Archive for March, 2007

Disclaimer: I’m feeling a little preachy.

I didn’t even know what public relations was when I came to Kent State. I certainly didn’t know it was a major or that I would become consumed with learning more about it. Luckily, I fell into it, and I haven’t looked back.late-bloomer.jpg

Since I was a late bloomer in the PR field, undeclared my freshman year and studying abroad in Northern Ireland my sophomore year, I’ve been working hard to catch up these past four semesters. a.k.a. I’ve been loading up on the public relations classes. Part of my being consumed with the major is literal… I’ve had no choice. Four of the five classes I’ve taken each semester have been public relations.

It’s been a little overwhelming—the classes, the internships—but preparing for a life in the public relations world isn’t just about understanding PR. It’s something more.

It’s knowing the news:Media writing. News writing. Print beat. Media relations. Common theme? You have to know what’s going on in the news and you have to be able to think and write like the news. Your client is going to expect you to know their company inside an out, including the way key publics view them. Monitoring the news is often an intern’s task, but its importance makes it an equally significant responsibility of public relations professionals with years of experience.

The first day of Law of Advertising and Public Relations this semester, my professor, Tim Smith, gave the class a quiz that struck home the importance of staying on top of current events. See if you agree:

  1. Name the seven dwarfs.
  2. Name seven Supreme Court justices
  3. Name the three stooges
  4. Name the three branches of government
  5. Name the last American Idol
  6. Name the new Secretary of Defense

I thought I would include links to help you with your homework. (more…)


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frustrated-girl.jpgThis was a stressful week at Kent State with what seemed like midterms underway, but the underlying complaint I heard from PR friends— that all the intense projects, hard work and sleepless nights will never prove directly useful in our careers— got me thinking.

I know it’s not that anyone thinks that what they’re learning will never come in handy… we wouldn’t be paying for four+ years of college if that were true. However, I think the cynicism comes into play when the only reason behind completing four major projects in one week appears to be a good grade. As I’ve had to tell myself before, the stress and hard work will pay off in the long run, but it’s nice to sometimes see immediate results.

I have had recent success in this area, and I think (hope) that this personal experience is worth sharing with other students fighting the desire to just call it and start the weekend early.

During my media relations class with Dr. Jeanette Drake last semester, our final project was a media kit equipped with news releases, fact sheets, feature stories, personality profiles and pictures. We were told to choose a client that could actually use the project. Many students dismissed this suggestion, a decision I believe resulted from a complete doubt that a client would actually use their work. It’s a classroom project. It’s just for a grade. It’s not real.

Not so!

I chose the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Kent State University as my client, killing two birds with one stone since I had volunteered to be the PR chair for the event this year anyway. I spend a gigantic portion of my life researching and interviewing the client and writing the materials, and to be honest, I avoided the dreaded ‘just let me turn this in and be done with it’ mindset because this wasn’t just a grade, this was going to be an experience.

dks-shirt-article.jpgI got up the guts to send one press release out, which resulted in front page coverage in the Akron Beacon Journal and a television spot on 19 Action News, and I just pitched another idea to The Daily Kent Stater, which got coverage, and the reporter even used information from my fact sheet. Score!

Hopefully this doesn’t come off as bragging, but as an example of how classroom projects can actually be useful in creating portfolio materials and gaining experience. Too many students make the mistake of thinking an internship is the only way to apply the classroom to the real world. That’s not the kind of thinking that makes PR such a fast-growing field.

In any case, the weekend is almost here. I’m planning on celebrating.

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I really don’t consider myself an ‘interview guru,’ but since I’ve had some experience, especially as of late, I thought I’d chime in with some dos and do nots. In my last post, I mentioned how to send out ainterview.gif killer application… in fact I handed you the phone with a call asking you to schedule an interview.

You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you?
The advice that I’ve used myself on several occasions came from a session I attended at the 2006 PRSSA National Conference held in Salt Lake City last November. Jennifer Brown of Limitedbrands, Janeen Bullock of Connect Public Relations and Cathy Morley Foster of Fleishman-Hillard spoke on ‘How to Build a Career, Not Just Get a Job,’ and the career strategies they offered work just as well in internship settings.


  • Plan and prepare: If you did your research before sending out the application in the first place, you should know some background about the company, possibly the person interviewing you, and whether or not you are truly interested in the job. Use that information to help you come up with questions for your interviewer. (Yes, you are allowed to ask questions too. In most cases, it’s expected. At the very least, it’s a great way to impress your future employer with your interest in the company.)  
  • Dress to impress: Cliché phrase, and yet I’m still surprised when an interviewer comments about that last person he or she interviewed that wore jeans and flip-flops. We should all know better by now, but before you ever think of second-guessing yourself, leave the party hair, dangly earrings and casual attire at home. Someone once said, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you want to represent your clients in a professional manner, consider how you’re representing yourself. 
  • Create a portfolio and leave-behind: Even if you only have class projects or a few clips from print beat reporting or a short, unpaid internship, create a professional portfolio of your work. Pat Catan’s and other art supply stores offer portfolio cases in all shapes and sizes for different display options. Use your portfolio as a talking point to further demonstrate your skills and the results of your work.


While your portfolio is helpful in showing that you have some experience, your interviewer is not going to take the time to read every piece you created to assess your strengths and abilities. Set yourself apart from other interviewers by creating a simple folder of work to leave behind when you are finished with the interview. You can include different writing samples, an extra resume or even a list of references with names and contact information. This will ensure that the interviewer has samples of your work on hand, and it also shows that you are taking the interview seriously. (more…)

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