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PR Director one of the best jobs in America?

November 1, 2010

According to Money & Payscale.com, it is. 84th best, to be exact. 13% job growth, and gets all A’s and B’s for personal satisfaction, job security, flexibility, and benefits to society. Not far behind is the role of Director of Communications. Check out the full list of the Best Jobs in America to see if your job made the cut. Not surprisingly, the list is heavily weighted towards creative, service, and technology positions.

Writing more, in more places

October 19, 2010

I’ll be writing occasionally for the PRSA blog, so visit there every so often, if you’re inclined.

Here’s the first post: High Fructose Corn Syrup’s PR Problem

And feel free to weigh in.

Pinkwashing: Stop Using Our Diseases to Sell Your Products

October 6, 2010

Could be, as the daughter of a woman who lost her life to breast cancer, I’m slightly more sensitive to matters of the boob than you are, but I feel moved to say something after the onslaught of pink emails I’ve received in the last few days. You probably know someone who’s had or died from breast cancer, and quite frankly, I find the “pinkwashing” offensive, as a marketer and a human.

I received a well-done (graphically-speaking) email from a brand I really enjoy and respect. I own several pairs of shoes and a bag or two from this designer and always open the emails they send me. I’m a good customer for them, one they probably don’t want to lose.

Yesterday’s email from them troubled me, and here’s why:

I’m sure they mean well, and maybe they really are going to give a percentage of proceeds to an organization that funds breast cancer research. But how much? When? What percentage of my purchase is being donated? By not disclosing this information, we’re led to believe that they’ve chosen the two pink products on their site to tout as breast cancer awareness products simply because they’re pink and because they’re easy to “Add to Cart” after you’ve already determined that you’re going to give them your credit card information to buy other, pricier items. And let’s say this business does donate a penny from each umbrella sold. Does this really count as a legitimate donation? How will we know the donation was made? We, the public, have no clue.

When you click “Shop Now,” you’re taken to the “New Arrivals” page. No further mention of breast cancer, donations, proceeds, or anything of the sort. In fact, you can’t even find these breast cancer research-supporting products on the landing page. I thought perhaps there’d be further mention of this social action campaign on the website, but no dice. Just as I suspected, another company jumping on the Breast Cancer Awareness Month bandwagon.

Bottom line: Please don’t use people’s diseases to sell your products. It’s tacky. Unless you’re legitimately making a contribution and being open and honest about how much you’re giving, where exactly it’s going, and when, you’re taking advantage of your customers’ goodwill. Don’t be that brand.

Quit Being Such a Bad Pitcher

September 23, 2010
Now THAT'S a bad pitch

Now THAT'S a bad pitch.

This past week, Houston Chronicle social and arts writer Douglas Britt wrote a very detailed, very meticulous account of all the ways PR professionals who send him things can be better at their jobs. Of course, that’s not how he phrased it, but that, in essence, is what it was: a breakdown of all the memorably annoying, obnoxious, abstruse marketing collateral/emails/phone calls he’s received throughout his years as a reporter. Being on the receiving end of pitches can be dizzying. I know this, because I frequently pitch, but I also frequently receive pitches from people who’d like to be guests on The Businessmakers Show. Now, I did not receive this document because I do not pitch to him (at least not with any regularity), but I discovered his email the way I imagine many, many thousands of people did… over at Gawker.com. No doubt someone who received it sent it over to the good folks at Gawker, who then posted it. As I told Douglas upon discovering it, when I read his name in the headline, I was, at first, “very, very nervous.” But after reading through it, I was relieved to find that, even though they do poke fun at the sheer length of the document (“Arts Writer Sends 1,400-Word Email on How to Communicate Efficiently“) they never knock him for sending it in the first place nor do they disparage any of his tips. The truth is, the tips are good. Real good.

Last year, I ran a query in the 3X daily Help a Reporter Out (HARO, for those in “the biz”) newsletter. This newsletter features submissions from journalists who are looking for sources. Because the newsletter has many thousands of subscribers, a journalist looking for obscure sources is bound to find a PR pro with a client who fits her needs. What I was looking for: Savvy, bootstrappy CEO’s who had unique and unusual businesses. I wanted to hear from people who had identified a niche, or found a way to grow their business with not much else than an idea in which they believed. I wanted passion, and yes, proven performance: someone who had employees.

I received over 200 pitches, and 99% of them were not what I asked for. Most of them were from marketing consultants (or their PR people) pitching me the new books they’d written about how to make money on the internet, or how to “do social media.” A few gems did emerge amid the crap. Katie and I got a chance to talk to some incredibly interesting people who’ve done some remarkable things, but for the most part, the pitches were off key, out of place, and unusable.

If you’re familiar with the Cision Database – my very favorite PR tool – then you know it’s not only filled with complete contact information, but it also tells you when and how each reporter wants to receive your information. For instance, if you see “Bob only wants press release by fax or mail on Friday’s between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.,” that is code for “DO NOT SEND BOB PRESS RELEASES. EVER.” There is a good chance Bob cannot use your press release, nor does he have the time to sort through all the press releases you will inevitably send anyway. Imagine if the database was also filled with 1400-word manifestos from each journalist, giving us a glimpse into their minds and motivations. We’d be able to tailor each piece of material to exactly suit that person, and hopefully, be a lot more successful at our jobs.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as kind as Douglas. In fact, I’ve never seen this before, and probably never will again, which means, we have to pretend we have all of this information anyway. We have to try to imagine what motivates each person we pitch, and to do that, we actually have to READ THEIR STORIES. We have to use our best guesses to provide them not just with content they can use, but WANT TO use.

The better you get at pitching, the less you’ll have to do it. If you’re able to seriously tailor your information to suit the person you’re speaking to, you’ll get more hits out of less pitches. Your goal should not be to pitch 1,000 people and hope 10 cover what you pitch. Wouldn’t you be more effective putting 100% more effort into pitching 20 people and getting those same 10 mentions?

What are you working on right now to laser-focus your pitches and be an all-around PR powerhouse?

The Rules of Engagement: Dating vs. Job Hunting

July 22, 2010

If you’re a normal person with a discerning eye, then you probably agree that over-eagerness is an undesirable trait when looking for a mate. When I was single, I heard the phrase “I don’t want to play games” from time to time. It seemed to me that in some instances, people were confusing “playing games” with me “taking time to figure out if I want to go out again.” If that phrase was declared on a date, it usually meant there would be a carefully-crafted text message or phone call (or both) later that evening, and possibly some the next day as well. While it is easy to justify these behaviors when you are the sender, and they seem like a good idea at the time, sometimes it’s best to let the night marinate and process before follow-up’s ensue, even if the evening in question really was all that. The days in between outings waiting for someone to call can be excruciating, but they also help build momentum. A necessary evil, I’d say. Yes, there are rules, and they help members of society keep order while deciding if they like or don’t like one another.

On the flip side, is looking for jobs. Another activity, often done in a social setting, that requires you to be charming and unique and qualified by someone else’s standards. Though hopefully in the workplace you’re not being judged on your love of dogs and whether you like red or white wine, you still have to sell yourself. But the rules are very different.

Yesterday, I was impressed with a girl (woman? whatever) who sent me an e-mail asking for job advice. I gave her a few suggestions, not expecting to hear back. There have been many times when people have contacted me for advice, which I gladly dole out, only to hear nothing back from the person who was so hell-bent on launching a career in marketing. The relationships we build in this industry are absolutely critical to our success, and when someone takes the time to help you, it’s best to respond with at least a “thank you.” Best not to wait three days to do it, either.

The young woman (that’ll work) sent me an email in response within 12 hours, telling me she’d already taken some of my suggestions. It only made me want to help more. Needless to say, this gal got off on the right foot with me. Skills like this demonstrate follow-through and a willingness to take suggestions and advice to heart, two things that take a lot of people years to learn. Some never learn them.

Though over-eagerness has no place in dating (unless you both fall instantly, madly in love, then it’s probably okay), being eager when looking for jobs and being very clear of your intentions with possible employers will help you stand out. Thank you notes, follow-up emails after interviews, phone calls with additional questions… these things are appreciated. We’re still in a recession, people, or something like it. If you want a job, go out and try to get one, and be aggressive. No need to be coy, Roy. Don’t be afraid to show the people hiring who wants it the most.

Image by Matthew Inman.

Seven Ways to Ensure That Your Mentor/Mentee Relationship Succeeds

July 19, 2010

Back in May, I spoke at Internet Retailer’s Women in E-Commerce Workshop on a panel of incredibly accomplished women in the industry. On that panel were:

Shirley Tan: Director of E-Commerce at AmericanBridal.com
Andrea Gulli: VP of E-Commerce, New York & Co.
Susan Aplin: Founder and CEO, Bambeco.com

These women have raised capital (in spite of how much more difficult it is for women to do, historically), they’ve successfully run, and in some cases sold, companies to even bigger companies, and have managed to make names for themselves in a young industry like e-commerce, where most of the top executives are men. From my perspective (the “under 30” perspective, as was my charge to present at this particular event), they give a girl a lot to aspire to and work toward.

It got me thinking about mentorship. The topic came up a lot at this particular workshop: whether it was important, how to find one, how to keep one, how to make the relationship work. People inquired about how to find mentors as well as how to establish good relationships with mentees. If you’re feeling frustrated and unable to find someone solid to guide you through the up’s and down’s of the business world, then it might be time to rethink modern mentorship and what it means to you. Here are 9 tips to help you do that.
1. Mentorship does NOT equal apprenticeship. Long gone are the days where a person was required to teach those in line behind him the minutiae of a specific trade. We have college and internships for that. Any mentor worth his weight in paperclips will help you develop the tools you need to solve problems, not give you all the answers. Don’t rely on your mentor to walk you through difficult situations, or show you, step-by-step, a new technology or platform. The old adage, “Teach a man to fish…” holds true here. For your own good, ask your mentor to give you the basic, need-to-know steps, then fill in the gaps as best you can.

2. Set realistic expectations about the relationship. Your mentor is not one of your girlfriends (or bros, as the case may be). It’s best to keep tales of your drunken escapades through Vegas and your anger towards the mother who won’t stop criticizing your taste in men to yourself. Keep the talk professional. Of course, personal bits will creep in; that’s a pleasant side effect of getting close to someone. That being said, keep it top level. Too much information can be a relationship, and a career, killer.

3. Your mentor may tell you something you don’t want to hear. Listen. So you’re the rising star in your organization and your parents told you you your 4th grade English paper deserved a Pulitzer. Your mentor is not here to sugar coat things for you, they are here to tell you, to your face, what you could be doing better. No one’s perfect, not even you. Instead of getting defensive, take their advice to heart. Evaluate how true the words are (and they may or may not be true), then act.

4. Look for more than one mentor. You might not get everything you need from one person. Identify different people within your company and outside of it who can give you varied perspectives on issues you may have. Your mentor inside of the organization might not be able to see the forest before the trees. In that case, consider looking outward for a more objective opinion.

5. Don’t wait for your mentor to reach out to you to set up time to meet. If you’re upset because your phone isn’t constantly ringing with calls from a mentor eager to sit down to coffee with you once a week, it’s because they don’t have time for that. Those who are good at what they do and worthy of mentoring in the first place are busy. Make it YOUR priority to initiate that contact and follow up to see the meeting or conversation through.

6. Prepare for meetings with your mentor. Just as your time is valuable, your mentor’s time is valuable. Take time to think about what you want to cover during your meeting. You’ll get a lot more out of it if you identify specific items you want to discuss ahead of time.

7. You can find mentors where you least expect it. Not all mentors will be your superiors. I know that I consider my father to be a mentor to me. Consider reaching out to a family member. You might even consider looking to a younger person, someone who is well-versed in new technology, to advise you.

LeBron James is a Genius. Haters abound!

July 9, 2010
lebron james

lebron james

In the wake of King James’ decision to leave the big Cleve, I came across something that legitimately pissed me off. And it’s Friday. I don’t enjoy being pissed off on a Friday. The article is titled “Now Hated, LeBron James Makes Worst PR Move in History.” I rarely comment on things, but I decided to leave words for the writer of this ridiculous piece, and they are reprinted for my readers below:

“No one outside of Cleveland is mad at LeBron for leaving. He made the same move many business professionals make when offered the chance to stretch and grow in the workplace. If you had the chance to work side by side with the best business thought leaders in the world, would you? How is this different? Worst PR?? Best PR I’ve ever seen. Even my great aunt was watching ESPN last night.

He has to stay in Cleveland forever to be considered a loyal, humble man? He didn’t shoot himself in the foot, or do drugs , or sleep with strippers… he made a strategic business move that, if you recall , cost him money . If anything, children should take from this that in life, we must make hard decisions, and not always the ones that are going to make people like us.

“Now Hated, LeBron Makes Worst PR Move in History?” Really? Talk about hyperbolic. This is the kind of rhetoric that pisses me off.”

Were we rivited by the antics? Yes. Were some disappointed that he didn’t end up in their cities? Most definitely. Are Cleveland fans upset? Rightfully so. Should his jersey be burned? Absolutely not. Cleveland fans put all their championship eggs in the LeBron basket, and are now faced with the harsh reality that they might be waiting another 50 years to win a giant trophy and hold a fun parade. That stings. Houstonians, we know the pain of how elusive a championship – in ANY sport – can be. But face it Cleveland, THAT’S what you’re upset about, not the three-ring circus that has transpired in the last few days leading up to “The Decision,” as ESPN has titled it. Please weigh in. What do you think?