Be Selfish

By Madison Bennett, Guest Blogger

The number one way to take advantage of a public relations internship:

Remember to be selfish

Though some people in the office think you’re there to do their busy work, you’re not. You are there to work, and you are there to be helpful.

But above all, you’re there to learn.

The Good Grunt Work

  • Coffee runs
  • Running errands
  • These are quick and painless and build your street credit.

The Bad Grunt Work

  • Compiling Long Lists
  • Emailing
  • Things take a lot of time and prevent you from doing that the actually salaried employees don’t want to do.

Ask yourself: How will this benefit my career or educate me? If it doesn’t, get out of that project by lying about how busy you are.

Don’t let people take advantage of you because you’re an intern, but do make sure to impress the people writing your future job recommendations.

BACKGROUND: This summer, I was a media relations intern in the Corporate Communications Department at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleveland Clinic is the #4 best hospital in America, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Going into the internship, I was pretty intimidated. But as it turns out, the internship was similar to most public relations internships, just with some medical terminology thrown in. Day-to-day work included writing press releases, sending media alerts, composing Cleveland Clinic tweets, and blog research, and coffee runs.

The most valuable part of the internship was an independent project. Once I had done enough of the “good grunt work,” I thought of an idea to spruce up the Cleveland Clinic’s Twitter account, with the idea where we could hashtag Cleveland Clinic health tips as: #AtoZHealthTips. My fellow intern and I proposed the idea to the social media manager, who ran it by marketing, and they liked the idea. Over the summer, we created 52 tweets — two for each letter of the alphabet. The #AtoZHealthTips project was launched in August, and continues to this day.

An internship is all about what you make it. Even with a little bit of grunt work, you can gain invaluable experiences and resume-builders through projects like #AtoZHealthTips, and gain real-world experiences like writing press releases and researching new ways to incorporate social media. So remember: Be selfish. Work on projects that will benefit YOU.

Social Media and You: Branding Yourself on the Internet

By Samantha Saltess, PRSSA member

As fellow students interested in PR, you probably already know that having an online presence is a critical factor in your success. But what you might not know is how much information is out there on you, and how easy it is to find! David D. Perlmutter, Director of the Iowa School of Journalism & Mass Communication, talked to the James F. Fox chapter of PRSSA members on September 14 on using social media and branding yourself in a positive light.

The most crucial fact I learned from his lecture is that employers do Google you! They want to get an understanding of who you are and what you have done before they even meet you, and possibly decide if they even want to meet you. Google yourself and find out what comes up. Make sure to check Google Images as well. If something less than desired pops up, focus on adding positive sites, like a personal blog, to bump the negative ones back a few pages.

If there are pictures of you on the Internet that you don’t think showcase you properly to an employer, delete them right away! If a friend on Facebook or Twitter has posted the picture, don’t hesitate to ask him or her to take it down. A general rule of thumb: don’t post anything that you wouldn’t mind sharing at Thanksgiving dinner with your grandma and the rest of the family.

Set up Google Alerts for your name. It’s simple, fast, and free. It can alert you to what is being said about you on the World Wide Web. 

The quicker you find out about something that puts you in a bad light, the quicker you can figure out how to get rid of it. Set a Google Alert up here.

Another tip Dr. Perlmutter mentioned and I find extremely important is getting a LinkedIn account. Many employers won’t hire you if you don’t have one, so set one up today. LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows you to connect to other professionals you know, and follow certain companies that you are interested in. You can upload your résumé and talk about your qualities and accomplishments that make you stand out to employers.

Lastly, use Twitter and Facebook, and use them professionally!

Keep your Twitter page public, and use it to post information that others find useful and interesting. It’s okay to post about how bad of a day you are having, but never bad-mouth an employer or employees.

Make Your Pitch Letter Count

At our February 24 meeting, Gazette reporter Jennifer Hemmingsen discussed what it takes for a pitch letter to make it to print.  The criteria is tough: of the many pitches she receives each day, Hemmingsen said she deletes most of them, and of the ones she opens, she typically reads only the first paragraph.  Luckily, Hemmingsen shared with PRSSA some tips on how to get your pitch letter noticed and in the news…

Start with the basics by making sure you are pitching to the right person.  Know what that reporter’s beat is and only pitch relevant material to them.  Also make sure you know the reporter’s audience; if your pitch isn’t going to appeal to a reporter’s readers, it will likely be headed straight for the trash.

Once you have made sure you are pitching to the right person (or people), read over your pitch to ensure it is informative, relevant, and clear.  It is especially important to convey these things in the subject line, so the recipient doesn’t immediately delete your pitch.  As a rule, always avoid cutesy language and over the top descriptions (amazing, fantastic, etc.).  Your pitch will get more attention by being timely and relevant to local readers.  Think like a reporter: don’t forget to address the who, what, when, where and why questions that a reporter needs to address in their story.

Hemmingsen gave a few other tips for savvy pitching:

  • Send your pitch on a Monday afternoon–reporters will have caught up on their email by then, so it is less likely to be lost in the rush.  Never send a pitch letter on a Friday afternoon
  • Slow news cycles are in the summer and right before holidays.   Reporters are in need of more content and this makes it a good time for you to send your pitch.  Similarly, don’t send your pitch the day of a national election.  You will most likely be ignored.
  • When calling to follow up on a pitch letter, ask the reporter if they have time to talk.  Reporters are often on deadline and it is important to be respectful of this.

Although Hemmingsen said there is no foolproof way to get your pitch noticed, following the above advice will certainly help your chances.

By Kelly Trettin

Practical Advice from Monica Madura

At our October 28th Chapter meeting, Monica Madura, the Communication Studies Academic Advisor, came to speak.  Monica geared her presentation towards job searching and how to prepare oneself for the “real world.”  She also offered a valuable question and answer session where members got their most burning questions answered.

Monica suggested that the earlier we start looking for jobs and internships, the better.  Not only can you utilize the Pomerantz Career Center’s Employment Expo and Career Shift, but look on the Communication Studies webpage and utilize your network.  Some ways to get your network started can range from attending Chamber of Commerce events to talking with your professors here at the University of Iowa.

Once you find a job or internship that you are interested in, Monica talked about the importance of customizing our resumes and cover letters for the specific position.  It’s a great idea to make a “master resume” where you list everything you have done.  Then once you look at the job description or requirements you can cut and paste on a new document what is most relevant to that job.

The take away message from our speaker was to start job-hunting early, customize your resume, and utilize the resources we have at our fingertips here at the University!

By Shannon Kane

Improve your writing skills

Sharp Writing: Build Better Writing Skills/ Kaplan Publishing (you can find it at Iowa Book)

This is a really good reference book for those who need to brush up or re-learn writing skills for all formats/types of writing.

The first step of the book is their Building Block Quiz which determines what you know. Step 2 involves lessons where you review your old skills and learn new ones. Building Block 3 puts the new skills to the test. The end of each chapter has a test to assess your knowledge.

The book is divided into sections like Structure, Syntax, Diction, Clarity, Tone, Usage, etc. It also goes through the writing stages: prewriting, writing, revising,editing and proofreading.

Most importantly it discusses resumes, cover letters, proposals, memos, and business letters.

Many PR internships and jobs require a writing test and this book provides great practice so if you need to brush up on your skills, check it out.