Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Older Does Not Translate to Dead; Ideas to Turn the Tide

I was at a communications conference recently whose primary focus was on innovation in the communications industry. There were a range of topics largely centered on curation, creativity, content, crowd sourcing, collaboration and community. These are all topics that are typically grounded in the ability to propagate prose that sizzles, soothes, sympathizes, and sells. The common denominator therein is solid and relevant experience by professionals that have "been there and done that" and are able to write and pull together narratives that engage and inspire audiences.

As I pondered the myriad of conference topics that form the essence of what I do for a living, my trend of thought was shattered by a conversation overheard as the conference transitioned to a coffee break.

Here's the dialogue. "Hello, I overheard you say that you are a recruiter based in New York. I am principal in a small firm in New York and we are searching for a GM to manage the office." "Oh right," responded the gentlemen as he said in his very British tone. "What are you looking for?" "Well we want someone with experience but not the type that is looking for their final career role. That just won't work for us. We want a young person for which the job will be a stretch."

What an appalling notion to think that a person with years of high quality professional experience and accomplishment can no longer be considered for employment because they are considered aged out. What are headhunters, human resource people and hiring managers thinking? And to add insult to injury, the latest employment numbers from Uncle Sam show a decline in the unemployment rate. Clearly the numbers have ignored the young and old who have long since been dropped from the labor count by Uncle Sam. Witness these two recent articles on the situation.   "Young People Still Can't Find Work" and "The Job Market is Still Hurting."

So what is a job seeker to do? Go boldly into the night. Here are some thoughts that may fly against conventional wisdom. And perhaps that is why they might be worth a try.

Don’t shy from the conversation. Raise the issue in your cover letter. If you are under 25, explain how your skills and experience can help you come up to speed fast and what value you can immediate apply to contribute to the company’s success. If you are over 50, elaborate on why your experience is of benefit to the organization and how brief is your learning curve. The worst a company can say is no.

Call them on the carpet. Look at a rejection as the opening salvo. If you suspect that age was a hindrance, challenge the company or the hiring manager to explain its rationale for the rejection. Seek an answer. Directly question how and why and don’t take no for an acceptable answer. It is a new day and companies need to be more transparent in their hiring methodology.

Seek a hire or higher authority. The adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” is applicable here. Identify and contact or seek a meeting with a level or two of management above the HR person or hiring manager. Explain your rationale for your inquiry, your experience to date with the organization and outline in specific terms why you are the best one for the job.

Network above the crowd. Work your connections. Identify people in your network who have connections with principals, hiring managers or other influencers at the companies that are the objective of your interest. Don’t hesitate to engage with them on your abilities, capabilities and aspirations. Offer to buy lunch or coffee and have a real conversation about their needs and requirements.

Leave your comfort zone. Being in an environment that is comfortable tends to breed People tend to go with the flow and hesitate to break new ground. But when it comes to career advancement, take off the gloves and get out of your zone of comfort. Take actions that are bold and may just get you in the door. Desperate times call for measures that have the potential to break through.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ponder Before You Post

In this age of instantaneous communications and rapid sound bites, long gone is the luxury of correcting something said in haste. Today's proliferation of channels and technologies has completely obliterated any chance of a safety net. There is no place to hide. The old axioms we thought were destined for the dustbins of history now take on new purpose and vigor.

Sayings like "a card laid is a card played," "haste makes waste," "discretion is the better part of valor" reveal both the benefit and the bane of going on the record with a witty quip, a critical critique or a wrathful word.  It no longer matters whether you are the CEO or the community crier.  The public has no patience for commentary in poor taste or words lacking authenticity and integrity. 

Compounding the dialogic dilemma, should you be on the hunt for a new gig or seeking a recommendation, the retribution can be swift and permanent.  The corporate world is littered with examples of misTweets, Facebook faux pas and loose lips on LinkedIn.  So the judicious thing to do is to ponder well before you post.  Here are some factors on which to ruminate.  The life you save may be your own.

·      Set limits.  Assess and define what you will publicly post.  Decide what is relevant for your career, profession, family and avocation.  Write it down and commit to it.

·      Outline a logical strategy that includes where and how you will comment and whether it helps forward your personal and professional interests.  Ask the question, “Will this comment or post help or hurt my goals and objectives.

·      Choose your weapon.  Identify the channels that are most resonant for your personal and professional brand.  The choices are many – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Snapchat, Pinterest, Wechat, Tumblr, YouTube, Google+, etc., etc., etc.

·      Whither Form and Function.  What is the best medium to get across your message.  Is it a text, blog, voice, image or video?  It may be an oversimplification but as Marshall McLuhan once opined “The  Medium is the Message.”  Choose the means or methods that help you make the best case in the most relevant environment.

·      Trust but Verify.  Confidence in your message and commentary is critical.  But as President Ronald Reagan made famous “Trust but Verify.”   Test and validate your comments by answering the following simple questions :

o   Is it true?
o   Can you back it up?
o   Is it intentional?
o   Will it offend or hurt?
o   Does it send an appropriate message?
o   Will your Mom approve?

        If the answer is no, you have
        two choices, 1) don’t post 
        or 2) re-engineer your words.

·      Prepare for the consequences.  Good or bad, right or wrong, get ready to respond and act on commentary that comes your way.  Be honest, open and authentic.  People will appreciate it and if your response is immediate, all the better to blunt any aftershocks.

Everyone today has a voice, can use it and likely will.  Always keep a clear head and stay on message. There is no room or patience for anger and vitriol.  Don’t let your words come back to haunt you.  Ponder before you post.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Indispensable Role of Today's Public Relations Pro

As we enter 2015, the importance of public relations today can not be underestimated. And for aspiring PR pros this is especially relevant to keep in mind.   Public relations is essential to a functioning of society and its enterprises. Public relations is crucial in building trust with people who have a vital stake in an organization’s operations and success. And public relations is an important mechanism in helping organizations, including governments, effectively carry out their missions and responsibilities.
Fasten your seatbelts. As the next generation of public relations professionals proceed with their academic studies in public relations, it is useful to consider these facts about the role of today’s practitioners.
  • PR practitioners are no longer gatekeepers between their companies and the media. PR professionals are activists seeking to engage, enlighten, and energize an organization’s many stakeholders.
  • PR professionals advocate not just for their organizations but also for their organization’s constituents and stakeholders, which adds the important role of presenting the stakeholders interests and views to management.
  • PR practitioners also serve as strategic content developers and storytellers, helping their organizations formulate key messages that are resonant with the corporate culture and nature of the organization.
  • PR practitioners help an organization build mutual trust by encouraging transparency and integrity throughout the organization.
  • PR practitioners are counselors who actively advise and guide organizations in honestly communicating and behaving in the best interests of society and constituents such as customers, employees, shareholders, and the communities in which they operate.
  • PR professionals are enablers and connectors, helping organizations stay grounded, stay human, and stay sensitive to the needs and desires of their communities. In essence, the role of today’s public relations practitioner is akin to being the conscience of the organization, being ever vigilant to ensuring that the organization is “doing the right thing.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Should We Take the "Internal" out of Internal Communications?

This post originally appeared in Spin Sucks. It is reprinted here to stimulate thought among those in the hunt for a PR post.

“Internal communications” is an anachronism. 

Born from the recognition that employees were becoming a critical constituency, companies at the turn of the century began establishing internal communications departments to develop employee morale.

According to one historical source, internal communications was a mechanism to help employees understand a company’s mission and instill a sense of pride in the organization.
The method of implementation varied, of course, depending upon politics and the persuasion of the CEO in command.

Sometimes it resided with “human resources,” or more affectionately, “employee relations,” and often it was located in legal or corporate communications.

In this pro’s experience, corporate communications was always the best department for handling specialized employee or internal communications, because nothing succeeds like consistency.

Should We Let Go Of Internal Communications?

These days, however, it seems to be a hodgepodge of organizational dysfunction and redundancy.

How well the function operates depends on which way the winds are blowing, who’s in charge, and what are the priorities and politics of the boss.

Taking a page from Richard Edelman’s manifesto that “Communications Marketing” is the next wave, maybe it’s time to let go of “internal” and “employee” as modifiers of communications to employees and simply designate the umbrella term of “communications.”

Here are some reasons why.

Information in this Century is Realtime, Ubiquitous, and Instantaneous

There is no need to isolate and insulate.

Because of the speed of information, people have many channels and avenues to get information when it transpires.

It is best given directly from the source to those for which it is most critical when it happens.

Employees are Stakeholders

Employees can influence the movement of shares as much as they can sway the effect on customers.

They are the front line and should be treated and honored as other constituents.

Employees are Adults

Employees are educated, intelligent, and decision makers.

They are not to be coddled, cuddled, or conscripted.

Employees are Equal

They are as significant as stockholders, media, analysts, government officials, and executives, to name a few.

Their stature is no less than any other constituent.

They have a stake and can use it responsibly.

Employees are No Longer Mushrooms

No doubt you understand the comparison.

That said, the sunlight of full disclosure is the best disinfectant.

If the employee is trustworthy enough to hire, treat them as you would other favored constituents.

Employees Know More than You Think

Even without your formal communications strategy.

Given all the facts, employees will surprise you every time with their information, insight, innovation, and intuition.

This is even more evident in many of the start-ups emanating from the innovation capitals around the globe.

Many times the front line is where the magic happens, so open the floodgates and convey ownership and dialogue equally to all constituents.

So, is it really about “internal” communications anymore?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Looking for your dream PR job? Five ways to become the right candidate today.

Everyone dreams of that PR job - The One. Just imagine taking an elevator to your office where you fully immerse yourself in the brands, products or services you personally believe in. It doesn’t get any better than that.  But how do you work on getting there? Not only will the right preparation help you land the right job, you’ll also discover what that dream job truly is. 

After I finished my BA in Public Relations, I was sure I would work at a public relations agency.  That’s exactly what I did, but I soon realized that agency life just wasn’t for me. There were many other opportunities I hadn’t even considered because I was set on agency from the start. I finally found my fit as manager of the University Program at Cision, where I now help students uncover what they love most about PR.

Here are five ways you can start to prepare for your dream PR job:

1. Create an ePortfolio. 

Scrambling to assemble a perfect portfolio the night before an interview is the last thing you’ll want to do, not to mention juggling the demands of your current job.  Make sure your best work is within arm’s reach, so you can focus your pre-interview prep on learning more about the industry, the organization and the interviewer you will need to know about tomorrow. is a non-traditional take on a bio. Platforms like Wordpress and Wix (which I use personally) also provide turnkey site templates where you can share portfolio items.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile - often.  

A burst of activity on your LinkedIn page shouldn’t send your current colleagues into a tailspin wondering why you’re suddenly “linking in” so much. Maintain a consistent presence on the site; doing so will not only increase the likelihood of showing up in the right person’s feed, but also shows how much you’re continuing to develop yourself professionally. And especially if you’re in – or think you’ll be in – the job market soon, don’t forget to ensure your profile is accessible.

3. Keep up with your network. 

Engaging with others in the industry is the best way to stay on top of trends. This isn’t about having three references “on request,” but about knowing what skills you’ll need to add value years from now.  

If creating a network from scratch is intimidating, start small. Attend alumni events where you can connect with peers, as well as more seasoned alums. Industry organizations like PRSA regularly host events where you can meet peers, potential mentors and future employers.

Many professionals forget that networking is about maintaining the relationships you already have. You wouldn’t want someone to reach out to you only on occasions when they need a favor, so don’t be that person yourself. Remember to drop a note to say hello, ask about their current work or find opportunities to simply shoot the breeze. If you stay plugged in to your network, when an opportunity comes up, you will be top-of-mind.

4. Challenge yourself to develop expertise. 

Ongoing professional development is vital to excelling in the field.  Look for avenues to enhance your expertise.  For example, Cision offers free CisionPoint access to universities. As a result, grads say their employers are impressed when they hit the ground running. But this isn’t so much about learning to use a tool of the trade – which is always good – but the demonstrated interest and commitment to PR as a practice. 

This applies no matter where you are in your career. You could be getting your accreditation (APR,) launching your organization’s first measurement dashboard or live-tweeting every free webinar you come across. There’s got to be something about your current job that you absolutely love, so dive right into it. 

Dedication to being personally exceptional in the industry makes a difference to future employers. 

5. Test the waters

If you’re looking for another job while employed, take advantage of your situation to develop new skills. If your current role is too prescriptive, branch out of your comfort zone and simply ask for different tasks. It’s the best way to enhance your skills and open new doors.

If you’re not given new or exciting projects, create something for yourself that will impress. That’s how Cision’s University Program came to be.  Hard work and extra hours created a brand new program that now introduces newcomers to public relations to one of the industry’s most widely-used and popular platforms (granted, I’m biased!), and an essential skillset. 

Taking the initiative on new projects proves to a future employer that you’re innovative and, most importantly, that you’re a self-starter. 

Even if you love your job, it’s worth starting to develop these habits. Consider what you hear again and again when you ask someone how they landed their current job – it happened before they knew it, when they weren’t even looking, when they least expected it. (And that’s no surprise - no one wants to leave a position after it has been “a long time coming!”)

If you love what you do, success and opportunities will follow. And, if you keep acquiring more and more experience along the way, before you know it, your dream job will have found you.

By Sonal Moraes, Product Specialist at Cision and manager of Cision’s University Program

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Reach Career Resonance: Purpose, Passion and Persistence

Career resonance in my view is a state of existence where you are happy, healthy, balanced, busy and emboldened.  Your life is self-fulfilling because all aspects are generally working together to make you high performing and personally and professionally satisfied with your career and life.  In my coaching practice I see this phenomena from time to time.  To me this is the ultimate state of being and where the rubber meets the road.  It is not to say that it is nirvana but with purpose, passion and persistence you can thrive in a manner that feeds your performance and success.   One such example is my friend Kim Bardakian, who I have known for a number of years in San Francisco PR circles.  Kim epitomizes the outcome of “purpose, passion and persistence.” 

I asked Kim a few career questions to illustrate my thinking.  Take a read.

How did you land your current role as the Director of PR & Partnerships for Visit Oakland?

I was working as a PR and event consultant in Oakland and my contract was coming to an end. I put out an email to my network about potential new opportunities and received a response from someone at Visit Oakland who I had known in the community. She told me about a new position that was opening up and encouraged me to apply. Ironically, the job I applied for was different from my current role. After the initial interview, my boss created my role which plays directly to my strengths—media and relationships. So when people tell me, "Kim, this job was made just for you!" Well, it kind of was!

How did your career lead to your current role?

My career has always centered around PR, event planning and marketing. I began my career at Sony PlayStation, when the company was not even a year old. Our team helped build it to an internationally recognized brand in just a few years. It was hands down the best first job out of college! From there my PR career took off in a variety of industries, including apparel, technology, spas and even a stint at the Catholic Church. Now if you can promote the Catholic Church, you can promote anything!

How much work did you invest to get to your current position?

With my current job, I feel like it's the ultimate culmination of all of my previous experience, combined with the diverse people I have met along the way. Having lots of different experiences have help me excel in my current role since I have long standing relationships in a wide variety of industries. Best advice: never burn bridges, you never know when they come back around.

What characteristics drive your passion?

Passion can't be taught. It's in you or it's not. You feel it or you don't. Fortunately, with this position at Visit Oakland, it's innate to me. I'm often told my passion comes through when I talk about Oakland-- to press, friends or basically anyone who will listen. I love my job and the ability to promote all the positive aspects of Oakland. I get to share what you might not know about the city from things to do, new restaurants to try to where to check out the best views!

What advice would you give people aspiring to land a role that satisfies their career?

As cliché as it sounds, find an industry that you love. Or a product that excites you. Once you delve into that world, you will be inspired to learn more, engage more and simply do better. It's imperative to also network within the industry you want to work in. Join a board or committee to meet the leaders and decision makers. Roll up your sleeves and get involved. Arrange for informational interviews with people you admire and or just want to learn more about their role. Ask questions. And always be ready to help others and make introductions to those who need it. You never know when they come back around later in your career. 

Kim is the Director of PR and Partnerships for VisitOakland, the tourism bureau for the city. She uses her experience, network and passion in her current role to help promote the destination to the media and generate partnerships throughout Oakland.  

Previously, Kim worked in-house with a number of growing consumer technology companies including Pandora and has agency experience with OutCast where she developed PR programs and events with Fortune 500 companies including Amazon, Dell and Yahoo! Kim began her career at Sony PlayStation where she founded and implemented the highly successful product placement program.  

Kim currently serves as a Board Member for PRSA San Francisco Chapter and involved in a variety of other PR and media organizations. A native New Yorker, she holds a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.  She proudly resides in Oakland, CA where she is an avid tennis player.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How to Work Well With Others in the Workplace

From time to time the PR Job Coach invites guest posts from colleagues on related career management topics.  This guest post come from Tori R. Terhune and Betsy A. Hays, APR, Fellow PRSA, authors of the new book, “Life After College: 10 Steps to Build a Life You Love,”  Read it and leap!

As a young professional in the workplace, it can be difficult to know how best to deal with all the different personalities surrounding you. You’ve probably had plenty of experience with group projects and challenging professors, but at the end of the semester you get to leave, and – sometimes – never work with those people again. But in the working world, teams usually aren’t temporary.

So how do you best work with others and put your best foot forward? In Life After College: 10 Steps to Build a Life You Love, we outline many ways to work well with others in the workplace, and we wanted to share a few with you here.

Watch how you communicate: How you say something is just as important as what you say. Pay attention to your body language and tone when you speak with others to make your meaning and sentiment clear. And be careful when using written communication – nonverbal communication (a smile, wink or chuckle), isn’t easily transferrable into the written word, so you want to be sure they don’t misinterpret your words.

Under promise and over deliver: This is a fantastic rule of thumb in the workplace, as you never want to be the person who is behind deadline. You want to be ahead of your deadline with extra projects completed to beef up the overall product! For example, say you will complete A, B and C, and then work hard to make progress on D. When you are actually able to complete everything, you’ll look like a hero!

Be kind and positive: People love happy people, and when you are nice to others, they will want to be around you even more! This can do a lot for your career, as these folks will want to collaborate on projects with you and champion you to others in your company. Make it a priority to give a compliment or two daily, and you will influence others to help you on your path to your goals.

Don’t worry about credit or affirmation: While you are making the effort to compliment and affirm others, you may not receive the same courtesy. Do your best because you want to produce excellent work, not because you are looking for credit. If you constantly expect validation (which you may not receive), you will stress yourself out looking for value from others. Be secure in yourself and your abilities, and thrive off the few compliments and kudos you do receive.

With these few tips, you will be on your way toward working with others successfully! For more tips on managing your workplace, and many other strategies to thriving in post college life, pick up a copy of Life After College: 10 Steps to Build a Life You Love. If you have more tips to share, or if any of these have worked for you, let us know in the comments below!

Author bios:

Tori Randolph Terhune is an award-winning author, speaker, coach and public relations and social media professional. She is CEO of Brand Chicks (, an online branding consulting firm, and her experience varies from career coaching for recent college graduates to website and social media search engine optimization practices. She is a popular speaker to college groups and women’s conferences, as well as serving as a guest lecturer for many college courses over the last five years. She was recognized as the Outstanding PR Graduate by Fresno State in 2009 and as Rookie of the Year by PRSA Central California in 2008. You can reach Tori on Twitter @ToriRTerhune.

Betsy A. Hays, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an author, keynote speaker, and workshop presenter whose topics include personal and professional success, public relations excellence, effective communication, and landing your dream career. She is also the lead Public Relations Professor for the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at California State University, Fresno -- a post she has held since 1999. Betsy is the faculty adviser for the Public Relations Student Society of America and Fresno State's student-run PR firm, Talk. Active in the PR world’s premiere professional organization (Public Relations Society of America) since 1998, she is currently the president-elect for the North Pacific District. You can reach Betsy at or @BetsyHays (Twitter). 

Tori and Betsy's first book, “Land Your Dream Career: 11 Steps to Take in College," (  was listed in the American Library Association's Bests of 2013. Their second book, "Life After College: 10 Steps to Build A Life You Love" ( was published in early May 2014.