Posts Tagged Public Relations

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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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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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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Slow news day = PR person’s best friend


This past weekend I filled in as a reporter and it was quite challenging considering the fact that absolutely nothing “newsworthy” was happening. The newsroom can be a morbid place – unfortunately, bloodshed and controversey usually make for great headlines and there was very little of that Easter long weekend.

However, there were tons of events going on. Trying to reach a reporter or editor in a newsroom to pitch a story/event/launch/etc. can be difficult when murders, sex scandal and a possible TTC strike are going on. The newsroom I work in receives so many media releases and phone calls from PR people and most of the time the event doesn’t get covered because there’s just no time in the newscast or the reporters are covering something else.

I love the fact that I work in a newsroom and am a PR student as well. I get the best of both worlds.

This past Saturday I learned that a slow news day is a blessing for a PR person because it means their event/announcement/etc. may be the lead story and/or it gets more coverage than it would have had it not been a slow news day.

There was a multiple shooting that day, but no one died, no one was in critical condition and there was no “new angle” that we could take (ie. young girl is only witness). So my editor didn’t bother sending me to the police division or to the crime scene. What he did do was ask me to cover a story about World Water Day and a program launched by UNICEF called the Tap Project. 

UNICEF’s Tap Project was launched on the same day as Wolrd Water Day (March 22, 2008) and will run until the end of the week. Diners at participating restaurants will be asked to add $1 to their bill for the water they usually receive for free. The money collected during the project will go towards providing third world countries with clean water.

For your viewing pleasure…

I went to the restaurant where the PR people were meeting with media and covered the event. I wasn’t the only person from a well-known media outlet there. I did the interviews, got my tape and went back to produce the piece – at this point it was already 3 p.m.

I filed in time for the piece to air at 4 p.m. and all of my voicers ran until midnight – it was the lead story.
I also filed pieces about the initiative before I left to go to the event – so UNICEF received coverage starting at around 12:30 p.m. (Not bad!)

A slow news day for a reporter means digging through media releases trying to find something “newsworthy.”

A slow news day for a PR person means putting up with phone calls from the media trying to find something “newsworthy.”

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Beware while surfing…someone may be AstroTurfing


What is AstroTurfing?

– AstroTurfing is a formal public relations project launched under the impression of spontaneous, grassroots behaviour. The goal is to fool the public/intended audience into believing the posted material was authored/created by a person/persons who have no ties to the person/service/product/organization in which the post is related to.

Wikipedia’s definition of AstroTurfing:
In American politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations projects which deliberately seek to engineer the impression of spontaneous, grassroots behavior. The goal is the appearance of independent public reaction to a politician, political group, product, service, event, or similar entities by centrally orchestrating the behavior of many diverse and geographically distributed individuals.

Several cases of AstroTurfing have made headlines across North America.
Wal-Mart and Edelman Public Relations launched the Working Families for Wal-Mart organization and portrayed it as a grassroots group in December 2005. The organization was created to counter criticism of Wal-Mart from union-funded groups like Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart. The organization’s website posted the following mission statement:

“Working Families for Wal-Mart is committed to fostering open and honest dialogue with elected officials, opinion makers and community leaders that conveys the positive contributions of Wal-Mart to working families. We believe that Wal-Mart provides value to its customers, to its associates and to the communities it serves.”

Working Families for Wal-Mart apparently also sponsored the “Wal-Mart Across America” blog – where a couple posed as “Wal-Mart” fans travelling in an RV to various Wal-Mart locations across the country. It was later discovered that the male was actually a photographer for the Washington Post and the female was freelance writer who worked for United States Department of Treasury.

To read Fortune’s article about the issue click here.

We live in the electronic era, making it easier for companies to form an AstroTurfing campaign. A number of resources and tools are ready at the click of a button and the Internet makes it more cost effective.
PR bloggers Paull Young and Trevor Cook have spearheaded a true grassroots campaign to get PR practitioners around the world to take a stand against AstroTrufing.

AstroTurfing is unethical and – when carried out as a PR campaign – makes the profession look horrible. So how can young PR people help? Pall Young has a couple of tips:

  • Join the conversation – write against astroturfing on your blog or comment on the blog posts listed on the Anti-Astroturfing page on the New PR Wiki
  •  Declare you and/or your agency astroturf free
  • Expose possible examples of astroturfing
  • Link to the Anti-Astroturfing page with the image provided and add your name to the list of supporters below
  • Call on your politicians to take tougher legislative action against astroturfing
  • Call on your industry / professional association to speak out against astroturfing
  • Encourage friends and colleagues to get involved

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