Plays well with others

At an IABC/Toronto event, someone told me:

“In this industry it’s not about what you know. It’s about who you know and what they know about you.”

As a “newbie” PR practitioner competing against several others, it’s hard to set yourself apart from the crowd. Everyone is in the same boat you’re in – the will work for money and great experience boat. Racing against others who can offer potential employers the same thing you can make for a difficult run. So, to try and set myself apart from the others I turned to well-known practitioner who was a colleague of mine – who I will now refer to as Ms.X. She knows exactly what potential employers are looking for becasue she has seen a gazillion resume and has also interviewed several people for both junior and senior positions in the industry. She shared some valuable advice and information with me that I feel will really help a “newbie” PR practitioner, like myself, get ahead of the game.

1. Renovate your resume
Your resume is what will get you in the door. The only thing potential employers have to judge you on is this document, so you had better make sure your resume is good enough to be placed in the “call for interview” pile. My colleague gave me the following tips on how to blow away the competition:

  • Check it one, check it twice, check it THREE times
    Ms. X says that one mistake, whether it’s grammatical or a spelling error – will send you home packing, so read it over and over again and then have a fresh pair of eyes proof read it before hitting SEND. We’re in the communications industry! So you had better believe potential employers are looking for people who know and understand the importance good grammar and spelling.
  • Leave no room for questions
    Provide brief descriptions about the comapnies you worked for in the past, make sure your dates add up and be clear about your duties at each place of employment. Don’t assume your employer will figure it out or will know – they don’t have time to look up information you neglected to provide.
  • Tailor Made
    Tailor your resume to fit each employer you send it to. You know what they are looking for so highlight how you can help them by emphasizing certain work experience and training that meets their needs. Even though a resume outlines your qualifications, remember, it’s not all aobut you – it’s about the employer and how you can give them what they are looking for.

2. Play well with others

“In this industry it’s not about what you know. It’s about who you know and what they know about you.”

Keeping that in mind, you need to get out there and start building your network. Ms.X says that by networking with people in the industry you are opening doors for yourself without even knowing it. She says a hidden job market exists in the industry that those who employers know or know about are the ones who benefit from it. Volunteer at IABC or CPRS events – it’s great way to meet people in the industry and to get your name out there.

IABC/Toronto is holding it’s Volunteer Recruitment Night this month – click here for more information.

At the end of the day, we are all capable of bringing something fresh and exciting to the table, but we may not know how to highlight the reasons why we are different from the last person the potential employer interviewed that day.

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Mr. Right isn’t available so just settle for Mr. Good Enough

J-Lo and Mr. Good Enough

I usually blog about subjects related to the Communications/PR Industry, but I came across a great article (by Sarah Thompson) that appeared in yesterday’s Globe and Mail that I had to write about.

I’m 22-years-old and marriage is at the bottom of my list of to-do’s within the next five years.

For some of my friends and co-workers, however, that is not the case.

Some will be walking down the aisle in a month or so while others are frustrated because they haven’t met Mr. Right.

My single friends have pretty high standards and are very particular about what characteristics  Mr. Right should have.

In the article, Reva Seth (author of First Comes Marriage, Modern Relationship Adive from the Wisdom of Arranged Marriages) says:

Women should seek the inverse of what Hollywood and the culture in general dictate they should expect. Don’t look for connection or expect to feel something the moment you lock eyes. That’s sexual checmistry, which fades over time. Look for shared values, even if that comes in a guy who is 5 foot 4 and suffers from halitosis.

Women, do you agree?

Should the phrase ‘tall, dark and handsome’ be deleted and replaced by ‘family-oriented, ambitious and average-looking’?

One of my friends put off dating a guy who was head over heels for her because she was waiting on something ‘better’ to come along. Unfortunately, the person she thought was a ‘better’ fit turned out to be a dud because the had nothing in common – other than the fact that they found each other physcially attractive.

She ended up with the guy who had been waiting around for her because they shared the same goals, beliefe and values – and he is pretty good guy.
She settled for her Mr. Good Enough.

I just think it’s an interesting way to look at the dating world and an interesting way to pick your mate.

Ladies, your Knight in Shining Armour may have stopped to pick up another damsel SO don’t hesitate to joust with the jester.

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Jonseing for java (apps)

I have a strict morning routine (I’m sure most of you out there have a similar one):
– rinse my Strabucks Grande To Go Tumbler
– throw Tumbler onto my passenger seat
– fill up Tumbler with Americano at Starbucks
– gulp down coffee

Ever since my first year of college I have been gulping down a huge cup of joe each morning to give me a jolt – to wake me up. It’s gotten worse since then. I now consume more coffee than I do water (eek!)

Today, I came across an article in the Toronto Star that just screamed “Maricel! Read me!”

The article, by Associated Press reporter Emily Zeugner, reveals many of us have become coffee-dependent zombies is because we are living in a culture of overstimulation. Experts blame sleep deprivation on people being increasingly addicted to technology.

We are no longer staying up to catch the 11pm news (we’ve already received the breaking news alerts on our BlackBerries), or watch a re-run of Jerry Springer (we’ve already seen it on YouTube) or to fall asleep to an infomercial about some weird concoction.

We’re cutting our sleep time short to blog, e-mail, chat on MSN, Twitter and to post videos on Seesmic – basically, we spend our time in front of the computer instead of in front of the TV.

That means stakeholders  are also yawning away in front of the computer screen. 
They’re blogging about products and services, they’re posting pictures on Facebook and they’re taking part in conversations PR people should be listening in on.

This article didn’t just remind me that it’s extremely unhealthy to function on less that eight hours of sleep. It reminded that we are living in a world where discussions don’t die at the end of the work day.
Where public opinion shifts with the help of just one blog post.
Where a video posted in the wee hours of the morning can garner media attention from major outlets because websurfers have caused a stir about it.

We’re all tired because we’re online way past our bedtimes, but clearly we aren’t growing tired of this trend.


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Making (dollars) and cents of it all

As the end of my internship at the Ontario Science Centre approaches the search for a full-time job in the industry is also close at my heels.

I attended IABC/Toronto’s student event, Learn the Things They Don’t Teach you at School, last week and got a lot out of it.

I can’t believe there are people who show up for an interview with a hangover AND tell their potential employer that!

Apparently, the MOST uncommon thing in the world is common sense.

I digress.

The event walked junior PR practitioners, like myself, through the various steps we must take in order to succeed in the industry. There were sessions on how to create a winning resume, how to network, how to ace the interview and how to keep the job.

When looking for a job I consider several things:

  • location (how far will I have to travel to get there?)
  • parking (will I have to pay for parking, and if so, how much will it cost?)
  • corporate culture (will I fit in with the crowd?)
  • work hours (am I expected to work on the weekends? Holidays?)

…I could go on, but one thing I have trouble figuring out(and perhaps my fellow junior practitioners feel the same way) is how to handle stating much will I want to get paid (if that is up for discussion)?

My professors have told me that I should expect to make (at the very least) $35,000 a year.
BUT…what if the organization offers you $5,000 less and you really want to become a part of their team?

Is it appropriate to say
“Would we be able to negotiate?”

And then how do you say you want $5,000 more and justify that you deserve it?!?
The last thing I want to do come across as a greedy, money-hungry person.

So, how should junior PR practitioners make “cents” of these kinds of situations?

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Outfitted for the office…

 Everyone knows the saying…

“Don’t judge a book
by its cover.”

Whether you will admit it or not, our initial opinion about a person, place or thing is partially shaped by its appearance.

If the exterior of a restaurant is well kept, well lit and well designed one might assume the food is as appealing to the taste buds as the building is to the eyes.

 As a young PR practitioner trying to get my foot in the door, I try very hard to make a good first impression. Other than keeping a clean online profile (no Facebook pictures of me doing tequila shots), I also make sure I am well dressed and well groomed when I head to my internship each day and whenever I attend CPRS/IABC events.

Young PR practitioners and PR students are like books sitting on a shelf at a bookstore.
If your cover doesn’t scream “I’M WORTH READING” the shopper (potential employer) will most likely gravitate to the book that does.

I’m not saying  you have to go out and buy a new wardrobe or that you have to wake up two hours before you head out to make sure each strand of hair on your head is styled just right. What I’m trying to say is the onus is on us – students and newbies – to prove we are worth reading. Save the revealing outfits for clubbing and the Corona shirts for after work. If you want people to view you as a professional you’ve got look and act like one.

So if you have to think twice about an outfit before you head off to an interview, to your internship, etc. you should probably change.

You want potential employers/current employers to notice your innovative ideas not your inappropriate outfit.


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The more you read, the more you know…

I finally picked up Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.
I’ve only gotten as far as 1/3 of chapter one, but I felt compelled to blog about how great I think this book is for PR students like myself.

When my professor Gary Schlee asked the class to create a personal blogs a couple of students moaned and groaned. They thought it was either a waste of time and energy or because they had absolutely no idea how to even go about doing it or what they would write about. I was one of those students.

After getting my blog up and running my opinion changed. I began to enjoy it. I began to understand the importance of familiarizing myself with all ins and outs of the world of social media.
We don’t work, communicate, learn, shop and share the same way we did a couple of years ago. The number of people who pick up the morning paper is declining, there are more magazines on the stands because readers are choosing a different means of getting their information and television ratings aren’t what they used to be.

Where are all of these readers and viewers?


On the inside sleeve of the book it says:

“Right now, your customers are writing about your products on blogs and recutting your commercials on YouTube. They’re defining you on Wikipedia abd ganging up on you social networking sites like Facebook. These are all elements of a social phenomenon – the groundswell – that has created a permanent shift in the the way the word works.”

Keeping this in mind, PR students should realize what an exciting time it is to be entering the industry. Things are constantly shifting as millions of people across the city, the country and the globe log on and off. I was a bit scared about jumping in and and exploring the social media buffet because I’m no social media pro, but I compared it to swimming – the only way you’ll ever learn how is if you jump in.

So I think the best way to keep up with the current is to read, read and read some more.
Read blogs and read books recommended by PR pros, but I think taking the time to write and reflect about the information you pick up is also important.


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Tricks of the trade…

Last night I attended the CPRS 360 Event.
I learned a lot during the three sessions I attended, but a couple of points really stick out in my mind.

  • if you are sending a cover letter to a potential employer DO NOT address it ‘’Dear (insert person’s first name)’. Take the time to look up their full name AND the CORRECT SPELLING
  • read blogs
  • read blogs
  • read blogs
  • social media is like a buffet, if you put too much on your plate everything starts blending together and nothing tastes good afterwards
  • refrain from saying negative things about firefighters, nurses and injured employees to the media
  • NOTHING is off the record
  • learn the business, learn what it does and understand where it is going

When I started the PR program at Centennial College, I refrained from attending events like 360 because I felt I could not fit it into my schedule. (I would often head to the newsroom after school – sometimes I did overnight shifts, so I was exhausted).

My professors gave me the right tools to excel in the industry, but I’ve come to discover that events like 360 teach students things they don’t cover at school.

PR professionals can provide students with the kind of knowledge you can’t find tucked away in the pages of a textbook. Their experiences are all different and their opinions vary so everything they share with students at these events provides a unique perspective of the industry and its practices.

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Timbit troubles

I came across a great article in the Globe and Mail today by Carly Weeks.

Everyone has heard the story about the Tim Hortons employee who got canned because she gave a toddler a Timbit.


Well, as Weeks points out, a lot more came out of the company’s wallet than just the cost of the sixteen cent Timbit.











(from the Globe and Mail)


The situation turned into a PR nightmare. Instead of just having to write up a pink slip, there were crisis communications plans to create and execute, external communications with the angry public and angry customers, media relations, internal communications efforts to carry out regarding policies when it comes to handing out “freebies” and communications to calm angry staff members.


Whoever you point the finger at for this mess – the manager or poor internal communications efforts – Tim Hortons’ communications department definitely has their cups filled to the rim with work.


(Any interns in Tim Hortons’ communications department got a crash–course in crisis management).


Long before I began college, I worked as a salesperson at various stores and the one thing every single one of my managers told me was:


“A customer who receives great service will tell a couple of friends, but a customer who receives horrible service will tell everyone any chance they get.”


Living in a world where conversations are taking place online all the time, it is easier for bad reviews to get around to the most people.


You had better believe that an unhappy customer will not forget to write a post about the bad experience they had at a store/restaurant.

 And once people start coming across that strongly–worded post, other people who can relate to it will surely reply in agreement. Then, TIMBER!


Weeks writes:

“While most coffee shops, bars and restaurants across Canada have rules to prevent employees from giving their friends and family freebies, most allow – and even promote – occasional giveaways as a simple way to reap long-term benefits…Freebies can help cement relationships with customers, and it is common for grocery stores, fast-food outlets and coffee shops to regularly dole out free items, particularly when children are involved.”

I agree and I’m sure many people out there share the same opinion.

In terms of PR, not only will the company have to dump money into traditional forms of PR, but because of all of the tools social media has graciously bestowed unto the public, money must also be budgeted to create and execute effective social media relations.

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There’s a reason this information is being shared….think like a PR person

At lunch today, my placement supervisors and I overheard a news report saying that Barbara Walters has come out and spilled the beans about an affair she had with a former US Senator 30 years ago.

Barbara Walters

The first thing we all said (in more or less words) was:
“Who cares?!”

Now, the next question that came after that was obviously why should we care?

Some people may just take the information for what it is without thinking about the reasoning behind why it’s in the news in the first place. But after being in the newsroom and in the media relations room, I’ve started questioning why certain things make the cut and get reported – or why someone bothered writing a release about it or contacting the media.

There are two things journalists and PR people must consider when preparing to share information with their target audiences, they both need to figure out why it is relevant and whether or not their audience will find it newsworthy.

Let’s disect the Walters story….

In an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s show (scheduled to air this coming Tuesday), Barbara Walters reportedly spills the news that she had an affair with former US Senator Edward Brooke back in the 70’s.

Things to consider:
– Why is Walter’s on the Oprah Show and what is she talking about?
– Why did Walters choose this particular occasion to share this “juicy” news?

Possible answers/reasons:
– Walters is unveiling a new line of products, show, etc.
– Walters is staring in a new movie, television series

The answer:
My supervisor said she’s pretty sure Walters’ publicist “leaked” the story because she’s releasing a book in the near future.


I will no longer take anything I read/see on TV/hear on the radio for face value…there’s usually a publicist or PR person behind the message.

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One month in

So I’ve been an intern at the Ontario Science Centre for about a month now and I have learned a lot – things no textbook or lecture can teach.
Yesterday was the reopening of the CA Planetarium. Dr. Marc Garneau was there, along with Lesley Lewis (CEO of the Ontario Science Centre) and Jimmy Fulton (County manager for CA Canada), students from Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute and the media.


It was quite a busy day. Tom Brown was there to do live hits for CTV News at noon and Dr. Garneau had an interview with CFRB live around noon as well..


Dr. Marc Garneau gives two Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute students a tour of the CA Planetarium at the Ontario Science Centre on May 1, 2008.


Here’s what I learned from yesterday:


Lesson 1: Never schedule interviews too close together because things happen and you can’t always expect reporters/camera men to be on time all the time


Lesson 2: When setting up an interview with a media outlet, make sure you have their contact info just in case (I may be stating the obvious, but it’s the little things you forget).


Lesson 3: Make sure ALL of your team is on the same page. Make sure everyone is reporting/giving out the right information and that everyone know what key messages must be delivered.


Lesson 4: Test run all equipment and make sure you have access to everything you need that day.


Lesson 5: Avoid wearing high–heels.


The event went off without a hitch and everything was on time and in its place.


I love the fact that I know what its like to be at the receiving end of the information tube. As a journalist, I didn’t know how much planning, detail and stress putting on a media preview could be. Though yesterday’s event was a great success, I still got to learn about how important it is to make sure there are no loose ends, that everyone that is part of the event (from building maintenance to CEOs) knows exactly what should be happening and when and that timing is EVERYTHING especially if media is scheduled to do a live hit.




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