Things I Wish I’d Known Before Entering the PR Workforce

 

Public relations students, are you eager to graduate and begin your career? Position yourself for even greater success by listening to industry professionals discuss their own experiences and what they wish they’d known when beginning their first job. The webinar provided ten insights into how to impress your colleagues from day one and offers applicable tips to overcome perceptions of the millennial generation.

Panelists include Rick Looser, COO, The Cirlot Agency; Jesse McCraw, brand strategist, The Cirlot Agency; Jacquie McMahon, account executive, Ketchum; and Brian Price, digital marketing manager, Starwood Retail Partners.

Access: Slide Presentation

Rick Looser:  Again, thank you all for those of you that are live. The best thing about these webinars is they continue to live on, on the Plank Center’s website so those of you that join in any time, that’s great as well.

My name is Rick Looser. I’m a principal at the Cirlot Agency in Jackson, Mississippi. I’m, more importantly for this conversation, a proud member of the Plank Center Board of Trustees, so I do say hello to you all today on behalf of all those folks. We are led by [Keith Burton 00:00:51], and Keith is no doubt tuned in today for several reason because he loves the Plank Center. He loves this kind of information sharing with young professionals and students, and he also is getting over a broken ankle and is home bound for a little while longer. Hopefully this is the best thing he has to do at this hour.

We’re actually going to also tell you just a little bit about the Plank Center before we get started on the topic. For those out there who don’t know and especially for those who are young professionals, this is a great resource. I would tell you, if this is your first time on, to please, after this, sometime in the next few days, go back on the Plank Center’s website and listen to some of the other webinars that are available to you.

The Plank Center’s founder is actually the namesake, Betsy Plank. There was no greater advocate of students and young professionals and mentorship than Betsy Plank. You will hear, if you look her up, if you’re not familiar with her … If you hear about her, sometimes you’ll hear things, that she was the first woman of public relations, and she was the first female to do this and to do that. I would dare argue that she was one of the best public relations practitioners of her time. Also, regardless of what sex she was, she was just admired … Like I said, she is the reason we’re here. Although she passed away a few years ago, her spirit continues to live on.

The Plank Center is an international resource for not only those who practice public relations, but also for … Just as importantly, for educators and students, or anybody that wants to advance their career in the PR profession. What we do at the Plank Center is we help develop and recognize outstanding and diverse public relations leaders. We look to try to identify those who are role models, mentors, and to those that advance the ethical public relations in an evolving global society.

The pillars of what we believe in are truth, integrity, courage, caring, imagination, judgment, and leadership. We do a lot of things. The way we carry a lot of these things and some of the things that you’ll know us most for are the Milestones in Mentoring dinner that we do in Chicago every year, Educator Fellowship, where we actually … a phenomenal program that takes professors who have been in an academic setting and usually during the summer, gives them several weeks inside a thriving, ongoing, well-recognized global brand to be a part of their PR team and to actually take what’s going on in the classroom to that business, and that business is able to send back what’s going on in their world to the classroom. It’s one of the most popular programs we do.

Not only that, but you’ll not find hardly any organization who’s done more to research leadership and ethics and those things that matter in PR than the Plank Center. Led by Dr. Bruce Berger, the Plank Center is responsible for one of the largest cross cultural studies in leadership and PR, or the largest, I would say. Over 4500 professionals in 23 countries and 9 languages participated. Obviously our goal is those things that help develop leaders and mentor those who will soon one day be leaders.

While you’re on the website, I would urge you to go look at the interviews. There’s well over 20 interviews of different people in the industry. Some are legends, some are up and coming legends. Others are folks who’ve just got something to say, but it would be a great resource, especially whether you’re looking for a job or got your first job or a seasoned veteran. Just hear some of the things and different points of views from some of the different leaders in the PR industry.

The other thing we do, which is the reason we’re here today, is webinars. In the past, we’ve done webinars that have concentrated on diversity. We’ve done webinars that have concentrated on getting a job in PR. A natural outgrowth of that today is, what do you do once you have the job? How to get a job in PR has continued to be our most popular webinar, and it is on there. There’s a couple versions on there from two or three different years that you could listen to that have great advice and great things. The feedback we got is that, now that I’m here, what do I do? We have got some great resources to hear from today.

They’re going to introduce themselves as they get to their talking points, but I’m going to give a brief introduction in that I am probably the only person involved in any PR anywhere that had the opportunity to know all three of these as students. Jacquie McMahon is a graduate of the University of Alabama. In her role with the Capstone Agency there, the student-led agency. She presented several times to the Plank Center, who the Plank Center is a proud client of the Capstone Agency. We got the joy of listening to her present and seeing her from the time she was really a sophomore, junior all the way through to when she graduated and now has become very involved in the PR industry. I got to see her from that perspective.

Brian Price may not remember, but he actually sat next to me at one of the first meetings of the Plank Center he attended. Brian attended the meeting, and I believe 2014 was the actual president of the PRSSA National. Brian in that role traveled all over the country, and we always have that role come to our board meetings and present a report on what they are doing. I think Brian would tell you he formed some lasting relationships there that hopefully led to some good insight and maybe even into employment down the line. That’s how I got to know Brian.

Jessie McCraw who I actually met as a student in between her undergraduate and graduate work. She was an intern here, then ventured off to Nashville to do an internship there. When we had the opportunity to talk to her and convince her to actually come to work at this agency, she did, and she’s now been here for about 18 months.

I thought about this morning, that it is kind of amazing that I got to see all three of our presenters today actually in their role as students before professional, and it’s just been fun to watch. With that said, I think we’ll go onto the next slide. I’ll give you just a kind of an overview of what we’re going to actually cover here. We’re going to talk about, first of all, the corporate versus the agency world. We’re going to have Brian actually present that.

Then from agency to agency, Jacquie’s going to talk about her experiences there and what she has learned. Then the fact that… I dare say there’s a large portion of the folks that are interested in this who’s first job won’t be at one of the large national/international agencies, but will be really what makes up the other 80% of jobs in the PR industry, which are those agencies that are small to mid-size. Jessie will give kind of her observations on that.

Then we’ll go through some takeaways from this. More importantly we’ll at the end get to your questions, which we’ll have plenty of time for that. At any time, you can start typing those questions in and Jessika will monitor those. We’ll make sure that we have time to answer as many of those as we can.

With that said… I said each participant’s going to give a little bit of who they are and what they do and what they’ve done, and then talk a little bit about their assigned expertise. Brian.

Brian Price: Hey, everybody. Taking it away here. Just a real quick background on me. I went to Northern Michigan University for graduate school, undergrad as well. Along the way when I was in school, I had some agency internships. I was going to be an agency guy. I thought that was the path for me. I’m going to intern there, I’m going to work there, I’m going to stay there for a long time. That was my plan and it didn’t end up exactly going that way because I had a different opportunity.

After working at Edelman Digital for about two years doing a lot of social media, community management, social media strategy for some consumer package good brands. I actually jumped to the other side and went in-house for corporate, working for Starwood Retail Partners still in Chicago as a Digital Marketing Manager. For your reference, Starwood Retail, it’s a company that owns 30 shopping malls across the country. Kind of bigger shopping malls in secondary markets that we work on, and ultimately we try to get people to come to the mall and shop.

It’s been a fun experience for me along the way in my three years out of school. Along those lines, I’ve learned some really interesting things about the difference in your jobs, agency versus corporate. It’s kind of a classic subject, so I will cover it on a couple of different ways that maybe you have, maybe you haven’t heard before, just to try to let you know from someone who’s been there recently.

What I think that’s really unique about the agency world is that you’re really hyper focused on what it is that the client has hired you to do. As you’re getting ready and you’re in your job. If your account does social media, it’s the Facebook and Instagram performance and your measurement, and really trying to clarify how you show success in a way that your client understands and appreciates. Maybe you’re counseling on employee engagement, and your work entry level is really focused on the internal communication plan for a company and everything else doesn’t matter. You end up blocking it out and you’re really, really focused on that. The fine details of what you talk about are poured over and debated endlessly, and ideas are analyzed and scrutinized before they’re ever even brought to your clients. You’re really always challenged to, especially at the junior level, to bring your absolute best and always be over prepared. Always be ready for the questions that might come up.

The reason why it’s like that is because you are the expert on your subject matter. You have to know what you’re talking about and what your client has hired you to do so that that kind of goes into all this extra preparedness. Your clients typically also know what they’re talking about, so you’re there to bring extra added value. The what, the why, the how. How did it come together? What’s the purpose? Why do we need to do this? Could be, depending on what you’re hired to do. Facebook algorithm, or the media landscape, how to score placements, what great content looks like on Instagram, Corporate Brand Positioning, Native Advertising, whatever it is, whatever space you’re in, that’s what you just not need to know about.

In general, you are really expected to know all about it for your client. Sort of like an expert witness so to speak, because I’ll tell you right now, if I need answers on the nitty-gritty on how stuff works, I go to my agency partners for it and I need the answer. That’s in general what I’m seeing or what I saw on the agency side from my experience. Flip to that is on the corporate side now in about a year in the corporate side, here’s what I’ve experienced is a much broader scope of work. For me at Edelman I just did social media strategy and some traditional PR for clients.

Now here on the corporate side, I’m working with an agency who does that but also website content and email marketing and corporate wide initiatives that need to fit into all of that and really just living the brand of my company and seeing how public relations fits into that strategy and what I get out of what my agency partners provide. It’s different every corporate environment, but you could be working with a production development team on new products and how that fits into your PR strategy. You may be in collaboration with a branding team and how it can all fit together once you get finalized work or insights from your agency. You could be dealing with customer relationships a lot of the times and providing those insights to your agencies so they can give you different pieces of work.

While you’re working on its information from all of these areas and funneling it into the core of what you’re doing to enhance public relations at your company. I’d say to do that, you have to be trusting and to be confident in the work that your agencies provide, and take that and mix it into the bigger picture of the company goal. I think a really important trait to do the job well on the corporate side is being one who is comfortable and willing and able to trust the work of others.

Lastly, you get colleagues here beyond the marketing communication, public relations function, and you have to work with these colleagues and use the information that you get from them to add that into what your strategy and your vision for what your job is. Here’s an example from my role here at Starwood Retail. I mentioned my company owns shopping malls, I end up crossing a lot with our mall leasing team. If you think of the mall as a landmark for retailers, that’s where it makes most of its money. I have to think, “What does leasing need in order to communicate with retailers better on the business to business side.”

There I’m a listener, I’m talking to our leasing leaders and I’m hearing what their needs are. Then showing them how public relations, communication tactics or full-blown strategies can really assist and improve the work that they need to do in the relationships that they need to build. It’s a listening and applying from a totally different discipline. What’s unique about that is the people that I’m talking to outside of my department, not communicators by trade. In order to do that work, you have to be someone who’s really comfortable working with people who operate and think differently.

Beyond that, probably a level of tolerance and patience, beyond that tolerance and patience, you want to be comfortable acting as the expert on public relations and marketing maybe digital marketing or all of these concepts because when you’re with colleagues with totally different backgrounds, they’re going to be asking you questions, “How does it all work?” Maybe there is more important to have a really wide breadth of information that you can talk to them about rather than going really deep on one particular issue, which tends to be a little more agency focus.

That’s what I’ve seen a corporate versus agency in my background, but there is some universal truth either way. First off, no matter where you are, corporate or agency, it’s going to be exciting, right? There is glamorous projects, maybe some travel, opportunities to create change, grow commerce, develop communities. Your first job, no matter where you are, you’re going to have really these chances to apply your passion. On top of that is going to be challenging. Either way, they’re going to be long hours then long weeks. Oftentimes the lack of a roadmap on what to do next and your boss is probably going to expect you to lead yourself through that process and hopefully we’ll be there as the reference point, but at the same time a lot is expected of you.

In order to do well with the exciting opportunities and to have the capacity to meet those challenges, mentorship is going to be required from you and no matter where you are. It’s required because you’re going to have so much to learn and so many real difficulties to overcome. Your passion can keep you going, but you’re ultimately going to need multiple mentors, inside your company and those who work elsewhere to make sure that you developed properly, to make sure that, you kind of get things right on the first to second try that you’re doing things and to help you map out your career direction. Mentors are going to be really important either way. That’s it for me.

Rick Looser: Great Brian. Well said a lot in a short amount of time, which we’ll get with each panelists. Will say to those of you out there that are participating. Don’t forget, as each of these panelists say something that spurs a question or a comment or an observation, please utilize the area down there to do your Q&A. I said we’ll address those at the end of the presentations, so that we’ll head to Jacquie.

Jacquie McMahon: Hi everyone. I’m Jacquie McMahon. As Rick mentioned, I graduated from the University of Alabama two years ago now. I was a public relations major with a double minor in business and organizational communication and have a lot of experience at agencies. I interned at Edelman Atlanta when I was still in school, so started seeing some of that agency space there and then worked at Ogilvy PR in New York. Now I’m working with Ketchum in New York. I do a lot of corporate and purpose work for Chase Jameson, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a couple other large corporations and nonprofits as well as some public-private partnerships on the purpose space for more of the social good and social impact work. I do a lot of clients service, account management between groups liaising between the media team or the digital content team. A lot of content creation with the influencer partnerships.

We recently just did an influencer partnership with Whitney port and Jamie Chung’s. Sometimes that’s more of the celebrity level and then sometimes it’s more micro-influencers who are really niche on specific topics. Helping them develop their content in authentic way that’s interesting to consumers and talks about our brand. Then we also do content with Mashable. We’re doing one with insight or travel right now and also a lot of media relations, and working with the media to better understand what they’re looking for so that we can provide it. I’ve worked with agencies and have some experience there and want to give you that advice because those first few years out, agencies are a great place to start your career. It’s extremely fast paced to hear some of the things that you can do as you are working in an agency to start your career.

My first piece of advice and probably the most important thing I will tell you is be proactive. Take initiative. Don’t wait to be told what to do. If there’s any other way to reframe this and another phrase that means the same thing. That is my piece of advice. You have to be proactive, especially in the quick moving agency space. This is the quickest way to stand out among your peers to make your team really appreciate and rely on you. It’s a great way to become indispensable because your team will continue coming to you knowing you can handle these activities and the projects you’re raising your hand for.

Sometimes it’s easy to just say “Hi, do you need help with anything?” and that’s really helpful. Another beneficial way to be proactive is if you hear the client on a client call, say there’s a project coming up that they might need help for and it’s something you would either be interested in working on or you have the skill to work on. Go ahead right away, send a note to your team and tell them that this is something you want to work on. Take the first tab and send it to them for review. It will save them time, it will knock one more thing off their to do list and it also saves time that they don’t have to write up an email, and delegate it to you that you are already identifying that as a client need and offering your assistance. It is hugely helpful and makes the team run a lot more smoothly.

Another piece of advice is getting involved. Whether that means within your organization. Here at Ketchum we have social opportunities like Ketchum Book Club. There’s also a Ketchum Running Club, which is not something I’m involved in but I’ve heard it’s great. There are mentoring programs and opportunities to meet with people within the Ketchum network. Getting involved with those and also organizations in your area. Getting involved with PRSSA on the local level or even the national level. They’re always looking for volunteers and that’s a great way to get leadership experience grow in ways you may not be … work you might not be doing during your day to day work life quite yet.

I’m currently the PRSSA New York Associate Director of Programming. I’m doing a lot more event planning than what I do in my day to day job, so finding ways to get involved. That one, it was really hard to figure out the best channels or the best positions that were available for someone to get involved with. Now that I have found that it is so worth it, and making those connections, and doing that development within your market is a great way to really get involved, especially in a city like New York.

You also want to find the right set. If that is the organization you’re looking for, find something that aligns with your career goals and is helping you grow, and develop and always be thinking about what you might want to achieve and what you might want to get out of those organizations that you’re involved with. Also in your work life, you want to find a team that is a good fit for you, where you see a future and work that you’re interested in. That’s teaching you and growing you, and you want to make sure that the company where you’re working is the right culture. It might not be the first job that you have, so stick with that job, figure it out, and then if you do feel like there’s another position that might be a better fit, that’s okay.

Definitely find where you feel like there’s a future and somewhere that you feel, you are valued. When you’re doing all of these things and you’re doing a great job, you’re working really hard. You also have to be patient to a certain extent. The plank center recently released a millennial research study that showed millennial communication professionals come out of college, enter the workforce and are ready to take over the world. We all want to be CEOs. We want those leadership responsibilities. We want to do all of the really cool, interesting strategic work right out of college. Sometimes that takes time.

There are a ton of lessons you have to learn when you first graduate and you’re entering the workforce, which is why some of those layers exist and it takes a little bit of time, but it happens. You will have your moment to shine. Just make sure you’re being patient, working with your team, expressing your interests and making sure everyone understands what you want to do. Even searching for opportunities within your team to find new leadership or ways that you can grow and develop that will come with time. Be patient until you are getting some of the roles that you’re looking for.

That’s all on my end. Another Plank, I will say, we recently created the Plank Center young professionals committee, which is another great way just to learn about the Plank Center and find ways to extend yourself and learn about the research the Plank Center provides and all of the resources for young professionals.

Rick Looser: Thank you Jacquie. Well said. Our next presenter is the only presenter that’s actually sitting right here next to me. She gave me the opportunity to be tow any of the terrible things she might want to say, which there really weren’t any. I told her that everything she said is her opinion and her experience. This is Jesse McCraw.

Jesse McCraw: Hi everyone. Thanks for being here and joining us today. I’m excited to share some of my experiences with you. Just an overview of me. I attended Mississippi State University and finished in 2013. I was a communications major and an emphasis in PR. Minor in marketing. Then I decided to continue my education and I went to the University of Mississippi, otherwise known as Ole Miss and earned a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing and Communication.

While I was doing that, I had the opportunity to come here at Cirlot Agency as an intern. I also went to Nashville for an internship with Paradigm Count Agency. I’ve had some experience in the entertainment industry as well. Here at Cirlot Agency, I’m a brand strategist and I’m able to work on several clients and some I’ve listed there. Huntington Ingalls, Bell Helicopters, Sanderson Farms and the Sanderson Farms Championship. I’m going to review some of my points in my 18 months here at the agency. One of the first things I’d like to talk about is to make it about the location of an agency versus the work.

Coming from an internship in Nashville, I was really concerned about moving to a smaller city like Jackson. What I’ve learned is that it’s not about the geography but about the work that you do. We handle some of the largest privately and publicly held companies in the country. Some of those are within the defense and aerospace industry and some are ones I mentioned earlier. The point is when you’re considering what you’re going to work or if you’re considering leaving a job for another, don’t just focus on the location of the agency, but rather the work that they do. One advantage I feel working at a midsize agency is that my age doesn’t really impact the level of responsibility or trust that I’m given, nor does it impact the value people place on my opinions. I feel like all those of them younger and relatively new management still sees me and listens to me and values what I have to say and what I have to bring to the table. That’s something about midsized agencies.

The next one is definitely one of the things I wish I’d known before entering the workforce. Excuse me. I don’t mean to be cynical here. I mean it just is what it is. What I mean by keep your friends close and your colleagues closer is that you have to be careful what you share with those you work with and you have to be careful of who you share those things with. I think the best advice is that your personal life is really just that it’s personal and you have to be weary of naively trusting others around you. Because although you’re on the same team, you’re also competing at times for bonuses or raises, and that can be tricky. Another thing I’ve learned is that there’s really no small task given and that your bosses expect you to treat each project as if it’s a fortune 500 client. At the Cirlot Agency, we operate under the motto, “Own it.” Meaning, own every task and situation that you’re given as if you were the boss.

My next point, I came to realize early on that my bosses really do see everything regardless if it’s acknowledged or not. If I’m staying late after work and working really hard on a project, they see that. They also see if I come in late a few days a week or if I’m slacking somewhere. Although it may not come up a year after the fact, they see everything that I do. Another thing that took me a while to get used to is the fact that often your boss just wants it done. Like Brian mentioned earlier, there’s not really an onboarding process at times. It’s not to say that your boss doesn’t care about the process, but when a task is given to you, they aren’t going to walk you through the best way to make it happen because that’s your job. They don’t need all the details of what you had to do. They just really want to see the results.

The times where I’ve made mistakes is when I wasn’t constantly prepared. It’s important to try to anticipate what will be needed or what could possibly be needed and try to ensure that everything you need is on you at all times. When we conduct interviews or host press conferences, I try to anticipate every little detail that Rick or Lawson may need or what the media may ask for and be prepared to have it at all on me at all times just in case. Because that one time you forget something is going to be the time that you’re really going to need it.

As I mentioned earlier about age not playing such an important role in a mid-size agency, it’s still really important to observe the management of your agency and judge their body language or tone when one of your colleagues speaks up or does something so that you can learn when it’s appropriate to just be seen and not heard. Like Jacquie said, “It’s important to be patient.” At a mid-sized agency where you’re able to rise up in the ranks a little quicker, it’s easy to forget that point.

There are situations where your opinion is more likely going to be sought after. For example, when we talk about anything social media or data analytical tools related, I feel that people look to a younger generation to kind of clue them in on that. When it comes to a client facing an issue or a crisis, they’ll want someone with a few more gray hairs in the room to kind of weigh in. When you find yourself in those types of situations, like a war room type situation, so to speak, I think it’s a great opportunity to absorb what’s going on around you and try to learn and take notes. Those are mine.

Rick Looser:  Jessika timely put together not only this presentation of everybody’s various notes, but also kind of the takeaways here. The takeaways would be to find a mentor. There’s a large part of why the Plank Center exist. Is to find those mentor relationships and how they work and how they work best and in what situations. That’s number one. Challenge yourself. Be proactive. Get involved. As Jackie said, not only in the agency and in the work, but in the social aspects agency and then also in your community and the other professional organizations for you. Find the right fit. You’ll know that when you get there. Be patient. Which is hard to do at any age. Listen well. That’s another thing that’s hard to do for a lot of people.

Just know that your work will speak for itself. I tell people here that if you’re really working hard at this agency, then you never had to tell me that you’re working hard. I promise you. It’s those that have to tell me they’re working hard. I sometimes think the reason they tell me is because that’s the only way I would figure it out. Like I said, your work does speak for itself as Jesse said, “Always be prepared.” That can be almost anything. I actually had a young lady that worked for several years ago who went on the first business trip. She actually got to fly with everybody somewhere. When we got to the first airport connection, which I think was Atlanta, she presented us all with a diagram of the actual concourse and where each restaurant was and where the bars were.

I’m not sure. That might be a little over prepared, but it’s always appreciated. I can promise you. Quite frankly, anybody who’s as old as I am and does this for a living already knows where all the bars are in all the airports. Also as both Jacquie and Jesse pointed out, “Refine the millennial perceptions.” With every generation, there’s some perception and that’s whether it’s true or not, just like stereotypes. Those are things that you just need to be aware of and that you need to deal with. I think we’ve got some great takeaways here. I’m going to in just a second turn it over to … We had a little bit of a snap food here with some of the things that I can and can’t see. Jessika is the only one that can see all the questions that are coming in.

Before I turn it over to Jessika to maybe give some of the questions and again, I encourage you all that are listening live right now to ask your questions. I would like to just go back to the opposite end because I know that the three folks that presented are just … I consider all three just superstars at this point in time in their career and what they’ve achieved. Also know that you don’t do what they’ve done to this point without being exposed to those who aren’t. All this has been real positive and real good and is a lot of build up about what’s been great about the career. I’d like to ask each of the panelists and we’ll do it in the same order with Brian, Jacque, and then Jesse. In any job you’ve also got folks your own age that are working in that same environment and you all, the three of you have continued to just excel at what you do.

I’d love for you to just give me your observations and characteristics of those your age that have come in at the same time that you’ve seen kind of fall by the wave side, who didn’t really excel or succeed to the same level that you have. Not by name or anything, but just some of the characteristics that you saw that really kept them from being all they could be and just the … that you observed firsthand. I know that, and I will say that my questions are no different than the questions that are being send in. Nobody here has been given the questions beforehand. I don’t want to take anybody off guard, but Brian, let me take you off guard. What [inaudible 00:36:29] your observations?

Brian Price: Yeah. One thing that really comes to mind here on colleagues that I’ve seen not grow as fast is probably … to say this diplomatically, I guess probably people who treat their superiors like peers. Primarily when it comes to the work. Here’s a real tangible example. Say you and a partner or a colleague are going back and forth on emails and you trade maybe a total of seven, eight messages and now all of a sudden it’s time to loop your boss in or any superior. You just forward that email and say, “Hey, what do you think? What should we do next?”

That’s a kind of an obvious but really important example of what to do because now your boss has to dig in, maybe read through a whole email chain and then figure out whatever you couldn’t. One thing to do is to really treat your boss like a client. They always said that in the agency. I continue to do that not in the agency and everything is summarized, recapped, quick, here you go. You want details, I got them, you don’t want details, this is what you need to know. And to really be, what I talked about before, the agencies are doing, they’re hyper focused on what they need to do. It’s having that type of attitude and pouring over details, making things quick and easy, but you’re over prepared and ready to answer every question. People who don’t do that end up developing slower and through that, maybe promotions or bonuses come slower as well.

Rick Looser: That’s a great observation. I’ve seen that myself. Especially in that. I love the way you phrase that of, “Being a little too familiar or treating your superiors like your peers.” That’s easy to do quite frankly. A lot of businesses, especially in the agency business and the communications business, because we’re all communicators. It is good to remember those boundaries and to remember that the hard dues had been paid in order to be that superior or that mentor. That’s a great observation. Jacquie, what do you think?

Jacquie McMahon: I definitely wholeheartedly agree with that and I will build out on one piece of what Brian said. Being really detail oriented is so important and the people who aren’t detail oriented definitely have a bit more of a delay in their development. Even simple, obviously now talking about it, it seems easy, but avoiding any mistakes within your work. If you have a word document, making sure you spell check, emails buttoned up constantly, especially client emails. I think with especially in the agency space, we’re moving so quickly that sometimes when people aren’t as good at managing their time or being as detail oriented the first time around. They don’t catch those mistakes and they come through and really reflect poorly.

Rick Looser: That’s a great, because it doesn’t matter. At our agency right now, we’ve got this huge project we’ve had inside proofreaders, outside proofreaders and that never changed. We were doing that 30 years ago. Being detailed oriented and catching those things never changes. Jesse.

Jesse McCraw: I think the one thing that would stand out most to me is kind of similar to what Jacquie talked about at first about being proactive and taking initiative. I think at times that when you’re new at a job, you’re kind of learning about yourself and where your skill sets are and kind of trying to find where you fit in on projects. The things that I think that when people not fail but need to work harder on improving are like if you … People have different skill sets so they get pulled onto different teams in different tasks and those that instead of diving in and finding out where they need to be kind of allowed themselves to get passed over. Does that make sense? Just kind of allow themselves to sit at their desk and continue working on it and keep their head down on what they’re doing while they’re missing out on opportunities to grow and to learn and to be a part of another great project or another great team.

Rick Looser: Those are all three great observations. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to let Jessika White.  Jessika is actually the communications specialist extraordinaire at the Plank Center. She and our director Dr. Karla Gower both are the main reason for the continued success of the Plank Center and for all the wonderful things that are happening there now. It has been a building process. These two are just killing it when it comes to leading this organization. I’m going to actually let Jessika let us … go ahead and maybe throw in some questions that we’ve been asked by the audience.

Jessika White: Absolutely. I’ll be happy to. Thank you, Rick, and thank you everyone. Those are great takeaways before the presentation. We would greatly appreciate that. Feel free to keep sending in your questions via the chat box. Also if you’re on Twitter, we have a few of our attendees that are on Twitter. Feel free to just tweet those questions at us using the #PlankWebinar and we’ll make sure to try to get those in before the end of this. One question is, “What was the most difficult part of the transition between being a student and the work ?”

Rick Looser: I’ll tell you what. Let’s reverse this a little bit. We’ll start with Jacquie this time.

Jacquie McMahon: Okay. Put me on the spot.

Rick Looser: That’s right.

Jacquie McMahon: I think the hardest part about the transition was understanding the hour [inaudible 00:43:18]. You know what’s coming but you get so used to those 11 AM class start times and then you’re done early. Never had an 8 AM Friday class or at least I didn’t purposely plan it that way. No matter what environment you end up in, the hours are just longer. You’re working constantly, you’re relying on coffee a little bit more. That makes the transition pretty difficult. Especially in my first job I was extremely busy, so some weekends I had to work even a little bit. I wouldn’t say that’s normal for every agency. It was just a smaller team and smaller environment. I think that getting used to working for longer periods of time and making sure you’re managing your time throughout that is a new learning curve.

Rick Looser: Jesse.

Jesse McCraw: I totally agree with Jacquie on that one. For me at least, the most difficult transition was from grad school. I had three night classes and studied and worked throughout the week. I went from having so much free time to essentially having no free time. That was a difficult transition. Also just the work life balance is hard to kind of grasp in terms of being young and new city and just prioritizing. You got to be here every day at 8AM. Maybe go to bed a little earlier at night and things like that. Just the timing and the balance was the most difficult for me.

Rick Looser: Brian.

Brian Price: Yeah. For me, I think the most difficult part was that it doesn’t end. Unlike maybe a semester or a summer internship, it doesn’t have that cyclical nature a lot of things maybe some annual programs do, but for the most part, it doesn’t. First off, when you start, it’s only your first day. It’s only your first week month. Everyone else is plugging with more context and background to project. There’s some natural ketchup there and you don’t have a reference to what your team has done previously, so that’s tough. You just kind of dig in and learn as much as you can. Take good notes and you can get past it. There’s no way around it. If you’re diligent, you can get through it faster than others.

Brian Price: On top of that, because it doesn’t end either, like that summer internship or a semester you have to keep a record of everything because it could something that you do and your second month could come up in your 14th month. For me at a summer internship, I was like, “Well, that’s something that we’re talking about for the holiday season.” It doesn’t matter to me. Just really being able to dig in and get up to speed as fast as possible, than if they organize.

Rick Looser: Great. Hey, let me interject something real quick. My own question from just what I’ve heard today, and Jacquie I’m going to start with you. You listen the closest right now. There is a millennial perception out there. Again, fair, unfair, just, unjust, really doesn’t matter, but I would. Jacquie I’m starting with you because I know you’ve probably got more exposure on this subject than most, from the things you’ve looked at with research and other things. Regardless of the research, I’d like to know kind of about your own personal experience. Do you think that you have been lumped in or what advice could you give to those listening because I’m sure most of these folks are those who just started a job or just about to, or looking for one. What they’re walking into with the kind of millennial tag Hang on your shoulders there.

Brian Price: Yes, I would say personally, I don’t feel like I’ve been lumped into a millennial stereotype. Even with myself, I can feel certain aspects of those millennial generalizations. I think it’s important just to really find ways to differentiate yourself, if you are interested. The millennial research study says that millennials expect to receive a lot of responsibility first out. If you are, first you have to prove yourself a little bit. You have to have an open dialogue with your manager or whoever it is.

Brian Price: I think those are the best ways also to make sure you’re not getting lumped into a larger group. It’s easy to start exhibiting some of those qualities, especially when you are working with large teams of millennials and other people who are at your level. Making sure that you aren’t looking … I think one of the qualities was sometimes managers think millennials are lazy. If you’re proactive, you will automatically counteract that or they think they’re not prepared because they always make mistakes and don’t exhibit qualities of being prepared. Counteracting that before anyone can make those judgments about you, I think it’s important, especially for this generation.

Rick Looser: That’s great. Jesse you have anything to add to that?

Jesse McCraw: Well, I was just going to say that I think it’s really a great way to stand out. If you avoid those characteristics of a millennial, and you just don’t do it, that it’s such a great way to stand out to management, to your bosses. To Jacquie’s point about being lazy, I think one of the most simple ways of combating that is just, don’t complain and don’t make comments and don’t expect acknowledgement of your work or don’t expect someone to come up and say thank you for every single task that you do because that feels like millennials, that’s part of that characteristic as well. I just think if we are caught in a perception of that, the best way to combat it is just simply not do it. By not doing it, you are able to stand out [inaudible 00:49:23] good way.

Rick Looser: Great. Brian.

Brian Price: I really, really liked what’s been said so far. I’ll just say that, I totally agree and I’ll add onto that by saying a big challenge on top of being proactive is being present. That’s probably another bad millennial stereotype. It’s really easy for me if I take my laptop to a meeting that’s for half hour and what do you know 10 minutes in, even though I’m doing my best, I am checking email and, or, doing some online research. That’s not always the best use of my time especially because I’ve been invited to a meeting for a reason. That’s something that I’m still tackling and I’m trying to get better at. Stay distraction free and show that you can do that.

Jacquie McMahon: I’d like to jump in to add one more thing. Millennials really are searching for feedback and I don’t think that one’s a negative. I think it’s fine to ask your team for feedback and then you’ll know. Are you doing some of these things? Are there qualities where you could improve? That focus on continual Improvement, will make your team really appreciate you even if they are starting to notice some of those things, you can go ahead and nip it in the bud.

Rick Looser: That’s great. That’s great. I love this. Those are solid gold. Jessika, give us a couple of questions from the people out there that are dying to know things from this group.

Jessika White: Absolutely. Well, we have many students on, here. How do you stand out? I know a lot of people talk about the 1200 applicants. How do you really set yourself apart to really be in that top bracket of applicants for a job application?

Rick Looser: Brian.

Brian Price: I think it’s network. You could have, the greatest resume ever for it’s coming out as a student really. If someone’s only going to spend two seconds looking at it because it’s in such a, massive digital stack, it’s really tough. Maybe what I found was even harder than the interview process was getting the interview process. I tackled that as Rick mentioned early on, through my network and talking to people that I knew and then next level out was my network’s network. As I could develop those relationships and think, “Okay, who’s in my network? Who do they know? Can they set me up with meetings? ” Just get on that radar of, eventually be hiring managers [inaudible 00:51:57]. Your resume doesn’t get a two second glance but a five minute read. That should usually lead to some dialogue.

Rick Looser: That’s great. Jesse.

Jesse McCraw: I agree completely with Brian on how important networking is. One thing it came to mind when you asked that question is that I remember when I was in Nashville I just made sure to say yes to every opportunity that was presented to me because you never know what situations or contexts that are going to come out of that, even if it’s uncomfortable. I went to events by myself, and I didn’t know anyone but was able to engage with older professionals that then called someone that they knew that met me for a meeting, just to give me guidance or then give me a mock interview and things like that. I overheard one of them say that sometimes when they have those requests to meet with younger professionals, they will say, “Okay great, let’s schedule it for 7:30 tomorrow morning. Let’s grab coffee.” As the millennials we are often, they couldn’t make it or they had an excuse so they just wouldn’t show up. I just think that it’s important to network and say yes to everything and then just to follow through with it.

Rick Looser: Jacquie.

Jacquie McMahon: I completely agree and also want to emphasize maintaining a level of professionalism throughout. Whether that’s in the resume that you’re submitting, making sure it’s really buttoned up, even formatting is aligned, which seems like it would be basic. You see somewhere everything is all over the place they’re really not a clean professional document. Then also informational interviews are so important in these networking opportunities. I’ve had a couple students reach out and when I answered the phone they they’re like, “Hey, this is so and so.” Really casual and not maintaining a level of professionalism when it is someone you don’t know. Kind of going back to Brian’s point about a boss or superior or someone you were trying to impress, you do want to be a little bit buttoned up in that way and then just making sure you make those connections and build them into relationships.

Rick Looser: That’s great. I will chime in here for just a second to say that one of the few kind of pop quizzes that I give my class, who are all seniors hopefully graduating in a couple of weeks. One of the things I do is say, “Write a cover letter.” The difference when I grade those cover letters for your resume between the best you can make, no matter how good it is a 90. If you don’t at the last sentence, thank me for my time and tell me how you’re going to follow up with me, and that’s the distinction of, “Thanks so much for your time. I appreciate it. I will call you next Tuesday at three o’clock to see if we could discuss what I’ve talked about here and if you can give me your impressions on my resume.” Because the last thing busy people want to hear is, “I look forward to hearing from you.”

Well guess what, I got a lot to do and you’re probably not going to hear from me if that’s how you ended your letter is, “I look forward to hearing from you.” This goes back to stuff that these guys talked about earlier, which is to be proactive and to be involved and be in the moment. That would be one of the ways here that I distinguish are those who actually tell me that and then actually do it. That right there is the top 5%. 95% of folks who send resumes and cover letters don’t ever bother. They’re sitting by the phone evidently or by their computer waiting for me to email them or call them about how wonderful I’ve just discovered they are and why I need to hire them. Be proactive. Jessika, you got another one?

Jessika White:  I do. I’m going to take it back to, Jacquie had mentioned earlier about the Plank Study on millennials and of course it says you’re engaged in the first year and then it kind of drops off after that so how do you stay engaged with your organization?

Rick Looser: Jacquie.

Jacquie McMahon: I have found that it’s really about making the initiative yourself. There are ways where you can ask your manager about opportunities to get involved with. The best way is finding those opportunities and seeking them out. There are people especially at Ketchum that even create an organization. If they wanted to Ketchum Book Club and there wasn’t one but they wanted to read books and talk about it. They could create it and invite others to participate with them or the mentoring program.

Jacquie McMahon: You really need to take advantage of those things. It is easy. I think this study shows it’s easy after your first year to say, “Well, I haven’t done it already. I’m just not going to do It.” That level completely drops off. I think seeking out those opportunities in your organization, in the community help you stay active, engaged and interested in the work you’re doing day to day. It’s really important. I think every organization has a layer of activities they offer even if it’s people getting together for a happy hour or a meeting where people can come and speak or listen to someone in the organization present on a topic and just making sure you’re going to those and making yourself accessible and being visible in the company.

Brian Price: Yes. Absolutely. Exactly. I think there’s a lot to be said about someone who is very clearly showing that they’re heavily invested in their employer.

Rick Looser: Jesse.

Jesse McCraw: One of the things that we do at the Cirlot Agency on top of working for our client is that we are also pitching to work on the Agency itself. Some of my tasks that I’ve been able to do on here that have been … some of the things that you might think you wouldn’t want to do or that you would give an intern or something to do. That kept me really engaged. I am able to do a lot of the awards submissions for our agency which allows me to kind of go back in time and see the work that the Cirlot Agency has done over the last 30 years and learned about the clients, their representative and just their overall story. Which keeps me engaged and it keeps me a part of kind of the fabric of the Agency. Which has been surprising even to myself that it’s something that I’ve been able to enjoy and also continue to be engaged in the organization with.

Rick Looser: Those are great answers. I’ll tell you what, we are fastly approaching our limit that we wanted to keep this to. I’m going to just give a … some of this has been a little detailed as it should be and professionally kind of focus. I want to end with each of these guys. I want to ask the question that some of you all may be able to take from this but if you could only take if you were stuck on a PR Island and you had only at your disposal, I’ll give you this choice of any combination of three websites or three apps to help you do your job. What combination or what three would you arrive at? The other thing after that, I want you to tell me what I know it’s different every day, but what is the best part of your work day? For that, we’ll go back to our original order of Brian. I’m going to start with you.

Brian Price: Okay. If I can take three things, one of the things I take is a free tool. It’s just called CharacterCountOnline.com. I write a lot for Twitter, I write a lot for FMF. Both has to be under 160 characters. I need that a lot. I use that all the time. I would take Hoot Suite because I’m reviewing 28 malls, social media channels. 28 malls all with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I don’t have to respond but I need to monitor and look at it. That’s very helpful and time saving. Then for a website I would probably do e-Marketer.com. I need it all the time. I don’t have a lot of email marketing experience in my background before I started at my new job.

I’ve been looking at a lot of stuff to kind of try to get smarter and do what I need to do at work. Beyond that, I would say the favorite part of my day that I have negative opportunity to speak on projects that I wrote or that my department is working on and I’m really involved in it. I get a chance to showcase how I thought through the details, have the answers, thought to the challenges. It’s just really a fun opportunity when I get to talk about my work to people who aren’t as familiar with it.

Rick Looser: Great. Great answers. Jacquie?

Jacquie McMahon:Three apps and websites on my PR Island would have to be my mail app. First and foremost because I’m constantly emailing back and forth and it opens you up to so many different people and things you can reach through that. Then I would say Instagram. I am not totally digital focused but I think Instagram and seeing what other brands are putting out there and what influencers are doing, is a great way to get inspiration. Then also just find ways that we can incorporate that into our client’s work. For the third, I would have to say the Plank Center website for all of the amazing resources it provides to help me do my job better.

Rick Looser:  What a sucker. Great. Great [crosstalk 01:01:43]. Great answer. Now tell us about the best part of your day.

Jacquie McMahon: The best one in my day. I organize my email into folders when I’m done with different tasks. The best part of my day is when I leave in the evening and have a completely clean inbox with no activities for the next day and can start fresh the next day.

Rick Looser: Jacquie, Jacquie, Jacquie. That’s great. Jesse.

Jacquie McMahon: Jacquie, I really enjoy that too for the records. I totally agree. The three websites or apps that I would use Vision is one of them. It’s something that I had not used until I came on here at the Cirlot Agency, but it is something that I use every single day. It’s that large. It’s the largest database of media contacts and it’s something that really helps when I’m pitching stories to media.

Another tool that I would use is this tool called Trend Kite, and it has been really beneficial in understanding the sentiment and share voice and kind of the brand image behind some of our clients. The other one I was going to be hopefully, and since Brian took it, I’m just going to stick with Snapchat because I love it so much and I check the filters daily. The best part of my day really is every morning when I sit down and write out the clients I’m going to work on and just kind of plan my day moving forward. For me it’s not annoying or overwhelming, but it kind of gives me a sense of pride to see what all I get to work on and what all I have to do to hit all of my tasks for that day. Kind of being able to visualize exactly what I’m doing here is really rewarding for me.

Rick Looser: I think that was my favorite part of this was listening to those three answers. The conversation will continue in other ways. I think that Jessika has said that in the past we’ve taken these and so if we look at questions that … Tom never allows us to get to all the questions. Hopefully, if we see some of the questions, and we see some trends, and a lot of people are asking the same kind of questions, then over the next several days, please check out our Twitter because we will put some of those answers in that are well thought out with a little more time to do that and use that as a way to reach out to you all who had questions that didn’t get answers right now.

Right now, we’d like to thank everyone involved. Again, especially Carla and Jessika who make this happen on a daily basis. Again to keep Burton who Keith has been the mastermind and the driver of these webinars for the last several years and appreciate his allowing me to be involved in this. Then to each three of these young professionals, wish I could just bottle all your energy and enthusiasm and replace some of my cynicism but that’s just the nature of generations. You all have done some great things and we’ll be watching your careers to see what else you have next. Just thank you all for the time it took to take out of your busy schedules to put all this together. Jessika, am I missing anything?

Jessika White: I don’t think so. Thank you all for joining us today. Thank you Rick so much for all your help and Jesse, Brian and Jacquie as well. We appreciate it. Great insights today.

Rick Looser: It was great. Again look on Twitter and we’ll try to continue the dialogue there. Thank you all so much.

 

Research

Leaders exert significant influence on the success, future and image of their profession. Yet, only a few PR studies have explored this important topic.

One goal of the Plank Center is to build a research-based foundation of knowledge regarding the values, qualities and dimensions of excellent leadership, mentorship and diversity and inclusion in PR.