Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Advice on Preparing for Graduation & The Job Search

Last week, I posted about differentiating yourself in the tight job market.  After writing that post, I contributed to a podcast produced by Peppercom to give advice to my fellow seniors and job seekers.  The podcast is an open discussion moderated by Ted Birkhahn, Steve Cody, and Alicia Wells.  A few current Peppercom interns (Tom Showalter, Elle Kross and Amelia Denson) participated, as well as seniors Meredith Hutchins (College of Charleston) and Katie Green (Syracuse University).  

I really enjoyed participating in the podcast.  It was great hearing advice from students in the same position as I am, and hopefully I was able to provide some insight as well.  Click here for a link to the podcast.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Shock Value: Is it Really Worth it?

Walking to class today, I was confronted with some disturbing images.  Despite the warning I had already gotten (via Twitter) to avoid the Tate Plaza today, I basically had to walk through there to get to my class in the SLC (I refuse to start calling it the 'MLC'... it just doesn't sound right).  For those of you who don't go to UGA, the Tate Plaza is basically an open forum on campus where various interest groups usually congregate and try to get out whatever message they are passionate about (and the SLC/'MLC' is our Student Learning Center, recently renamed the 'Miller Learning Center' after a former Georgia Governor).

So as I came down the stairs into Tate, I was bombarded with horrifying images of aborted fetuses.  Not just horrifying, but HUGE - the billboards must have been 20 feet tall (where do you even go to print something like that?).  There was a tiny sign in front of the display that said something to the effect of "Caution: Disturbing Images Ahead," but by that point there was no way you hadn't already seen the images.  There were posters with all kinds of facts about abortion, and a man preaching to passersby about why abortion is wrong.  

Abortion is a controversial issue, and I'm not going to get into my own views on it.  However, no matter what your views are, this display got your attention.  I understand what the protestors were going for - hoping to shock people into thinking abortion is wrong.  But how effective is that really?  The display definitely got people thinking and talking about the issue, but could it really change someone's mind?  When it comes down to beliefs about such personal issues, can something as simple (albeit shocking) affect their decision?

The main reason I'm so curious about this is that these exact abortion displays came up in our focus group for my Campaigns class.  We were discussing how to really get the attention of UGA students when it comes to the anti-poverty effort in Athens-Clarke County.  One student brought up graphic images like the ones in the anti-abortion displays.  Students agreed when something is so big and staring you right in the face, you can't ignore it, which I agree with.  However, it's one thing to create buzz and get people thinking about an issue, and it's another thing entirely to get them to act on these thoughts.  Would oversized posters with images of impoverished children and statistics about dropout and pregnancy rates in Athens get attention on campus?  Sure.  But the real question is, would these posters actually drive people to join the anti-poverty effort?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Epting Update

I realized over the weekend that it's been awhile since I posted anything about my internship at Epting Events, so now seemed like a good time for an update!

We're getting very close to being done with the wedding style book, and I'm so excited to see how it turns out.  It has taken a little bit longer than expected because a few of the girls stopped working on the project, so we had to re-assign the themes.  I'm now working on Beach Casual, Global Chic, Nature Inspired, and part of Contemporary.  We also changed the layouts of our divider pages so they would look more like the inspiration boards on popular wedding websites like The Knot and Style Me Pretty.  Here are a few of my new dividers:

We should be finishing everything up in the next few weeks, which will give us time to run everything by our bosses and order the book before I graduate! We've come a long way on this project and it will be so cool to see the finished product.

On a side note, Epting Events just started a blog so check that out for more wedding pictures and information.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

At Least They're Getting Social Media Right

As someone who is planning to move to NYC in the near future, I've been trying to follow the MTA fare hike votes as closely as those already living in the city.  Yesterday, the plan was approved to raise single rides from $2 to $2.50, and monthly MetroCard passes from $81 to $103.  These changes will go into effect on May 31st, and the Metro-North Railroad and L.I.R.R. will also see rate increases starting June 1st.  There will also be service cuts, which 
will likely cause even more crowding on busses and subways (is that possible?).  

According to the New York Times, these will be the most sweeping service cuts since the city’s fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s. Only once before in the 105-year history of the subway have fares risen two years in a row (fares last increased in March 2008).  These higher fees and service cutbacks are intended to help MTA with the $1.2 billion deficit it is currently facing. 

After reading a few articles on the topic, I posted this comment to Twitter:

Within 30 seconds, I had an email in my inbox notifying me that "NYC MTA Alerts" is now following me on Twitter.  Wow.  Upon further investigation, I realized the Twitter feed provides up-to-the-minute service updates, and never actually mentioned anything about the fare hikes.  However, I was still impressed with how quickly my tweet was detected (maybe it's automated? is there even a way to do that?).  

Well, slightly impressed.  Not enough to make up for the extra $22 I'll be spending every month to get around town.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ups and Downs of Campaigns

Throughout my life as a PR major at UGA, I've heard countless stories about how much work to anticipate in my capstone Campaigns class (see Dr. Kaye Sweetser's video, "True Life: Campaigns").  The class is designed to draw on every concept we've ever learned in our PR classes, from writing to strategic planning.  Even though I've had quite a bit of internship experience, this class has provided me with a whole new learning environment.  There have definitely been some ups and downs along the way, but as we get closer to the end of the semester I'm so excited to see how everything turns out!

I've posted before about this class, but here's a quick little aside about what we're doing...
Our class is helping various entities involved with combating poverty in Athens.  Most students don't realize that UGA's host, Athens-Clarke County, is the 5th poorest county in the nation.  Obviously, this project is a huge undertaking, and a class of 21 seniors can't solve the problems that have existed in this region for generations.  Our hope is that we will be able to re-energize the campus and make students more aware of the situation so they will be inspired to help.  Our main thought was to form an umbrella organization to bring existing anti-poverty student organizations together.

Everyone was so enthusiastic about the project at the beginning and couldn't wait to get started on forming a solution.  However, there was a lot of research that had to be done before we could jump straight into tackling the problem.  We have spent the last few months conducting student focus groups, interviewing faculty, and gauging the general interest on campus in the fight against poverty.  While everyone is anxious to "get something done," we have had to realize that our efforts would be wasted if we didn't put in the proper research first.  As graduation quickly approaches, we have had to adjust our strategy to more of a research-based campaign.  In the next few weeks, we will be creating a book to present to the client that includes all of our research and case studies.  It is our hope that our work will lay the groundwork for future classes.  While we may not get to see the direct outcome this semester, I know we will one day. 

I think the biggest lesson I have learned in this class has been about delegating.  I've always been someone who likes to get things done myself, and hates depending on other people for anything.  However, as a co-leader of a class of 21 students, I can't possibly do everything myself.  Myself and my other co-leader have spent so much time delegating work and planning assignments, which has definitely been a new experience for me.  I never realized how hard it is to get college students to turn things in on time! It's hard sometimes to enforce deadlines, but I've gotten great practice in leadership and project management.

All in all, Campaigns has been a wonderful learning experience, as I knew it would be.  There is no better way to prepare for a future career in public relations than actually executing an entire campaign.  I know I will look back to lessons I learned in this class for years to come.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Personality Mosaic

I usually don't do those silly Facebook notes that go around ("25 Original Things About Me," etc.) but I thought this one was kind of fun...

  1. What is your name?
  2. What is your favorite food?
  3. What is your hometown?
  4. What is your favorite color?
  5. What is your favorite movie?
  6. What is your favorite drink?
  7. What is your dream vacation?
  8. What is your favorite dessert?
  9. What is one word to describe yourself?
  10. How are you feeling right now?
  11. What do you love most in the world?
  12. What do you want to do when you grow up?
Here's mine:

Okay, so I cheated a little bit... when I searched "Public Relations," I picked the 4th image instead of one out of the first three.  I couldn't resist the "create some buzz" chihuahua!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How are YOU differentiating yourself in the job market?

Tomorrow, I will be participating in a podcast discussing the difficulties upcoming graduates are facing in the job market, and how to differentiate yourself.  The conversation will be hosted by Peppercom's Co Founder Steve Cody and COO Ted Birkhahn, and I will be among one of a group of senior PR students answering questions.

(For those of you who aren't familiar with Peppercom, it's a PR agency which offers global communications services with offices in New York, London, Chicago and San Francisco. It was also ranked by the Holmes Report as one of the nation's best places to work for three consecutive years, which is why I'm hoping to intern there this summer!)

I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about what advice I can give my fellow upcoming graduates.  With the media constantly in our faces about how bad the economy is and how impossible it's going to be to find a job when we graduate, it's hard to stay positive about our future! We've all worked hard through college, we have internship experience, and we're almost done earning our degrees... so now what?

No matter how bad things get, the fact of the matter is - there are still jobs out there.  You just need to be able to differentiate yourself and prove to potential employers why you are the best one for the position.  Competition is fiercer than ever, but rather than getting discouraged and resigning yourself to move home with mom and dad in a few weeks - do something about it

Here is some of my humble advice, based on personal experience and recommendations I've gotten from professors and fellow students:
  • Use your network! HR departments get hundreds of resumes and cover letters a day, why should they read yours?  Talk to professors, other students, family friends - see if anyone has any connections that might be useful to you.  This may sound like you're just using people, but based on my experience people are more than happy to help if they can.
  • Do your research.  If there is a company you're interested in working for, know them inside and out.  Read their blog, follow them on Twitter, find out everything you can about them.  Being knowledgeable about a company will set you apart from other candidates when applying for a job.
  • Be proactive. After living and interning in NYC last summer, I knew it was where I wanted to be after graduation.  So, in December, I flew up for a few days for informational interviews with a few companies I researched and was interested in.  Just showing your face and talking with someone shows your interest and can teach you a lot about a company, more than you could ever learn from their website.
  • Be open-minded.  Don't just look at big agencies, research smaller companies and internal communications positions.  There are a lot of opportunities in public relations, so look outside your comfort zone to find other jobs than you had imagined you would be looking for.  
  • Intern! By now, we all should have internship experience, but you can never have too much.  There's nothing wrong with interning after graduation, and you never know where your connections with a company may lead you.  
  • Immerse yourself in the industry and keep up with the trends. There is so much to learn about public relations outside the classroom, it's almost intimidating.  Spend time every day reading relevant news articles, follow the latest social media trends.  I learn so much every day just by clicking through links on my Twitter feed.  There are so many knowledgeable professionals out there with great information, so follow them!
Hopefully some of this has been helpful.  I'm really looking forward to hearing what other seniors have to say, and am so honored to be participating in this! I'll post links once the podcast is finished.

I'd also love any feedback on what you are doing to differentiate yourself, or just any thoughts in general on this topic!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is This Real Life?

It seems like every few months, a new video comes up on youtube that everyone and their mother can't stop quoting.  The latest popular video has been David After Dentist... if you haven't seen it yet, take a minute to watch it:

Before everyone was asking if "this is real life" and if "this is going to be forever," all my friends were watching and obsessing over an adorable little girl's narration of a picture book of kittens:

And before that, who could forget about "Charlie Bit Me":

Each of these videos have millions of  views, comments, and ratings.  People have made their own spinoff versions, some even have blogs and are selling products with the most popular catch-phrases inscribed on them.  And while I'm one of those people that gets sucked into it, and can't wait to pass these videos along to everyone I know, I can't help but wonder how it all gets started.

Who was the first person to watch a video of a 7-year-old doped up after surgery and decide this would be the next biggest viral video?  How do these simple home videos get so much visibility that everyone knows about them, no matter what city or state they live in?  And what are these kids going to think when they grow up and realize they were social media celebrities before they even knew what youtube was? 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Google Analytics: A Nice Ego Boost

When I started this blog in December, the purpose was to give me an outlet to express myself, to get some practice with writing, and to figure out how this whole blogging thing works.  So yes, I blog mainly for me, but let's be honest... it's nice to know there are some people out there who are interested in what I have to say.  As with all forms of social media, it's hard to measure the visibility and effectiveness of a blog.  Do I measure my readership by the number of comments I get?  By the feedback my fellow students and professors give me in class?  While these are great ways to gauge my readership, the only way to truly know who is visiting my blog is Google Analytics.

I first learned about Google Analytics in Dr. Kaye Sweetser's PR Research class last semester, in which we used the tool to analyze the traffic to certain blogs.  I was amazed at all of the things you can discover using Google Analytics, and best of all - it's FREE!!  So a few weeks ago, I decided to set up an account of my own and see who is reading my blog.

The statistics include number of visits, pages per visits, average time on the site, and bounce rate.  You can delve deeper into each of these topics, such is finding out demographic information about your visitors.  My favorite feature is the map overlay - it tells you how many visitors come to your site from different states, how long they spend there, and how many pages they visit.  Who knew there were people from Texas, California, and Michigan who have read my blog?  

Reading these statistics gave me a little ego boost that my blog is worth reading, but what I really would like is some kind of interaction with my readers.  If you're one of those people who came across this site on a search engine, or I've never met you before but you're interested in my humble little blog - say hello! Introduce yourself! I like meeting new people, even if it is via a comment box :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I realize this post is a little dated but it's taken me awhile to get back into the swing of things since my work trip last week.  Between my spotty internet access and very limited free time, it took me a few days to notice what happened when I was gone. 

Yesterday, when I got on Facebook to jealously stalk my friends' cruise pictures from Spring Break, this was the first thing I saw:

A few weeks (months?) ago, the layout of Facebook drastically changed, and it seemed that nobody was happy. All of my friends' statuses lamented the new format and hundreds of groups started popping up petitioning for the old Facebook. But of course within a week or so everyone quieted down and resigned themselves to the new layout. We all got used to it, and I can barely even remember what the old layout looked like.

So now that everyone has gotten used to the new Facebook, Mark Zuckerbeg has done it again. The layout has completely changed, I can't find anything, and everyone is confused all over again. Why, Facebook, why are you doing this to us? What was so wrong with the original Facebook that it needed two makeovers in the last six months? Facebook has been hugely successful since it was introduced in 2004. Are the people at Facebook just bored, so they keep switching things up on us?

Whatever the reasoning is behind it, I'm sure this new layout will get just as much flack as the previous "new Facebook." Maybe it's time Mr. Zuckerberg started sorting through the inevitable hate groups and realized the value behind the phrase, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy Spring Break

I'm off to the beach for 12 days, so adios my loyal followers (...bye, Mom and Dad)!  I'll be in Panama City for work (tough job, I know), and I'm sure will return with some great stories.

Hope everyone has a safe & fun Spring Break!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tweet Tweet

I feel like every few weeks, I post randomly about something cool I've found on Twitter... so in keeping with the that trend, here is one of my newest discoveries.

I've seen a few blog posts and tweets in the last few days about Twitter Mosaic (Dr. Karen Russell & Bert DuMars just as a few examples).  This tool is pretty self-explanatory, here is my Twitter Mosaic:

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Whenever I see things like this, I can't help but wonder (sorry, techie Carrie Bradshaw moment) what people will think of next.  Sure, it's cool to see a big mosaic of all the people who follow me on Twitter, but who sat down and developed this application?  I can't even begin to count how many times, when I mention Twitter, people ask "but... what's the point?".  There are so many useful things you can use Twitter for, but things like Twitter Mosaic prove that for each useful tool there is a pointless one (Tweet Like a Pirate... seriously?).  

I actually googled applications and toys for Twitter, and was shocked at how many hits came up.  There are hundreds of thousands of blog posts, wikis, and articles about different applications but the best resource I came up with is the Twitter Fan Wiki, which has a comprehensive list of desktop applications, web applications, and mobile applications.  You can also click here to see Twitter downloads available.

Oh Twitter, you never cease to amaze me.