Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jumpstarting your passion for PR

If you haven't had the opportunity to enjoy the PRSA Jumpstart, you are truly missing out.

On Saturday, roughly 60 new PR professionals, students and career changers gathered at Seattle University to take advantage of some of the most cost-effective PR professional development and networking in our area--some traveling more than nine hours to make it to the event since the passes were closed due to weather. (Go Cougs!)

As 2008 president, I was honored to provide opening remarks, making the connection between strategic communications planning and plotting your career path. Here's a condensed version based on the RACE method of communications planning.

Research: Do your homework. As you chart your career, one of the most important steps is research.

  • Determine your problem statement and research the factors behind it. I want a job at a big agency but I don’t have any experience.

  • Just as you would conduct a situational—or SWOT—analysis before undertaking a new communications campaign, you need to consider the following throughout your career:

  • What are your strengths? You’re a great writer, you have tremendous creative ability?

  • What are your weaknesses? You lack attention to detail? You don’t have as much experience as you’d like?

  • What opportunities do you have? You are familiar and comfortable with the new PR technologies?

  • What threats do you face? You don’t have any real life experience?

  • Who are your key audiences? HR managers? Small firm president? Communications director at a government agency? Exec director at a non-profit?

  • What are they interested in? Hiring a capable, credible staffer.

  • What time constraints do they face? They might be doing two jobs until the new hire is on board. They might be taking time away from a high-profile client to interview you.

  • Put yourself in their shoes. Why are you the best candidate for the job? Why should you win that great, high-profile assignment? Why should you be promoted?

  • Be specific, have examples, provide hard data but also keep it simple and concise—Bring clips, quantify how many clips you have, document how many volunteer hours you’ve put in on PR projects, grades, references

Action: Set forth your plan of ACTION

  • Set your goals—Your broad dream of what you want to accomplish. To get a job at Microsoft. To win a promotion to account manager or deputy communications director.

  • Establish objectives—Who is your audience? What do you want them to do? By when? By how much? Demonstrate to communications director that I’ve completed XX number of projects over and above my day-to-day expectations and should be promoted by my next review.

  • Devise strategies to achieve your objectives. Strategies are focused on broad areas. Then you’ll employ various day-to-day tactics under each strategy to win that great job, promotion or raise. Look for projects above and beyond my day-to-day work and offer to do them to demonstrate initiative. Complete every assignment given to me early or in an excellent manner, exceeding expectations. Be creative. Don’t make your boss have to constantly assign things to you—start learning what needs to be done and do it. WELL. Demonstrate my passion for the Red Cross by volunteering on projects even if they don’t have an opening for me right now.

Communicate: Put your plan into action.

  • Think about the day-to-day tactics and timelines you’ll need to meet to back up the strategies you are pursuing. Keep a check list or to-do list of all your job duties and a timeline of when your supervisor asked you to complete them—Be accountable. Make a list of projects your group wants to complete that you can volunteer to help complete. Ask your boss if you can go forth and do them. If you don’t have a job, make a list all the same with tactics like, update resume, research Microsoft’s latest initiatives, schedule informational interviews, attend PRSA meetings and network.

Evaluate: Are you meeting your objectives? Do you need to adjust? This is where you go back to your research and objectives and check in with your key audiences to see how your strategies and tactics are working.

  • Maybe you’re volunteering for extra projects but you’re letting your day-to-day work slide. Someone has to monitor the clipping service, answer the phones, etc.

  • Maybe you’re volunteering for the extra projects and setting an expectation you haven’t been able to meet. Don’t be all talk and no action!

  • Maybe you’re knocking it out of the park – and you’ll be promoted early!!

  • Maybe you’ll have to take a little detour in your job search? Always keep your options open-everything you learn in PR can be applied in the future.

  • Checking in with your key audience – supervisor, potential hiring manager, etc—is never a bad idea, in moderation. If you don’t have anything new to provide to a hiring manager, don’t just keep bothering them every week. Pestering drives people crazy, but persistence and perseverance demonstrate passion, focus and drive.

Congratulations to everyone who attended this year's Jumpstart and a tremenous THANK YOU to all the speakers and committee members who created yet another top-notch Jumpstart.

Please help me out by posting additional resources in the comments!