Interview with Dan Fonseca, Blogger and Communications Student

This week in the Interview Series, we have Dan Fonseca, blogger and communications student from New Jersey, talking to us about blogging, time management, personal branding, internships and job hunting.

Q1. What do you think was the one main reason you chose the media and communications industry?

Essentially, music was my gateway drug. My high school years were spent writing, playing, recording, and promoting my own music online. That was when I really first got exposed to social media. After initially going to Northeastern University for Music Industry, I found that it was too limiting and that I wanted to think about media on a larger scale. I had watched how the Internet had disrupted the music business and began to see the trends take hold in other industries. I guess my curiosity took over from there.

Q2. Looking at your LinkedIn profile, you’ve got quite a lot of things in the pipeline with your studies, blog, HypeGenius. How do you manage your time?

Lists. I am a self proclaimed stickie junkie. Until I starting using Evernote, my physical and digital desktops were stickie war-zones. I find that I free up “intellectual space and processing power” when I write things down as weird as that sounds. It also makes it easy to take a macro or micro view of a project or my life if need be. It essentially puts things into perspective and focus, I find that helps manage my time and priorities.

Q3. I’ve been reading your blog – Synapses – and judging by a few posts, it’s not your average communications student diary now is it? What are you aiming for with Synapses?

Synapses is really about breaking down mental models. I find that the disorientation that comes with the initial breakdown and the subsequent rebuilding not only forces me to understand ideas and notions better but also gives me more insight to them; sometimes even the opportunity to challenge them too.

Since it’s online for the world to see, it forces me to have a better grasp on it than I would generally have. In a way it is a check against my laziness. I am also reminded that it’s my reputation that I am playing with. In another light, it’s great to archive your thoughts. I can’t wait to look back a couple of years and see where I have grown.

Q4. In your opinion, how important is a blog for a communications student on a job hunt?

Personal branding is everything. I’d like to challenge everyone to develop a blog no matter how in depth they would want to go. The blog does wonders for the job search in my mind. The resume is great when you want to aggregate credentials and experience points but truthfully that is only part of the overall employment equation.

Company culture is critical. How will a resume and a short interview really get a grasp on whether you are a good match or not? In my mind, a blog communicates your thought process, values, and communication skills, all vital components to a proper employment situation. Let your blog separate you from everyone else. After all with competition always on the rise, what else are you doing to do?

Q5. Rank these in order of personal preference: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Personal Blog

Ouch that’s like picking a favorite child but you leave me no choice…

1. Personal Blog

2. Twitter

3. Facebook

4. YouTube

5. LinkedIn

Q6. What was your internship at Glassnote Records like?

Fantastic and terrifying. New York City can be overwhelming in all aspects. Getting used to the city’s speed and the people’s personality was initially tough. My time at Glassnote taught me a lot about the music industry but the real education take aways were in regards to small business relations, power dynamics, decision making, and ultimately how I felt towards what I learned.

It was more of a personal development opportunity than a traditional “experiential learning” internship. Loved it but I don’t think I would jump into it again. I would, however, recommend it to anyone. The people at Glassnote really know what they are doing.

Q7. What do you think are the top 3 most important things to keep in mind when looking for a job in the communications field?

  1. Learning and personal growth opportunities. Companies invest time and resources in you and you do the same. What are you getting from your “investment” apart from the unimportant, possible, monetary reward? How will this job help prepare you for the next chapter in the industry and your life?
  2. Freedom from the work place, you work to live not live to work. You need a proper balance between the both. You decided what that means to you.
  3. Play up that personal brand. Use all the tools available to communicate who you are, your strengths, dreams, and personal conflicts. What are you passionate about and how can you channel that towards the employment and self actualization process?

Q8. And lastly, for all the students out there looking to intern, what’s your number one advice?

Think of an internship as the safest way to fail miserably. Internships are a great way to “taste” industries, departments, companies, culture, and management. It’s better to find out that you HATE something before it’s too late. That gift is invaluable.

Nothing against the music industry and Glassnote Records but thanks to my internship I found out that I did not necessarily enjoy the record label atmosphere. For that, I can’t thank them enough. The opportunity to learn and bail after a period of time in any employment setting is rare outside of an internship. Don’t overlook this opportunity.

***To contact Dan, get in touch via Twitter @whoisdanfonseca or check out his blog Synapses***


Interview with Vu Nguyen, Director of Advertising at Residence Hall Association

This week in my Interview Series, we have Vu Nguyen, an advertising student from Lansing, Michigan, talk about his internship experiences, using LinkedIn to network and the importance of a portfolio.

Q1. So currently you’re completing a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising. What was it about the advertising industry that drew you in?

The creativeness of the field! I learned Photoshop my Sophomore year in high school and I thought it was the most amazing thing ever! So coming to college, looking at all of the different majors, minors, and specialization’s was quite overwhelming. After talking to some counselors about advertising, I had found my perfect degree!

Q2. You completed a couple of internships back in 2010, tell us what your experiences were  like?

I was a Freshmen in college at the time and was told I wouldn’t be able to get any internships because of my lack of experience. I managed to get two internships, one as a graphic designer for a realtor and a production’s intern for a government access channel. I learned a great deal about myself and advertising. Having an internship is a great way to receive real world experience, you make a lot of new friends and learn how to work in a team.

3. Did social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn play a part in finding internships?

Social networks did indeed play a huge role. I used LinkedIn a lot to connect with professionals from my city and they were impressed that I was contacting them and that led to a lot of opportunities.

4. How important do you think having a portfolio or blog is as part of a job hunt?

I think having a portfolio is one of the most essential things you could have. It displays your abilities and creativity, things you need in the advertising industry. If you don’t happen to have a portfolio, bring in a sketchbook with different designs or copy to show the company you’re full of ideas!

5. And lastly, what’s the most important advice you would give to a university student looking to get into an internship?

Some important advice I would give to students would be to NETWORK! People are here to help you, talk to friends, counselors, professors, and use university career pages to find employers who are looking for jobs or interns. I also definitely suggest having an online portfolio, it makes things a lot easier for you and the people who want to hire you!

***To contact Vu, get in touch via or check out his work at and***

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***

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 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***

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!


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