Category Archives: PR

Ten Tips for PR Applicants

Helpful tips
Three times a year I go through dozens of graduate applications for the Taylor Bennett Foundation PR programme.  Each time, I am dazzled by the research and care that have gone into filling in some of these forms.  However, I am also dreadfully disappointed and frustrated with others.

So, to help others not to make the same mistakes, here are my ten tips on what do when applying for a PR role.

1)      Don’t address your application to the wrong company.  Attention to detail is important to PR.  Addressing it to “Taylor Herring” instead of “Taylor Bennett” cost one graduate a place this time.

2)      Be polite.  If the company you have applied to bother to reply (and believe me, lots don’t) then take it on the chin and thank them for considering you.  Manners cost nothing.  Writing to tell them that they are WRONG and are making a HUGE mistake by not taking you on will make sure they remember you for all the wrong reasons.

3)      Avoid clichés.  If I had a pound for every time I have read an application with “I like to think out of the box” written on it, I’d be a very rich woman.

4)      If a form asks you to list your skills then saying “I’m punctual, honest and reliable” is both dull, and not particularly informative.   Surely no one would admit to be habitually late, dishonest and unreliable?

5)      If you are asked “Why does a career in PR appeal to you?” do not reply with;

  1. I hear the money’s good
  2. I really wanted to be a teacher/surgeon/porn star but couldn’t get the job I wanted so this is the next best thing
  3. Max Clifford is MY GOD
  4. I LOVE those Guinness Adverts and want to be able to create stuff like that
  5. I really want to be a journalist and think this might be an easy way in

6)      Don’t ignore the “name” box on an application form, seriously.

7)      Read the application instructions carefully.  If they ask for a CV and covering letter, then send a CV and covering letter.  If they ask for a completed application form, then send a completed application form.  If they ask for 400 words on why you’d be a great PR, then send 400 words on why you’d be a great PR.  Instructions are there for a reason so follow them.

8)      Ignore word counts at your peril.  If an application for asks for 100 – 200 words on a particular subject then make sure you write a minimum of 100 words and a maximum of 200.  Being able to follow such basic instructions is a good indication of whether you’ll be able to follow instructions once you have the job.

9)      Don’t submit your application after the deadline.   And if your application is rejected because it’s late, don’t send a begging email asking them to consider it anyway.  If you want it to be considered, get it in on time.  There is no excuse.

10)   Avoid saying “I work well in a team, but also on my own”.  Yawn. 

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Why be a PR mentor?

Mentor

Since 2008, Taylor Bennett has set out to address the lack of ethnic diversity in the PR industry with an innovative PR training and internship programme.  For ten weeks, six black and minority ethnic graduates are given intensive PR training, work-based experience  and career guidance.  They also get to meet industry professionals from a range of in-house, agency and media organisations.  It is a fabulous scheme and in 2010 it won the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award for Social Inclusion , which we are very proud of.   Previous participants have already started successful careers in communications in firms which include Edelman, Brunswick, Cantos, Racepoint Group, MS&L, Freud, Talk PR, London Thames Gateway, Macbeth Media Relations and the Olympic Legacy Company.  The success of the scheme means that by the end of 2011, nearly 50 graduates will have passed through the programme and that leaves us with a dilemma.

Until now, we have offered each of the interns personal career guidance, not only while they’re on the programme, but as they enter their careers and beyond.  However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do this.  We are a small organisation and while I adore all our interns, there are not enough hours in the day for me to run the programme, and to continue to support them regularly once they leave us.   So, we are appealing to the PR community to step forward and act as mentors to these graduates – not only as they embark on their first PR roles, but throughout the lifetime of their careers.

Several PR practitioners have already put their hands up for this opportunity.  We try to partner the mentors with grads we think will get the most out of their advice, and then ask that they try to meet up once a month for coffee to discuss their career aspirations.  The rest of the time they are available by phone and email to answer questions and offer advice.  We hope therefore that it is not too time-intensive, but that it gives the grads someone to turn to when they have a career question or issue.

Mentoring can be very rewarding.  It gives you the opportunity to see a mentee progress and grow as a person.  It also allows you to develop your management and training skills.  Which gives you the chance to self-reflect – making sure that you regularly audit your own skills and professional development. It should also enrich your working experience.  By keeping tabs on what junior people in the industry are up to, it enables you to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s new and should enhance your professional image.

For the mentees, it helps them to develop those all important networking skills and to gain a different perspective on how the profession works.  It should give them confidence to speak to people more senior than them, teach them how to work towards goals, and give them experience of handling constructive criticism.  In turn we hope that this will fire up their enthusiasm for the industry and inspire them to apply for jobs, and then develop their communications careers.

Our current mentors are:

Lisa Quinn, Taylor Bennett
Lily Lazarevski, Cut Communications
Nicky Rudd, Padua Communications
Nina Arnott, McDonalds
Sharon Chan, Consolidated PR
Magda Bulska, CHA
Howard Jones, CC Group
Chris McCafferty, Kaper PR

 

We are currently on the hunt for seven more mentors.  Ideally you will have experience in the following sectors, but we are very open to anyone who has an interest in volunteering. 

Fashion/beauty
Financial PR
Consumer
Digital
Charity
Professional services (particularly law)

You don’t need to be particularly senior, although you’re very welcome if you are, but ideally should have some experience of managing junior members of staff.

If you would like to volunteer as a mentor, please email sarah@taylorbennettfoundation.org

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Will a more creative approach get you that job in PR?

Hire me t shirt Recently, Lexis PR was accepting applications for its graduate scheme.  Among them, one grad sent a box of cupcakes to show that they stood out… and Lexis’ HR team tweeted about it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across less conventional job applications.  In the past I’ve had a graduate send me a tea bag with their CV “so that you can have a nice cuppa while you read about my experience”.   More recently, one of our Taylor Bennett Foundation alumni, Nahidur Rahman, wrote a blog post on why a PR firm should hire him, and Racepoint Group snapped him up.

Last September we featured Graeme Anthony in esPResso with his CVIV.  It did the rounds on Twitter and came up trumps as he’s now working at Frank.  Similarly, Stephen Waddington has written a post featuring Laura Tosney at 33 Digital and her (frankly, amazing) animation that clinched the job for her there.

A few of our ex-interns took part in an online chat on the Guardian website about social media careers.  This led on to a discussion about how to make themselves stand out.  Alan Parker of Golin Harris suggested something quirky might work.  “I once had a candidate send me a shoe in a shoebox with his CV” he told me, “so that they can get a foot in the door”.

On Twitter, I floated the idea of a CV printed on a tea-towel (inspired by all the Royal Wedding merchandise I can see creeping up on us).  Responses ranged from “It’s novel, it deserves an interview at least” from the MD of Rise PR, Paul Alan  to “that’s just weird” from communications officer, Emma Jackson Stuart and “creativity in an application isn't generally welcome in the public sector! It’s better to sell yourself based on examples.” From Adam Fairclough.

Which just goes to show, sending a more unusual job application can work, but you have to be careful who you target with your creative approaches.

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To Tweet Or Not To Tweet?

Twitter-Logo

Last Thursday I went to a really fantastic conference, Bright One’s Impress London.  And I’m not just saying that because I was a speaker.  Aimed at students and graduates looking to get into a career in PR.  There was a fabulous line up of speakers.

The strongest message of the day, repeated by every single speaker was “when we recruit grads, we expect them to be savvy in social media.”

And so, I was quite surprised that so few of the attendees tweeted during the event.  During his introduction, Ben Matthews told the audience that the hashtag for the day was #impress.

A few people got the hang of it, and very quickly I could form a view of who they were by viewing their Twitter profiles.  By the afternoon session on social media with Stephen Davies, Chris Reed and Rob Dyson I had give up tweeting on my BlackBerry and was brazenly tweeting on my netbook – in the front row.

On Friday, I mentioned on Twitter that I felt quite rude tapping away when others were speaking – which sparked a bit of debate.

When asked if they were bothered by people tweeting when they spoke the response from the speakers was unanimous – no one minded.

Nicola Jones:  “if anything I advocate it, it’s cool to hear what people agree with /don't agree with about what you are saying”.

Stefan Stern: “You can't beat feedback in real time.”

Jaz Cummins: “Agreed, instant feedback is fab. I think tweeters will like it more than non-tweeters though.”

Rob Hinchcliffe:  “not at all, enhances things I think.”

RobmDyson:  Good to tweet for others not present. I'm an advocate as I know how useful & transparent it can be to follow remotely. & spreads awareness / PR of speakers ;)  I'm v used to tweeting at confs. & it means I can 'virtually attend' confs outside England like #begoodbesocial 😉

 

And Stephen Davies raised an interesting point, he encourages tweeting at conferences but added that he  “Can understand why [people may be uncomfortable tweeting]. In non geek circles people are told to switch of their phones before a conference starts.”

But despite the acceptance of the practice among the speakers, some of the attendees had obviously felt uncomfortable about it. 

Carly Ann Smith, a student at Lincoln, said she felt slightly rude if she went on her phone and Rhian Burrell-Joseph commented she thought it was rude to tweet when someone’s talking to you and it would be helpful if the etiquette of what to do in that situation was more established.  And that seems to be at the crux of the issue, some students are not encouraged to tweet at University, so aren’t comfortable doing it outside of lectures. Amy Brunsdon, a student at the University of Gloucestershire, commented that it was nice to be able to tweet throughout as it’s frowned upon in her lectures and J’ara Ami  agreed “I think it was so cool that we were encouraged to tweet at #impress!  It’s all well learning social media but it’s another to engage.

 

Given that graduates are so strongly encouraged by industry professionals to be active on social networks in order to be employable, surely banning Twitter in lectures is short-sighted? David Phillips agrees.  He encourages students to tweet both in lectures and beyond.

Richard Bailey takes a different approach.  Email and Facebook are banned in lectures and so it’s easiest to ban social media tools across the board, including Twitter.

Phillip Young, lecturer at Sunderland University says tweeting has its place and it is important for academics to encourage social media engagement,   “Sunderland was one of the first universities in the UK to incorporate teaching social media into its PR programme and I know from many practitioners and graduates that this knowledge did and still does help them get jobs and, more importantly, make a real contribution from the day they start work.

 I think it is very difficult indeed to separate social media theory from practice! Also, there is quite a difference from being an enthusiastic personal user of Facebook and running a PR campaign with a social media dimension. Understading how you and your friends use social media to find out about the world can give very useful insights but building a strategic campaign that eets specific objective is  rather different, and making the linkages is should be part of any PR degree. (If the students could do it thelmselves why bother going to university!)

 It is my belief that today all PR is online PR. It is no longer a specialism but an integral part of any lecture, and lecturers and  academics who don't appreciate this need to think carefully about their own understanding of the discipline.”

I went on to ask him how he felt about attendees tweeting during conferences, or students during lectures.

“I am reasonably comfortable about tweeting during academic or practitioner conference presentations, which I often do for the benefit of those who cannot attend. Also, as a presenter I find it useful to see feedback and questions.

That said, it is not an easy skill – listening, understanding, then typing something worthwhile at speed in 140 characters is tricky and a lot of presentation tweets (including my own!) aren't of great value.

I can see advantages for students in crowdsourcing comment on lectures – "we are being told xxxxx – what do others think?" but I am not sure how useful general back channel chat is.

One of my students did make an (almost!) plausible claim that being on Facebook during lectures helped her concentrate. Her argument was that  if she was just listening her mind might wander but if she was worried about being caught Facebooking she would then have to listen more carefully to what was being said to avoid being caught out.

I am (sort of) coming to believe that younger people genuinely are better than my generation at multi-tasking, but I am not sure they are that good!”

Jane Crofts, lecturer at Lincoln, takes a slightly different view.  “I find it irritating/distracting if students use their phones during my sessions and I always ask for them to be turned off in sessions. I think it is quite rude to use a phone and engage 'outside the room' during lectures and seminars. To me it is akin to holding private conversations in class and just plain rude.

It's a bit like if I was in a business meeting I would regard it as rude if other people started using their phones for a purpose other than if we had agreed in advance, say to check a point – such as the concept of 'phone a friend'. Now whether this will change as a younger generation take over the board room/lecture theatre I don't know.

Having said that if it is a debate/large lecture session I don't see why there cannot be an agreement at the start to tweet, but it should be done with prior agreement…bit of a Chatham House rules approach.

Now, as to using social media as a teaching/assessment tool that is different and I set blogs and tweets as assignmenets and have done a session just this week on the use of the hash tag, setting it in the context of #demo2010 which failed to trend. I am of the view that social media are just another channel for PR to use and should be used appropriately and selectively, one size does not fit all.”

 

As someone who spends a lot of time teaching graduates how they can make themselves more employable, I am always keen that academics in the field keep their fingers on the pulse of what the industry requires of graduate recruits.  I believe it is in the academic’s interest for their students to go on into glittering careers in communications.  What better advert for their course than successful graduates?  As social media becomes a necessity for every graduate recruit, it is a foolish university that ignores those tools completely.

But the question of etiquette is a good one – I would never tweet , text or email during a meeting, but I would tweet at a conference where it was invited and I think that’s the key – established boundaries and encouragement where appropriate.

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PR Graduate Recruitment Schemes

Over the past couple of years I’ve spent a lot of time giving job hunting advice to recent graduates.  Given that they’ve graduated in the worst economic climate since the ’30s, they need all the help they can get I reckon.

We recently started investigating which PR agencies have graduate recruitment schemes and what their application criteria is.  Here’s what we came up with but I am pretty sure there are plenty more out there.  If your agency would like to be included in this list, let me know.

PR Graduate Recruitment Schemes

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Social Media; The Death of Print?

Thecomputerdemandsablog

Well here I am again advertising something…. it will stop soon… However this may be of interest as it touches on social media and PR, both of which are meant to be featured regularly on this blog.

Unicorn Jobs in conjunction with our sister company, Taylor Bennett, is hosting a round table called, erm, "Social Media; The Death of Print?"  It’s on March 10th at the Charlotte Street Hotel.  If you’re a Facebook user you can see details here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=8541632674

If you’re not a Facebook user how do you ever get invites to anything?  Email me and I’ll send you something in plain text.

It should be a hotly debated topic.  If you know bugger all about social media then all the better, we will introduce you to the world of blogs, podcasts and virtual worlds.  (I saw Second Life on a CSI episode the other night…. that may be a whole other post).

Anyway, if you want to come send an email to socialmedia@unicornjobs.com and say you’d like to be there. 

What’s more, you get to meet me and have a beer.  What more could you want?

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PR Vlogs

Inspired by the Golin Harris vidos of their away days (as mentioned by Alex Pearmain), I had a quick scout around YouTube this morning for other PR vids.  Here’s a selection….

Golin Harris

Hill and Knowlton Graduates 2006
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jhPJlIAfRc
(Embedding of this vid is disabled by request apparently!)

Edelman
Recruitment ad

Weber Shandwick
Multicultural communications insights

Burson Marsteller
A minute with Robert Leaf

Fleishman Hillard
FH Away Day

Cohn & Wolfe
Promo Piece

Borkowski
Borkowski Movey

Mark Borkowski Virgin Megastore video blog

Cake
Cake Showreel

Cake – This is what we do

Waggener Edstrom
Lunatic Fringe 2007

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