Interview with Mandi Bateson, Head of Social at Mindshare

This week we have Mandi Bateson, Head of Social at Mindshare, discussing her career path, her creative process for coming up and executing ideas, technology trends and skills that are becoming increasingly important for marketers.

Mandi 2012

1. To kick things off, can you tell us a little about yourself and provide a quick overview of your career to date?

I started working as a marketing and events coordinator during a 2 year stint in England in the early 00s. After a few years working in a multitude of B2B marketing communications roles, I was adamant that I would a) never specialise and b) never work for an agency. And yet here I am, loving agency life and in one of the more niche marketing areas in the industry.

I love that I started my career in B2B – I’ve set up forums for real estate software beta testers, created communities of interest for Australian businesses exploring international trade opportunities and used content marketing to generate leads for enterprise telecommunications. For 6 years I worked side by side with sales teams which meant a Monday morning without solid marketing results was a Monday morning I didn’t want to face. Our reports always showed that the strongest source for lead generation was word of mouth which is why I started focusing on social media marketing tactics before they were really known as social.

The past 4 years of agency life have been a rollercoaster – from setting up the social team at Daemon Digital (now TWO Social) to setting up the social team at PR agency Hill & Knowlton (now H+K Strategies) to my current role setting up the social team at Mindshare (still known as Mindshare thankfully). It’s been interesting to see how social is perceived within different marketing disciplines and it will be no surprise that I feel a media agency is well placed to see social come to life.

2. As the Head of Social at Mindshare, does that mean you basically throw parties and sip champagne all day? Or is there more to the role than that?

I have been asked at many a function if being Head of Social means that I’m responsible for the party. When I explain my role is about social media marketing I usually get an apology from the person that they’re not on Twitter.

We look at developing participatory ideas, creating content, influencer outreach, social listening, and communications planning. I spend a lot of time with our clients assisting them with their social strategy, whether that’s because they need help educating their internal teams on how it will be executed or that they need to translate a global strategy to have relevance locally or because they want to integrate campaign activity into always-on planning. Champagne is optional.

3. What would be a typical day for you at the office?

Much like anyone else, there’s no real typical day for me.

I have a fab team which I can rely on to execute our campaigns so I can focus on all the other elements that keep our business ticking along including meeting new clients and getting to know their pain points, internal training and education so everyone’s thinking social, catching up with the client teams to make sure we’re all working towards the same goal, meeting with our media partners to stay up-to-date with their solutions, writing strategies and developing campaign ideas, giving advice on how to manage those tricky social issues that always seem to pop up, tinkering with our planning and reporting templates and process documents, talking to our strategy team about upcoming campaigns and the role for social, attending some kind of training session on either our Original Thinking Framework or one of the company’s professional development courses, and talking to the digital team about social advertising updates.

We have offices in Sydney and Melbourne so there’s quite a lot of work to cover and sometimes all of this needs to be put on hold if a campaign requires all hands on deck.

4. Part of your role calls for a lot of ideas generation and creativity. Can you talk to us about your creative process? Do you switch it on and off or is your mind constantly racing with new ideas?

We always ask “why would they care, why would they share” when trying to tap into a killer social idea. Without wanting to black hat ideas as they develop, getting realistic about the likely audience reaction and how much incentive would be required to get a reaction improves creativity as you really need to be able to articulate the motivators and behaviours of your target market. Seems pretty obvious but it can often make a big difference between how an idea lives in traditional advertising and how it is executed socially.

Strangely enough I find that technology inspires my creativity. Most people will tell you that technology is not an idea – of course it isn’t. Unfortunately though my creativity is restricted by known limitations. To explain myself, here’s a campaign I liked: Flair Fashiontag. Say your friend posts a photo of themselves on Facebook in a cute outfit. You can use the app to tag a piece of clothing in the photo with a Fashiontag, which lets them know you like it, helps you get more info about the item of clothing or accessory and gives Flair magazine content they can use in their magazine. What I liked about this is that I didn’t even know it was possible to tag images on Facebook with something other than the name of a friend. The more aware you are of your possibilities, the more creative you can be.

One lesson about brainstorming that I’ve taken with me is that sometimes you have to let ideas go. I may have thought I had a cracking idea in a brainstorm in 2009 but if you cling onto an idea for too long you’ll find yourself trying to retrofit a strategy to suit that idea and what may have been a moment of brilliance will fizzle pretty quickly or even worse you become a one-trick pony selling social scavenger hunts to every client that comes along.

5. What are your thoughts on the digital landscape at the moment? Are there any technology trends that you’re really excited about?

I think we need to be aware of the consequences of this always-on environment that we’re in. Have you ever taken a break from social media? I try to do it twice a year for at least a week at a time because otherwise I find that my attitude towards social changes as I get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of people, platforms and brands telling me to like this, view that, share with friends, get outraged by this, overshare that. I think when we are trying to understand our audience we will need to know more than just how or when or why they access online properties and understanding their attitude will becoming increasingly significant.

It changes how people react to social media mishaps or crises as an issue that may have received little to no attention gleefully becomes branded as the latest #fail. It shapes who and what we trust as those willing to trade a tweet or a share for a sample freebie dilute their own social currency by becoming background noise instead of a possible “influencer”. The savvy social networker is becoming jaded by mainstream platforms and even more so by the promise of bright shiny new things. For many, tech snobbery is cool and “I don’t have Facebook” is the new “I don’t own a TV”.

I think brands that can understand the dynamics of the overall digital landscape and how it changes the attitude of those using the technology will fare much better than those jumping on the latest trend.

6. What sort of skills do you think will become increasingly important within the next 5 – 10 years?

We’re already seeing this but I think those wanting to work in social media will need to have a few seemingly contradictory skills up their sleeve. The assumption that people are good at either numbers or words is being proven wrong by social media marketing professionals who need to be as comfortable diving into line after line of data as they are writing succinct and successful copy.

The perfect marketer would have the ability to optimise social advertising, write copy appropriate for discovery within platforms or search engines, design and produce content, be able to calmly manage a crisis situation, analyse data like a pro, be an ideas man, be able to articulate the tone of every brand they work on, be able to write and deliver training courses, dabble with code, create media plans, manage media/influencer relations, write solid strategies and have an innate understanding of consumer psychology. A good social generalist will own the specialist field.

***If you want to get in touch with Mandi, say hi on Twitter @mab397 or check out her blog mab397.wordpress.com***

Interview with Andrew Tran, Social Media Specialist at Vodafone Australia

This week for my Interview Series, we have Andrew Tran, a Social Media Specialist from Vodafone Australia, who has had a ton of experience working with online platforms, managing communities and running social media channels. Andrew also manages his own blog where he writes about social media and how brands can incorporate it into their business objectives. For this interview, Andrew talks about his career path, his current role at Vodafone, blogging for business and the evolution of content creators. Enjoy!

1. You’ve worked in a lot of interesting roles – community producer, sales specialist, social media producer – can you tell us a little about your career path? How sort of steps did you take to end up where you are now?

Starting from sales I got my break working in eCommerce which gave me a good platform to learn a bit of online sales through SEO and some analytical exposure as well.

After 3 Mobile merged with Vodafone, I was given an opportunity to broaden my skill set in digital with, the intention to come back to the social media realm. I’m very fortunate to have been given the time and space to be on some amazing projects/campaigns, make mistakes and then learn from my mistakes – I think that’s very important in any career path you take.

Nothing beats hard work and dedication in any career you want to be in.

2. What’s your role as a social media specialist at Vodafone like? What type of things do you get up during a typical day?

Essentially we support the business in all things social related. From campaigns, brand exercises to customer care and major projects. My typical day envolves a bit of production work on our blog (http://blog.vodafone.com.au), community handling and, working with my other colleagues to find opportunities to either promote, listen and/or engage with our customers.

3. What sort of strategy do you have to ensure that the Vodafone blog always has fresh and interesting content for the readers?

It’s mostly about looking at the numbers, gathering insights from the data you extract and talking to various parts of the business to ensure that your content is up to date and, relevant to your audience.

Time is also important as you need to experiment and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

The key is to gather as much experience as you can but, the funny thing is experience is derived from mistakes you make.

4. In addition to your work with Vodafone, you also manage your own blog. What sort of content do you post on there?

My blog (http://andrewtran.asia) was firstly about anything I saw that was cool and interesting online.

However, over the last 8-10 months, I really wanted to focus on a particular subject, in this case it was social media.

So now the majority of my site features posts that I find relevant for either small businesses and/or students studying this field, but from time to time I’ll still post content that’s can be totally irrelevant to social media but I believe my audience will like.

5. How important do you think a blog is to a business these days?

Blogging has come a long way over the past 4 years. Businesses both big and small need to understand what the power blogging can do and, how it connects with the whole social ecosystem.

6. With the growth of social media platforms and accessibility to powerful tools, how do you think the role of content creators and producers will evolve?

Definitely, you’re going to see more and more people create content but have an analytical side as well. Understanding why you produce a particular content relative to your audience and then being able to back this up is very important.

7. You’ve developed a wide range of skills during your career, from copywriting to community management to video blogging. What sort of skills do you think will become increasingly important, especially in the marketing and communication fields?

Analytics and the ability to understand and provide relevant insights to improve the engagement you have with your audience.

In addition, psychology of your industry will also become important as social media evolves from building and audience to identifying which conversations to engage in and, to be effective in those conversations as well.

8. And lastly, any tips for anyone wanting to start their own blog?

Be clear on what you want to write about, understand who would read it, then tailor what your writing to your audience and, constantly try to look at ways to change it up be it your writing style or the types of content.

***To get in touch with Andrew, check out his blog or say hi on Twitter @iamayetee***

Interview with Jessica North, Communications Assistant at BBC Worldwide

This week for my Interview Series we have Jessica North, a Bournemouth University student who just has just completed a placement at BBC Worldwide. Jessica will be talking to us about her diverse range of roles, working at the BBC Worldwide, running a blog and where she sees herself in the future.

1.      Having worked in such a wide range of roles; tell us about your career path so far.

I started in PR by completing some work experience at the local football club. Shadowing a press officer, especially one in the sports industry is certainly a unique experience; it really gives you a good idea for the speed of the industry.

From there I’ve worked in a couple of agencies and with clients on a freelance basis. I worked for six months at an agency that specialised in Healthcare where I worked across PR and Marketing, which was so interesting and now more recently at the BBC Worldwide.

To me, each role I’ve taken has been a step up from the last and I’m very lucky to have achieved what I have and met the people which have input so much time into developing me as a strong professional. The different roles and varying companies have opened my eyes to what I want to look for when I graduate. For me the most important lesson has been learning how different the same role can be depending on the company for which you work.

2.      When you were working as a Communications Assistant at BBC Worldwide, what sort of tasks were you performing?

I have spent the past six months working in the Global Brands departments of BBC Worldwide; it’s a very fortunate position to receive at 21. I work in a three person team covering the five global brands (Top Gear, Dancing with the Stars, Doctor Who, Lonely Planet and BBC Earth), live events and gaming.

The team handles both press and publicity. To say the team is busy would be a little understated and there certainly isn’t really such a thing as an average day here – it changes all the time but it keeps you on your feet. There have been some fantastic opportunities, my absolute favourite being The Stig driving me round the Top Gear track in a Lamborghini!

3.      Did social networks LinkedIn or Twitter play a big role in your job hunt?

I got my first placement offer through Twitter! I think both are really important but in very different ways. I think you should have a profile on LinkedIn and keep it up to date with your contacts, recommendations and experience – it can show a lot more at a glimpse than your CV can but I personally didn’t use it to search for roles in placements. I think it could definitely play a more crucial role in searching for permanent jobs.

As for Twitter, I know there are many people that don’t like it, but the fact is things happen online first now, whether it be news, releases, trends or jobs… it’s all announced through the internet and Twitter plays a huge part in that, if you see an opening position online you can apply within seconds and they can see a little more about you from your profile.

4.      You also run a blog “Simply PR” focusing on public relations, digital communication strategies and university – what was the main reason you decided to create it?

Oh my gosh, I’m sure I’m not supposed to admit to this, but we had to start it for a module at university! We had to blog about our lectures each week for one semester. I started blogging off-topic and just got really into it. I find the digital world and its affect on PR and Marketing fascinating, it’s so forward-thinking, I think it’s important to stay on top of it all and a fantastic tool to keep your writing in check. A lot of PR students use blogs to market themselves now but I think it can really benefit you if you can find a slight gap to put a more unique edge on yours.

5.      How important do you think blogging should be in a PR student’s job hunt?

I think it’s a strong advantage if you can start a blog. I’ve met some fantastic people through their or my blog. It’s a great networking tool and you can learn so much from your peers, it would be silly not to take advantage of that whilst you’re a student and still have the time to blog because trust me, you will not have time whilst working. I barely have time to sleep and eat, let alone blog frequently!

When I started at BBC Worldwide, they told me that one of the reasons they wanted me was because of my blog and social media knowledge… if your employers are looking at it, it’s just another way to set yourself above other candidates, prove you know what you’re talking about and show off your creativity. It’s yet another fantastic way to build up your reputation in the industry.

6.      Looking at your LinkedIn profile, you’ve worked in agency and in-house roles. Do you prefer one over the other?

One of my old directors told me that when you work in an agency you learn very quickly and build up contacts but you remain invisible whereas in-house you build up a reputation very quickly and if you do it right, you will never have to look for a job again, people will look for you. I guess that kind of stuck with me so I do sort of lean towards in-house roles, but I did really enjoy working in agencies so if the right opportunity came up then I’d definitely consider it.

7.      Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I wouldn’t like to judge really. As I said before; this has been a real learning curve for me. I’m really keen to get involved in some sort of graduate scheme. I’ve looked into a few so far with companies such as L’Oreal and Google but I definitely haven’t decided anything yet. After that, cliché maybe, but I’m completely dedicated to working my way up the ladder. I’ve always said this isn’t just a job for me – this is a career and my life.

8.      And lastly, what do you think are the 3 most important things PR students need to remember while on a job hunt?

I know everyone says it but that should just emphasise how important it is…

Work experience

It’s so much easier to get the jobs and experience you want when you’ve got basic experience under your belt. And when you’re a student – that’s the time to do it, you have such long summers, it’s the only chance you’ll get.

Keep up to date with the industry. 

Read PR week, Media Week, Media Guardian, New Media Age, Wired etc. Read the trade magazines of the sector you want to work in. I’ve set my home page to PR Week so even if I’m not going to read the whole article, I’ll still see the headlines at least once a day.

Use social media… and use it wisely.

One advantage a student can bring to any company, no matter how up-to-date they are… we have an advantage. We have the time to invest in these sites and learn how they work inside out. If you can offer a company some strategies for their social media and know and understand how to monitor and evaluate it, it’s a huge asset for you and definite advantage over other candidates.

Since the time of interviewing, Jessica has completed six months with BBC Worldwide and is completing the rest of her placement with Farrow & Ball.

***To get in touch with Jessica say hello on Twitter @JessicaNorthPR***

Interview with Cameron Blair, Digital Media Consultant at Wilkinson Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Adam Boland, Director of Social Media and Strategy at Channel Seven

This week for my Interview Series, we have Adam Boland who is currently the Director of Social Media and Strategy at Channel Seven. Adam has been in media  his whole career and he provides some great insight into the TV industry, social media and his career path.

1. You’re currently the Director of Social Media and Strategy at Channel Seven which sounds like a pretty cool role. Can you describe what a typical day’s like?

I basically hang on twitter all day.  I’m joking!

There’s no such thing as a typical day in television, which I think is what many people find attractive about the industry.

It’s a happy merger of being proactive and responsive.  Every morning at 8:30, we all wait anxiously for the previous day’s ratings and then dissect them down to the minute.  What worked and what didn’t?  That’s the responsive bit.  The proactive element is to try to influence the following day’s ratings.  There’s an old saying in television that you’re only as good as your next ratings – so we are truly accountable each and every day.

I spent ten years running shows here at Seven where my day-to-day was very micro.  I would be across every element of those shows from the writing to the promos to the marketing.  You don’t get much sleep and the pressure gets rather intense.

These days, my focus has shifted to the broader media climate and how our shows can exploit that new world.

So, much of my day is spent learning.  I meet people from all over the world about things they’re doing with social media.  Lots of it is experimenting.  We then figure out what works for us.  I hang with producers and directors – mostly in the news and current affairs department – and develop ideas.  I also spend lots of time with the team at Yahoo!7 which is our sister company.  They are very bright people with so many great online ideas.  We’re developing things now which you’ll see come to life over coming months.  The goal of course is to be ahead of the curve.  The reality though is that this sphere moves so fast, it’s a really big challenge and needs companies to move much quicker than in the past.

2. Before working at Channel Seven, you spent some time working as a producer and reporter at several media outlets, what was your career path like? Have you always wanted to work in media industry?

Media has been my entire life – which is rather sad when you think about it.  Always wanted to be a journo.  Went to university in Canberra to study politics and journalism.  At the end of my first year, my lecturer recommended me for a cadet’s gig in Brisbane.  Even though it meant dropping out of uni, I jumped at the chance.  I couldn’t wait to work – and I never regretted it.

That job at 4BC taught me so much.  The senior reporters there were ruthless with me.  It made me tougher, knocked some arrogance from me and gave me the ultimate crash course.

From there, I went to 3AW in Melbourne before making the switch to TV at Sky News in Sydney. I was one of the founding producers there – which was such a thrill.  We essentially got to write the rules for Australia’s first all news station.

After Sky, I joined Ten as a reporter in Cairns until I got sacked for being an idiot.  Long story.  Seven then picked me up in Sydney and the rest is history.

Seven gave me a chance to experiment.  I surrounded myself with some really smart and energetic people and we got to work on shaking up breakfast and then morning television.  Loved every second.

That said, the media can take over all elements of your life.  It took me way too long to figure out the work-life balance and when I had, I realised that my twenties had vanished.  So, be careful!

3. With digital technology and communication platforms evolving at such a rapid pace, where do you see the TV industry headed in the next 5 years?

Television is changing.  No doubt.  But claims that mainstream TV is dead are just so silly.  I think rather than replacing the big boys, new forms of media will work WITH the big boys – making the experience even better for the user.

So, we’re now seeing shows that integrate social media into their formats.  We’re seeing new apps that allow viewers to have conversations while watching their favourite shows with other fans of the show.  Accompanying content and broader integrated conversations are the way forward.  And that’s really cool.

You’re also seeing more options for users – whether they be online or on-air.  So brands are evolving.  Sunrise is a good example.  Sure – our main game is our broadcast time from 6am to 9am but we now have producers who are constantly pumping content out via our website or the apps 24/7.  It’s about ensuring that users get more out of us.  There shouldn’t be a disconnect at 9am.  The conversation simply continues.

4. You’re currently juggling multiple projects on hand; working at Channel Seven, opening up The Ginseng Baths, on the board of the Griffin Theatre Company – how do you manage your time? Do you find yourself planning everything out?

I think everyone needs to look at their schedules – no matter what work they do.  Sorry about getting philosophical, but life is so short.  I like the idea of jamming as much in as possible so I can contribute as much as possible and gain as much as possible.  I also like variety.

I think too many people fall into a default position: get up, go to work, come home, eat, go to bed. Repeat.  I am probably allowed more flexibility than most – but I also insist upon it.  Variety gives your mind much more energy.

5. And lastly, for students out there aspiring to carve a career in the media industry, any tips on how to make it?

Enthusiasm.  No point getting into this industry unless you have passion.  I meet too many people who expect to be fast tracked to fame.  Firstly, most of the fun happens OFF camera.  Secondly, you need to earn your stripes.  Expecting to simply get work at Sydney’s biggest agency or station is unrealistic – and frankly, no fun.  The journey is cool.

Oh, and everyone in the industry should be getting their heads around social media.  I’m not just saying that because of my role.  Engagement is the future.  Actually, engagement is the present.  So, people need to know how to engage.  Not that frightening really and you could just make some new friends!

***To contact Adam say hello in Twitter @adamboland7 or on Google+ ***

Interview with Roger Christie, Head of Digital at Sefiani Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q4. What were your internships like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started With Your PR Job Hunt

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

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

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

Step 1. Set up a blog

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

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

Step 2. Subscribe to other blogs

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

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

Some of the blogs that I read on the regular.

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

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

Step 3. Participate in conversations

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

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

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

Step 4. Internship(s)

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

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

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

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

Good luck!