Holiday Gift Ideas for the PR Pro in Your Life (and you know you have one)

It’s that time of year again – holiday shopping! In my quest to put together my holiday list/wishlist, I’ve put together a roundup of gift recommendations if you’re seeking ideas for the young PR pro. Again, these are just my recommendations* and many of them skew toward my (selfish) interests (and thus skew female as well), so take these with a grain of salt. Also, I’d love to hear if you have any others to add!

Gifts for the young PR Pro (in no order):

A gift certificate to Starbucks / McDonald’s or wherever your PRo purchases her caffeine of choice:  PR pros work long days, stay up late, and sometimes keep crazy hours. Also, a recent study showed PR is the second most caffeinated profession! You can’t go wrong with a gift card that you know will be used.

A reusable coffee thermos: To be used during said caffeine purchases. Everyone likes to be green/eco-friendly, and most coffee houses provide discounts for those using their own reusable mug.

A purse that can serve as a laptop bag: Is any explanation needed? Really, for travel, daily walking to and from work, and heading to business meetings – who can say no to a stylish, professional laptop bag that fits more than just your laptop (but also your iPad, phone, lunch money, notebook, extra pair of pantyhose, etc.)? Here are a few I like:

Business Card holders: For your desk or your purse, these are a must. I currently have a Vera Bradley one (no longer available, similar, here), but any that are functional and stylish and good for on the go (read: fits in above laptop bag) would be appreciated. Big spender? Check out this Tiffany one.

A portfolio: I got a “professional” portfolio a few years ago for Christmas and though I don’t use it daily (I prefer to use fun stationery for notes … see below), when I need it, I’m glad to have it. A good portfolio is professional, will last you through the years, and has pockets for back up documents, presentations, pens/pencils and business cards.

Cute, functional stationery: Whether it’s for thank you cards or for writing to-do lists, PR pros write a LOT and it’s not always on the computer. I’m a huge fan of fun note cards and fun stationery – it’s amazing what a bright colored piece of paper can do to your mood, even when making the most intense to-do list! Again, as a Vera Bradley fan, here are a few I like and may even own (yes, my mom may have gotten me some cool paper last year!):

Smartphone accessories: If the PR pro on your list doesn’t have a smartphone, then definitely add that onto this list as well. But, if she does, some fun accessories can’t hurt! It will vary phone by phone, but some practical items to consider include car dock and/or charger, Bluetooth headsets or extra memory cards.

A tablet AND accessories: I love my iPad. Well, it’s B’s, but if I didn’t have one for myself to borrow, I’d sure want one!  And while I’m at it, of course I’d want some accessories like these cool cases on Etsy: Monster iPad Sleeve, i-Sketch Sleeve (Below) or Polka Dot iPad Sleeve. Outside of Etsy (which has so many to choose from!) there’s the BookBook iPad Sleeve (below), AND for the big spender, there’s the Swarovski iPad case, which is likely worth more than the iPad itself.

What do you recommend? What’s on your gift list this year?

PS – Mom, if you’re reading this post (and you’re the only one who reads my blog), no need to go out and buy me everything here – please consult me first : )

6 unsolicited tips for students applying for an internship

I help run my company’s internship program for our office. Each season, I’m amazed at what I see in terms of resumes, cover letters, emails, etc. Each season I keep a list (for myself) of some of the crazy things students do to hurt their chances of getting an internship – all of which could be avoided!

So, this semester, I’m doing something about it. I’m sharing some tips for students (or really anyone applying for a job) when applying for an internship. Really, these are things to AVOID when applying for a job. And yes, I’ve seen all of these things in the past few years.

6 unsolicited tips for students applying for an internship:* (*I’m not an HR professional or a hiring professional or a spokesperson for my company – these are just tips in my opinion)

  1. If you can, personalize your initial outreach. If the document says to send your resume and cover letter to Melissa Koski, please send it to Melissa Koski. Not “hiring manager” or “whom it may concern.”
  2. If you personalize your outreach, spell the person’s name right! If the document says to send your resume and cover letter to Melissa Koski, please send it to Melissa Koski. Not “Malissa Koski” or “Melissa Kosky” (how did you spell my email address melissa.koski correctly??) 2b: spell the company’s name right. Just as important. And yes, people spell the company’s name wrong all the time.
  3. Personalize your outreach, but don’t make it obvious. I understand you’re applying for multiple jobs and multiple internships. I was once in your shoes. But please don’t send a cover letter with everything in one font and size, and the company name and my name in a different font and size.
  4. Take a little time to apply for the position. Don’t send a blank email with your cover letter and resume simply attached. At the very least, you can write “attached is my cover letter and resume” or simply copy your cover letter into the body of the email! A blank email says to me “I don’t care about this job enough to spend the time writing one sentence.”
  5. Proof your document – but don’t show me you proofed it. Hopefully all of the above can be avoided by a simple proofing of your resume, cover letter and email. Read it aloud! Read it backwards! Have someone else read it! But, don’t keep track changes on in your document and show me how your teacher/mom/friend edited your cover letter and resume. I’m glad you had someone take the time to read it – but you don’t need to prove it. (Again, yes, I’ve gotten documents showing track changes).
  6. If you’re applying for a job where you’ll use social media, share your experience with social media – but don’t overshare. Do you include a link to your LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter account on your resume? Awesome! I LOVE to see that. It shows me you’re fluent with some of the social tools we use in our industry. But please please PLEASE make sure you’re censoring your profile first. What does this mean? Don’t include a link to your Twitter profile on your resume if all you’re tweeting about is parties, drinking (are you even 21?), skipping journalism class and hating Ohio.
There are so many more tips I could share and things to avoid, but I’ll save that for another time. In the meantime, if I haven’t scared you off, and you’re interested in working with me this fall as a PR intern, send a resume and cover letter by August 7 to melissa.koski@fahlgren.com, indicating “Cleveland Fall Internship” in the email subject line.

What’s An Appropriate Response Time?

As many of you may know, I’m getting married in a month. In doing so, I’ve had a chance to to play the role that by working in a PR firm I’m not usually – the client. When dealing with wedding vendors (caterer, baker, DJ, photographer, videographer, etc. the list really is endless), I’m the client. It’s their job to please me and meet my needs.

Now that I’ve gotten through the planning, booking, entering deposit phase, there’s one thing that continues to surprise me – the length of time it takes a vendor to respond to me.

When a client emails me a request, question, etc. I make it a priority to respond within 24 hours, if not 24 hours. Even if I can’t fulfill their request within 24 hours, I’ve been ingrained to at least touch base and confirm that I’ve received their email. I believe this is true client:vendor best practices. I have hardly seen the case to be true with my wedding vendors and at times its 2, 3, or even 4 weeks (after I follow up) until I hear back from an email.

The purpose of this post is not to be a bridezilla and complain – it’s to ask, what IS an appropriate email response time?

Some questions to consider:

  • Does it change by industry? I understand that florists and bakers are probably not sitting at computers 9-5. But still, they do serve clients, who email them, and should be checking their email on at least a semi-regular basis.
  • Are other forms of communication better? Should I be calling my vendors with questions as opposed to using email? I’ve been told that “my generation hates using the phone.” While this may be true some of the time, I’m very comfortable making phone calls (in fact, my fiancé gives me the phone to order food, etc. because he hates the task). When it comes to wedding issues, however, many of which concern money and many different details, I like to have answers in writing for future reference, which is why I prefer email.
  • Is it really just a generational thing? Yes, we Gen-Y-ers grew up with IM, texting, email, and other various forms of instant communication, so we’re accustomed to getting immediate responses. Still, many of my non-Gen-Y-ers (talk about hyphenation!) did not grow up with these things, yet they still respond to email in a timely fashion.

So what do you think? What is the appropriate email response time? Does it change by industry/age/etc.?

 

 

The Changing Face of a PR Pitch

As a PR pro, I’m constantly pitching the media. Writing an email. Follow up call. Follow up email. Writing an email. The cycle is never ending, and unfortunately, sometimes I feel like a telemarketer calling to follow up on a media event I sent a week ago. “Hi, just calling about the XYZ event tomorrow? … What’s that, you want me to send the info again? … You’re on deadline? …” Click.  Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder — is this really the best way to get my story told to journalists? And I know I’m not alone – I’ve heard horror stories from my colleagues in PR and in the media about follow up calls gone wrong (any angry journalist is a force to be reckoned with!) and PR pitches that just plain stink. So what’s a PR pro to do when 80% of journalists still prefer to be pitched via email?

Pitches are changing day by day and I couldn’t help but bookmark, tweet about, email, share, etc. a fun PR trend that came up in my Ragan Daily – personalized, video pitches. This week, Ford released personalized video pitches to share their Ford Focus Global Test Drive Campaign with influential industry reporters. The videos not only show off the product and its features, but are meant to be embedded and shared with their readers. As Scott Monty, Ford’s director of global social media said (the bold formatting was put there by me for emphasis):

“We decided to use personalized video invitations for the Focus Global Test Drive because we wanted to be sure we had the attention of the high-level influencers we wanted to reach. Moreover, we wanted to be sure that it would be in a format that they could easily share with their readers. We believe that video is one of the most personal and intimate ways to communicate online …”

Check a video pitch below and the full story on this blog post.

What do you think? Are video pitches the way of the future? And what about other social media pitches – have you used social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) to pitch a blogger or member of the media? Has it worked?

Old-School Is Still Cool In Customer Service

Normally, I write posts to share about cool social media things that companies are doing. I share online marketing stories, social media trends and other nerd news. This post is different. I’m writing to tell you about a cool old-school customer service initiative — so if you don’t want to hear about traditional communication (or hate online shopping), please stop reading now.

If you know me well, you know that I am addicted to online shopping. I love JCrew/AT/Anthropologie fashion blogs and have been known to make quite a few bucks money on eBates (if you’re an online shopper and not using eBates you MUST! and say I recommended you – we both get $ that way). Lately the crew blogs have been talking about Lands’ End Canvas as a friendly alternative to JCrew and specifically, the Canvas Heritage Cardigan as an affordable/colorful alternative to the Jackie. Anyway, I went online and bought myself two of the heritage cardigans. They came  a week later and were everything I had hoped for and more!

If this were any other online shopping experience, the story would stop there. But it wasn’t – and it didn’t. This week, I received a THANK YOU card in the mail from Lands’ End. That’s right- a card. Not a form email or a note online when I logged into their site. A real, live, handwritten thank you note that looked like this:  

I was so surprised. When was the last time you received a thank you note for shopping online? Come to think of it – when was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note from anyone? Now I know that I’m probably not special and that this small gesture is most likely part of their customer service process (and designed to get me to buy from them again — nice plug about their shift dress), but it definitely made me feel special and important to the company.

So what’s the takeaway from this blog post, besides the fact that it’s evident I spend way too much time shopping online? Hey businesses — while online marketing, cool social media initiatives and iPhone (and Droid!) apps are cool ways to build relationships with your customers, sometimes all you need is a little handwritten note to make a difference.

Mayo Clinic launches a Center for Social Media

Now here’s a cool idea – the Mayo Clinic recently launched a Center for Social Media to teach social media to staff, physicians and patients. Traditionally, social media has been seen as a purely marketing function and under the Mayo Clinic’s PR and marketing team; however, this initiative will take social media to doctors, patients and even other hospitals.

Internally, the Center for Social Media will educate doctors on how they can communicate with their patients via YouTube, blogs, and other social media tools. The Center will also help help other health care institutions learn to do the same, offering use of the Center (for a fee of course) to other hospitals or patient foundations.

According to a Wall Street Journal interview with Lee Aase, one of the center’s leaders and currently manager of syndications and social media at Mayo, the focus of this project is to “provide in-depth information for patients in a much more comprehensive way, and to create connections between researchers, physicians and staff.” The Center will employ about eight full-time employees, including a medical director and have $800,000 a year in initial funding.

It’s great to see such a large healthcare institution look to new ways to engage its audiences – both internal and external. I’m really excited to track the progress of the Center, watch it grow and see if any other medical organizations follow in its footsteps and begin offering the same sort of social media education. In the past, healthcare institutions (not including the Mayo Clinic) have been slow to dip their toe in the social media waters, perhaps due to all the issues – privacy, ethics, etc. – and potential repercussions of sharing information online. Still, patients are already using social media to learn more about their illnesses or the conditions of friends and family. A recent Pew Internet study revealed that 8 in 10 internet users, or two-thirds of U.S. adults, look online for health information. People are looking for answers online, and now doctors can have the tools and education to know how to appropriate respond to this growing audience.

YouTube … Why You Should Take It Seriously

I think a lot of people don’t take YouTube seriously. After all, how many of us associate YouTube with videos like “laughing baby,” “David after dentist” and “Will it Blend?” But  I think YouTube can be very useful for an organization when creating and maintaining its web presence. That’s why I was excited when I was asked to present on YouTube for Nonprofits at a luncheon yesterday with some of my other coworkers (who presented on other social media topics).

Are you also a YouTube naysayer? Do you believe that it’s “just for kids”? Well, to set the record straight (and so you don’t feel left out if you missed my presentation yesterday), I wanted to share with you some statistics and some tips on how to use YouTube – especially if you’re a nonprofit.

Think YouTube is just for kids? Some stats for you to keep in mind (from a Pew Internet Report)

  • The share of online adults who watch videos on video-sharing sites has nearly doubled since 2006
  • 62% of adult internet users watch video online (on a site such as YouTube)
  • 41 % of internet users ages 50-64 watch video online
  • 27% of internet users ages 65 and older watch video online

Clearly, there are more than just young folks checking out videos online and surfing YouTube. So what can you do?

Here are 5 tips for using YouTube, especially for nonprofits.

1) Create a Channel and Make It Yours

The first thing you should do when you decide to create a YouTube presence for your organization is to create and customize your own channel. Upload videos and create playlists. Write a succinct bio about your organization and link back to your website. Add a customized banner (perhaps with your organization’s logo and tagline) and background image. Your visual identity on YouTube should reflect your presence on your other channels (like your website), so your audience can easily recognize you.

2) Upload Your Own Videos and Favorite Others

Don’t feel like you need to immediately populate your channel with hundreds of videos. The best videos often aren’t just “talking heads” or interviews with your organization’s CEO. They tell a story – about your organization, who you’ve helped, what you do. Two to three good videos are better than fifteen boring ones that your subscribers won’t watch. Also, you don’t need a lot of original content to create a YouTube channel. Besides populating your channel with your videos, you can create playlists and favorite other people’s videos. If you stand for a popular cause, chances are you’re not the only one who has created a related video. Search for, rate and favorite other related videos that.

3) Collect Donations

Use YouTube’s call-to-action overlay to link directly on your video to an external donation site or your website. You can also add a “donate” box on your channel page to let people donate to your organization through Google Checkout.

4) Showcase Your Events

Do you host fundraising events? YouTube can be a great way to share events with those who are unable to attend and attract future attendees. You can create a video of the event highlights and upload it to your channel. The video should be no longer than three to five minutes and doesn’t need to be overly edited or produced. Tell your attendees at the event to be on the lookout for the new video(s) on your channel. If you plan on sending a thank you email to attendees, be sure to provide a link to your channel so guests can watch the video and share it with their friends.

5) Integrate Video with All of Your Social Media

Use your other social media involvement to drive traffic to your videos and your YouTube channel. If you’re using Twitter, tweet when you upload a video. Post your videos to your Facebook fan page. In your profiles on other social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Flickr, provide not only a link to your nonprofit’s home page, but also to your YouTube channel (and other social media sites). If you have an e-newsletter, link to your channel there. The more ways you share your YouTube presence with your existing networks, the more traffic you’ll drive to your channel.