a PR student and intern.

This week, it’s Kelly Ahern from Rhode Island USA.

Kelly’s currently a blog and content manager at Astonish Results, a digital marketing firm, and she’s got some very interesting stuff to share about working in social media.

Along with a great interview, Kelly also had some writing advice for PR students:

Content is certainly king, so up-and-coming PR pros should make sure their writing skills are in tip-top shape before entering the working world. Crafting messages is critical, whether it’s a Facebook status update, a tweet, an email marketing campaign or press release.”

Q1. First of all, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Discuss your career path.

Truthfully, my career has only just begun. I was one of the lucky ones who happened to land an incredible job shortly after graduation. I worked a temporary event management position with the American Cancer Society before arriving at Astonish Results, but content and social media have always been in my blood. I began guest blogging for Little Pink Blog (formerly Little Pink Book PR) just 2 months shy of getting my diploma, and quickly realized that digital content was the way to go.

Q2. You’re currently the Blog and Content Manager at a digital marketing firm; tell us about your role there.

My role at Astonish Results really includes a little bit of everything. Being that we are a digital marketing firm, we pride ourselves on being a comprehensive Internet marketing resource. I began doing a lot of blogging – literally the day I arrived – and immediately jumped into social media management via Facebook and Twitter.

My position has evolved into the company’s content guru, I suppose you could say. I write pretty much every piece of text needed for both Astonish and our hundreds of clients—from email marketing campaigns, press releases, landing pages, flash script and beyond—and all of it has to be genuine, keyword-rich content that is highly optimized for the search engines. I also assist with social media strategy calls and blogger consults.

Q3. How important do you think is blogging for a PR student? Do you think those who don’t have a blog are necessarily at a disadvantage?

Blogging is crucial. It provides PR students with an outlet in which they can brand themselves as an innovative professional. It wasn’t until my senior year of college, when my PR professor made us create a professional blog that I realized how important blogging was.

Even creating something as simple as a WordPress blog with links to your professional social media accounts, insight into your career goals and samples of your work can bring you dramatic results. Think of your blog as your personal online portfolio—promote it and stick the URL on your resume, trust me it helps!

Q3. Rank these from most to least important for you: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Personal Blog.

1. Personal Blog
2. LinkedIn
3. Twitter
4. Facebook
5. YouTube
6. Tumblr

Q4. How did you go about networking and building relationships while you were still studying at uni?

It’s definitely hard to balance your need to network while also focusing on your studies—but what I found most helpful was finding ways that I could incorporate both. Attending guest speakers on campus, career fairs and participating in PR-related Twitter chats all allowed me to continue learning about the industry while also putting me into contact with PR pros and other PR students like me.

Q5. Having completed an internship while studying, do you think it’s essential that all PR students have some form of industry experience before graduating?

Absolutely. Internships are not only great resume boosters, but they allow you to see for yourself whether or not you really would enjoy working within a specific industry or atmosphere. For a while I thought I would want to work in radio promotions and entertainment PR, as great as my internship was, and as much as I learned; the experience also clued me into the fact that radio wasn’t where I was meant to be.

Interning also allows you to network and build up a professional database of credible professionals who may be able to either write you a recommendation or keep you in the loop about potential job openings—a total win-win.

Q6. And lastly, what’s the most important advice you can offer to a PR student?

The most important piece of advice I can offer PR students is to truly remain genuine. I’d have to say I never really met a PR student who wasn’t passionate about the industry, so let your enthusiasm and love for the career shine through. Soak up as much knowledge as you can and ask a ton of questions. Find someone who you can consider a mentor, someone who’s walked a similar path and has succeeded—their advice always tends to be the best. And never forget to have fun—you want to love your job and you career, so keep working and searching for that perfect opportunity, because it certainly is out there.

***To contact Kelly, get in touch via Twitter @kelly_ahern or through her LinkedIn profile linkedin.com/in/kellyahern***

Interview with Lauren Gray [PR Student and Intern]

Last week we had Gregory Tan, a digital analyst from Ogilvy, discussing his career path and the importance of internships.

This week, we’ve got Lauren Gray, a PR student and intern, whose blog Social PR Lifestyle! has taught me a lot about personal branding, PR internships, portfolios and online networking.

Q1. First thing’s first, tell us a little about yourself.

Well I’m Lauren Gray and I’m a senior Communication Major with a concentration in Public Relations and Minors in
Leadership and Marketing at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. Public relations, marketing and social media are my main interests. PRSSA, cooking, traveling and reading are my passions. My friends & my brother are probably the most important to me, but I’m crazy about my dogs as well.

I’m the new PRSSA National Vice President of Public Relations for the 2011-2012 year, an intern with Social Fresh, A&O Public and the WCU PR E-Marketing Department, Director of PR & Marketing for SGA and a News Writer and Social Media Coordinator for The Western Carolinian. I work a lot, but I love what I do!

Q2. You seem to be juggling a lot of roles presently, i.e. Editorial Assistant Intern at Social Fresh LLC, News Writer and Social Media Coordinator at The Western Carolinian. Not to mention your study workload. How do you cram it all in? Do you sleep at all?

Time management! Seriously. It’s a common word, but I really put it into practice every single day. Get Google Calendar and Google Docs – it really saved me. I honestly schedule out everyday, back-to-back hours from about 9 a.m. until at least 9 p.m. Yes, I work longer than that too. I have a different schedule every other day to change things up a little bit, but I like to know when and what I will be doing so I know I can get everything done.

Contrary to popular belief, I do sleep [I really do!] I average about 5-7 hours of sleep a night. Is that the best? Probably not, but it’s working for me now! I also invest in a lot of coffee.

I sometimes live in my office [one of three as well] as my best friend says, but I get a lot accomplished and I get everything done.

I’m really busy a lot, so I have to also schedule in time for my friends and my boyfriend. Some people may think that’s ridiculous, but I really do have to set times for people here and Skype chats with my friends across the country! I do make time for the people in my life. They are very important to me!

Q3. What’s your current internship like?

Which one? Haha!

I really love all three of my internships. They have been extremely valuable to me and provided me with numerous opportunities.

I just started with A&O PR, an arts focused PR agency, this week so I’m pretty excited about that! I will be doing social media and client management for them.

With Social Fresh, it’s something new everyday. I have a lot of responsibility from managing several blog contributors, finding links for Facebook and Twitter, helping with the Social Fresh Facebook and Twitter, helping manage InvestinSocial.com and anything else that needs to be done! I’m taking on more tasks with Social Fresh as well. It’s been a great experience!

For the WCU PR E-marketing internship, I manage the official WCU Facebook and Twitter pages, which has been a HUGE learning experience for me. A lot of people look to these pages for the latest WCU information and updates. I really learned how to deal with negative feedback quickly. Through this internship, I’ve definitely seen how important it is that news is updated 24/7 and that people want information immediately.

Q4. In your opinion, how important is an internship for a PR student as part of their career?

Extremely. More important than your classes, in my opinion. My classes have been beneficial, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve definitely learned the most when I was pushed into real-world experiences.

There’s nothing more eye opening than when you are in a real-world situation making decisions and getting real results. It’s your responsibility and reputation at stake.

You want to be able to have experience through an internship to show that you can put what you’ve learned in the classroom into real practice. You can learn all you want to, but are you obtaining that knowledge and putting into real skills?

Having internships also shows potential employers that you have experience and you have materials to prove you have done something and learned something. I suggest having at least two internships in various organizations, agencies, companies, etc.

Q5. How do you go about networking? Are social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter critical to your relationship building?

I do most of my networking online through various social media sites.

Twitter and LinkedIn have been the most critical to building up my network of connections. My blog has been a great resource for networking as well!

The Twitter chats have been the most beneficial to me. I learn so much on a weekly basis from my favourite chats like #PRstudchat, #u30pro, #pr20chat, #brandchat, #careerchat, #PRSSA and more! It’s a lot to keep up with, but there is so much information and dialogue in each chat.

I love LinkedIn because the discussions are also a great place for learning. It’s more than 140 characters and real conversation happens through these discussions. It’s also a great place to recommend people and find other connections through mutual friends. I’m really getting more into LinkedIn.

Facebook has been getting better for networking through the new group format. You can catch my conversation on a daily basis through the #PRstudchat, PRSSA and #u30pro groups on Facebook. A lot of conversations, questions, discussions and more go down in those groups.

I also attend quite a few conferences a year. Last year, I went to PRSSA National Conference in D.C., the ECU PRSSA Regional Conference, PRSSA National Assembly, Social Fresh Tampa, and a few more. Conferences are a great place to connect with people who really feel your passion for the industry!

Q6. And lastly, what’s the most important advice you can offer to a PR student looking to move into an intern position?

If you are looking for an internship position, start building your online reputation or “personal brand” and start making connections.

Don’t just talk to people just to talk to them or build followers, really connect with people, remember people and talk to people. Stay in touch with them!

Start putting your materials online in an online portfolio ASAP. Start a professional blog about topics, trends, questions, etc. in your industry or about your interests.

Get involved! Start talking to other students, interns and professionals online. They are there to talk to and connect with people as well. Get involved in the conversation through hash tag (#) chats and different discussions on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites.

Get involved with your industry and what’s going on. Stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends so you can discuss them in an interview or online through social media platforms.

Don’t be afraid to apply for positions across the country! Be open to the possibility of a virtual internship. I really think you can learn as much from a virtual internship as an office internship.

***To contact Lauren, get in touch via Twitter @laurenkgray or visit her blog laurenkgray.com***