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.
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.
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]
- Parents with strong opinions on language education, even if they don’t speak foreign languages themselves
- Expectation that you spend large portions of class time on games or songs
- Students of very young ages, sometimes as young as 2 years old
- Poor listening comprehension compared with writing ability
- Nine-plus years of learning English from native Chinese-language speaking teachers who are not qualified by United States foreign language education standards
- Student difficulty adapting to education styles and philosophies uncommon in China, such as necessary in-class participation and homework assignments
- Much more leniency toward cheating on tests than at U.S. universities
- Students with undiagnosed learning disabilities
- Students assigned to classes by age or grade level instead of language level
- Emphasis on class’ success over individual students’
- Expectation that you teach oral English or culture classes only
- Related to the above bullet point, lack of integrated language education
- General Chinese work culture pattern of more procrastination than in the U.S. and therefore last-minute meeting, substitution, and class addition requests
- Learn at least a tiny bit of Mandarin that you can speak when asked to. Learning how to write a few characters, such as your Chinese name, will impress people, too.
- View my post Chinese Social Media as an Educational Tool for ideas on how to mix entertainment with education and “be a friend” to your students.
- Related to the above, participate in extracurricular activities such as company social activities with coworkers or university student life.
- Give your students in-class group projects as frequently as is practical and fair. Minimize tests and lengthy, individual homework assignments.
- Recognize and reward students for multiple kinds of effort, such as perfect class attendance, studying hard for tests, and helping classmates, separately as well as in combination.
- Show parents measurable results, such as words students have learned how to spell or pronounce.
- Respect process, bureaucracy, and hierarchy. When you think that you have too many meetings or that your young students take too many tests, for example, try to see things from the perspective of your boss and the pressure he or she is under from supervisors.
Do you have any questions? For those who have taught English in China and have anything to add, let me know in the comments.
This is the first post in a two-part series inspired by questions and advice requests I’ve received from Americans who are seriously considering moving to China to teach English. This post is on standard qualifications and compensation. The next will be on how to be an effective English teacher in China and what common classroom challenges to expect.
What’s my background in this area? I spent my second of two consecutive years in China teaching in Beijing Geely University’s Foreign Languages College and at a branch of New Oriental Elite Kids. Geely University is an expensive, pretty new but large university on the rural outskirts of Beijing for students who did not get into prestigious public universities. New Oriental Elite Kids is an expensive academy for students aged 4-18 to take small classes and private lessons outside of their regular schooling. New Oriental is an international language education chain famous within China. I took these two jobs to provide me with income, stability and an extra year of Beijing life while I got my public relations career together.
A lot of this series’ content may sound negative because I want to warn of China’s high percentage of sketchy English education employers and attitudes toward work and education that most Americans I know disagree with. That said, I loved living in Beijing, my teaching memories from there are mostly positive, and I endorse teaching English through a good employer as a means to first-hand China access. Please note that China varies quite a bit by region and city, so my experience in Beijing may not directly translate to what you can expect in other cities. China’s cost of living and inflation are also increasing rapidly, so my advice from nearly a year ago may be out of date.
First, I’d like to point out a few great online resources:
- U.S. Embassy guide to teaching English in China
- Popular, useful English-language sites specific to Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu: The Beijinger, Shanghaiist, GoChengdoo
- My Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad series
- My blog’s China category
- For my Facebook friends, my notes from June 2008 to June 2010
The following are typical qualifications of English teachers at full-time, reliable employers in Beijing:
- Citizen of an English-speaking country
- Bachelor’s degree, not in a major related to teaching or Chinese
- Passport and diploma copies confirming the above two
- No Chinese language ability
- 0-1 years teaching experience, including tutoring
- Usually you must be from the United States or United Kingdom and be Caucasian due to accent and racial discrimination. However, Geely University hires non-Caucasian teachers.
- Geely University also hires teachers who are not from English-speaking countries but are completely fluent in English through a lifetime in English-language immersion education. This is the exception, though.
This is the sort of compensation and assistance you could expect or demand with the above qualifications in June 2010 in Beijing:
- A work (Z) visa and foreign expert’s certificate, arranged but not paid for by your employer
- An English-speaking point person at your employer to heavily assist you with navigating initial immigration requirements
- Very basic health insurance to cover major accidents or injuries
- At a university, a free or nearly free on-campus apartment to yourself with subsidized utilities
- At a school other than an academy, two-month long vacations in summer and winter that both pay partial salary, (half in my case, which was paid at the end of the break)
- University working hours: 20 class hours per week during weekdays plus preparation and meetings outside of class
- Academy working hours: 30-40 class hours per week on evenings and weekends plus preparation outside of class and minimal meetings
- Public university pay before taxes: 3,000 RMB per month
- Private university: 7,000 RMB per month
- Academy (no housing included): 11,000 RMB per month or 150 RMB per hour
You should expect lower salaries and levels of competition for jobs outside of Shanghai and Beijing.
Keep in mind when negotiating that in June 2010, in order to have housing, healthcare, and entertainment comparable to what many 22-year-olds with college degrees experience in the U.S., you would have to make at least 9,000 RMB per month or free housing plus 7,000 per month.
Don’t accept a promise to get you a work visa after you enter China. This is difficult to impossible to do within the country. It will also severely limit your further employment options in China if you arrive in the country without one. Also, you should consider it a job offer red flag if an employer offers to drastically increase your pay after a set period of time. This is standard for sketchy jobs that don’t last long but not standard for work in China in general.
You can negotiate better compensation than what I suggested above if you have a certificate or major in teaching, especially in teaching English as a foreign or second language; experience teaching English as a foreign language in a classroom; or a degree higher than a bachelor’s. I don’t think my ability to speak Chinese to my students was as much of an advantage as these other qualifications, but it might have helped in landing me work.
Do you have any questions? For those who have taught English in China and have anything to add, let me know in the comments.
I experienced a steep learning curve during my Weber Shandwick internship because while it wasn’t my first internship, it was my first at an agency. Below are tactics and job duties that I never encountered until agency work and have worked on at both Weber Shandwick and Nyhus Communications:
Depending on the agency and client, pitches can be a more common outreach method to individual journalists than emailed press releases.
Advanced search engine skills:
In school, I learned how to use library resources, including exclusive access databases, to research information. Now, most of my research involves figuring out the most efficient and comprehensive search queries for either inbound coverage alerts or one-off research projects.
Soft skills in prioritizing and time management:
I never knew that time management could be any more systematic than working on tasks my supervisor assigned until they were complete and keeping a to-do list. It’s been important for me to figure out which deadlines I can meet without extensions and what tasks can wait until later.
Hunting down background information for briefing documents for spokesperson interviews
Compiling and updating documents for client viewing such as call agendas, detailed coverage reports and metrics, and agency activity reports
Researching and submitting applications for awards and spokesperson event opportunities
In preparation for some of today’s PRSA Jumpstart attendees’ likely visiting my blog after meeting me, I’m writing two back-to-back posts on how my expectations of public relations as a student in 2008 differ from my work experience so far in 2011. I’d like to highlight not only my predictions when I was a student, but lessons and skills agency work exposed me to.
This post is on the public relations industry as a whole. The next post is on my job duties. These two posts aren’t meant to make me seem highly knowledgeable or opinionated on public relations, but rather provide insight for people who are in the same place in their careers that I was a few months ago. Note: I didn’t work or intern in public relations for the two years following graduation, hence the time gap.
It’s possible to do entry-level public relations for something you know nothing about.
I think this may be a big difference between public relations for the arts versus business to business technology. It can be pretty difficult to get even an internship at a prominent arts organization without a major in the same arts discipline – for example, a theatre arts major if you want to intern at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – but no one expects an intern on a Microsoft account at a worldwide public relations firm to have studied computer science. Decision makers on the account must be familiar with the business, products, industry, and target media, but not interns starting out.
A big part of public relations is knowing what not to share.
I’ve observed my supervisors and their corporate clients decide to approach company news either proactively or reactively and draft a plan for communicating with media regardless of which they choose. Business relationships, competition, and what people have already decided are key messages can all influence the proactive versus reactive decision.
Social media use is not prolific, and its relationship to public relations is not yet standardized.
When I was learning how to blog and use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook in class in the winter of 2008, I expected that social media would be much more widely adopted in general and much more integrated into public relations in 2011 than it is now. There are still media professionals without Twitter or LinkedIn accounts, and people still email press releases that are not the least bit interactive and result in media coverage.
Who should manage a brand’s social presence: someone whose job is entirely digital in nature, a team in the digital department of a public relations agency, or someone who is also skilled in traditional media relations? Should community managers get free content reign or do they need to draft tweets for approval? Answers to these questions still vary quite a bit within the profession.
Public relations internships and entry-level jobs are more competitive to land now than they were in 2008.
I’ve observed that this is for two reasons: companies made long-term cuts to their junior public relations positions during the recession, and three to four graduating classes are now competing for the same jobs. The top two students in my graduating class and major spent the summer of 2007, between our junior and senior years, interning at San Francisco offices of worldwide public relations firms, and neither of them are from California. Now, this is so much less likely to happen, because a full-time public relations intern almost always has a college degree, if not a masters or public relations work experience, and is already living in the same city as the job.
The good news is that the industry, while still recovering, is very visibly growing instead of shrinking. It’s much less likely that an account coordinator will get laid off now than it was in late 2008.
This is the conclusion of a three-part series inspired by students’ and recent graduates’ requests for my advice on how to get a job offers abroad immediately after graduation. The series topics are Before You Leave, Visa Advice and Once You’re There, in that order.
Looking into visa regulations in your country of choice is just as important as job searching. Visa policies will have a large impact on what kind of jobs you can get abroad. Find out what is required for whatever visas you need to work legally, how easy it is to switch between visa types, and how easy it is for people to work illegally. For example, in China, foreigners need to either be 25 or have worked outside China for two years in order to get a work visa, but most foreigners work illegally, even in office jobs.