By: Sarah Hess
PRSSA kicked-off the month of February with two speakers from Exponent PR. At meeting on Wednesday, February 1st, Elleni Paulson (Account Executive) and Eliza Casper (Senior Account Executive) shared with us step-by-step the work they did to create and launch The Deal with Yield podcast for their Winfield client. Here’s what we learned:
Step one was all about research, research and more research. By diving deeper into research on Winfield customers, they found a key piece of data that sparked their interest, which was that many Winfield customers (mostly farmers with large acreage) were tuning into audio content throughout the week. As they found out more about audio content and how it can be used, the Exponent PR team came up with the idea to create a podcast that Winfield employees would host. Not only did the research support launching this new podcast, but in addition, the team realized an important concept: By creating a podcast that listeners could tune into to hear real advice from real Winfield employees, Winfield wouldn’t just have the opportunity to promote their brand and products, but also communicate to the public where Winfield stands on certain topics within the agriculture field. And in today’s PR world, it isn’t just about communicating what the company does, but also what they believe in and the passion behind the company’s mission. After sharing with us all the research that went into this project, Elleni and Eliza explained to us the various other steps in creating and launching the podcast, including training on-air hosts (Winfield employees Jim & Kyle), planning the content and promoting the podcast. Elleni and Eliza also spent some time talking about how in PR, you need to make sure the content you are producing lines up with the brand and is timely, something they had to work really hard on for the creation of the podcast.
After their presentation, Elleni & Eliza left us with some great PR advice: PR is not as focused on traditional media as it used to be. Although traditional media such as press releases are still essential in the PR world, it is important to continue to add new tools to your toolbox moving forward, whether that is learning more about digital media or coming up with out-of-the-box ideas like creating a podcast. By constantly learning new ways of getting a message across and not being afraid to execute new ideas, you can really stand out and make your mark in the PR world!
I have an irrational hatred of cover letters. I find them hard to write, and I’ll do pretty much anything to avoid them. I had to write a cover letter last week, and I put it off for five days before I remembered an article I had read, “How to Write and Impressive Cover Letter From Scratch in 30 Minutes” by Sara McCord. The title itself makes a bold statement, which is why I read it in the first place.
McCord breaks down the process into three ten minute blocks. In these first ten minutes, you should write down your main points—why are you interested in the position, what prior experience do you have, what can you uniquely bring to the position, etc. It’s easiest to have your resume and the job description open and available, so you can make sure you hit the best points. McCord also gives the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten, when she recommends to skip the intro. Skipping the intro let me skip the time trap that has taken countless hours from me in the past.
The next ten minutes are devoted to adding examples. You’ve already written down why you’re great for the job—now go deeper. An anecdote about a project you worked on is infinitely better than saying “I am organized and hardworking”. Connect your skills to the job description, but to borrow McCord’s words, don’t make it a laundry list.
The last ten minutes are devoted to editing. Reread and reread again to fix grammar issues. Write the intro if you skipped it. Add smoother transitions, or better phrases. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are vitally important to your cover letter—nothing makes it more unreadable faster.
And that’s it. When I had first read the article, I was skeptical that writing a cover letter could ever be this easy or this fast. But lo and behold, this method saw my cover letter finished thirty three minutes after I opened the empty document. And for pretty much the first time ever, I actually felt good about what I had written. So the next time you need to write a cover letter, try this out. You might be surprised by your success.
Lily Zhang’s article for The Muse, “3 Bold Ways to End an Interview (and Land the Job)”, makes a couple of important points I always avoid listening to. Why do I do this? Because I, like everyone else, gets nervous during an interview, and I play it safe. As I have learned, asking questions is vitally important and shows that we are pushing past the anxiety to really get something out of the interview. We can’t just let the interview end so you can breathe a sigh of relief; this is the time for the hirer to tell us what we’ll really be doing and who we’ll be working with. We will also be able to get a good idea of the employer’s expectations, because sometimes we just won’t be the perfect fit for your dream job. So it comes as no surprise that we’ll actually have to do some research beforehand.
What is a little stunning are the brazen questions Zhang suggests we ask to end the interview. It is hard to be gutsy when we feel like newcomers to the “real” world, but showing off our spark will always be better than remaining passive. The first question proposed is “do I have the job?” Of course not everyone’s personality fits with such a line, though it is a strategy to consider becoming comfortable with. I don’t think it’s rude to ask the interviewer what they are thinking, plus the question provides a good opportunity for feedback.
Following that question, we have left room for two more: “Is there anything we discussed today that makes you feel that I am not the one for the job?” and “What can I do to convince you I’m the one for the job?” This prompt gives us a way to address the concerns a future employer may have. We oftentimes forget to stand up for ourselves as college students entering the workforce, believing we are at the mercy of those who are doing such a service by hiring us.
I once did a partner interview for General Mills where we worked through various situations- it wasn’t a bad interview, but I could feel myself losing ground each time I let my partner dominate the presentation. I allowed myself to doubt the ideas I had generated and didn’t end up proving myself to the interviewers. There is a stigma around showing off and thus we let humility be our excuse to be meek.
There are other ways to “wow” at an interview, we just have to make sure we do “wow” and not “eh.” In the end, Zhang is promoting self-expression and confidence; we can keep practicing until we find the right mixture of professionalism and pizazz.
– Brooke Eshleman