Interview with Caroline La Rose, Consultant at Max Australia

This week for my Interview Series, we have Caroline La Rose talking about her role at Max Australia, the gap between public relations in university and the real world, the importance of social media and improving her PR skills.

1. First off, tell us a little about your career path. What made you choose public relations as a profession?

As an undergraduate uni student, I did my bachelor’s degree in communication science which is very broad and touches upon a little bit of everything – public relations, advertising, marketing, mass communications, journalism, etc.

During my undergraduate course back in Mauritius, I did a few PR internships for not-for-profit organisations as part of my program. And as a result of some fulfilling hands on experience and all the high grades in my PR subjects, I decided to pursue my uni studies and do a Master’s degree in Communication Management majoring in PR at UTS.

Being an international student at the time, I unfortunately couldn’t afford to undertake any PR internships here as I needed a job that would pay my bills. Moreover the legal 20 working hours a week for international students is barely enough to cover all your expenses as a student. As soon as I completed my MA, I got my first real job in the PR industry where I first started off as an intern.

2. You’ve completed a BA in Communication Science as well as a MA in Communications Management. Did you find that your MA gave you any particular advantage while looking for jobs?

To be honest, no it didn’t. Let me explain.

I think experience trumps qualifications in the PR industry. I not only lacked experience but I didn’t have any local experience in Australia. This made my job hunt very difficult and I don’t think my MA gave me an advantage. Qualifications help if you have the necessary experience to back it up. My uni qualifications would have been a plus if I already had 2-5 years experience up my sleeve.

3. Did you find that what you learnt at university differed greatly with what you were doing on the job, or would you say university adequately prepared you for the real world?

I really enjoyed my uni years and I developed a lot of fundamental skills such as writing, research, multi-tasking and problem solving. But while learning the basics of communications and the relevant theories are important in getting a good grasp of what public relations is all about, nothing compares to real hands-on experience. You have to be on the mine field to gradually develop and grow as a PR professional and learn stuff that are not found in books such as learning how to think on your feet, or the realities of media and client relations.

4. Did social networking services like Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. play a big part in securing your first job at Bite Communications?

I got my first job in Australia in March 2009 and at the time the only social networking site I was on was Facebook. I had no idea what Twitter was and I had a profile on LinkedIn but I was not using it very often. As I started out in a tech PR agency, I was thrown into it and that’s when I started to become ‘active’ on Twitter.

The PR industry is fast evolving towards everything digital and especially when working in tech PR, I had no choice but to delve straight into it. Many businesses nowadays want to establish a social media/digital presence and as PRs, it is our job to recommend which social networking sites will be best suited for them and very often it is also our job to disseminate messages, maintain ongoing conversations and engage with our clients’ audiences through the various social media websites.

The importance of social media in PR has grown significantly over the past two years or so. When I secured my first job in Australia, social media definitely didn’t have the same importance as it does nowadays. While it didn’t play a big part in securing my first job, it certainly weighted a lot in securing my second job at Max and I believe it is now a compulsory criteria in the PR industry.

5. What’s your role at Max Australia like?

My role as a Consultant at Max involves a lot of proactive pitching, media relations and client liaison. It is a very dynamic role and I have to make sure I’m across everything happening on the accounts I’m working on.

In any PR agency, team work is imperative and in my current role at Max, I am lucky to work with strong teams and that makes my day to day job so much more enjoyable. As a consultant, I am constantly working with everyone at all levels across the team. This not only helps me to improve my delegation skills but it also helps to work on my upper management skills which are just as important, if not more so. Letting your managers know where you’re at with a job, asking for advice, having them review your work and speaking up your ideas are fundamental to my role at Max.

As a consultant I also get to manage small projects of which I take total ownership. I see every project as a great opportunity for me to develop strong managerial skills in a safe environment. I know that I have the team as my safety net and that I can turn to them if I need any help, guidance or advice. Every project that gets assigned to me is a real challenge and getting strong results provide a great sense of achievement.

6. Where do you see yourself in the future? Any particular sector of the PR field you’d really like to experience?

One of my mentors when I first started out in PR once told me that if you have significant experience in tech PR, you can do any other type of PR you want. At the moment I’m living my newly started career by those wise words. My focus for now is to build on my experience in the tech PR industry and work my way up.

If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that I never thought I’d do tech PR but I’m happy I’ve fallen into it. Working in tech is like a never ending steep learning curve because of the dynamic nature of technology. The fact that I’m constantly learning new things everyday keeps me challenged and stimulated in my job. So to answer your question, I think I will remain in tech PR for a while and after that who knows, according to a very wise man, the PR world will be my oyster by then!

7. And lastly, with PR evolving at such a dynamic pace, how do you stay up-to-date with industry news and trends while at the same time improving your skills as a PR practitioner?

To finesse one’s skills as a PR practitioner, it is mandatory to stay on top of industry news and trends. So, in my opinion both work hand in hand. Although agency life is very fast paced, I always make the time to read the news every morning for various different reasons:

  • To be on top of industry news and trends
  • To seek new opportunities for my clients via rapid response pitches
  • To monitor coverage for my clients
  • To stay on top of what topics will catch the interest of journalists
  • To find new angles to pitch my clients to media
  • To flag any articles that might be of interest to my clients –competitor news, industry news, upcoming events etc.

***To get in touch with Caroline say hi on Twitter @carolinelarose or check out her LinkedIn profile***

Interview with Aubrey Hamlett, Intern at Milkk PR

This week for my Interview Series, we have Aubrey Hamlett, an intern at Milkk PR and also founder of “”My Interning Life” – a blog about university students and interns in the media sector.

1. You run a fantastic blog called My Interning Life, dedicated to profiling university students. Where did this idea come from?

My Interning Life came about because of a university assignment. In Online Journalism Production, we are required to create a Twitter account, start a blog and create our own website. The website will also contain the content from our blog and we are required to blog once per week with approx 500 words.

I think the idea came to me just out of discussing it with friends. Or perhaps after waking up, because I have on my notepad on my desk “ideas for blog: interns.” It became the logical decision to create My Interning Life as it was something I was currently experiencing and was interested to hear other stories from students.

As I said in my introductory post, I was shocked to find so few students interned. At my uni, it’s not compulsory to do an internship or work experience, but there is a subject where students are required to participate in a certain amount of work experience.

2. What was it that attracted you to the PR industry?

To be honest, I knew little of the PR industry. I have literally fallen into it. My brother’s girlfriend Eden knew that I wanted to gain experience. Eden is a co-editor of a group of independent magazines and she messaged me one day saying that Milkk PR had an opening for an intern and said I would fit in perfectly.

I honestly thought nothing of the email I sent to my future boss, Shereen. I explained what I did at uni (Bachelor of Media Studies, majoring in Journalism) and said I didn’t know much about PR but was willing to learn.

I suppose PR has always interested me and that’s ultimately why I decided to email Shereen. It’s something that I felt was different and would challenge me outside of my university studies.

3. What was your internship there like?

Milk Kiddle Langmaid PR is not your typical work place. We’re based in Shereen’s home office in Brighton and we all bring our laptops and work together while gossiping, snacking on chips and dip, drinking beyond coconut water and chai tea.

On my first day I worked on updating databases, something which I learnt is crucial to PR. Databases and contacts are key to getting information, press releases etc. out to the media industry and pleasing the client.

It’s a very friendly and relaxed environment. But we are also very hard working. It’s always satisfying knowing I’ve done a good job or have found what Shereen needs on that particular day. I’ve been at Milkk for 6 ½ months now and am just starting to gain more confidence with my responsibilities at Milkk.

4. I’ve spoken to quite a few PR professionals in the past year and the issue that keeps coming up is the gap between what you learn in university and what actually happens on the job. Would you agree with this?

I would have to agree.

There isn’t any hands on experience, it’s all theory repeated in different ways in each subject. My university (La Trobe) has an online magazine upstart which is edited by a small group of chosen students in their third year or are grad students. However, if this subject was run for an entire class semester by semester, I think it would be beneficial to future students to learn how editing and publishing works.

If they made the internship subject compulsory for all media/journalism students, that would be the best thing. Getting out there and interning or doing work experience is crucial to understanding the industry you’re studying. It’s also crucial in deciding if your chosen industry is the right career path for you. Hence why I am going to seek out more work experience in newspapers and sports clubs, to see if those areas are what I really want to work in.

5. Did social networking services like Twitter, Facebook, etc. play a part in securing an internship?

Yes. Eden contacted me through Facebook and I believe Shereen ‘advertises’ on her Facebook page for interns. Twitter is also beneficial, as I have made contacts with media industry people, which I am hoping to make use of in the next few months. I tweeted an article I had written to a professional sports player and he read it. I then met him after a game and introduced myself. He has referred me onto the media manager. Fingers crossed I will be interning with this sports organization early next year.

6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is there a particular sector of the communications field that you’d really love to work in?

2011 has quite literally thrown me through a loop. I would have never imagined interning in PR, let alone be imagining a career in sports Media/PR. A year ago I would have answered this question as working for ACP, Cosmopolitan in Sydney. Today I don’t know where I’ll be in five years. I have a feeling I’m being nudged in the sports media/PR direction but I really need to find out if this is the right path for me.

In five years, I want to be happy, passionate and successful at my job within the media.

7. And lastly, what are the top 3 blogs you read to stay up-to-date with the PR industry?

I read a lot of blogs, that PR dude is certainly very good and insightful. I find that a lot of PR students are on twitter, but don’t necessarily blog about it. I also read my friend, James Purcell’s blog, The Purcell Report. As I am new to this whole industry, I recommend keeping tabs on Prospect 360 for their PR and media seminars.

**To contact Aubrey say hello on Twitter @aubreyhamlett or check out My Interning Life***

Interview with Jamie Garantziotis, PR Manager of Regional / Corporate Social Media at Southern Cross Austereo

This week for my Interview Series, we have Jamie Garantziotis who is currently working as the PR Manager of Regional / Corporate Social Media at Southern Cross Austereo. Jamie discusses his career path, internships, keeping up with the PR industry and provides some insight into New York’s PR scene.

1. You graduated with a BA (Media & Communications) in 2007 and went on to complete a Master of Communication in 2009. Were there any particular reasons this? Did you find that it benefitted during job hunting?

I didn’t have a straight path into the study of PR. When I finished school I realized that I really enjoyed the world of media and communications but didn’t know where within that broad field I wanted to focus my studies – hence the reason I chose to study Media & Communications  at The University of Melbourne.

I remember that it was during my third year study at Melbourne that I knew I wanted to move in the direction of PR and Corporate Communications. Given that my education to date had been highly theoretical, I wanted to gain practical PR experience, so I headed to Queensland to undertake my Masters study at Bond University. Looking back, the practical training and experience most certainly helped me develop as a professional and to find a job post study.

2. Can you tell us a little about your career path?

During my Masters, I had two internships in PR agencies, working across clients in a range of sectors.

At the same time, I worked part time in Communications for the University’s Executive Education program. After finishing, I returned to Melbourne. The first thing I did was to connect with industry professionals and the local IABC chapter to begin volunteering.

After four months of searching and applying unsuccessfully, I was visiting my brother on the Gold Coast and after re-connecting with a Bond University professor received an email about a PR/Communications role with my current employer – Southern Cross Austereo (then Southern Cross Media). Having been recommended for the role, I stayed on the coast for an interview and within two weeks had been offered the position and jumped back on a plane to Queensland.

After the business merged with Austereo earlier this year, I’ve since moved to work within the Marketing & Communications team back in Melbourne as the Regional PR Manager.

3. What were your internships like? Did you find that they gave you a better idea of which areas of PR you liked / disliked?

My internships were all incredibly different but a lot of fun and excellent learning experiences. No two agencies are exactly alike, and I found that working within different teams and across different sectors did give me a good mix of experience and a better of idea of the industries and practices I enjoyed more than others.

That said; I was only able to find this out by giving everything a go. If I was asked to assist on a fashion account, I would. If I was asked to assist on a legal services client, I would. If I could give current students one piece of advice, it would be to undertake as many internships and gain as much experience as possible.

4. With the online and digital world moving so quickly, how do you find yourself keeping up-to-date with the communications industry?

Seth Godin wrote a great blog post a few weeks ago about the fact that with so many great minds publishing so much content so quickly, we seem to have de-valued this data and information given that it is in such huge supply.

I like to mix up the types of content I consume – most commonly blogs and podcasts. I have a Bloglines account that feeds through all the blogs I subscribe to, and also subscribe to my favourites via email so I can go through them daily and pick the top articles to read. I try to make at least 30-45 minutes each weeknight to read through these, and also have at least an hour or two on weekends to read them.

5. What would be the top 5 blogs that you read?

Okay, the five blogs that I read the most are:

1. Seth Godin

2. Brian Solis

3. Spin Sucks

4. PR Breakfast Club

5. Waxing UnLyrical

6. I read on your blog that you visited New York and subsequently learnt a great deal about their PR and communication scene. Any insights you’d like to share with us?

Ah New York! Yes, I travelled there in May of this year for a holiday / exploration of the communications scene. My friend Harrison Kratz that I work on Engage TV with was based in Philadelphia at the time, and we decided to catch up, head to blog world New York and spend some time meeting fellow PR and social media practitioners.

To be honest, I learnt so much – more than I could put in the answer to this question. In summary, the biggest lessons I learnt can be found in my blog post – What I Learnt in New York, as well as a video interview I had with my friend Des Walsh for Social Media Club Gold Coast. The big lessons / insights were:

•           Lead, don’t follow

•           Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t you’re right!

•           Connect in real life (IRL)

•           The bubble isn’t about to burst

•           The time is now!

7. And lastly, any tips for PR students trying to network themselves into an internship / first job

- Gain as much experience as possible – be pro-active in seeking experience and take the opportunity to try different areas of communications across a range of industries and practices. Even if you’ve recently finished study and are looking for a full-time job, take the chance to intern, network and add to your portfolio.

- Build a personal brand – make sure you have your professional LinkedIn profile set-up to showcase your goals, experience, education and interests. If you’re not already following new media technologies, start to get comfortable with reading blogs / forums and listen to the conversation. Once you’re more comfortable, set up a Twitter account and begin to engage with fellow practitioners. From there – the sky is the limit really. With the barriers to entry for publishing and sharing your own material and thoughts so low, there’s never been a better time to establish your unique brand and voice.

- Connect in real life – take the time to seek out professional events such as networking drinks, social media club meetings, or young professional groups. In Australia, IABC and the PRIA are good associations to follow and attend their events (disclaimer – I am a member of both, and sit on the board of IABC Victoria) – you never know who you might meet and connect with.

- Be authentic and let your passion shine through. If you love what you do (which I hope you do), let that show for all to see.

- Enjoy the journey! Yes, job hunting and networking can be hard – but during my own search I was able to meet some remarkable people that have been so generous, and continue to help me develop personally and professionally. More than that, it was a learning experience that I will never forget or regret.

Best of luck to you all as you embark on the start of your professional journey!

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 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 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***