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***

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Interview with Lauren Gray [PR Student and Intern]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q3. What’s your current internship like?

Which one? Haha!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Day in the Life of Craig Pearce, Founder of Craig Pearce Strategic Communication

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in the public relations industry? Maybe you’re a communications student whose been reading those recent studies that show PR as one of the most stressful jobs and you’re wondering – “is it really that bad.” Well starting from today I’ll be posting up a blog series titled “A Day in the Life of a PR Professional” where I’ll be talking to several PR professionals about their daily schedules.

First up, we have Craig Pearce, founder of Craig Pearce Strategic Communication and sole operator of his own business. Craig’s an Australian PR pro and has 16 years worth of business communication experience. In the past, he’s worked in-house as well as with global agencies and believes that “working in different industry sectors and on different sorts of PR activities makes one a fuller, more educated, better professional.”

According to Craig, since he’s running his own business it’s necessary to “wear many hats and don many masks.” It also means it’s important for him to be flexible, go with the flow and take “opportunities that arise and not being precious.”

If you’re one of those people dreaming to set up your own PR business one day, this is great insight!

READY, STEADY, GO!

5.30am – rise and sleep drive to gym

6.15am – spin class and some weights

8am – home office, shower, eat, newspaper, check son’s footy card collection

8.30am – email, social media review

9am – marketing such as blog post writing

10am – media release for client

11am – social media strategy and/or blog post for client

1pm – lunch, newspaper

1.30pm – new business (e.g. research, cold calls, network with peers and contacts)

2.30pm – write briefs for client (e.g. apps, blogs)

3.30pm – undertake market research for client

5.00pm – write client copy for customer newsletter

6.00pm – play with son, eat, shower

7.45pm – prepare work, clothes etc for next day

8.30pm – admin, social media, professional education

9.30pm – listen to music, read literature, hit the sack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 6 Career Tips from PR Professionals

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

6. Get creative with job applications

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

5. Well-roundedness trumps all

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

4. Make sure employers know you

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

3. Hustle and participate

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

2. Produce and curate content

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

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

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