Posts tagged public relations
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.
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.
Nciku is a Web site worth blogging about. It’s a popular site for native English speakers learning Mandarin and vice versa. I’m highlighting what I view as their excellent Web development efforts, public relations efforts, and a little bit of both.
Web development efforts:
- A dictionary with Chinese character handwriting recognition
- Abilities for users to add vocabulary words and sample conversations to the site as well as ask each other language-related questions
- Personal vocabulary lists that the site automatically updates every time a user looks up a new word
Public relations efforts:
- Participation in popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter
- An accurate, succinct, catchy core message: “More than a dictionary.”
A little bit of both:
- A blog that people actually want to read daily
- An on-site social network
- Multiple levels of involvement for users to choose from (kind of like President Obama’s online election campaign headquarters)
How did I find out about Nciku? Someone on a Facebook group for my university’s Chinese-language students recommended it as a good online dictionary, specifically mentioning its hand-drawing tool. I’ve been using it as my primary Chinese-to-English dictionary ever since, and have recommended it to a few friends, who are happy with it as well. Nciku’s public relations efforts would be fruitless if it wasn’t a Web site that satisfied its users.
Image taken from Nciku.com without permission
I’ve become someone fascinated with Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, located about a five-minute walk from my work and known as the first non-profit art organization in China. Here’s a copy of its press release on changing chief curators, followed by the English version from Google Translate. The translation’s definitely not perfect, but you get the idea.
Please press release issued 20080513
You Lunsi Chief Curator of Contemporary Art Center, Qin, deputy director of the source will carry out his resignation and an independent curator career, Guo Xiaoyan successor as the center’s chief curator
You Lunsi Contemporary Art Center curator of the UCCA杰罗姆桑斯announced that Deputy Director and Chief Curator Qin source will leave the Arts Centre. From the opening date, Qin source for a non-profit organizations that provide a crucial contribution and efforts, and building a comprehensive Juju highly professional team of art for art center in China’s development and success of planning a series of exhibitions, Arts education courses, and the related promotional efforts.
You Lunsi left on Contemporary Arts Centre’s decision, Qin said the source of self-originated from his personal career planning considerations. Qin source said: “I hope that the next step can be an independent curator and artist’s identity, with other artists and art institutions work more closely……, I UCCA of work experience, I was invaluable.”
The newly appointed Chief Curator Guo Xiaoyan, as early as You Lunsi before the opening of Contemporary Art Centre (September 2007), then to join the identity of the curator. She Arts Centre will develop into China’s contemporary creative voice market, an important role to play. Guo Xiaoyan have been involved in China’s first folk art museums “on the River Art Gallery” (Chengdu) the establishment and management. In 2002 the Guangdong Museum of Art, “the Guangzhou Triennial” deputy director of the office, planning, planning, organizing many important contemporary art exhibitions and activities, in November 2005 of the second session, “the Guangzhou Triennial” planning one. In 2004, Guo Xiaoyan as Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art in Lyon, France planning “China Year” exhibition.
杰罗姆桑斯 said, You Lunsi Contemporary Arts Centre grateful Qin’s outstanding contribution to the source. In his work done on the basis of Guo Xiaoyan will continue to vigorously develop the arts centre of the arts projects, in-depth and international artistic dialogue.
As an international platform You Lunsi Contemporary Art Center display contemporary art from China as the creative mind would have been extended. In the next few months, the center of a series of art projects will increase cooperation with the Chinese artists of the new project.
You Lunsi Contemporary Art Center is a non-profit integrated arts centre, funded by collectors You Lunsi couples construction, in November 2007 was officially opened. Arts Centre launched, including well-known young artists and the exhibitions, to create a through education, research projects to share the experience of contemporary art platform.
I’ve been in Beijing for about six days and 22 hours so far. The reason I haven’t blogged yet is partially due to technical difficulties, but also because I think it’s wise for me to allow time for me to collect my thoughts before jumping on particular topics because I experience about as much in a day here as I do in a week in the United States.
One topic that is particularly relevant to both my Ning networks, PROpenMic and Considerations: The Art in Marketing is how locals view my major. I was worried that I might face a little workplace discrimination because I majored in neither art nor Chinese. However, I’ve found the opposite is true. Everyone I’ve met has said that public relations is a very good major. My employer’s president remarked that he’s working on a project to open a huge building that will require a lot of public relations work.
My supervisors seem to think my most valuable human capital is in my native English speaking ability, public relations education and internship experience. I’ll eventually become fluent in Chinese by living here, and I can learn about Chinese contemporary art by working here and visiting Web sites my direct supervisor suggests.
Of course, all my friends and colleagues either study at the Central University for Nationalities or work in the fabulous 798 Art Zone, so I can’t speak for the entire Chinese population. However, this country does appear to be undergoing essentially an industrial revolution, which creates an exponential demand for public relations. I learned in my college classes that the public relations major began in the U.S. and is much rarer in other countries.
Do you want to get a job in China? I’d say it’s hard to find a public relations job here unless you have a strong network related to China in your home country. I got mine because my randomly assigned roommate was from Beijing and knew someone who was prestigious within this art community. (So much for all my active networking in college, right?) My friend and former classmate Jessica Lomelin found in her job search that many worldwide firms’ offices prefer to hire locals so they won’t have to deal with immigration processes.
I suggest that you either get involved with your college’s Chinese student group or move here to teach English. One of my friends gets paid 200 Chinese dollars (30 USD) an hour to teach Korean children here full-time. Through these tactics, you’ll develop the necessary network to break into the public relations market. Lastly, make sure people know you want to work here! The day I graduated, I received a job offer out of the blue for an excellent job in China from a student looking to replace himself, which I had to decline because I already had this one. The reason? Pat Curtin, Ph.D., knew I had a strong interest in working in China and referred me to the e-mailer.
Your comments are welcome. What are your experiences looking for and working in jobs outside your home country?
*Note: This is the same post that appeared on my PROpenMic profile’s blog on July 1, 2008.