Interview with Catriona Pollard, Director of CP Communications

This week for my Interview Series, we have Catriona Pollard, Founder / Director of CP Communications, talking about the different sectors of PR, starting up a company and teaching writing skills.

Q1. Before CP Communications, you worked in PR agencies, set up a marketing communications department for a software company and managed marketing and public affairs for federal and state government. Can you tell us a little about these 3 areas? What did you like / dislike about them?

In house roles in corporate and government are very different. The start in Government gave me a great foundation to my career but now I realise I have much more of an entrepreneurial bent (which I wish I realised much earlier on in my career).

Working in PR Agencies was fantastic for me to learn how an agency was run and how to manage multiple accounts.

Q2. What do you think was the main reason you wanted to start up your own company?

To accomplish something I had no idea if I could accomplish – so the challenge. I love a challenge! I also wanted to create something from scratch that was infused with my ideals, vision and approach to PR.

Q3. You also hold seminars at the Sydney Writers’ Centre covering PR and media releases. What sort of things do you teach?

After going to so many workshops that only talked about the theory of PR, I wanted to develop a really practical workshop where people could walk away with enough knowledge and confidence to do PR either in their role or for their business.

I teach how to develop a PR strategy, so at the end of the day the participants have at least an outline of their strategy. We talk through how to determine target audiences, how to structure media releases, how to deal with journalists, how to write articles, how to approach bloggers as part and much more.

I love teaching the course, and all of the emails I get from people telling me how much media coverage they are getting!

Q4. As someone who is a prolific blogger and writer on the PR industry, would you say setting up a blog is beneficial for PR professionals?

Absolutely! Blogging is a great way of building your profile within your industry. PR people need to be proficient in social media so taking the time to write a blog is a great way of experiencing social media first hand. I certainly like to employ people that have a clear personal social media strategy such as a blog or Twitter.

Q5. You’ve previously written about the impact of social media on the PR industry, what sort of online / digital skills do you think are becoming essential for PR professionals?

PR professionals need to be just as proficient in social media as they are in PR. To me, social media is another tactic to share your client’s stories just as journalists are. So PR people need to understand the strategy behind social media campaigns as well as being really proficient in the key mediums ie Twitter, Facebook and blogging. They also need to know when to say no to clients – not all social media suits all businesses.

Q6. And lastly, what would be your number one tip for a PR student on a job hunt?

Do an internship. I would suggest that you should get as much ‘on the job’ experience as humanly possible before you start looking for a paid role. I always employ graduates that have taken the time to do more than just their required internship.

***You can check out Catriona’s writing course here or get in touch via Twitter @catrionapollard****

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***

Top 5 Reasons Why I Chose Public Relations

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

I remember when I was young the first thing I ever wanted to be was a fireman (surprise, surprise) – I think every young boy goes through that phase. Then in the early high school years I wanted to be a computer engineer, because I thought I’d just sit around all day playing with screwdrivers and microchips. Plus I fancied myself building a cool-looking Terminator type thingy.

When I got to my HSC year, all those ideas went out the window and I was genuinely stumped with my career direction. But fast forward a few years and here I am, about to graduate with a PR degree. Looking back, I’m not too sure what made me initially want to get into public relations, but ask me now and I’ll give you the following 5 reasons:

1. Fast-Paced Environment

I read a recent study that said PR was the 2nd most stressful job in America. Yeap, just one below commercial pilots and ABOVE photojournalists, corporate executives and paramedics! Who would want to be in a job that has that much stress associated with it? Well, me. At the moment I work at DHL Express, a logistics company, and my daily routine goes a little something like this: bored, bored, bored, bored … DEADLINES! PRIORITIES! FOR F**K’S SAKE WHERE’S THE PAPERWORK?! SHUTTLE CLEARANCE RIGHT NOW!  … bored, bored, bored, bored.

Take a guess which part I love the most?

That middle bit right there. And no, it’s not because there’s a lot of profanity involved, but rather it’s because I thrive in that fast-paced and energetic environment. Just reading some day-to-day activities of some PR professionals, it seems to me that their day is packed full of things to do. From monitoring the media to reviewing current campaigns to writing copy, it seems as though there are few schedules more hectic than that of someone working in PR.

2. Blend of Everything

PR is like a combination of jobs that are media-related. When you’re thinking up of new and creative ways to promote your client via different channels, that’s a form of running an advertising campaign. When you’re working at maintaining a consistent and strong image, that right there is brand management. Writing up media releases? Well any PR teachers can tell you that the best media releases are the ones that make it straight into the newspapers – so that’s journalism. Also, pitching that media release to a busy journalist, along with thousands of other PR professionals? Isn’t there a little bit of salesmanship involved in that?

Bottom line: if you’re working in PR, you better be equipped with the skills involved, which brings me to my next point …

3. Skill Set Requirements

Bring a PR professional means you have to be a “Jack of all trades.” Now I know that term isn’t always complimentary, since the other half of the quote is “master of none,” but in the PR context, I can’t think of a better description. In my opinion, it takes a special type of person to work in PR. Think about what they have to do: manage client accounts, review media coverage, deal with busy (and sometimes grumpy) journalists, develop campaign strategies, create presentations, co-ordinate with marketing and management departments, identify publicity opportunities, read, write and edit copy, and of course, manage their endless social media channels.

Not that easy is it?

4. Variety

According to Jane Johnston and Clara Zawawi, there are over 20 potential roles and areas that you can specialise in the PR industry (Johnston & Zawawi 2004, p. 8). What I love about this is you can find something that you’re passionate about and work in that area.

If you want to incorporate marketing, advertising and public relations in your career, get into integrated marketing communications. Interested in politics? Public affairs and lobbying is for you. Want to go corporate? There’s internal communications and financial relations. You’re good at planning and organising, then event management is the way to go. You love getting your hands dirty? Then specialise in crisis management or lobbying.

Whatever it is you love, you’ll be able to find an area in PR to work.

5. Writing

But all the above reasons don’t compare to the biggest reason why I chose PR as a career – I love writing. Ever since I was young I’ve been writing. Back in year 5, I’d finish all my other work early so that when other kids were working on division problems, I’d be secretly writing out a story. That passion for words hasn’t left, and if anything, it’s intensified now that I’ve discovered how much I’ve developed as a writer. Business reports, news story, reviewing music, books and films, blogging, writing feature articles, media releases; I’ve tried it all and I love it all. Craig Pearce of Strategic Communication once told me something:

““Write as much as you can. It is very difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear when it comes to writing. You generally either have it or you really have to work extra hard. And even if your writing skills are silky like Cesc Fabregas’ dribbling, you still need to work at it.”

That really inspired me because for a long time I didn’t know where my writing could take me. Now I’ve got PR and this blog to refine my style. I know writing isn’t the only element of PR – I think we’ve established that – but dare I say it; it’s probably the most important. Agreed?

Why did you choose PR?