A new job is always difficult to adapt to, especially if you’re not expecting as much culture shock as you run into. Each company can be like its own country in a way, so I’ve found that a lot of same the skills and lessons that help someone thrive after moving to a foreign country lead to happiness and success at a new job, too.
Eight months ago, I started my second Seattle-based full-time job in my desired career, and skills I learned out of necessity while living in China for two years that have helped me change jobs include: Learning new vocabulary, acknowledging and overcoming culture shock, and creativity and patience with communication and process.
Learning new vocabulary
Every job has jargon, acronyms and proper nouns, specific to industry or the employer itself. If you aren’t accustomed to living in an environment where you don’t know the vocabulary, your initial lack of comprehension of meetings, emails and documents can be overwhelming.
In my job, I have essentially three sets of jargon, acronyms and proper nouns to learn: Microsoft/information technology, Waggener Edstrom, and public relations agency (see the Jargon Jar at 99 Problems But a Pitch Aint One.) Learning Chinese vocabulary made me comfortable not understanding everything I hear or read in meetings, emails and client marketing materials, and teaching myself the vocabulary by looking up definitions to reference on an ongoing basis.
Acknowledging and overcoming culture shock
Most people think that culture shock is an initial big shock that wears off. However, culture shock is more of a slow roller coaster along these lines:
1. You think everything about the new place is perfect.
2. You feel homesick in increasing amounts, discovering things you never realized you would miss about home and things about the new place you don’t like.
- This is often the most intense about three months in and then reappears in subsequent months. If someone doesn’t know this is culture shock, they blame their emotions on external factors, such as: “My boss/roommate/the traffic in this city is crazy.”
3. You either figure out how to overcome the homesickness, grow a lot as a person, and become super attached to the new place or you don’t overcome it and you leave. A pretty effective coping mechanism can be taking occasional out-of-country vacations.
I’m so proud that I got through every wave of culture shock I experienced in Beijing. Over time, I had to become okay with disliking certain things about the country (for example, its pop music) and not letting those bother me, instead focusing on what I loved about the place (contemporary art and independent music). It was also key that I tried to surround myself with a combination of internationally minded Chinese people and China-minded Westerners. There are a lot of non-Chinese people in China who constantly complain about living there, and I recognized that spending lots of time around them would not help my experience.
Culture shock is present in both countries and employers, especially large employers. Eight months into this job I’m still discovering elements of our culture that I had no idea to even look for when I started.
Creativity and patience with communication and process
Psychologists have said that living abroad makes people more creative. This makes sense to me given that in China I would encounter ways of doing things that I had never even considered or have to get really creative to effectively communicate across the language barrier.
For example, one day at my first job in China, my boss asked me to train a Chinese co-worker with almost no English ability to perform administrative tasks in Microsoft Outlook. When I wasn’t sure how to say something in Chinese or she wasn’t sure how to say something in English, we entered it into Google Translate and communicated to each other that way. This was a creative way to overcome a communication barrier to complete a task.
I also experienced an example of how living in a foreign country can enhance your creativity and patience with processes by challenging your basic assumptions. I didn’t fully grasp the concept that China doesn’t have a culture of financial credit until one day when I told my roommate our power had went out that morning, she looked at our electrical meter and said in Chinese, “We’re out of electricity.” I thought, “How can we be out of electricity?” Turns out, we paid for our electricity by pre-loading a card at an ATM at the nearest bank and then inserting it into our electric meter, instead of paying an electric bill monthly, so we had run out of the dollar amount pre-loaded into the meter.
Have you lived abroad? What skills would you add to the list?
Photo is a screen grab from a 99 Problems But a Pitch Aint One post.
I’ve been fortunate that my current employer values my experience and interest in China. Therefore my team’s leaders have connected me with colleagues who have spent time in our Asia Pacific operations, culminating in my connecting with my Singapore-based colleague Sim Yee when she visited my office through Waggener Edstrom’s Global Exchange.
Before speaking to Sim Yee, I knew that Singapore played an important role in business and media in the Asia Pacific region. One example is that several international news organizations’ largest bureaus in the region are in Singapore. I’ve also known public relations professionals who start their Asia careers in Singapore then get jobs in Beijing or Shanghai, or vice versa. What I didn’t know was how closely its public relations industry was entwined with mainland China’s.
Basically for public relations, Singapore and Hong Kong are the “hubs”, and mainland China is the biggest “spoke.” This is because for global brands, regional headquarters tend to be located in these places.
What colleagues with experience in Singapore taught me about China and its relationship to Singapore:
- It’s really common to pitch new business in Singapore for work that will be executed in China.
- Client companies locate their offices and staff for work in China in Singapore because they don’t trust the Chinese government. Secondary factors in Singapore’s success as a media and business hub: English language, central geographic location in APAC for business trips.
- Most of the media in China is in Beijing. Chinese media amplify stories more than other countries’ given the heavy presence of wires and syndicating websites. Singapore-based employees need to know Mandarin so they can pitch stories to Chinese media.
- Unsurprisingly, new business opportunities for China more frequently come from word-of-mouth to request attendance for requests for proposals (RFPs). This is in line with China’s cultural emphasis on guanxi.
- There is a growing business opportunity for communications work related to health care in China given that the government is pumping money into health care. I already knew about the huge demand for consumer and crisis communications in China given the rapidly growing consumer economy.
View Sim Yee’s blog post on her experience visiting my office here: Seattle: 18 to 29 March 2013. Do you have thoughts on public relations and marketing in Singapore versus mainland China? Let me know in the comments.
(photo courtesy of Sim Yee’s blog, http://meowsyy.com)
Whenever I participate in an event for students aspiring to work in public relations, I try to publish a helpful blog post for them to check out. Today, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide‘s Bellevue (Seattle area) office is hosting an agency tour of students from Allen Hall Public Relations, my alma mater’s student-run public relations agency, and I’m lucky enough to speak on a panel of University of Oregon graduates to answer their questions.
After much deliberation on what kind of blog post to write, I’ve decided to raid my blogging history and Twitter favorites to compile a round-up post of tweets and posts that I think are especially helpful for students.
Some of these blog posts and tweets are quite old. I promise I’ve read through them and only included ones that, in my opinion, are still 100 percent true today.
Tweets by others:
“If you don’t figure out what you want to become, someone else will define it for you.” goo.gl/n0ZPI
— Justin Tsang (@justinjtsang) November 8, 2011
— arikhanson (@arikhanson) June 12, 2012
— Lori McNee(@lorimcneeartist) June 14, 2012
— Pat Rhoads (@patmrhoads) January 29, 2013
— Derek Belt (@derekbelt) January 26, 2013
Blog posts by me:
- 2008 Student vs. 2011 Professional: The PR Industry and 2008 Student vs. 2011 Professional: PR Agency Job Duties - Note: I’m happy to report that entry-level public relations hiring is better than when I wrote those posts. Some agencies now have a shortage of good intern candidates. Everything else about those posts are still true today.
- Student Interviews Me About PR and China
- How to Survive the Undergraduate to Post-Graduate Transition
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 1: Before You Leave
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 2: Visa Advice
- Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad – Part 3: Once You’re There
- NGO Public Relations in Uganda – Interview with Jessica Lomelin
- UO PR Grads Who Now…Teach English in Korea
Students and aspiring public relations professionals, let me know if you have any questions about working at Waggener Edstrom Wordwide in the comments or by emailing me at beth dot evans 4 at gmail dot com.
I came across something on Twitter last night that made me go “Wow!” It was this 4-minute video interview between Emily Chang of Bloomberg West and Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. Dr. Lee is a venture capitalist for Chinese mobile app developers with an impressive Google-Apple-Microsoft resume and was recently named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2013: How Will Social Media Change China?
In my opinion, commentary on Chinese Internet censorship falls into three themes:
- The morals and human rights of freedom of speech/information
- Assertions that freedom of access to information strengthens national economies
- Can U.S.-based websites that are popular everywhere but China get uncensored, and if so, will Chinese people even use them?
In the the video, Emily and Dr. Lee insightfully and accurately address all of the above themes in just over four minutes.
The only thing I would add is something that is always missing from media coverage on censorship in China: People outside China think that the government universally bars everyone from visiting certain websites, but actually you can access all the same sites as in the United States if you are privileged enough, meaning you have the money to pay for a VPN that makes your computer think it’s based outside China and the personal connections to find out which VPNs are the best to use at any given time. It’s more of a pain than using the Internet in the U.S., but it’s possible. Some businesses, such as global public relations agencies, pay for VPNs for their China offices’ computers so their workers can have unlimited website access.
Here is Emily and Dr. Lee’s full interview, which includes the segment above plus Dr. Lee’s thoughts on Apple and Google in China and China’s smartphone market: Kai-Fu Lee on China’s Mobile Market, Innovation.
At Social Media Club Seattle, Leaders at Amazon, Microsoft, REI, City of Seattle, PwC Talk 2012-2013
Tuesday night I attended a packed Social Media Club Seattle event where a super-smart panel of people who lead social media efforts at major Seattle-headquartered companies talked about both broad trends and companies’ activities for social media in 2012 and 2013.
- Moderator: Dustin Johnson, Managing Director at the impressive part of PwC formerly known as Ant’s Eye View
- John Yurcisin, Director of Social Media at Amazon
- Sabra Schneider, Director of Online Communications at the City of Seattle
- Lourdes Orive, Director of Community and Online Support at Microsoft
- Lulu Gephart Manager of Online Engagement at REI
You can view all tweets from the event at the #smcsea Twitter hashtag and another blog post on the event, by Kelsey Kaufman: Social Media Club of Seattle: Trends for 2013 (And What They Mean for Digital Marketing).
My top takeaways:
Connecting social to ROI in 2012 and 2013
- In 2012, there was heavy pressure to connect social media work to business impact and in 2013 there will be even more.
- Some brands are cutting the number of social media sites they use or are more hesitant to add new ones.
- Hopefully 2013 marks the end of “shiny object syndrome” where brands add the Pinterest or Vine of the day just because it’s new and cool. (This relates to a good point I heard at Seattle Interactive Conference 2011: Make sure you’re using the sites you’re already on very effectively before you add new ones.)
Community management: Leveraging community to lighten your workload
- Microsoft’s MVP (Most Valuable Professional) customer advocate program has extended online to customer support. If a big brand you work with has a need for more third-party online advocacy, existing customer advocate programs are a good place to start.
- Brands should establish what their audience wants and what motivates them, then tell the audience what the brand wants, and use this information to establish and maintain a non-monetary exchange (aka gamification.) Establishing what both parties want is difficult.
- REI has launched a crowd-sourced photo project leveraging the rise in photo-sharing and checking in on social media titled the REI 1440 Project.
Reaching non-English-speaking and niche audiences
- The City of Seattle hosts informal meetings with Seattle’s cultural media to ask them the best way to communicate with the communities they represent. For example, they ask if the City of Seattle should translate materials or give the reporters materials in English for them to translate themselves.
- REI has social media communities for each of its geographic markets where it has stores. Store employees run the accounts. Note: I know Nordstrom killed store-specific activity to consolidate to one account on each site. I wonder if REI has seen success in this that Nordstrom didn’t.
Data and measurement
- Defining and measuring success for social media support is much more difficult than with traditional support due to the wider variety of reasons that people use social media for support. With traditional phone and email support, customers usually have one question that they are seeking an immediate answer to, whereas with social media support, customers could be looking to continue a previous conversation, complain or other reasons.
- Amazon and REI are prioritizing development and successful of their own social platforms in 2013. They didn’t elaborate on why; my guess is so they can own customer data.
- Amazon and REI rely heavily on measurement and audience data to drive strategy:
- Impressive for REI given that its social media team is only 4 people. REI is weighing options for buying a paid measurement tool so they can get comprehensive information on where people talk about them online.
- Amazon values experimentation via small tweaks in social media and measuring the impact., much like Wetpaint does.
Photo of January 29, 2013 attendees taken from a Facebook photo album by Social Media Club Seattle
Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft 40 hours a week via my job at Waggener Edstrom, but I don’t use my personal blog or social media profiles for work purposes. My boss tells me that I can blog about whatever I want within the boundaries of common sense.
Since about 2009, I’ve been on a fairly constant quest to prioritize one area I’m truly passionate about and makes me employable so I can center my online personal brand around it. After all, people tend to be most effective at developing an online reputation as being qualified if they talk about one thing all the time. My struggle with this is I have so many seemingly unrelated curiosities, which I develop more and more of the longer I work in public relations:
- public relations
- social media (which I maintain public relations professionals should know as much about as media relations)
- communications measurement
- business-to-business communications
- how to manage companies and teams
- cloud and mobile computing (which are connected)
- increasingly, LGBT rights
- various pop culture, usually involving LGBT celebrities
So what do all of these have in common? When people ask me why I like Beijing so much, the answer is very obvious to me: “I like Beijing because it feels like you are in the middle of something very important that is changing very quickly.” I realized that I could say the same about any of the other topics listed above. All my professional interests are:
- changing quickly
- misunderstood or under-appreciated
“Important” is a subjective term. In this context, I mean something that currently affects large numbers of people, creates a lot of financial opportunity, will become part of history textbooks decades in the future, or some combination of those factors.
In terms of the under-appreciated or misunderstood aspect, this could be why I took American Sign Language as my high school language and why I’m drawn to an industry with such a bad reputation among the general public as public relations. The main reason I was interested in traveling to China as a child, before I ever anticipated I would work there for two years, is that China is the world’s most populous country and has an amazing history, but in school we learned mostly about the U.S. and Western Europe. There is a lot of ignorance within the U.S. about what China is really like and vice versa, likely as a result of China and the U.S. not having even basic diplomatic relations until President Nixon visited Beijing in 1976.
So, there you have it. I will blog and tweet and do whatever else online (on websites I use for professional interests) about things that are important, changing quickly, and misunderstood or under-appreciated. I think for the sake of simplicity now, though, I’ll call the topics China, public relations, and a little bit of high tech. :)
Anyone working in mass media, whether as a journalist, advertiser or public relations professional, is aware that volume and speed of content is king nowadays, and goes hand-in-hand with an increase in part-time and volunteer information providers, such as bloggers, vloggers and article contributors. In Two GeekWire weeks, three entrepreneurial lessons, a blogger who stepped in while the co-founders were on vacation said he created 41 posts in 40 hours.
This demand for volume and speed can lead to inaccurate reporting, and last week we saw a textbook case with the X-Surface news cycle (see Random Gamer Punks Major Blogs on XBox Rumors.) To demonstrate how easy it was to become a credible, anonymous source to gaming blogs, a gamer emailed several blogs from a Gmail account with entirely bogus information, claiming to be a Microsoft employee (see the visuals for this on Tumblr). It appeared on a Pocket-lint.com, then was eventually picked up by outlets as widely read as VentureBeat and CNET, citing Pocket-lint.com as the source of the news.
It’s easy to get annoyed at these outlets, but really it reflects the reality of today’s media environment and the pressure that individual information providers are under.
What does this mean to public relations professionals? We need to:
- Make accurate information crazy easy to find and understand. This includes both making it easy to find on official websites and making the websites easy to find through social media and SEO. This also means that we need to post the information wherever our audiences are, especially where target reporters are. It’s okay to push text out on social media instead of trying to drive people to websites, if that’s in line with our audiences’ behavior.
- Choose who we break high-interest stories with very carefully and provide them with information that is crazy easy to understand. It can sometimes be more effective to give an exclusive story to an outlet that other outlets repurpose news from than to broadcast a news release or host a press conference or call.
- Plan for news leaks of real stories and have information that is crazy easy to find and understand ready to publish if news breaks. If news breaks early on a true story that we were planning to announce at a later date, the worst thing we can do is let outlets run with it and refuse to acknowledge it until our planned announcement date, when it’s not news any longer. For all news that we think might leak, we should decide at the beginning of the announcement planning process what information we will share in the event of a news leak, with whom, and with what sources and delivery method.
Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/elizabeth/www/www/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 663
Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/elizabeth/www/www/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 663
On Friday, my employer found out that we won the PR News Platinum PR Award in Public Affairs for our work on the launch of Washington United for Marriage. The award was global in scale and the competition fierce; most of the other finalists were national campaigns by global public relations firms. Needless to say, the mood was quite jovial.
I’m very fortunate to have been part of the award-winning team. I’ve thought since the 2008 United States presidential campaign that public relations work for political causes could be interesting but that I would have to either start as a volunteer canvasser and work my way into public relations or work my way up to the CEO of a major public relations agency then switch over to politics. Instead, I spent about a year in business-to-business public relations – mostly media relations – for technology companies, and 3.5 years blogging and managing social media strategically for myself outside of work. Then, at the age of 25, in November 2011, I inserted myself into the Washington United for Marriage launch team and had a hand in day-to-day social media management; news release editing and distribution; and coverage tracking. In addition to being personally rewarding, the experience also was great for my professional development; it was heaviest news cycle and had more broadcast and general interest elements than any campaign I’ve ever been a part of. It was the most enjoyable part of my career so far, including college.
What I did wasn’t what I would consider public affairs in the sense that my job duties were similar to those of most junior-ish public relations professionals; although, because the point of the launch was to influence elected officials’ votes, in that sense it was public affairs. My goal in joining the team was never to get into public affairs, but rather to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, just a tad after my return from two years in Beijing, to put my professional skills toward the political issue I care about most, LGBTQ rights, in my home state.
This launch fared as well as it could in other national awards without winning. It earned honorable mentions from the Ragan’s PR Daily Awards in Grand Prize PR Campaign of the Year and Best ‘Traditional Still Works’ PR Campaign and was a finalist in the Holmes Report Gold SABRE Award for Local/State Public Affairs.
Here is the rest of the Nyhus Communications team who worked on it: Roger Nyhus, Jennifer Morris, Joseph Vandenorth, Jonathan Misola and Quinn Majeski. Maggie Humphreys joined Nyhus 2 months following the launch and has been volunteering quite a bit throughout the campaign on phone banking. Big shout-out, too, to all of our clients and partners outside of Nyhus during launch, whom were essential to our success.
Let’s hope that Washington state votes on the right side of history in November to uphold civil marriage for same-sex couples in my home state. It would be the first time in U.S. history that same-sex marriage wins at the ballot box. I’m currently trying to figure out ways to help sway votes without spending a lot of money; one is participating in the Seattle Times’ #IDo74 campaign and another is going to a fundraiser on Capitol Hill this weekend.
I had a brief discussion with a co-worker immediately after President Obama announced today that he supports same-sex marriage. The gist of our conversation was that not only were we elated with what this means for world history but extremely impressed by the public relations planning that we think went into the announcement.
Based on my past experience on the public relations side of a political news cycle, here is my best shot at deconstructing the planning:
1. Barack Obama has always supported same-sex marriage, but went “back in the closet” about it after he decided to run for national office. Check out: “Obama’s Views on Gay Marriage ‘Evolving’” in the New York Times in June 2011.
May 10 UPDATE: Apparently, my second guess was right and Obama/his campaign staff decided to announce his support for same-sex marriage after Vice President Biden talked about it on Meet the Press. The original plan was to announce his support right before the Democratic National Convention in September. (Source: The Advocate – News Roundup: The Day After) Kudos to his campaign staff for accomplishing everything in steps 2 and 3 in between steps 4 and 5 outlined below.
2. Either President Obama decided that he was willing to risk losing re-election over supporting same-sex marriage or his campaign staff concluded through analysis that it would be advantageous for him to support it. Campaign staff planned to announce his support for same-sex marriage the day after the North Carolina vote on the matter via an exclusive interview with a national TV news outlet. Why not a news conference? My guess is that an interview decreases the period of time between when you tell any media you have something to say and when the public knows a prediction of what you’re going to say. A news conference requires more lead time to invite reporters and implies you have a major announcement to make.
3. At some point between step 2 and step 5, his campaign staff did the following:
- Decided which TV news reporter to pitch the exclusive interview to.
- Wrote detailed talking points or an exact script for his answer to the question on his stance and prepared President Obama on it. This contained carefully crafted key messages directly tied to research on what language best satisfies people who are undecided on marriage equality.
- Created a plan, list or both for who would receive personal calls on the news immediately after it broke.
- Came up with a plan for how to staff the crazy heavy news cycle; may have communicated this to staff, depending on how many people were allowed to be in the know.
- Drafted and approved all written and visual content to distribute publicly, including a blog post, “President Obama Supports Same Sex Marriage,” with blanks to fill in for the news outlet.
4. Campaign staff kickstarted a news cycle on same-sex marriage as it relates to the presidential election through planning a comment from Vice President Biden on Meet the Press.
5. Campaign staff pitched and negotiated an exclusive interview with ABC News, including timing of when the various segments would run. I wouldn’t be surprised if staff pitched the interview no longer than a few hours in advance as well as if ABC News and campaign staff didn’t negotiate the questions ahead of time.
6. The interview rolled out as planned and the whole world broke into a crazy news cycle.
Note: Notice how the White House did not issue a news/press release? You don’t need one if you line up an exclusive story on a hot topic then push it out via social media.
This is only my personal opinion on what happened and I could be totally wrong. On the off-chance that President Obama changed his public stance on same-sex marriage as a direct result of pressure from advocates following Vice President Biden’s interview or that Vice President Biden jumped the gun on an opinion that was supposed to be under wraps until after the election, then steps 2 and 3 would have all taken place in a scramble between steps 4 and 5. The reason I doubt either is that Barack Obama has never been spontaneous in how he presents himself, and Robert Gibbs won the public relations professional of the year award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for his work on Obama for President in 2008.
What are your thoughts on the public relations behind Obama’s announcement? I’ve been looking for commentary from major public relations blogs but haven’t found any, yet.
An article in Inc. today, Toss Out Your Social Media Metrics, is based on social media philosophies from Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO). The title, while attention-grabbing, is a tad misleading because at first glance, it sounds like an opinion that social media metrics don’t matter. However, instead, Peter makes a point I’ve always wholeheartedly agreed with, which is that you can absolutely measure social media results, but you should do so in a way that directly ties to your business objectives, instead of choosing arbitrary numbers to track.
In my opinion, the argument over whether there is ROI to social media comes down to the argument of whether there is ROI to public relations. If you can say that there is ROI to landing an article in a hard-copy trade magazine, then you can certainly argue that there is a ROI to tweets or YouTube videos that reach tens of thousands of people in your business’ target audience. In fact, I would argue that web analytics and public, detailed information on the profiles of whoever interacts with you online makes it even easier to measure success of online-only efforts than success of traditional public relations.
In order to be as effective as possible in justifying time and money spent on social media, I recommend you always operate with the following considerations in mind:
1. Tie your social media strategy and measurement to something other than social media.
Why are you ultimately using social media? Recruitment? Sales? Getting a piece of legislation passed? You cannot justify the return on investment of social media without first establishing what the return looks like. If someone says we are using it to “raise awareness,” why are we raising awareness? If you can’t get this information out of whoever you are reporting to, then establish it yourself by observing what sort of activities and audiences top management have consistently made a priority.
2. Always start with the strategy, not the end technology.
If someone goes to you asking for you for advice on social media measurement tools, ask them what they are trying to measure. There are a lot of great tools out there, but they all excel at measuring different things. You therefore need to know what you’re measuring before you pick a tool.
3. Measure how much time and money goes into social media, if you don’t already.
A great point that came up at the Seattle Interactive Conference this past November was, “Can you really complain about lack of ROI when you didn’t put any I in?” Show the relationship of return to investment, and compare it to ROI on activities that the company is already doing outside of social media. Did you reach 40,000 people with one tweet that took 10 seconds to write and 40,000 people with a magazine article that took 10 hours to write? Tie results to amount of time or money spent in a compelling way.
4. Provide context to your measurement.
Reporting out on your success or areas for improvement for social media is not necessarily helpful to your colleagues or clients unless they have an idea of what you were trying to accomplish from the beginning. If you say, “We got 10 great job applicants for one position as a direct result of strategically using LinkedIn,” make sure people know that you set out to use social media to help with recruiting.
[image courtesy of Flickr user aussiegall]