Are you ready to get a job in public relations? Are you hungry to learn how to set yourself apart from the thousands of applicants? This webinar examines the characteristics and traits in-demand for public relations positions, offers helpful tips on how to stand out from the competition in your job search and provides insight on how managers attract, retain and develop top performers.
Featuring experts who discuss their observations on the hiring process within public relations agencies and corporations, including Keith Burton, Grayson Emmett Partners; Rick Looser, The Cirlot Agency; Virginia Noriega, Heyman Associates; and Kevin Saghy, The Ohio State University, formerly Chicago Cubs.
Access: Slide Presentation
Keith Burton: The Plank Center for the work we’re going to do around this webinar. I want to describe it a little bit for the students who are here. For the past several years, we’ve conducted a webinar at different times on getting a job in public relations. It tends to be the most popular webinar that we do. You’ll hear today my colleagues both on the board of The Plank Center as well as others who join us to have this conversation around what it means to get a job when you graduate. One of the most important things that you’re going to do.
We’ll talk about some of the conditions as well as the work that you’ll want to do to position yourself for that. And you’ll also have the opportunity to be able to ask questions here through me. I’m Heath Burton, I’ll moderate that conversation. Let me thank you for just the hospitality that you’ve shown, [Dr. Rachelle Ford 00:00:46], Professor Maria [Russell 00:00:50], the whole team here. Over the day that I’ve been here already, I’ve had the opportunity to be in several classes. I’ve enjoyed my time. And I’ll be here through tonight, then leaving tomorrow. I always enjoy being on the campus of Syracuse. And unashamedly, people know that I always stay among the great schools in communication in the world. Syracuse is among the very best, so you should be very proud of the work you’re doing here.
I want to thank as well my colleagues of The Plank Center where I serve on the board of trustees. Our chairman of The Plank Center is Ron Culp who I believe is on with us today. I’m grateful to have Ron on. Ron’s leadership has really helped to propel us over the last several years into becoming really one of the leader organizations among the organizations in the area of leadership and mentoring.
The Plank Center was originally formed by Betsy Ann Plank who was an alumnus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and she really was one of the top leaders for many years in the public relations business.
Let me say a few other things to you as well. I mentioned our mission around mentoring and leadership. As we do this webinar today, you’re going to hear some of the areas that are important for frankly getting a job in the business but also you’ll have your own questions about what it means. This is a global audience. As we think about this work, you have to go beyond obviously thinking about the US, thinking about what it means to get a job in other markets. We’ll answer some of those questions, and I’ll be here with you to do that beyond the presentation.
Let me introduce today’s presenters so you’ll know who they are. Let me start over here on the are panel, Kevin Saghy who is one of the trustees of The Plank Center. Kevin was the past president of the Public Relations Student Society of America when he was in college. When Kevin graduated, he joined Ketchum, the public relations firm and was with Ketchum for several years serving in Chicago with Ron Culp. Then after he left Ketchum, he joined the Chicago Cubs where he was the manager of communications. Talk about a great job, working for a sports organization and for the Chicago Cubs which we hope this year will find their rightful place in finally winning a World Series.
In addition to Kevin, Rick Looser who’s president and chief operating officer of the Cirlot Agency, one of the top boutique and growing firms in the South, in the southern US. In his firm, Rick works with defense contracting organizations and other companies that are involved in major contract work around the US. He also happens to be an alumnus by the way of the University of Alabama and teaches over at the university as a part of the program there along with Dr. Carly Geller who is the director of the center, and is on with us today along with Jessica White who is a part of our team.
Finally Virginia Noriega who is an associate with Heyman Associates. Bill Heyman is the founder and the leader of Heyman Associates you may know that firm, it’s the top firm in the world in doing executive search in our business. Virginia is a member of that team and we’re really delighted that she could join us today.
You’ll hear really some very interesting perspectives, not just from Kevin who has both the agency and the corporate background, but also Rick from his agency background and also that of an educator, and Virginia who brings again background from working with candidates for positions as they graduate or move through their careers. I’m delighted that they’re here with us to present.
I’m going to turn it over to them, but before I do let me tell you two things. One, as you have questions, let us know. Dr. Ford can certainly put them into the chat feature that we have for this webinar. That will be true for those who are not with us here as well. Wherever you may be, you have a chat feature on your portal and you can use it to actually give us a question. Then Jessica at the end will help to field those questions and we’ll talk about them.
The other thing I’ll tell you is that for those who can’t join us today who you know here who would like to see this webinar, there’ll be a replay of it. You’ll be able to go back and look at the replay which will be digitally recorded. You’ll have that a little later.
Jessika, anything that I haven’t mentioned before we start?
Jessika White: No, I think we’re ready to go.
Keith Burton: Great. With that, let me introduce our colleagues and our presenters for the day. I’ll kick it off by introducing again Kevin Saghy to take us through the presentation.
Kevin Saghy: Great, thank you so much Keith, appreciate it, and I appreciate everybody dialing in for the webinar. I’m going to kick things off and just talk about what a typical job search looks like, both sides of the equation. And talk about your capture strategy then a few key learnings. Then turn the over to Virginia and Rick to talk about things like resumes, portfolios, interviews and networking.
I’m going to start with some stats from Cubs jobs. But I want to impress upon you that these learnings I’m going to share are relevant whether you have 30 competitors for a job or 3000. But typically at the Cubs or a lot of large companies that are in demand that you may be interested in working for, we get hundreds if not thousands of applicants. It’s pretty daunting. Generally we have a minimum of 1000 applicants for the roles that I’ve hired for.
That group gets boiled down to a very small group comparatively, so maybe it’s 30, 35 semi-finalists. We take a deeper dive. We select maybe a dozen for phone screens and first interviews, maybe 15. Then we try to bring in five or so for our in-person interviews.
Really you’ve got thousands of people applying, hundreds email, dozens will call or mail, a few actually show up in person with their materials, one person gets the job. A pretty daunting endeavor, right? Maybe 1200 apply and 1199 feel like the next slide here … You kind of want to break the bat over your knee. It can be frustrating.
What we want to do is help everyone on this call break through. How do you do that? Well first of all, first and foremost, you have to possess the right skills. I can’t tell you how many applicants we get, it can be frustrating where we put a job description out with the exact skills that we’re looking for, then you go through resume after resume after resume and it’s clear that the people think this sounds like a great job to apply for, but they did no research or kind of disregarded those requirements anyways even though they were not a good fit for the job.
he good news is for those of you applying for jobs with the right background, those hundreds or thousands may be whittled down quite a bit right off the bat for people that aren’t qualified.
What are those skills? Well writing and editing, in this industry number one. Then here we really focus on AP style, as do a lot of organizations. You have to be able to present and communicate verbally. Media relations is a big chunk of what we do in public relations, then proactively pitching and securing placements is important.
Measurement, I’m going to touch on this in a little bit. Really important to show that you’re not just an artful communicator, but you’re business savvy as well, and measure your results. Attention to detail, that kind of traces back up to writing and editing. Do you always put out a quality product, whether it’s in your application materials or your portfolio materials and everything you’ve done in class and internships? Sound judgment. If I can look you up as a candidate and it’s clear you don’t show sound judgment online, we’re not going to invite you in these walls. Then in this industry, we work really hard. So you have to have a strong work ethic, be proactive, and have strong ethics as well.
That’s a lot already, but then there’s this whole new skill set within the last 10 years or so that is important as well. Social media, I’m sure a lot of you listening do social media personally. But have you done it for a business? Have you done it for a non-profit or organization that you volunteer for in a way that is productive and achieves results?
Again, analytics and data interpretation. Can you look at all the metrics that Twitter or Facebook will provide you and actually interpret that for action?
Blogging, micro blogging. Can you work with bloggers and build that community? Do you have a basic understanding of search optimization? Maybe even coding or design like Adobe Photoshop. Then social media ethics. There’s a whole new wrinkle to what we do on social media, not just traditional media.
All right, what’s your approach? It can be a daunting endeavor. Those of us that are hiring managers going through when we have a job opening, the reality is we want the best fit, the best match for that position. Plain and simple. And we are also doing our normal job, which is busy because we need to add someone, someone who’s clearly a need, and balancing that with the job search. That can impede upon the time to reply to candidates like you’d like to ideally.
We’re getting multiple referrals. Not only do we open up a job and we’re getting folks emailing you and calling and applying through the system, you’re also getting folks walking over to your desk, dropping resumes off. It could be a really strong referral, and maybe you get multiple referrals on a strong candidate. And it could be your boss’s neighbor’s kid as well. We have to vet through all of those.
We have limited time to view resumes, cover letters, examples. Your first appearance needs to be intriguing and capture our attention right from the start. And it needs to be the right cultural fit. Even though there are folks that have great professional experience, you kind of get an understanding for the culture where you work. And if a person isn’t going to fit into it, that may remove them from the running as well.
Next, how do you break through again that clutter as well and that busyness? It’s great to have a capture strategy. A lot of times what we see is folks write up a cover letter about themselves and say, “Hi, my name is Kevin. I’ve worked here, and I’ve interned here, and I’m really interested in this. I hope you like me,” and you cross your fingers, you send it in, and you hope they make the connection for you.
If you really want to break through that clutter and all those applicants, then having a clear capture strategy would really help. First getting that referral. Who do you know that knows the company or the hiring manager that can make a connection for you, so you’re not just one of the hundreds that are applying blindly? What do you know about the position and the company? If you don’t know a lot, then it’s time to do some research and dig in a little bit. Then what makes you unique for the position? There are a lot of folks with a lot of experience. What makes you the best fit? Spell that out for the hiring manager so they know right off the bat. Then what can you do to improve your chances? Those referrals help, then a strong cover letter, resume, and work examples help.
I really like this next example here. It’s similar to what I did to capture my job at the Cubs. This comes from Gary McCormick at Scripts. He’s another Plank Center board member. We presented on this topic a couple years ago, and I just loved how this visualizes the approach I took, even to another degree. Gary for instance, they’re looking for their corporate communications intern here. They have the job description. And when you look at any job description, they put down the exact experience they’re looking for and the traits that they’re looking for in that person.
You as an applicant might be looking at that, and you could highlight some things that stand out. Okay, what is the hiring manager looking for? I’ve highlighted what they have here. Now for the next step, if we go to the next slide, Gary is actually recommending, and he’s seen folks do that, coming up with a grid. And this is intense, but it’s a great way to visualize the approach I took as well on the other side of getting this job. Taking those key items, so the energetic, detail-oriented, goal-oriented, having experience with media and internal communications, public affairs, and making sure those core themes are incorporated throughout all of your application materials. Does your cover letter hit on those? Does the resume? Your letters of reference? So when you have people refer you, make sure they hit on those key themes. That’s okay to guide them.
Your prep for your interview, what are you researching? And your letter afterwards. It’s a great way to separate yourself from the pack.
I can tell you when I applied for this job, I looked at the job description that the Cubs put out, then my cover letter was direct and to the point. You want A, I’ve done A. You want B, I’ve done B. You want C, I’ve done C. Here are my examples, and here are the results from it. And it was literally a bulleted cover letter that was that direct.
However, what it did was break through the clutter of folks who just wrote long-form paragraphs about themselves that kind of blend in with each other after a while. That helped me kind of cut through the clutter and get in for the interviews.
Then once I was in for the interviews, just like Gary has illustrated here, research the company and who I was interviewing with and spoke to topics that were relevant to them. This is a really big takeaway and approach I would really recommend. It takes a lot of work, but definitely worthwhile.
Next, I’m just going to go through a few key learnings, positive and negative that I’ve seen from the job search. Then I’ll turn it over to Virginia next.
To touch on that point, directly address the job description. You have the answer key. You have exactly what the company is looking for, so why not use that? So many folks just don’t pay that close of attention to the job description. Those tangible results are really important. If you can show an increase of percentage of sales or members, show how many placements you got in high level publications, this could be for your internships, your jobs, it could be PRSSA or other groups, your fraternity or sorority. Show that you have results in mind.
Make sure you have that experience. Referrals help. I personally really feel strongly about a one page resume. It was told to me when I was applying for entry level jobs by someone who had been in the industry for 15 years. If I’ve worked 15 years and can keep my resume to one page, you should be able to as well. Even if there’s only a small percentage of folks that feel that way, I don’t want to alienate myself to them.
Then a handwritten thank you card still goes a long way.
On the negative side, the next slide, avoid blanket cover letters like I talked about. It’s kind of obvious when you just write a general cover letter about yourself. Make sure you tailor it to the position and the organization. Relevant information only. I shouldn’t know if you’re a huge hockey fan if you’re applying to work for a baseball team. Proofread. Some of you in your classes may have fatal flaws. What that means is if you have a great cover letter and you happen to misuse their and spell it T-H-E-R-E instead of T-H-E-I-R, that could be full stop. Because we need to know that we have folks who know the difference in those grammatical or spelling errors.
Focus on what you can do for the company. So many times I see letters that are from people that are well-intentioned and say, “I think the Cubs would be a great launching point for my career.” “Ketchum is a great place for me to start my career. It’d be great to work in an agency, and I really want to get this experience.” You should be talking the other way around of what you can bring for the company, not what it can do for you. What skills do you bring? What value do you add to the company?
Then I see this all too often. Yes, your digital presence can count against you. If you’re applying for a job in PR, and especially social media, media can search you out, stakeholders can search for you, and if you have bad results when you Google yourself or you look on your Twitter feed, it’s time to clear that out and take a look at your judgment.
Then couple last ones, assertiveness is good, aggressiveness is not good. We’ve had candidates that have called, emailed, showed up in person dozens of times collectively, and a high maintenance applicant usually becomes a high maintenance employee. So no thanks.
Then finally just know the right time and place for certain questions. If you’re in your first interview and you’re just kicking things off, might not be the best time to ask if you have a parking space or what your salary is going to be. Putting the cart before the horse a little bit. There’ll be appropriate time and place to ask those things.
Those are a few topics I wanted to touch on. I know Virginia and Rick have a lot to add too, so I’m going to turn it over to her to talk through resumes, portfolios and interviews and networking.
Virginia Noriega: Great, thanks so much, Kevin. That was a great summary. And we as recruiters definitely see an abundance of applicants and resumes. And it truly is I think one of the most important parts of the job application process or internship application process. And I’m happy to go into what we see as successful resume.
The top third of your resume should I think be the most dynamic, the most persuasive, and be most noteworthy about yourself and about your career. I think that as the slide mentioned, include both qualitative and quantitative examples. I think that starting at the beginning, your contact information should absolutely be there. Links to your LinkedIn profile or career blog, a professional website, direct us to where we can find more engaging information about yourself.
I also think a career summary, or a summary of each role that you’ve had is really important. And not just about what your responsibilities were, but what you were able to bring to the table. And like Kevin did allude to earlier, what are the tangible accomplishments that you’re able to share with us.
And also I think the number one thing is make sure there are no errors. Make sure there’s consistency, make sure that the spacing is consistent, the grammar, the overall structure. The reason this keeps getting repeated is because you’d be surprised how often we see things misspelled. Word does not catch all of those spelling errors, so always make sure to read it over …
Rick do you want to talk about the cover letters a little bit?
Rick Looser: Sure. One of the things I see in my agency role is a lot of what I see in my limited role as I teach one senior level course at the University of Alabama, it’s a capstone course with campaigns. Where I do see … matter of fact, that was a test I gave last week, which was 50 points on a test was to write a cover letter as if you were applying for a job that you knew a lot about. Which brings me to the point that you shouldn’t apply for anything … If you don’t have time to write a specific cover letter, not only acknowledging that you know what the company is and what they do and what their goals are, but also how you can add to that, which you’ve heard already in just this short conversation.
But like what these guys have said, I think making sure it’s to the point and that it covers those things that an employer is looking for. I’m reminded that even in the Gettysburg Address, actually secretary of state was the key speaker, and he spoke over 13,000 words and it took him two hours, and nobody remembers one thing about it. Abraham Lincoln spoke for two minutes and 270 words, and it’s thought of today as one of the two or three most important speeches in our history.
Same thing goes for a cover letter. I don’t need to know that you were the spirit chairman of your sorority or anything else, like Kevin said earlier. I need to know what you’re going to do for me, which is part of our media training, which is the WIIFM, what’s in it for me. I think you do have to do something other than just the randomness of you’re looking for a job, but exactly what you bring to the table, and how you would use that … I think Virginia, you’ve got a lot more experience with the interviews than I do.
Virginia Noriega: Sure. There are different phases of an interview and different stages of an interview. I think that the research part of this is really important. It is very apparent quite quickly whether or not a candidate has done his or her research into the role, into the organization and into the background of the information and the culture. I think there is a delicate balance between showing you’ve done the research and also not acting like you know everything that there is to know about it. I think there certainly needs to be an effort put on your end, whether it’s a networking event which I’ll speak about a little bit later, or a job interview. I think that you need to go in prepared about what you’re able to bring to the table and the value you can add to an organization, as much as you need to get from the interviewer information about the culture, the organization, you need to find the best fit as much as the company needs to. And that needs to be apparent when you are speaking to, again whether it’s an internship or whether it’s a full-time job.
Rick Looser: And I would add here just a personal experience recently with my son who went to O-Miss and got his MBA and moved to Washington without a job. I’ll tell you what job, he actually right now is working for the Marco Rubio campaign as an advance person. To Kevin’s point earlier about employers vetting you before you ever get there, the one and only interview he had lasted less than 20 minutes. And they basically told him, “We’ve already looked you up, we’ve already seen everything we can that’s public about you, we’ve already talked to people who know you. This is strictly to see if we can agree on the terms of your employment.” He had been hired before he knew he had even interviewed for the job. That’s something that my generation never had to deal with that your generation needs to pay special attention to.
Virginia Noriega: In terms of networking, I’d love to make a couple of main points as it says here. Really anyone can network. Networking is a multi-step process. It honestly is a two-way street. Then there’s certain other whether it’s in person, LinkedIn, and certainly there are some mistakes that folks should avoid. I’ll start by saying that there are a million reasons not to network. Whether it’s anxiety or lack of time or you don’t need a job. I will say that it’s always clear that some are more comfortable at this than others.
For me personally, the idea of doing networking meetings does not come naturally. I used to equate networking with “working a room” or making small talk at a cocktail party, both things that give me anxiety, because I’m a natural introvert. While I don’t love the small talk, I do love talking to people. Now I’m an executive recruiter. Of course that makes sense.
As we any job I’ll say there are a number of skills that are necessary to be successful, and networking is another way of saying relationship building, which is integral to really any position that you might have. In terms of networking being a multi-step process, there’s a flow that needs to take part. And we can go to the next slide, you’ll see that flow.
You really need to determine what your goal or what your desired outcome is. What are you trying to gt out of this? You then need to determine who you’d like to make the connection with, choosing your target. then you need to figure out how are you going to get in front of them, whether it’s a one-on-one meeting or in a group setting. Then prepare for your meeting. Do your homework, do your research, make the connection either individually or in a group, make the ask which is always the hardest part, then follow up and stay in touch.
You also have to make sure that you’re re-evaluating. Make sure your goal is remaining the same and that your approach is actually working.
In terms of determining what your goal is, are you trying to gain industry insight? Are you trying to talk shop? Trying to get a new job? Whatever it is, your goal in an ideal world should be a long-term one. Whether you are looking for a new job or you’re consulting or you’re trying to get a new internship in a new field, there’s a certain process that needs to happen. The trick of this is doing as much work on the front-end as possible.
You then determine who you’d like to make the connection with. Who has a job title that you’re proud to have? Who works where you would love to work? Et cetera. Who at some point in the future could be a great person to know?
You then need to know who the most likely targets can be. Whether they’re senior leaders in organizations that you’d like to be a part of, or peers in target organizations or in that particular function.
In order to attempt to get in front of them, make sure that rather there are two ways to get in front of people. One is an individual one-on-one meeting, which are tougher to set up, but really gets you in front of the specific people you’re targeting. And this can be a coffee date, a lunch, or a dinner. There are also several group events, conferences, cocktail parties that you can be a part of, which tend to be more abundant. But doesn’t always guarantee that you get in front of a specific set of people.
In terms of making the connection, excuse me, in terms of preparing for your meeting, you’ve done your outreach, you’ve targeted your ideal meeting, then someone says, “Yes, let’s meet up.” Great news. So now what?
Now you have to be impressive in person, you have to show that you’ve done your homework about the person you’re meeting with, and you have to be credible about the issues you have in common.
None of this means of course that you need to know every last detail about someone’s personal life. But it does mean you need to have a good idea of the general interest, both personal and professional. And you also need to Google the person, check out his or her LinkedIn profile, look at their Twitter, et cetera.
In order to make the connection, a lot of this again stems from your preparation. Are you already connected to this person on LinkedIn? Do you share a common connection? Prepare a two sentence elevator pitch about yourself, and really learn it cold. You then make the ask. People generally want to help. If you can make it easy for him or her to do that, there are a couple of things you can do. What are some organizations you’ve joined that you think could be helpful? Could that person give you more information about that organization? Are there other people that that person might think you should know or be connected with? Et cetera.
nce you make the ask, you should also be prepared to offer something in return. Sometimes it can be really simple and kind of vague. “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to be helpful in the future,” or “I know someone who does similar work at X, Y, or Z organization and I think the two of you should get to know each other.” Even if the person doesn’t take you up on it, I think it shows that you’re not just looking for a one-way relationship. And it demonstrates that you have value to add. And also is a good way for this person to want to stay in touch with you.
Then by following up, you have to stay in touch. If you’re doing it right, you’re meeting with a relatively large number of people. It can sometimes be difficult to keep track of details about everyone. After a meeting and before you forget, write down the notes as well as key facts to remember and reference. And a thank you note. As Kevin says, a handwritten note goes a long way, and email is also just fine.
Every so often, check in with the people in your network. Check to see if they’ve had changes, whether in title, company, location, and if so congratulate them. That again goes a long way.
And when you check in, try to be thoughtful and helpful. Don’t just say, “I see you’ve moved to Boston. I want a job in Boston, let’s meet up again.” That’s not always the most strategic way to go about it.
hen by re-evaluating and adjusting, you’re consistently caring for and nurturing your network. Which all I think is sort of the best way to connect and to network and to get the most out of these connections.
That is my little schpeal.
Rick Looser: I would add just to that really quickly something Virginia just said, which is the networking is the universe you’re in right now. And if you look around, I have in the last four weeks, I’ve given six recommendations to former students who quite frankly they don’t have a long work experience. The experience they got as a student in my class and how they reacted and what they did is all that some employers can check on as far as references. I would say whether you’re a sophomore, junior, senior, that you can start building your network among your college professors right now. Because I’ve got some students that I had three years ago that are still using me for a reference. I obviously gave them a great reference and they did really great work as a student. So don’t think that this just applies to some kind of cocktail circuit or professional meetings. This applies to the classroom you’re sitting in everyday as well.
Virginia Noriega: Absolutely
Kevin Saghy: Great. Keith, I think I saw some questions starting to come in online that I think we can start to address if that works for the group here.
Keith Burton: Before we do, just a couple of comments. We have a meeting full of students and faculty here, I just want to thank you for being here for this, and for the questions that you have which we’re going to get to. I want to make a point about these comments that you’ve heard here. I led GolinHarris in Chicago, now Golin for a number of years. Every year. Every summer we received over 800 applications for 16 summer internships, 800. We had to call that down to an imaginable list of interviews before we hired those 16 men and women.
I have to tell you something. The process really matters. You have to really build this. You heard from this really great group in this presentation, you’ve got to build relationships. You have to know these organizations going in. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all to this process. You have to customize everything you do. So these are wonderful tips. But more importantly, not just the people you meet in your walk, not just Angela in the back or others who may teach you. Also people like me who come on campus who can be helpful to you to know where you’re going, but also the contacts we can give you. Take advantage of the guests who joined this great program for presentations, for people like you’ve heard today among the very best in the business and the work they do, will be helpful to you because they’ve taken the time and care about this process. Those are the people you want to look for.
With that, I’ll thank you and we’ll come back at the end and thank our presenters. Why don’t we turn Kevin, to the questions we have, then I’ll take some before our group breaks up here.
Kevin Saghy: Great, sounds good. One that jumped out at me was from Chris who’s on the call who’s a PRSSA member. He has a career in radio broadcast and wants to transition to PR, and how difficult is that switch. I have a feeling Virginia is going to be able to touch on this as well in particular. But I’ve seen this go well, and I’ve seen it gone not well.
At the agency for instance at Ketchum, we had some folks that had been transferred over from media or that had gotten jobs. They positioned that as such a strength that they had been on the receiving end of PR pitches, and they know what works well and what doesn’t resonate with media and producers. Brought that to the table as something that they really could add value, especially in client discussions and new business meetings. They were really valued within Ketchum.
However, I’ve also seen people apply for our jobs that have a media background. There are a lot of people trying to transition from media to PR as some media outlets shrink. The approach we talked about in terms of connecting the dots of your experience with what the organization is looking for, it was surprising that a lot of the media folks don’t do that at all. They just put their media background on paper, send it in, then do no connecting the dots of how they’ll add value. I really think it’s how you position yourself. But I’ve seen it go really well, and I’ve seen those folks add a lot of value inside the organization.
Virginia Noriega: I think it goes back to understanding your own skill set and what you’ve been able to accomplish in your current role and what you’re looking to accomplish in a future role. I think if you have a career, in this example, radio broadcast media and you’re applying to VP or SVP of corporate communications of an organization, it’s more than likely you’re not qualified for that particular role.
I think it’s also making sure you’re targeting the right level of a job in a particular organization.
Keith Burton: Other questions. Jess, you want to share some of those with us and we’ll pick them up?
Jessika White: Yes, sure. Emily said, “What are specific things agencies like Ketchum look for?”
Keith Burton: Let me pick up on this and Kevin will join me because we both have spent most of our time along with Rick on the agency side. Agencies are really looking for in the first instance, people who come out of school who can hit the ground running who frankly will bring great energy and enthusiasm and ability to the work that they’ll ask them to do.
Keep in mind, and I’ve said this many times, when you first join an agency it’s fairly remote that you will spend time early with clients. You’re there really to do the fundamentals, as you’ve heard this team talk about. You have to be able to be effective in your writing, you have to be very good in research work that will be done, you have to support some of the duties that are required. You have to be very focused around detail.
If you can’t write, you will not make it in an agency setting, I can tell you straight away. You have to work on that craft here. Before you leave this campus, you can’t leave without being effective in your written communication. It just will not work. We are not a world in the agency world where tweeting or using social media will make up for our deficiency in what we do in written communication. It just does not work. You have to be very skilled in these areas. And I also tell you that on the agency side you have to be prepared to step in to work often long hours and to work on multiple clients when you’re invited to do this, as well as to be nimble to be ready to move and change along way, because you’ll have not one but multiple clients, maybe even inside of one client sometimes you’ll have multiple clients.
Kevin, you spent a lot of time doing this before you moved over. Would you agree with those things? And what would you add from an agency perspective?
Kevin Saghy: Yeah I would absolutely agree with you there. And I would add too, even there’s some personality traits especially coming in out of school. It’s more that desire to succeed. If you’re a student that has managed to log three internships or four internships over the course of your undergraduate degree, as well as volunteer experience and leadership roles in PRSSA, that’s the type of person that agencies bring in for these internships, especially a lot of the bigger agencies like here in Chicago.
I think if you can demonstrate that you have a strong desire to get experience and succeed, personality-wise that really resonates in an agency.
Keith Burton: Good. Next question. What else have we picked up, Jessika rather?
Jessika White: Yes. Shantelle has actually been tweeting at us, so thank you very much.
Keith Burton: Thank you.
Jessika White:Her question was, “Should your elevator pitch be similar to a what’s in it for me statement?”
Keith Burton: Does everybody know what an elevator pitch is from a work stand point? Yes, I think the group here acknowledges we know what it is. How long should it be, Kevin, and what should be included in an elevator pitch when you’re actually with someone, either at a PRSSA event or a young professions event, wherever you may be. What do you do in that elevator pitch?
Kevin Saghy: Boy, for me I’m one that always likes to ask the question first so learn about who I’m speaking with then try to tailor that pitch a little bit to who they are. That’s one tip right off the bat is see if you can almost go second in that equation if it’s natural.
But really I think if you can find a way to get out what you’re interested in doing, but make it broad enough too. If you’re speaking with someone that is working with Google and maybe you want to work in sports, it may be helpful to say, “I really want to work in sports, however I’m just interested in the industry in general. I love learning, I’m still figuring out what the right fit is for me. And I’ve been able to do that in multiple internships or different industries,” or however you position it. Show a willingness to learn, so you don’t just shut yourself off and say, “Really all I want to do is work in sports.” Because then you potentially cut off a potential connection there that is still very smart and someone you can learn from. They just happen not to work in the industry you want to get into.
Keith Burton: Good. Virginia, anything you’d add to that?
Virginia Noriega: Yeah. I think about elevator pitch as the prompt is tell me a bit about yourself. Well how would you respond to that? It’s often surprisingly difficult prompt to respond to. So I think you can tell me a little bit about yourself in two minutes, that’s perfect. What are your interests, where did you go to school, did we happen to go to school at the same university? Really tell me about yourself.
Keith Burton: Let me just say there’s one thing I would ask you to do. Challenge yourself in this way. Is there anyone you could ask to critique your elevator speech? And it may be someone here on campus, but it could be a mentor. It could be someone else you trust enough to say, “Help me. Give me feedback on what I’m saying about myself in this situation.” I’m always happy to do that. I’ll do it in a way that’s very objective and non-judgemental. I’m more interested in giving feedback that will help people to do this and saying, “That makes sense about you. You’ve summarized it well and this is what I know.”
Other questions we can pick up, Jess?
Jessika White: Yeah. Carrie Ann, most of her internship experience is in marketing. Is that a turnoff to PR professionals?
Keith Burton: Wow. What do you think, Rick? How about that, just thinking about that from Cirlot? Given the fact that you and your leadership team were focused around advertising and communication from a PR standpoint, do you value the marketing background, or are you really more purist in terms of the work you do?
Rick Looser: I especially think from a just beginning in the field standpoint now, if it was a 10 year public relations position and all they had done was marketing for 10 years, I would have a problem. But as far as something that you’ve done in internships, really it’s about showing me results, showing me initiative, showing hard work.
I’ve got a young lady that joined us 60 days ago. Today I told her, I said, “You’ve got to leave here and go to lunch. It’s 75 degrees it’s beautiful outside.” She has just done nothing but work since she got here, and it makes us think it was a great hire. Most of her … she interned here, but she had two other jobs that were all marketing-based that were internships.
For us it’s about showing a uniqueness to what you bring to the table. If you created that in marketing or anything else, then that first position, we certainly take all that into account.
Keith Burton:I’ll read this one here. Thank you very much. What if the company asks you to mention what you’re expecting to get from the company in your cover letter? We hope that the company will tell us. We hope that when we’re looking at opportunities, there’ll be a good job description there that’ll give us the details that you saw Kevin mention on the two slides he had up there. That’s not always the case.
It may not surprise you to know that companies also struggle to describe what they’re looking for. Virginia will tell you this. This is part of the work that Heyman associates does is to help companies build the job descriptions and to build the remit for what they’re looking for. Because they challenge them to really step back and say what is it you really want in a recruit? What is it that you want in a candidate? I think you have to do the same thing. If you feel there’s not enough description, reach out to that company and say, “I have interest, but I’d like more detail. Are you looking for someone who does the following things?” And that way you get in front of them, but also you get a response back from them. I think that’s very important to be able to do.
When you’re looking at a cover letter, don’t be turned off by the fact there’s not enough information. You should take that as your opportunity to reach out and see if you can get more information from them, then you can customize your note. Would you agree with that, Virginia?
Virginia Noriega: I would, I definitely would. You have to do the asking if [inaudible 00:45:54] to do. I would also say if it’s a company that is really trying to step into the social media and digital communications for example, but they’ve been struggling, I would bring that up and say, “Look, I see that one of your goals or one of your deliverables is we want to get more involved in that. Well,” you can then link that back to something that you’ve done that is social media or digital communications-focused as a value add.
Keith Burton: Right. Jess, what else do we have?
Jessika White: Yes, we have Morgan here with us on campus and she’s got a question.
Keith Burton: Go ahead Morgan.
Morgan Pettway: Hi all. What is your take on graphically designed resumes with colors and personalization? Do you think these type of resumes make applicants more appealing?
Keith Burton: I have an answer, but I’ll just kick off on that. I’m glad when they’re well-packaged. But if I read through it and I find out my name is not Keith but it’s suddenly something else, then it doesn’t matter how well it’s packaged, it’s going away. It’s not going to go forward. So I’m glad you package, I want you to do it well. Most importantly what I want you to do is package your thoughts so that I can really relate to who you are and what you do.
In fact, most of the job applicants that I interview never really package much of anything. They call me. They reach out to me, they email. I meet them somewhere. And I’m impressed by who they are when I meet them and how they carry themselves, how they present what they’re doing and who they are. That’s the most important thing for me. I think my colleagues would agree with that.
Yes you have to reach people often through the written word, therefore you have to make sure what you do is packaged well. Not on bad paper, not done poorly in terms of the way you prepared it, making certain that it looks presentable is a way I would put it. Yes, I think it’s important to have it presentable.
But most of the time, to be frank with you, I’m looking for these things. And I haven’t said them, but I’ll tell you what I’m looking for. I’m looking for leadership. I’m looking to know that when you’ve been involved either on the campus, in the classroom, in projects that you’re asked to undertake, in your internships. I’m looking for a sign, as Kevin said, that you have led. Okay? That you’ve led in some way and that you can present that to me when we talk about leadership. So I will know you’ll be accountable, you’ll be responsible, you’ll be committed, and that you will care. Those are the things that I’m most interested in. That is packaging in and of itself if I can go back to that concept, doing those things.
Kevin, what else would you add? You see lots of resumes. How important is packaging for you?
Kevin Saghy: Yeah I think the focus is on content. That comes firs. Whether you package it [inaudible 00:48:39] or it’s a relatively simple format, the content is what really speaks to me. But that being said, I think if you can add a little graphic appeal, and it’s a very subtle way to show that you have that skill set. If you can work in illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop and put together a nice looking resume that flows well, it’s not confusing to look through, and there are candidates who try too hard in this realm. But I think it’s a nice subtle way to show that you have those skills. As long as it doesn’t get distracting, and I’ve seen this in that way too. I’d say it’s a net positive.
Rick Looser: I would just say that the creativeness needs to match the job you’re applying for. I had a great friend that graduated when I did at University of Alabama and he sent in a cover letter for a promotions, now it’s called an ambassador, but a promotions manager for college campuses for Anheuser-Busch. And he peeled off the label of Bud light bottles and adhered that to a piece of paper and wrote his cover letter on what was the back of the beer label bottles. He actually got the job. But that matched the kind of creativity they were looking for in somebody to be at a bar five nights a week making people drink their beer.
Keith Burton: That’s great.
Kevin Saghy: That wouldn’t go over well here for a corporate role. That’s creative though.
Keith Burton: It’s very creative. I have a question here. Aside from observing that a candidate may not be well prepared or may not be a good fit for the job, what are some of the things that candidates might come off in doing as offsetting, such as if a candidate comes off as too needy or trying too hard? That’s a very good question.
I think we can sometimes come on too strongly. It’s this word that Kevin used earlier, being too aggressive. Aggressive can take many different forms. When we’re too aggressive in terms of being too needy, too concerned about whether or not we’re advancing in the job. I’m working with someone right now who in two weeks has advanced very quickly through the rounds with a major agency and has been sending me notes saying, “What do I need to do next?” And what I said is, “You need to be patient. You need to wait a little bit.”
I think we have to step back and try to temper our enthusiasm, which is what I know it is for many of you. It’s an eagerness, an enthusiasm, a passion really to go forward and do something. But step back a little bit and realize that the way the world works very often has nothing to do with you, it has a lot to do with the people who are doing the hiring. Their availability, their schedule as well as their process.
That is the unknown that you don’t see very often, but it is at work against you as well as with you.
Jessika, other questions?
Jessika White: Out of 1200 applicants, who and what gets you knocked out first? Like knocked out immediately.
Kevin Saghy: Minimum experience requirements. If we say there should be a minimum of two years full-time, many people apply that don’t have that minimum experience. They’re weeded out right away. Then just degrees, if you don’t have the right degree or things like that. That does eliminate quite a bit of people. Then it depends on how many layers you want to apply, but for us we’re looking for someone that knows the industry pretty well.
I tend to think that if you truly want to work in sports, for instance, at some point in your collegiate career or afterward, you’re going to find a way to work in sports if it’s that big of a passion to you. I understand that not everyone’s going to get that job right out of school, however you probably did sports information in college or wrote for the newspaper and covered sports as a beat. If it’s truly that big of a passion as you say, then you’re going to gravitate toward it.
For us, we want someone that knows the sports world. If you have no prior experience in it, then it kind of throws a red flag for me that maybe you’re not as into it as you think. We’ll filter some of those folks out too.
Good. We have time for one more question and then we’ll close out. What do we have, Jess?
Jessika White: We have one from Emily that says, “What are the best questions you’ve gotten from interviewees?”
Keith Burton: Virginia, you start, then we’ll pick up behind you.
Virginia Noriega: Oh gosh. That’s a good question. I always find that the best type of questions are what are the goals of the company, where would they like to be in five years, and how does this position they’re recruiting for, how does that help them get there. Which I think then segues nicely into your own experience and what you’ve done that can get them closer to that ultimate goal.
Keith Burton: I think another good question would be, “Can you give me an idea of someone who’s joined the agency who in your experience really typifies the type of person that really is most successful here?” Ask them. They’ll tell you, “I hired Bill Smith and Bill does these things, and here’s how he’s so successful.” Or “Emily was hired, and these are the things that she does that really makes a difference in her work.” Find out from others by asking about those who’ve been successful, those who’ve been able to navigate a better path I think is a very good thing.
Let me also add to you, one of the things that I learned that is on the negative side of questions. If you don’t know him, [Al Golin 00:54:34] was the founder and is the founder today still of Golin Harris, the agency. And he told me once that he had a young professional student who came in and interviewed with him. And wanted to talk to him for the better part of an hour about how hard he worked, how many hours he worked, how he was around the clock working all the time and how he thought that was so important. Then he turned to Mr. Golin and said, “And now tell me about how you spend your days.” And Al Golin looked at him.
If you know Al Golin who’s now 84 years old, really kind of one of the [inaudible 00:55:09] public relations practitioners of the world, he looked at this young man and he said, “You know what, I find that people who work all the time are very boring people who lead very boring lives.” He said, “I like to go to the theater, I like to spend time with teams, I like to go to the Cubs baseball games when I can, I like to do a lot of things outside of work.” He said, “My encouragement to you would be not just to talk about the work you do, but to talk about yourself and who you are in your life.” That’s where I would end with you is you think about yourself as the whole person, who you are, what you do, what matters and how you live your life. Those things are really important in that practice.
I’m going to end this today by stepping back and thanking the group that’s here with me in the room. I’ve really enjoyed being on your campus, being in your classrooms, being with your faculty and with the students. My hats off again to Dr. Rachelle Ford. Thank you. Dr. Rachelle Ford, and Professor Maria Russell who I’ve known for so many years who are great colleagues. Let me also ask you if you will join with me here in this room and also those who are in the webinar and other places, in thanking now Kevin Saghy, Rick Looser, as well as Virginia Noriega and Jessica White. Please give them a big thank you …
It’s been a great afternoon. Again, the questions that you have, if you didn’t hear them answered I’ll be here for a little bit, I can talk to you. As well as there’ll be a replay of this, and Jessica reminded me there’ll be a link on The Plank Center website. If you’re not using that website as a resource along with related resources you’ll see such as Ron Culp’s site, Culp in his blog, one of the best in the world for young professionals coming up and others, please take a look at that site. It will be a wonderful treasured resource for you. You’ll learn more about mentoring and leadership there than in any other location.
With that, let me thank you who are here and we’ll close our webinar at this point, Jessika. Thanks.