PR Struggle: Internships and Diversity

According to a recent report, PR professionals are among the worst offenders for exploiting interns. In our field, it is not uncommon for unpaid interns to perform job functions that could be performed by paid staff, meaning that they could be entitled to at least minimum wage.

Interns Wanted

For organizations offering unpaid internships, this functions as a double-edged sword: yes, short-term bottom lines benefit by the assistance that interns can provide for free, but the organizations could also be limiting the pool of talent to only include those able to work without financial compensation, potentially cutting out many qualified and talented individuals – after all, most students have college loans and monthly utility bills to worry about.

The catch-22 of the situation, of course, is that it’s hard to imagine a college graduate trying to break into the highly competitive field of Public Relations without completing a minimum of one or two internships. Soon to be enter the job market myself, I am all too familiar with the expectations and pressure that go along with being in this line of work. It isn’t uncommon to hear that a PR student’s GPA is not as significant as his or her experience, or that a decent portfolio is mandatory when walking into an interview.

The effects of this dynamic can be dangerous to the field as a whole. In fact, just this evening, a major question raised at the Rochester PRSA event was why the industry wasn’t becoming more diverse at a pace similar to that of society as a whole. According to David Grome, there were “several comments about the event’s location (Brooks Landing) being “difficult to find” or “near some sketchy areas,” which might be part of the challenge to unite people behind the issue of diversity. We tend not to go, literally and figuratively, where we’re not familiar.”

Is it too far a stretch to correlate the low amount of diversity in PR to the frequently unpaid internships that are all but a necessity to those trying to join the field?

Though I think there is definitely merit to that question and that it deserves to be discussed, I don’t necessarily think that all internships should be paid.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have completed five internships during my undergraduate career. Of them, two have been unpaid and three have been paid – giving me a unique perspective on this issue.

I learned an insane amount during one of my unpaid internships and built a relationship with one of the best PR professionals in the area – someone I am still lucky enough to consider a mentor today. Looking back, the experience proved to be worth every dollar of financial sacrifice that was associated with it. To those who would argue that they can’t afford to work for free despite the potential value in the experience, I would challenge them to reconsider.

The fact of the matter is that most unpaid internships are part-time (mine was only about 12 hours per week) and during normal business office hours, meaning that there is still plenty of time to have a part-time, paid job during nights and weekends. Not only that, but I also know that it is very possible to excel academically during a semester including both paid jobs and unpaid internships.

Unpaid internships are not limited to financially stable individuals. They are limited to individuals with professional priorities and excellent time-management skills.

I wonder what Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson would think.

The Internship

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King Arthur Flour Utilizes Digital Gatekeepers for SEO

I’m going to reveal a bit about myself to all of you today: I am not very good at cooking. Or even baking, for that matter. I think it takes too long, there is too much room for error, and requires too much clean-up for my tastes. I tend to blame all of this on my Italian roots and my mother who, as my childhood friends will remember, loved making food at all times during the day.

King Arthur FlourNevertheless, I recently learned about King Arthur Flour. That’s weird, I know, since the preparation of frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese does not require flour. So I’ll admit, I haven’t actually purchased any products from the Norwich, Vermont based company. Nor do I intend to, to be honest. I heard about the company as a result of its annual Blog & Bake program, and it inspired me to write this post on the topic of gatekeepers, and how important they are in the field of public relations.

We work at great companies who make great products and do great things. It’s simply our job to make sure as many great people are aware of them as possible. But it’s hard to tell that many people, so we go about it in different ways. That’s where traditional media relations came in: we tell a few well-respected journalists at widely-read publications about our greatness, and he or she passes the information along to a lot of other people.

Journalists are many things – like employees, writers and story-tellers. Most importantly, though – they’re gatekeepers. They act as a filter, separating the bad from the good and the great. Each one represents a much larger population – if we can just tell the right journalist about how great we are, he can tell everyone else!

In the digital age, though, the landscape is changing as fewer individuals read print newspapers and magazines, and essentially anyone with an Internet connection has the ability to produce and share content on a personal blog like the one you’re all reading right now. Especially in less mainstream niches, like baking, different people are the truly influential ones.

King Arthur Flour fully utilizes gatekeepers through its Blog & Bake program. Each year, a dozen of the most influential baking-bloggers are invited for an all-expenses paid weekend in Vermont, learning new baking techniques and baking new foods. The coverage rate after the event is incredibly high, with at least 11 of 12 writers in 2013 writing at least one post on their blogs this year.

This kind of coverage of an event has a number of effects:

  • Basic communication of King Arthur Flour’s great product to a huge but very targeted population.
  • Individuals who read baking blogs are, obviously, passionate about baking and look up to the writers of the blogs as role models. If their baking-heroes are using King Arthur Flour, why wouldn’t they follow suit?
  • Each blog post is loaded with a ton of high-resolution images from the weekend-long event. King Arthur Flour is seen as a tourist attraction among those that care about baking, and this kind of coverage can persuade people to visit the Vermont campus in addition to simply buying the flour.
  • Last but not least – this event has King Arthur Flour buzzing. It’s referenced countless times in each blog post. It’s linked to in each blog post. It’s even in the majority of the posts’ titles! Can we recognize the search-engine-optimization results that this event is responsible for?

I know it’s hard to quantify and attribute SEO results to any individual act of promotion, but you would have to think Blog & Bake has helped King Arthur Flour rise to the top of Google. Currently, Googling “blog bake” yields King Arthur Flour’s blog on page one. Furthermore, Googling “flour bake” yields King Arthur Flour as the top two results.

King Arthur Flour - Google Search

As less people receive solutions to their problems by reading newspapers and Google plays a more prevalent role, SEO becomes significantly more important and that changes who the gatekeepers are.

On the off chance that I one day decide to begin baking (and care about my cakes & cookies enough to buy premium flour), can anyone guess where I’ll be ordering from?

Criteria for Successful Leaders

www.linkedin.com/in/joannlinder

I spent most of the last year as an intern with Carestream Health, and those close to me know exactly how positive of an experience I had there. From the beginning to the end of my time in Worldwide Marketing Communications, I was a fully integrated member of the team and was able to learn from some of the best in the business. My manager at Carestream, JoAnn Linder, was one that I enjoyed working for very much, and I think she is an excellent leader of individuals.

One fear that many interns have when joining an organization is that they will serve the stereotypical internship experience retrieving coffee and organizing the office space. Fortunately for me, JoAnn operates under the mantra that people should take on as many projects and experiences as they are comfortable with and ask for.

In other words, her rope extends as far as one can take it.

This mindset allowed me to become involved in a wide variety of work at Carestream, meet as many individuals as possible and learn about everything from corporate communications to social media to Salesforce.com.

Part of getting so much experience at a relatively high level, as an intern, is the possibility of failure from time to time. That was never an issue for JoAnn, though. In fact, letting people fail is something that JoAnn embraces.

Once, for example, putting a new graphical design on Carestream’s iPad app led to an issue where users could not access content properly. While it was stressful and I was worried that it would lead to negativity, I found that I was energized and simply worked as hard as I could to find a solution. JoAnn was, of course, calm and did whatever she could to help.

JoAnn believes that the way individuals recover from issues is much more significant than the issue itself. 

Another thing that I enjoyed while at Carestream was an environment of continuous education, both internally and externally. JoAnn takes professional development very seriously and took advantage of every opportunity to allow team members to grow. Attendance to community events and involvement in professional organizations outside of the office were always encouraged.

Internally, on the other hand, team members frequently shared relevant articles to help others understand their responsibilities within the organization. Training sessions were also held regularly for other employees on topics like effective blog writing and web analytics. Throughout my time with the company, a number of “Lunch & Learn” sessions were held, and I even authored a number of “Tips & Tricks” documents to help the team’s adoption rate of iPads.

At Carestream, sharing expertise is simply one component of having expertise.

I learned a lot at Carestream. But the most important lesson to learn was one that took the better part of a year to fully understand:

Empowerment + Failure + Development = Success.

Student Engagement: Lessons From David Meerman Scott

Foreword: I’m a “Junior – and – a – half” (graduating in December) at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. I’m often discouraged and even amazed at the levels of student engagement and excitement among not only students at my school, but all colleges. I hope the following post does not offend anyone, as it is somewhat strongly worded. The topic is simply one that I am very passionate about.

As a college student, I recognized that myself and my classmates are a part of something bigger. We are not always going to be students and we will not always be entry-level professionals. Rather, we are the future. We are the next generation – one that will be responsible for continuing growth and development of our community, our country and our world.

That is a scary thought to me because I know what the typical college student looks like and what their abilities are.

I’m not talking about grades. College courses are difficult and it’s perfectly fine to not be a 4.0 student. What concerns me, though, is the level of student engagement that I see across college campuses.

Student Engagement

I love college because I literally view my campus as my playground. There are opportunities for me everywhere. Between the clubs (Brockport PR Club) and honor societies (Lambda Pi Eta) that I am a member of, room for independent studies, and the support from faculty and administration to find internships with organizations in the area I am able to design and craft my own undergraduate education specifically tailored to my interests and skill set. Nobody will ever go to school and have the same education as I have had – how cool is that?

College is my playground because I can join clubs and decide what I really want to do. Then, I can make it happen with my peers. Faculty doesn’t have the ideas, nor do professors guide me through the process. In short – I really can do anything I put my mind to.

But college isn’t a day-care program. Nobody has ever offered me the opportunities I have had. Instead, the responsibility to have an outstanding college experience is on each and every individual. And quite frankly, not enough people take that responsibility seriously enough.

If you’re a student, what do you say when someone asks you, “what are you doing at school this semester?” If your first instinct is to tell them what courses you are taking, you’re doing college wrong. No, really, trust me – you were mis-informed somewhere along the way. Classes are important, sure, but aren’t you bored? I’m willing to bet your grades aren’t spectacular, either… because you aren’t engaged.

How many students are studying the same thing as you at your school? Or even in this country? What makes you any better than the rest of them? It certainly is not the .1 difference in GPA that you boast on your resume that will get you hired after graduation. Instead of looking at your campus like a classroom, look at it like a playground. What are you doing that sets you apart? What are you doing that you truly enjoy that will be the difference between you and everyone else? Ask yourself each and every day, “why would someone hire me?”

Until yesterday, I was afraid to graduate from college because I thought I would miss having the ability to look at my life like a playground and having the ability to really experience and do all of the things that I wanted.

David Meerman Scott, Author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR

Then, I met David Meerman Scott.

If I look at my college campus as my playground, this guy looks at the globe as his. Just like calling me a student doesn’t capture everything that I do at school, calling Scott an author doesn’t capture everything that he does in his career. He’s an author, sure. But he is also an internationally recognized speaker (soon to have spoken on all 7 continents), a blogger, a marketing strategist, and even an actor among other things.

David Meerman Scott is in the position to pick and choose the experiences that he has and the people that he works with each and every day, just like I can. The difference is that he does it on a world-wide scale.

Everyone needs to ask themselves where they want to go in their lives. If you think about your destination in this world as a cubicle on the third floor of an office down the street, working for a company you don’t love, performing a task that essentially anyone could do – please continue skipping half of your classes, getting mediocre grades, and not doing anything that sets you apart from anyone else.

But – if you have ambition and aspiration, if you want to look at the country or the world as your personal playground – the time to start that journey is right now. Join clubs, plan events, meet professionals, learn new things, start a blog, read books, teach others, and never stop.

Playground

If it sounds like more fun than work to you, then you have found your playground.

 

 

 

Discussing the Butler/Till Family with Tracy Till and Laurin Fox

On Monday, I was fortunate enough to visit Butler/Till – a four-time top 50 fastest growing women-owned business. I was able to learn a lot about the agency and really get a feel for how it operates on a daily basis. Co-CEO Tracy Till was generous enough to extend the opportunity to me, and even gave me some time to blast her with questions that I anticipated being more difficult for her to answer.

Butler Till

I met Tracy after her participation in the PRSA’s YPRP Mentorship event. This is an important detail because it shows how open she is to giving back to the community – something that we will discuss in more depth shortly. Speaking at that event was not a rarity for her. She is very visible and active in the Rochester area, and I think that sets a tone for the rest of the agency’s employees about attitudes and values.

I hope you can gain some insight into Tracy Till and her company through the interview that I conducted with her and Laurin Fox, Account Executive.

What kind of atmosphere do you strive to portray at Butler/Till?

Tracy TillTracy: I wanted it to be a family atmosphere; a place where people could feel comfortable, protected, inspired, and participatory. Your culture is your brand, and ours is our family. It’s about being incredible, striving, and doing. It’s collaborative and it’s human. 

To me, I want people to walk in to our office and see us for who we are. At the same time, I want us to walk into other people’s offices and still see us for who we are. We are what you get, and that culture is very alive.

Tracy admits to not being very “corporate.” Whereas her partner, Sue Butler, is very detail and process oriented, she is more creative. They make a great duo, because they can balance each other out and provide the best of both types of leadership.

Rank the following in terms of their priority, in your opinion:

Clients, employees, Butler/Till, and the Rochester community

I think that you should treat your employees just as well as your customers, so I think they share a similar platform. Butler/Till would be third, and Rochester community is fourth.

My product is my employees and their skills. From a customer’s perspective, if I don’t have the right talent and I don’t train my employees, they can’t deliver what they need to. I need to be able to service customers who have unique needs. So caring for my employees directly influences the satisfaction of clients. We wouldn’t maintain our clients if we didn’t have great employees.

If employees and clients are treated well and they are in love with Butler/Till, it becomes clear that the agency and the community simply fall into place. The agency thrives, which in turn allows it to continue supporting the community. I was previously unaware that Butler/Till chooses one charity or local non-profit organization each month. A series of fundraisers throughout the month contributes to a donation to that charity.

The best part, in my opinion, is that the organizations are chosen by the employees of the agency. It gives individuals the chance to propose something that they are passionate about, and it’s fantastic that co-workers can provide support and get behind the cause.

Can you speak about the different ways that employees are able to grow and develop professionally at Butler/Till?

Laurin: One of the great things when I was starting out was that it was completely dependent on what I was interested. Everyone helped me learn about the things that I wanted to learn about. For me, it was being involved in digital media. As I grew, it became more about media buying and eventually account service. I’ve been able to do it all while I have been here. The agency has allowed me to grow the way that I wanted to grow.

Butler/Till University is set up similarly to a college curriculum in that you can take whatever courses you choose. Whatever you want to learn, there is someone here that is able to lead that class.

I want people to feel like they have an opportunity here. So growing and expanding their minds keeps employees invested and interested. Diversity of accounts and roles is what prevents us from getting stagnant.

Why should a young professional choose Butler/Till as their “dream job” instead of another agency?

First and foremost, our culture. Second, it’s the opportunities provided here from an account perspective and from an education perspective.

In large agencies, people can really learn the fundamentals of marketing. In smaller agencies, people can learn how to be nimble and be involved in the entire process. Butler/Till essentially combines those, and we can offer the best of both worlds.

Culture for me was really important. Everyone always said that Butler/Till was like a family, and why wouldn’t you want to be a part of a family? This is where we spend so much of our time, so it’s great when it doesn’t even feel like work.

The other part was that I wanted to be able to touch different things. There’s the ability at Butler/Till to master something and then move on to something else and constantly continue your development.

What are the top three characteristics you look for in an interviewing process?

I can really see Sparkle. I do well with finding talent that is eager and interested.

The passion in young professionals is what is important, and that’s what I like to see come out in an interview. And then, of course, knowing our business and knowing what we do is an important part of it. You would be surprised about the lack of preparation that sometimes exists.

Inside Butler/Till, it’s clear that “being remarkable” is more than a phrase written on the all. It’s an agency filled with movers and shakers that strive to create a an environment that embodies success, growth, and family.

Does it sound like your dream job?

 

 

Constitutive Rhetoric to Recruit Faith

Palm SundayWhile enjoying a particularly meaningful church service on this Palm Sunday, I had a bright moment of clarity that presented itself to me in almost tangible form. I did not see God, though. On the contrary, my realization is one that the pastor who was speaking and my parents would be a bit less thrilled with (though my Rhetoric professors at school would be pretty happy with me).

Speaking in generalities – something that I’ll admit can’t be done by someone trying to actually convince someone else of any kind of factual truth – the churches that I have always attended use inclusion and exclusion in their dialogue. Religious messages are often based on assumption that essentially works to recruit individuals to join the faith.

Example: these are all actual quotes copied from this morning’s service, given by Pastor Tom Stroup at Brockport Free Methodist Church. In bold are the portions of the sentences that were left in the sermon notes as blank lines, intended for the audience to fill in.

  • “Sometimes I think God has forgotten about me BUT God never forgets me!”
  • “Even when it seems life is hopeless, hope is what I have in Christ!”
  • “Caiphas would Kill Jesus to save Israel from Rome, BUT Jesus died to save us from our own sinfulness.

It’s subtle, but do you see what they did, there?

Churches frequently use words like I, WE, and US to formulate an in-group and out-group. The in-group are those that believe in God, have hope in Christ, etc. The out-group, obviously, are those that do not. If you had attended church this morning at BFMC, you never had the chance to decide which of those groups you belonged to. They actually decided for you. Even more – you wrote the words on the blanks, participating in the process.

It’s a fallacy of assumption, and it works.

Let’s brainstorm a few individuals who could have been in the pews this morning.

  • A child too young to completely understand religion, too young to have made any of his or her own decisions in regard to what he or she believes in.
  • A recovering alcoholic who was urged to pick a church and find God by a friend of his that goes to his Alcoholics Anonymous classes.
  • An atheist who believes in seeing both sides of an issue and therefore attends different churches from time to time.

Would we consider any of those individuals to be part of the in-group? I would not.

This is the point in the blog post at which I need to give readers notice of two things:

  1. Though it may seem like I am writing in a tone of disapproval of this inclusive language and rhetorical technique, that is not true.
  2. This is a Marketing blog. Occasionally, I am inspired to write things that are more religious, political, or cultural in nature, and when I do I usually have them posted on Trova101 (Thanks, Mark Trova!). This one, though, is here on Millennial’s Marketing. That’s because there is some marketing insight quickly approaching.

Not to take any sanctity out of religion, but… by engaging in this practice, churches are only  tapping into widely used marketing techniques.

In the fields of persuasion, like advertising and public relations, marketers are selling something. It might be an ideology, a product, a service, a human-being, or a cause, but they are selling something just the same. When you tell someone something about them-self, it is only a matter of time until they begin to believe it and use it to construct their own identity. I believe that participation in the message itself only accelerates that process, which can be seen in this morning’s church example. The equivalent, in marketing rather than religion, are social media channels.

Don DraperDon Draper once famously said, “People want to be told what to do so badly that they will listen to anyone.” Is your church and religion as a whole led by an incredibly faithful individual, or an expert marketer?

Probably both.

 

 

Experienced Professionals Share Insight on Mentoring

On Tuesday, March 19, the Young PR Professionals of Rochester hosted an event called “How to Create, Expand or Maximize your Mentorship Opportunities.” Hosted by Tom Proiretti, the panel included Dresden Engle, Kevin Kane, and Tracy Till. In other words, it was a dream-team panel for any student or young professional.

Rochester PRSA

I heard a lot of great advice during the program, and following are the three major takeaways.

What is mentorship?

Dresden Engle

 

Dresden Engle: Mentorship is the generous sharing of knowledge with someone else.

 

 

Kevin Kane

 

Kevin Kane: Mentorship is a way to broaden your horizons and get outside your comfort zone to learn new things and meet new people.

 

 

Tracy Till

 

Tracy Till: Mentorship is a relationship with someone who inspires you to learn and grow. It produces aspiration within you. I still have multiple mentors today. 

 

 

How do you identify a mentor? What are they like?

Mentors respect their colleagues and mentees. If they exude generosity, it says “I respect you and value you.”

Mentors are non-threatening, and don’t feel intimidated by youth. Some experienced professionals might be afraid to help a younger generation, in fear that they could be replaced. Those might not be the best candidates for mentors.

Mentors are incredibly passionate about what they do, and they love to share their brilliance. If someone frequently gives tips and shares valuable information, they might be a great mentor.

Okay, so mentors are good to have. How do I get one?

In a word: Networking. Tracy Till explained that sending out resumes when looking for a job is like a broad marketing campaign. Networking, though, is a much more targeted campaign. There are two easy ways to network with people in your field.

1. Informal networking interviews

Professionals are usually flattered and happy to let students observe them or even come in to ask them questions about their jobs and companies. 

Anyone can email me, and I will always respond. Individuals should always respond to me, though. You need to be authentic and follow through.

You need to think about your personal credibility and reputation when participating in interviews with professionals. Make a good impression.

2. Attending professional events sponsored by the PRSA or AMA

Do your homework before the event. Know who will be there, who you want to see and speak with.

If you’re shy, set a goal for yourself before each event. That might mean that you start out with the goal of shaking five hands, but eventually you will get more comfortable meeting new people. You can increase your goal as you get better at it.

Tom Proietti

I think the best advice of the night came from the panel’s moderator, Tom Proietti, who suggests that everyone learns their zip code’s “+4,” and include it when writing your address. It shows the intense attention to detail that many hiring managers look for. Once you build a relationship with a professional – “stay  on their radar.”

 

What would you add? How did you find your mentor?

Inspired, Integrated Ideas are Only the Beginning

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to take a tour of Dixon Schwabl with about 8 of my classmates. The full-service advertising, public relations and digital media agency is well known in the Rochester area for its extensive, wide variety of clients and projects.

Dixon is also well known for its consistent place on lists of best places to work in America. After spending some time inside the agency’s walls, it’s not hard to see why.

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#WNYCMC12: Merging Media

Yesterday, I attended the Western New York College Media Convention at The College at Brockport, an event that I had a hand in planning and promoting, and that I had looked forward to for a long time. With the theme of “Merging Media,” there were speakers and sessions throughout the day focusing on different types of Communications professions, including radio & television broadcast, journalism and Public Relations.

Although the sessions and presenters were very diverse, I began to discover an emerging, over-riding message throughout the day: To be successful, be authentic in your interactions and use some common sense.

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Social Media Playbook: Jim Beam

It’s no secret that young adults in America are drinking more liquor than beer these days. As a college student myself, I see many more of my friends getting excited about a new flavor of Pinnacle Vodka than a new spring variety pack of beer. The trend has plenty of possible explanations, but I think one of them could definitely be a more engaging online presence by certain brands.

Jim Beam would be considered by some the pride of Kentucky. It’s bourbon-whiskey… Which isn’t exactly the softest, easiest to drink beverage. In other words, not exactly something that a lot of younger individuals, especially females, would enjoy drinking. However, the brand’s new Black Cherry flavor might change the perception that we have of the brand. What’s better is the brand’s social media. I am predicting that they will soon enjoy more of the young-adult market… Myself included!

Spend some time on Jim Beam’s Facebook page. If you’re anything like me, it’s going to make you believe that you’re a fan of whiskey. Here’s how they do it!

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