Interview with Abby Stollar, PR Student and Intern at Inside Out Creative

This week for my Interview Series, we have Abby Stollar, a senior at the University of Delaware, majoring in Mass Communication and minoring in political science, political communication, and journalism. Abby discusses working at Inside Out Creative, her determination to stand out in a competitive job market and how she manages to write great content on a consistent basis.
1. First off, tell us a little about yourself – why PR?

I’ve always had a love for communication, especially writing. When I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a novelist and then later a magazine journalist. Once I was old enough to understand what “public relations” was, I knew that was a great way to combine my love for writing and communication and decided to pursue it in college. Soon, I loved anything and everything PR-related!

PR is all about symbiotic, two-way communication, and I love that aspect. It brings people together; it encourages conversation. Good PR is never selfish; it’s all about what’s best for a key audience or public.

2. You’re studying a combination of communications, journalism and political science. Where do you see your career path headed? Any plans for government communication roles?

 I am very interested in the public affairs part of public relations. Ultimately, I would like to be a legislative advocate for some type of non-profit organization. PR professionals are essentially advocates for their brand, and this advocacy concept translates nicely into the public affairs arena. I love to see how communication can help aid change, and the best legislative advocates can construct and communicate messages to help bring change to a group or community.

3. What was your role at Inside Out Creative like?

 This summer, I interned at Inside Out Creative, a full-service public relations, marketing, design, and social media agency, in York, Pa. Although I am back in Newark, Del., for my senior year, I am still a freelancer and work as on projects as needed.

My main responsibilities included developing and executing social media strategic plans for clients in the education, hospitality, and service industries. In addition, I did a little bit of everything – event planning, press release writing, speech writing, newsletter writing, and yes, more writing!

4. You seem to juggle a lot of roles; Director of Public Relations for the StUDent Government Association, a University Teacher’s Assistant for the Journalism Program, and an Events/Legislative intern at Autism Delaware, plus all those uni classes! How do you manage your workload?

The key is organization and sticking to a schedule! In addition to using my a planner, I use the “stickies” function on my computer and constantly keep to-do lists on my desktop. It’s also important to schedule far in advance; I always look at my schedule at least two weeks at a time so that I can proactively finish assignments and projects when necessary. And finally, I always schedule some “me” time by working out in the mornings. It helps de-stress me and start off each morning refreshed and ready for the long day ahead! I also drink a lot of coffee…honestly, what PR professional doesn’t?

5. You created a fascinating presentation about “My Journey to Avoid Unemployment” – what were the reasons behind this?

I’m really trying to explore more “digital” media and brand myself as a creative PR professional. I learned about Prezi a few months back and always wanted to try it, so I spent a few weeks this summer trying it out and developing this “digital” resume for myself. In a competitive job market, it’s always important to stand out, so that’s exactly what I’m trying to do!

6. Lately I’ve spent more time staring at a blank screen than actually typing, yet you seem to continually churn out great content. Any advice?

Well thank you for your compliment!  The best advice I can give is to always be looking around you for ideas and write them down when you have them!

For example, I got the idea for my latest piece about whether or not social media can ever be a 9-to-5 job, when I needed to contact Vistaprint’s customer service and realized that their PR team managed their Twitter account only from 9am to 5 pm.

Also, I’ll write about topics that I’m currently researching/interested in using for projects and in classes. My post about “Making your social media pitch” is based off of a presentation I gave in my upper-level PR management class. The presentation took me a long time to prepare and included doing a lot of research, so I wanted to maximize that by including it on my blog.

The other thing I’ll do is write blog posts whenever I have time (which honestly isn’t all that often, haha!) and save them to post at a later date. This way, I have a steady stream of content rather than posting a bunch during one week and then none the next. Over the summer when I had more time, I wrote a few posts to use over the course of the fall semester. However, some of my posts have to be timely (especially the political ones), so that “prepare ahead of time” mentality doesn’t always work out

7. And lastly, any tips for the communication students out there looking for their first internship?

Be proactive. That’s the best advice I can give. I feel like many students get overwhelmed and maybe even intimidated at the application and interview process for internships, but it’s not always like that. I always encourage students to look to non-profit organizations as a great place to start your internship career.

Non-profits are always looking for free help and will usually take on an intern who is willing to learn and to work. Those are great places to gain experience and will give you an edge later when going on to apply for bigger, more competitive internships. Seek out opportunities and you will be successful!

***To contact Abby check out her blog http://abbystollar.com or say hello @abbynicole1204***

Interview with Laura Skelley, Group Managing Director of Max Australia

For the latest addition to my Interview Series, we have Laura Skelley, Group Managing Director of Max Australia, discussing her career path, the differences between corporate, government and agency work, keeping up-to-date in the PR industry and much more.

1. So you’ve been in the PR industry for over 13 years now, can you tell us a little about your career path.

I began my career on the other side of the fence.  I initially interned at a radio station and a local TV station in the US during my undergraduate degree and then did a six month internship at CNN in Washington DC just before I finished uni during Bill Clinton’s first election for the presidency.

I was hooked!

Once I graduated I went to work for CNN in DC for several years, before moving to CBS in New York. After three years in New York producing for their affiliate service I decided to make the switch to PR in order to fulfil my desire to work in a more creative environment.

I began with a stint at Shandwick in DC working on a media relations team within their public affairs division.  After a holiday in Australia I decided it was time to try living overseas and applied to obtain my Master’s Degree at UNSW.  I then spent some time in Shandwick’s Seattle office working on technology accounts in the lead up to my move to Australia.

When I arrived in Sydney I did some freelance PR work while I completed my Master’s Degree in International Relations.  I then took the role of Senior Account Manager for a consumer agency, Beyond the Square where I worked on a range of consumer and FMCG accounts.  From there I went to 2iC as an Account Director heading up the B2B team for several years.

Finally, I was recruited to lead up Max Australia in 2007 and became Group Managing Director of Max Australia and its sister agency, Spectrum Communications, in 2010.

Both agencies specialise in technology PR and it was almost preordained that a girl from Seattle would find her home focusing on technology.

2. What’s your current role as Group Managing Director at Max Australia and Spectrum Communications like?

No two days are the same but every day is extremely busy!  No one ever tells you about all of the non-PR work that goes into running a successful agency.

From strategic development to crisis management, budget management to recruitment, providing senior council to our clients through to new business, and then creating and maintaining a positive, supportive culture on top of all that.  I keep a lot of information in my head at any one time.

For example, in the past month I have managed an office move, pitched a variety of new business, recruited new staff members, developed and launched a new staff review, mentoring and training programs and attended a variety of industry events, on top of day to day client work and the management of both businesses.

3. Your experience spans a wide range of sectors; developing corporate strategies, political speechwriting, working with not-for-profit organisations and now managing two agencies. What did you like / dislike about each sector?

One of the things I love the most about PR is the variety; constantly learning about new clients, monitoring changes in our industry and the media landscape and the fact that my day to day work is so diverse.

I have always loved writing and with my background covering politics, speech writing comes naturally to me.  I made the move to PR in order to become more creative so the process of brainstorming and developing new ideas and strategies for clients is always a highlight for me.

I also love problem solving so thinking of new ways to approach an issue or rapidly developing a response to a crisis are also areas of the job I enjoy.  If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would like developing financial reports or managing HR process I would have told you absolutely not – but it turns out that I have an aptitude for both and actually really enjoy those parts of my job as well.

4. As the communication industry evolves and becomes increasingly digital, what do you have do to stay successful as a PR professional?

As with anything, I read a lot!  Case studies of successful digital or social campaigns, thought leadership on the evolution of our industry, pretty much anything I can get my hands on.  I also attend a lot of industry events.

AIMIA is a client and I also actively attend as many of their educational events as possible.  I am a member of the PRIA and receive a lot of useful information from this network, as well as from a range of colleagues both in Australia and overseas.  I also use digital channels, such as a range of groups on LinkedIn and people I follow on Twitter to share information and keep up to date.

Spectrum Communications and Max Australia are IPMG companies which provides us with access to industry leading digital agencies and a range of extremely talented digital specialists.   We share best practice and knowledge across the group and call on each other’s expertise to provide added value to all of our clients.

5. How will this impact PR agencies of the future?

I think that we are already seeing an impact.

PR agencies need to work more closely with other types of agencies, as we do with the other IPMG Digital companies, in order to ensure that PR has a say in social media campaigns being driven by digital marketing or creative agencies.  PR is responsible for managing brand reputation and should always have a seat at the table, regardless of which agency actually executes the campaign.

I am not a great believer in siloed social media experts within a PR agency, as social media campaigns should always be integrated into the wider PR strategy and therefore are the responsibility of an entire account team.  That said, there will always be people who have more of an affinity within this area who will act as the leads on any social media activation.

6. You have a background in journalism, how do you think it’s helped you in your PR career? Do you think people working in PR should also have practical experience working in a newsroom?

I have definitely benefited from my background in news, but don’t think that it is essential creating a successful PR career.

I think that every PR practitioner needs to understand how a newsroom works, the elements that make up a compelling story, how to write in a way that will capture the attention of a journalist and what the day in the life of a journalist is actually like.

This can all be garnered from spending time with journalists, talking to them about what interests them, how they work and the pressures they may face.  I encourage all of our staff to meet with journalists on a regular basis to continually build relationships and further their understanding of the media landscape.

7. And lastly, what do you think are the top 5 most common characteristics of a great PR professional?

  • Creative problem solving
  • Curiosity and a desire to continuously learn
  • The ability to multi-task & manage time efficiently
  • Empathy – this is very important in successful account management
  • The ability to remain calm and think rationally in any situation
***To contact Laura, get in touch via @maxaustraliapr or visit www.maxaustralia.com.au***

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***

Interview with Jessica Ben-Ari, Account Manager at Bite Communications

For the latest addition to the Interview Series, we have Jessica Ben-Ari, an Account Manager from Bite Communications, joining us to talk about her career path, making the transition from journalism to PR, what it’s like working for an agency and the top 3 most important traits all PR pros should have.

Q1. As someone who’s originally from New York, how do you think the PR industry there differs from the one in Sydney? I’d imagine things move a lot quicker?

PR is fast paced no matter what corner of the globe you’re on.  I’d say the major difference is the fact that the US tends to be pretty US-centric – when I was working in New York, I only worked with brands and teams based in the US.  Being in Australia is exciting because of the diverse cultural exposure the proximity to Asia affords us.  I have clients based in Singapore and New Zealand, for example. The opportunity has certainly improved my time zone juggling skills!

Q2. What was your career path like?

I’ve been on the agency side my entire full time career.  It suits me – I love the fast pace, the client diversity and the unpredictability of what’s coming up next.  Though I mainly work with a tech clientele at Bite Communications, my background is rooted in the consumer sector.  I’ve worked with clients from a range of industries including fashion, beauty, food, spirits, travel, personal finance, pet food, housewares, health and more. Told you I thrive on diversity!

Q2. You studied journalism back when you were in college but made the transition to public relations. Any particular reason for that?

Writing is a must-have core skill for every PR professional, and it’s always been one of my favourite parts of the job, which is one of the reasons I wanted to study journalism in college. Journalism demands certain disciplines that serve you well in PR, too – timeliness, the ability to craft a story, attention to detail are chief among them.

I actually never intended to go into PR. I graduated at 21 with a CV full of journalism internships, and while I was primed for an editorial career, it was more important to me at that young age to graduate school and find an office I liked to be in everyday.  When you’re used to being a student, the biggest job within your first job is making the transition to a 9-5 mentality, and my priority was finding a company that I liked spending so much time with, and a team which would help me transition from student to professional.  For me, that first full time job happened to be with a boutique PR agency, and the rest is history!

Q3.What sort of journalistic skills do you think would greatly benefit PR professionals?

As I said, writing is key.  These days, it’s common for the first contact with a client, international colleague or journalist to be through email.  Nothing makes me cringe like a poorly written email!  Aside from writing ability, tact and diplomacy are key.  Whether having a tough conversation with a client or negotiating costs with a vendor, you’ve got to know how to walk the fine line between assertive and stubborn or rude.  Finally, sense of humour.  PR is a fun profession, so let’s not forget it, even during the high stress times.  I once had a boss who had to remind me, “it’s PR, not ER.” Even when things get super stressful, I try to remember that!

Q4. Craig Pearce, an Australian communications professional, wrote two great blog posts comparing agency roles versus in-house roles. As someone whose worked in PR agencies their whole career, what would you describe as the pros and cons of agency life?

For me, the opportunity to work with a variety of brands on any given day makes coming to work exciting.  There’s not much of a chance of getting bored at a busy PR agency, which is a major pro for me.

Agency life makes you a well rounded professional and keeps you on your toes.  I’ve also made many personal friendships dealing with the media so frequently, so I appreciate the social aspect of agency life.  And another thing – agencies tend to be hot beds of expertise.  On any given day, I’ve got exposure to digital experts, video gurus, extraordinary event planners and creative geniuses, all sitting within a few meters of my desk.  How lucky am I?

Cons…hmm.  Finding and maintaining balance in your day can certainly be a challenge.  You might be out all day with one client only to find that another has a sudden deadline and needs your input.  One day we’ll find a way to clone PR people, I’m sure of it!

Q5. What would you say are the top 3 most important traits of a great PR pro?

  1. Attentiveness to news and events: always be on the lookout for opportunities to tell your clients’ stories.
  2. Think and act quickly: whether it’s a journalist on a deadline or a client request, PR people need to be able to grab the ball and run with it to maximise results.
  3. Master the basics: it might seem obvious, but deserves to be said again and again. Written and verbal skills are still the cornerstones of success in PR, whether you’re writing a proposal or a 140 character Tweet.

Q6. And lastly, any advice for the PR students out there looking for their first internship / job?

You’ve got a long career ahead, so follow your heart and focus on finding a company that you love, where you feel you’ll be able to develop as a professional.  You may think you know exactly what you want to do (I certainly thought I had it all figured out at 21!) but give yourself the permission to dabble in all sorts of industries.  Ah, and another thing – don’t Tweet or Facebook anything you wouldn’t want your mother to read – chances are you wouldn’t want your first boss to read it, either!

***To contact Jessica, get in touch via Jessica.ben-ari@bitecommunications.com***

A Day in the Life of Mohnish Prasad, Business Development Manager at Jump On It

While the series so far has focused mainly on PR professionals, I thought it would be cool to branch out to other similar industries.

Mohnish is currently the Business Development Manager at Jump On It –  one of the largest group buying organisations in Australia – with a role that’s focused on using social media to connect businesses with new markets.

But besides working for a company that boasts an awesome name, Mohnish is also a budding rock star, self-declared table tennis champion and recovering poker addict. How does he juggle all of this? Well, seems like playing on the PS3 after work is the answer!

READY, STEADY, GO!

6.30am – Wake up from hibernation to shower and get ready for work

7.00am  – leave home and drive to the station

7.30am – On a train heading into the city. I like  the train because it give me time to check and respond to emails, get latest industry news, update Facebook while ignoring numerous friend requests from randoms, check twitter feed. I like to listen to some tunes on my iPod while all this is in progress .

8.20am – Arrive at office for a new day of work, check emails at office and respond to any urgent ones.

8.30am – Team meeting to go through previous days sales results and month to date results and forecasts.

9.00am – New business lead generating and lead washing to ensure client is not being contacted by multiple people. Cold calling

10.30am – Quick break go for a quick walk to the harbour.

10.45am – Back in office to continue cold calling and lead generating

12.30 pm – Lunch I like to go out and eat lunch by the harbour but if its really busy I just eat at my desk or in the office kitchen

1.30 pm – Back in the office. Cold calls are done for the day, follow-up appointments set, contracts sent out and majority of new client pitching done. Send out emails to these clients

2.00pm– Follow up and reconnect with warm leads and with clients who I already manage. I like to keep the line of communication open so my existing clients can bounce marketing and sales ideas off of me and I can provide them with any feedback.

3.30pm – Quick break another walk around the harbour while snacking on something yummy or tuna..which is not in the yummy category but is still considered food.

3.45pm – Chase up any outstanding contracts

4.30pm – Respond to emails and start planning and reviewing campaigns that are yet to go live.

5.30pm – Pack up and head to the train station to continue working on leads and planning for the next day on the way home.

6.45pm – Arrive at gym and start work out.

8.00pm – Leave gym and head home for some dinner and relaxation.

9pm – Shower,  eat, watch some Foxtel, DVD with my sister or play some PS3 to unwind.

11pm – In bed, ready to sleep

***To contact Mohnish, get in touch via mohnish.prasad@jumponit.com or through his LinkedIn***

Interview with Gregory Tan [Digital Analyst at Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence]

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Gregory Tan a Digital Analyst at Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence. In the interview, Gregory talks about his career path, current role, internships and provides advice for PR students.

Q1. First thing’s first, tell us a little about yourself. What type of path led you to your current position at Ogilvy Public Relations  Worldwide?

To be honest, I started out by falling into Public Relations. My first internship during my first year of   University was at a small PR and events agency, and – as   any PR intern would know – I spent much of my time coordinating press clippings and calculating the value of the PR coverage for clients. In my 2nd year of Uni, I interned at the Reputation Group, which had an affiliated internship program with the University of Melbourne, which I attended, so I continued with my exposure and experience with PR.

In my 3rd and final year I completed a 3rd internship with Ogilvy Public Relations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I’m originally from – and I can quite safely say that that’s where I fell in love with PR and agency life, even if I didn’t realise it then. To be honest, it took some time to become clear and firm about the path I wanted my career to take, and I started work at an online start-up in Melbourne. It was an extraordinary opportunity with an extraordinary team, but I slowly came to the realisation that I wanted my career to move in another direction, and at that juncture there was a position in Sydney that was open – and I applied for it. The rest just fell into place.

Q2. I’ve noticed on your LinkedIn profile that besides working at Ogilvy, you’re also co-founder and social media strategist at Meld Magazine? Is that an organisation you’ve built up on the side?

I suppose you could say that! I worked with Karen Poh (the current editor of Meld Magazine) in a cafe during my student years. She was a journalist at the time, and she approached me with the idea for Meld Magazine – an online magazine dedicated to supporting media students and integrating international students in Melbourne with the local culture. I said yes to partnering with her, and it all went on from there – it’s a fantastic stepping stone for all sorts of media students. It aims to provide experience for students in fields ranging from journalism, to photography, to marketing.

Q3. Give us a brief overview of your role as Digital Analyst

The Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence practice is Ogilvy’s social media arm. As a digital analyst, I compile and coordinate listening reports, analyse competitor and client campaign data to make informed and insightful recommendations that contribute to our digital strategy.

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

Incredibly so – I can’t stress this enough. I understand the allure of spending holidays kicking back after a long, stressful semester, but I’m a firm believer in internships. I think that as students, it’s often difficult to know what and how you want your future career to be positioned, and that’s where internships come in – they’re partly a form of self-discovery, of knowing whether you’ll actually like what you’re studying, and which parts of it you want to concentrate on, to build your career towards.

It’s also a great way to build your professional networks – I, for one, am quite sure that a large part of the reason I was hired at Ogilvy 360 DI was my experience with OPR in Malaysia, and with The Reputation Group (now OPR Melbourne). Besides being a great way to get a foot in the door (in an industry that’s notoriously difficult to enter), its great experience for your resume. It shows initiative and graduate experience (which is now critical in getting employed after leaving university).

Q6: How did you go about networking? Were social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter critical to your relationship building?

I’d say they’re definitely fantastic tools, and they definitely help. I’ve used them to find out about many, many positions with many large organisations – so many agencies these days hire solely through social media platforms, based on the belief that if you’re not on them, you don’t deserve the position! These days, it’s more important than ever to have a solid social media presence as well. It’s not uncommon for employers to run a thorough search about you during the interview process, so make sure that all the necessary privacy settings are in place, and that you’ve also contributed meaningfully towards the industry.

Whether it’s via Twitter or a blog, proof that you’re legitimately passionate about the industry will take you far. PR students are expected to understand the space, because we’re meant to be “digital citizens” – but responsible maintenance of your footprint is critical. Being aware of how you come across to others – especially when asking for advice or information – is quite important. Be friendly, but professional.

Q7. And lastly, what’s the most important advice you can offer to a PR student looking to graduate in the near future?

Do as many internships as you can. Build your professional networks. Don’t be shy (it’s never worth it). Read about industry news. Know the key players. Have initiative. And lastly, love what you do! It makes it all worth it in the end.

***To contact Gregory get in touch via Twitter @thebreg or visit his about.me page***

Top 6 Career Tips from PR Professionals

For all those out there who were inspired by these illustrious career paths, here’s a few tips on how to develop a long and successful career in the PR industry.

6. Get creative with job applications

“Approach agencies you’re interested in working for, directly – and in a way that reflects the agency’s personality. In today’s competitive landscape your CV and approach needs to stand out. Speed is always impressed by proactive, creative people – and these graduates always win points over grads that are relying on a recruitment agent to work on their behalf” – Clare English | Business Development Director | Speed Communications

5. Well-roundedness trumps all

“Learn to write well; learn to speak well; learn to understand what makes people and organisations work well. PRs require a good general knowledge and a good feel for issues and how events and experiences are perceived by different people from different perspectives. Last, but not least, keep things simple and clear” – Paul Seaman | Founder | 21st Century PR Issues

4. Make sure employers know you

“Be visible before you need to be visible, e.g., make sure PR agency leaders “know” you via Twitter (and other social networks) before they even see your resume.  Share relevant content – including as much of the agency-related content you can find and make your prospective employers feel as if they are important to you; that you value their content and insights” – Todd Defren | Principal | Shift Communications

3. Hustle and participate

“You have to get creative about generating experience. Volunteer to help out a not-for-profit — they always need help. Get internships and work your butt off. Assemble a portfolio that shows your work. Blog and use multimedia…ask and answer questions on LinkedIn, Ragan and Melcrum. Network like crazy! Look up #prstudchat on Twitter — you’ll meet fellow students and educators, as well as professionals — they do a twitter chat monthly that’s worth participating in” – Sean Williams | Founder | Communication Ammo

2. Produce and curate content

“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” – Stephen Waddington | Managing Director | Speed Communications

1. Read, learn, write, read, learn, write, read, learn and WRITE!

“Write as much as you can. It is very difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear when it comes to writing. You generally either have it or you really have to work extra hard. And even if your writing skills are silky like Cesc Fabregas’ dribbling, you still need to work at it. What helps with this is reading. No, not reading frigging tweets and FB posts, but literature. You know, books. And real writers, not Dan Brown. For example, Faulkner, Dickens, De Lillo, White. Etcetera. The other thing you need is work experience. That gets you work. That = experience. That gets you your first job. Then it’s up to you. But never stop learning. Never switch off. A dead switch is a dead life. Your call” – Craig Pearce | Founder | Strategic Communication

8 Career Paths from PR & Marketing Professionals

A few weeks back I reached out to a few dozen PR / marketing / communication professionals; asking them about their first step into the industry, their career paths and what type of advice they’d give to aspiring students or people wanting to make a transition. Fortunately, my emails weren’t totally ignored – quite the contrary actually – and I received overwhelming responses from the professionals in UK, United States and of course, Australia.

So before I start, I’d first like to thank Clare English, Mohnish Prasad, Paul Seaman, Todd Defren, Sean Williams, Stephen Waddington, Theresa Bui, Mark Pinsent, Craig Pearce, Andrew Smith, Paul Roberts and Mandi Bateson. Everybody contributed more than enough for this blog post and I believe their advice will be invaluable for anyone interested in the PR / marketing / communications industry.

I’m currently studying for my PR degree and I think as a student, the most daunting task is taking your first step into the industry, especially these days when the communications industry is moving so fast and the simple process of applying for a vacant position is no longer enough.

Reading the responses from the people I interviewed, it’s clear that getting into the PR industry is increasingly getting more and more difficult, you’ve got to learn how to reach out and network like crazy, adapt your writing skills to the online environment, learn how to use a range of media platforms, not to mention keeping abreast with relevant social media, current affairs and technological updates. But hey, if it was easy, everybody would be trying to get into this super cool profession right?

1. MOHNISH PRASAD | Business Development Manager | Jump On It

As a Business Development Manager at Jump On It, Mohnish is a prime example of an unpredictable career trajectory. Initially interested in television production, he worked on short films and advertising campaigns as a production assistant. However, Mohnish started developing an interest for sales and marketing and after completing his Advanced Diploma in Advertising and Media Studies, he landed a role at Sensis Pty Ltd working in the White Pages sales department.

During his first year Mohnish was made Senior Account Manager in charge of retaining and upselling clients with a portfolio of over $2.4 million in annual revenue and after 2 years, was promoted to a Sales Management role where he was “responsible for looking after a multi-state sales territory and delivering the targets in each of our market areas.” Currently, Mohnish is working for Jump On It, one of the largest group buying organisations in Australia, connecting “social marketing with businesses and helping them utilise our massive Facebook community to deliver them booming sales results from new markets they have never tapped before.”

2. CLARE ENGLISH | Business Development Director | Speed Communications

Clare is currently the Business Development Director at Speed Communications (UK). She initially chose a career in public relations because she fancied working publishing or journalism and she was lucky enough to develop a work placement opportunity into a full-time position at PR agency in London. She spent 4 years there before hopping over to healthcare division at a mid-size agency then settling down at BMA Communications as an account executive.

In 2009, after BMA Communications merged with 2 other agencies to form Speed Communications, Clare was made business development director and put in charge of promoting the company to potential clients. Her present role is a combination of sales, marketing, PR and she’s responsible for “managing new business pitches, advising on programme strategy, and helping to ensure that our business is developing both financially and from a culture and service perspective.”

3. TODD DEFREN | Principal | SHIFT Communications

As the Principal at SHIFT Communications, Todd Defren has undergone major transitions throughout his career. He started out with a part-time job at a local newspaper, creating events calendar, before scoring the gig-of-a-lifetime “writing press releases at a multi-billion dollar company in New York.” Todd rose through the business and within 2 years, he was managing a lot of the PR activities. After moving to another organisation in Boston, he was made VP within 5 years, and eventually, along with a few colleagues bought out the company and re-named it SHIFT Communications.

4. SEAN WILLIAMS | CEO | Communication AMMO, Inc.

Sean Williams admits that he got into the “PR / communications profession a little by accident.” Sean was in KeyCorp’s management associate training program when he spent about a year working in a corporate relations office. After finishing the training program and becoming a bank branch manager, Sean discovered that he missed the communications side and became a communications manager at KeyBank.

From there, he was made executive communications manager at the corporate HQ, got promoted to VP and then senior communications manager, but then decided to leave KeyBank for a small communications consultancy where he “trained literally thousands of managers and conducted strategic planning sessions, sparking my interest in being an educator.” After a couple of jobs at Goodyear – manager of internal communications and editorial services – Sean founded his own consultancy in 2009 and began teaching at Kent State University, where he still there to this day.

5. MARK PINSENT | Head of Digital | Shine Communications

Mark Pinsent has been involved with PR agencies for about 18 years now – not bad for a guy who started out studying Computer Science at university right? After completing his studies, Mark travelled for a few months before realising marketing was something he was interested in. On the advice of his father’s friend, he wrote to over 100 companies in search of a job and managed to land some work experience at a small PR agency. It was from there where Mark developed invaluable experience and gave him the confidence to approach bigger and more established agencies. It turns out that his “practical experience in PR allied to my degree in computer science was irresistible” to employers and he found himself as an Account Executive at Text 100 – UK’s leading tech PR agency at the time. After spending the next 8 years “working with some great clients” and beginning a freelance career, Mark is now the head of digital at Shine Communications.

6. ANDREW SMITH | Director | escherman

Like a lot of PR professionals, Andrew Smith began his career working as a journalist. Back in the day, Andrew thought PR stood for “proportional representation,” and he had no idea “entire industry existed to provide me with information to help me write my stories.” Not to mention his boss at the time distrusted the PR profession, advising Andrew to “avoid having to deal with a PR person as much as possible.” Funny how things turned out huh? Andrew went to work for a small PR firm “interviewing major international publishing figures as a journalist to sourcing plastic cool boxes for a client promotion in my first week in PR.”

Following his passion for technology, Andrew then moved to another PR agency as a tech specialist, managing clients like Borland International. The next few years after that, he went through a range of PR tech and management roles; started up his own marketing communications agency and for his latest venture “founded escherman as a specialist online PR, social media, search and analytics consultancy.”

7. PAUL ROBERTS | Communications Professional | Davies Murphy Group

Paul Roberts is another PR professional who got his start as a journalist. After completing an associate degree in journalism, Paul was “offered a number of positions with local newspapers – making an hourly wage that wouldn’t pay for my gas money.” His dreams of making a decent living writing for a newspaper evaporated in that moment. Paul went back to school, graduated with a degree in communications and found a couple of jobs in the Boston area working with B2B high technology PR agencies. Skip to present day, 15 years later, Paul’s worked at countless agencies, a couple of side corporate gigs, has his own blog http://paulrobertspr.com/ and found himself “with a ton of good experience and a career path I never expected.”

8. MANDI BATESON | Digital Director | Hill & Knowlton

After high school Mandi enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (Creative Arts) where she majored in writing and theatre. Despite her passion for her majors, she found herself disillusioned with uni life and ended up deferring her degree. From there, she moved into retail and hospitality which took her all over the world –Snowy Mountains, London and Stratford-upon-Avon – and discovered her love for promotions at a restaurant she worked at.

Soon after, Mandi went through a couple of marketing / events coordinator roles and learnt everything she could about “CRM/database management; trade media relations; web design, maintenance and copy; DM and eDM campaign management; advertising creative, planning and buying; event management; sales lead generation – you name it, I did it.” Mandi is now the digital director at Hill & Knowlton (Sydney) and gets to combine her passion with her career and sums up the role as “creating engaging campaigns where the audience is active and receptive.”