Monthly Archives: June 2009

Job Search Survival 2009

Undoubtedly, this is the toughest year on record to land a new job. Reaching your career goal will take courage and nerves of steel. Are you up to the challenge? Here are four tips for job-search endurance that will keep you on the right track toward your employment goal.

1. Keep your career goal realistic.

This is not the time to strike out in a risky career direction. Following your heart toward a career in which you have little qualifications could yield months of frustration as you find yourself competing against legions of candidates far more qualified. Unless you are in the position to hold out for a very long job search, concentrate on positions where you are best qualified.

2. Realize it will take longer to land your next position.

If you’ve never experienced a lengthy job search, set your expectations out several months and practice patience. You will apply for many positions as the perfect candidate, and get no response. Expect that. You will conduct perfect interviews and hear nothing back. Expect that as well. Just remember that eventually the right company with the right job at the right time will come your way if you stay calm and focused and don’t let discouragement keep you from moving forward. Just keep with it.

3. Write a better resume than your competition.

Less jobs and more applicants equals extremely high competition. The quality of your resume has never been more important. For the best possible resume keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Focus your resume. Avoid a one-size-fits-all resume.
  • Showcase your best information in the top half of page one.
  • Include accomplishments that illustrate your ability to solve today’s business challenges.

4. Sharpen your interview skills.

With employers interviewing only the best of the best, when you are chosen to interview be sure you are your competitive best. You CANNOT “just wing” an interview and expect to be called back for a second. Today it takes solid interview strategy to earn a second round of interviews. Interview books are helpful, but they usually fall short of teaching you how to read the interviewer’s mind to understand his/her hiring motivations. A study in the art of selling is more effective to achieve great interview performance. A few basic selling strategies include:

  • Asking the right questions to understand the interviewer’s “hot button” motivations.
  • Formulate answers around the interviewer’s motivations.
  • Know your accomplishments well enough to weave them effectively through your interview to achieve top candidate status.

Throughout 2009, the best jobs will go to those who persevere and stay focused. Keeping your expectations and goals realistic will help prevent the emotional ups and downs. Prepare for your job search as if you were competing in a marathon. With patience, endurance and skill you will win your next job.

Contributed by Deborah Walker, CCMC. Deborah is a career coach helping job seekers compete in the toughest job markets. Her clients gain top performing skills in resume writing, interview preparation and salary negotiation.


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True North for PR Professionals

PRSA Houston’s Ethics Chairwoman Emily Oberton recently contributed to a UH graduate class discussion on ethics. Emily shared with the PR Theory graduate students the core values of PRSA members and, more broadly, of the public relations profession. These values provide the foundation for the Member Code of Ethics and set the industry standard for the professional practice of public relations. These values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our behaviors and decision-making process. These values are:

We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts, and viewpoints to aid informed public debate.

We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.

We acquire and responsibly use specialized knowledge and experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research, and education. We build mutual understanding, credibility, and relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.

We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions.

We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.

We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media, and the general public. We respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.

Integrating these values into day-to-day decisions is critical for the individual practitioner and the integrity of the profession as a whole.

Contributed by Karen Blanchard, APR, Naumann Blanchard, LLC president

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Risk in a High-Risk Community: Uncertainty and Control

In 1992, Palenchar & Heath published a study in the Journal of Public Relations Research about “how lay members of high risk communities express their views on the risks created by the manufacturing facilities that operate near their communities.”

With Houston’s robust petrochemical industry, re-examining risk communication processes and message content seems worthwhile. Risk communications, as the name applies, deals with “actual risks, the perception people have of them, and the content of their thoughts and comments. Public relations practitioners, including risk communicators, have to understand the actual risk involved, but more importantly people’s perceptions of the risks, variables that affect those perceptions, and the communication that results from, and subsequently influences, those perceptions.”

The risk communication process variables defined by Palenchar and Heath are uncertainty and control.

“Uncertainty is a central variable in the risk perception and communication process.” Because risk breeds uncertainty, which in turn makes people uncomfortable, the result is information seeking as a means of uncertainty reduction control. This is a natural response to uncertainty.

The variable of control is divided into internal and external with external being the outside forces that have control over a risk source and internal as an individual’s feeling over their own destiny. By logical extension, “risk communication processes and statements are more likely to be effective to the extent that they empower citizens of a community of risk”, which is relevant also to crisis communications.

In summary, the authors studied the connection between risk process variables and the content of community messages about risk from the rhetorical perspective. This is a useful exploration with practical application because it is ‘imperative for risk communicators to understand each stakeholders’ zone of meaning, which are based on demographics, awareness levels, risk perceptions, and knowledge of risk-emergency response measures. Essentially this study takes risk communication in the direction focusing on both message content and process. I hope that there is continued research into risk communication processes so that practitioners’ have applicable data on understanding publics, messaging, and policy.

Contributed by Karen Blanchard, APR, Naumann Blanchard, LLC president

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Writing for Twitter and Facebook

There’s a great line in a USA Today article (“What Would Shakespeare Tweet?”) on the art of writing a status update, whether you’re on Facebook or Twitter: “… Next year, only the best tweeters will survive.”

Not only did this set off tunes in my head (remember Gloria Gaynor’s hit song “I will survive”?), but the article also made me pause and consider whether my own personal tweets are interesting or read more like a personal diary. Am I communicating well, no matter the audience, when I use these tools?

There are no clear rules yet on the use of these tools. Many people use twitter for information that is more work- or professional development-related, whereas Facebook largely tends to targeted to friends and family. Are we setting the right tone with this approach?

There is a definite art to tweeting and posting status updates. However, some general rules (and common sense) apply just as they would to more traditional communication methods:

First, don’t bad mouth your boss, a client, a project, your brother, your boyfriend/girlfriend – it’s just bad form and will always come back to bite you.

Second, remember that these are communication tools that can disseminate information very quickly to an unknown number of people (think of all the people in your network… and the number of people in each of their networks, etc.). There’s a line in When Harry Met Sally, when “Sally” (Meg Ryan) and “Harry” (Billy Crystal) are talking outside the diner (yes, THAT diner with THAT scene), and Sally says “You can’t take it back – it’s already out there.” Do you get it? The same theory holds true with social media – once it’s out there, it’s out there… you can’t take it back.

Third, if you’re going to provide information that is intended to be useful or thought provoking, provide more than a and headline and a link. Tell me (within the 140 character limit of Twitter) why I should care – why is that tidbit of information valuable to me?

I’m sure I’m missing some key rules, but these are the ones that came to mind as I read this article. I’d love to hear from you about other rules, pet peeves related to social media, and more.

Contributed by Terri Larson, 2009 President – PRSA Houston

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Filed under Facebook, Public Relations, Social Media, Twitter

Defining PR

Last week the PRSA Houston Board of Directors convened our monthly board meeting. While discussing potential topics for upcoming monthly luncheons, we hit on what quickly became an interesting point: there was no real consensus among those of us on the call on how to truly define Public Relations – it means something a little different to each of us based on our individual backgrounds and organizational experiences. So, we wondered… if we as the Board had trouble reaching consensus on how to define PR, how do other PR professionals define Public Relations?

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Contributed by Terri Larson, 2009 President – PRSA Houston

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The love-hate relationship of “flacks” and “hacks”

A year ago, the Houston Chronicle railed against the plans of interim Harris County district attorney Kenneth Magidson to hire a small PR staff.  The editorial, “Bad PR: Beware the district attorney’s creation of a media office to manage the flow of public information,” likened the office to “erecting a sound wall.” The newspaper said the PR department would “obstruct (the public’s) ability to find out what government officials are doing.”

The Chronicle denigrated PR practitioners, calling them “flacks,” and depicted a system not even in place as “inefficient, time consuming and frustrating for reporters…”

Not so fast, hacks.  PRSA Houston shot back with an op-ed, saying that as newsroom staffs shrink, journalists will increasingly rely on PR professionals.  The Society defended professional communicators, who are trained not to stonewall reporters.  PRSA advised that “until proven otherwise, the Chronicle should give the DA’s office the benefit of the doubt.”

So, who was right? The hacks or the flacks?

Brian Rogers, beat reporter at the Chronicle covering the DA’s office, said in late May that he works with the media office everyday and “positive things have come to fruition.”  While acknowledging the Chronicle editorial, he said that “instead of adding a layer of bureaucracy, the (PR) office as it stands now, works hard to get information to me after hours and before my deadline.”

Note to Chronicle and other major dailies: We PR flacks aren’t such bad guys and gals after all.  Just give us a chance.  You may need us more than ever now with a rock-bottom economy that threatens to further shrink your editorial-staff levels, circulation, advertising and readership.

Besides, we are actually pulling for you.  Without you, we wouldn’t exist.

Contributed by Mike Wysatta, Business Development Manager, Ryder Scott Co.

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Social Media: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for PR Pros?

Plenty of social media seminars can help you learn if using social media can help boost your company’s profile, and presumably, its bottom line.

Here’s my question for you as a PR professional: Can Twitter and Facebook boost your creativity?

I’m asking this because it gets to the heart of what we do: We’re paid to be creative on demand. That’s why we were hired.

In fact, you may be the only right-brained person in your entire company.  You alone may be the whole creative department. So protect your creativity. It’s your greatest asset.

If you’re not careful, Facebook and Twitter can zap your creativity because they are such time suckers. They’re like friends who party all the time — fun, seductive, but sort of shallow and not the best thing for your overall well-being.

On the flip side, there’s absolutely nothing that can drain your creative juices faster than the dullness of spending the whole day at your desk. When you’re called upon to whip out sparkling copy in a hurry, it can be really tough to pull your head out of the fog and be dazzling.

So here’s a tip for protecting your creativity: Devote some time to creative pursuits. To keep your writing skills sharp, write every day. It can be in a journal, it can be a blog – tweets don’t count. Keep it fun, do little writing exercises, whatever it takes. Your writing brain is a muscle and you have to keep it limber.

For a really excellent course in creativity, check out “The Artist’s Way,” a book by Julia Cameron. She suggests writing three pages long-hand every morning. They’re called “morning pages,” and they are extremely helpful especially if you’re experiencing writer’s block.

PR pros, let’s recognize Twitter and Facebook for what they are: communication tools. Just as the Internet, print, radio and TV are communication tools. And while our tools are constantly changing, there is one thing that remains constant: The idea is what counts. The rest is execution.

Contributed by Christi Dunn, PR Manager, Dynegy

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Filed under Creativity, Social Media