Navigating the Job Market

This blog was provided by our intern, Daniela Ramirez.

As graduation draws closer, reality starts to set in and before you know it, it’s time to venture into the job market. The search can be long and intimidating, but I’m here to share some strategies to expand your network and make what seems a never-ending process, a smooth transition.

Get Involved
First off, get involved early and join student organizations. Joining groups that are of interest to your major will give you experience that you can’t learn in the classroom or by reading a textbook. For example if you are a PR major, join PRSSA but also join other organizations that may have some overlap, such as your school’s advertising or marketing organization. These organizations will give you face time with industry professionals, expose you to different disciplines of the field and leverage your knowledge of the industry a little more.

Don’t just network with other students at your school, attend events put on by local professional organizations to get to know people working in your prospective field. Many schools also offer networking trips. I find this one the hardest to do, but it has also been the most rewarding. It’s crazy how spread out a college’s alumni network is, and you never know when a connection can lead you to your next big opportunity.

Get to know your professors out of the classroom and learn about their experiences and academia. They all come from various professional and academic backgrounds and are able to help you figure out your career trajectory.

Take Advantage of Career Services
Use your college’s career services office and actively peruse opportunities that come through the office. They are a great resource and often serve as the liaison between students and employers. They will be able to help you secure informational interviews and portfolio reviews when recruiters come to campus, expose you to different company information sessions and give you the tools you need to get your foot in the door.

Seek Valuable Internships
Lastly, find an internship that will help you grow and expand your undergrad experience. Join a company that sparks your interest and fuels your brain. Sounds cliché, but your time at school does go by fast and before you know it these opportunities will be gone. For me, joining the Ketner Group has allowed me to grow faster than I ever have before and become more confident than ever that this is the field for me. After all, how cool is it to be able to come into an internship that challenges you everyday?

PRSA Corner: Breaking Through the Noise and Reaching Your Target Audience

ClpsEJ3UYAAqeNFWe recently attended and were the official sponsor of the June PRSA Austin Chapter Luncheon. The luncheon titled, “Media Relations: Insights from the Newsroom,” featured three journalist panelists who discussed how media has evolved over the years, the integration of skills and technology in media relations and how PR professionals can (and should) break through the noise to reach target audiences. Here are some highlights:

Tara Doolittle is the Viewpoints editor for the Austin American-Statesman and is in charge of the editorial pages and online commentary. She began as a rookie reporter in 1997 and has worked with the newspaper’s reporting teams covering education, city hall and lifestyle. As many journalists do, Tara receives over 400 emails a day, which means getting her attention is no easy task. Although she gives first priority to local pitches over others, she tells PR folks to send short pitches, know who you are pitching and focus on the journalist’s interests, and course, always be sensitive to deadlines. Other key take-aways from Tara:

  • For hard news and community engagement pitches, Tara recommends doing research on how other publications (in other areas) report certain trends and how those trends might play out locally. Look for ways to tell the local story. As well, Tara says PR professionals should “think broadly” because the Statesman is not just a print newspaper, but a multimedia content platform.
  • According to Tara, the digital space is the way to go, especially with social media and sharing. She recommends PR professionals think about this when it comes to pitches. Photos and videos are a great way to keep people on the website for longer periods of time – it’s a win-win for everyone!
  • Tara said the biggest struggle she faces as an editor for a daily local newspaper is serving three sets of readers because they all want different things: folks who don’t pay for online content; folks who do pay and read online content; and full subscribers.

Erin Quinn-Kong is the editor-in-chief of Austin Monthly and the editorial director of Austin MonthlyAustin HOME and A Missouri native, she attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism and worked in New York City as an editor at Allure and Us Weekly before moving to Austin in 2008. Compared to the Statesman, Austin Monthly operates with a smaller staff who has to work very hard to keep up with daily and monthly deadlines. It’s a fast-paced environment (with a small staff), which definitely makes it hard for PR professionals to get the attention of the editorial team. Knowing that, Erin says it is critical for PR professionals to know why the story would work in her publication, and know who you’re pitching to and why. Other key take-aways from Erin:

  • Pitches come into play when they make a connection to something that relates to the local area, or that may have appeared “buzz worthy” on social media. That is the sweet spot on pitches!
  • Erin recommends asking them to coffee. As editors, she believes it is part of their job to know the PR people in town. Having the opportunity to be “face to face” with PR professionals is a much better way to connect than an email.
  • Her biggest challenges as the editor of Austin Monthly include creating boundaries between her job and life and the struggle of small budgets and staff combined with high expectations.

 Haley Cihock is Executive Producer for KXAN. With 15 years of experience in broadcast news, she writes, edits and manages a team of producers, anchors, editors and field reporters working on the noon newscasts across two channels. According to Haley, the best stories come from community engagement – listening to the buzz around town, hearing what local citizens are talking about – and then figuring out how to cover the story. She believes that Austin has an engaged audience and people in the city really want to talk. At KXAN, social media is a huge tool for listening for potential stories. Other key take-aways from Haley:

  • Make no mistake, there is limited “on air” time, so Haley recommends that PR professionals pass story ideas and news to the digital side to get more bang for the buck. Using multichannel media is a great way to disperse the message, and it is how stories evolve, especially when it is resonating with people. Haley also says the evolution of media means that things are moving faster and faster, things get lost, so PR folks should try more than one platform to tell their story.
  • As an on-air journalist, Haley has to think of the bigger picture, but often times receives “micro” pitches from PR professionals. Pitches have to be bigger than just one thing. It is important to think beyond your client or your one story – try to make connections that could turn into bigger feature stories.
  • Her biggest challenges as an on-air journalist is always trying to be the first with the story, but to also to get the story right and do it better than anyone else. Erin believes that, for TV journalists, the challenges haven’t changed much, but the ways of approaching them are changing. Her two biggest pieces of advice is to not send video to the newsroom (they have to shoot their own) and to not send gifts to on-air journalists.

Oops, We Did it Again (and Again, and Again)

We’ve all heard (or have perhaps said) in one way or another the expression, “I would love to have been a fly on the wall when….” On more than one occasion, I’ve often found myself wishing I could have been privy to certain conversations that led to decisions being made about this or that.  One of the many items on my bucket list, as my friends and co-workers know very well, is to sit in on a Saturday Night Live writer’s meeting and just take in all of the crazy creativity. Ah, to be a fly on the wall at that meeting!

But, as a PR professional, I would also love the ability to travel back in time and have the opportunity to observe and even participate in the meetings that have led to some of the most terrible PR blunders.  In recent months, major apparel brands have manufactured and tried to sell items that, for anyone with half a brain, would be received as offensive, tacky and downright unethical.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

  • Just this week, Urban Outfitters came under fire for selling a “vintage” Kent State University sweatshirt that included what appeared to be fake bloodstains – referencing the horrific events that took place at Kent State in 1970. The retailer quickly released an apology and explanation, “…the red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” You’d think Urban Outfitters would have learned their lesson by now, after trying to sell a crop top shirt with the word “depression” written all over it, or the time they tried to sell a t-shirt that said “Eat less” across the front.
  • This past summer, fast fashion retailer Zara decided it would be a good idea to sell a child’s pajama shirt that strongly resembled the uniforms of Jewish people imprisoned during the Holocaust. It gets worse, but stick with me – the shirt was black and white, and featured a six-point star on the chest. In researching this blog, I’ve learned that this was not Zara’s first rodeo into offensive fashion. In 2007, they released a handbag that included four green swastikas, which was apparently overlooked before production.
  • Beloved shoe brand Adidas created a line of “kicks” in 2012 that featured – I can’t even believe I’m writing this – plastic orange chains that could be wrapped around said shoe-wearer’s ankle. Of course, the shoes were criticized, with good reason, because of their resemblance to shackles worn by slaves. Adidas said publically in response that the designs were not offensive, but just the result of designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous vision. As we Southerners say (in the sarcastically meant way, and not the way that my sweet mother means it,) “Bless their hearts.”

What I want to know is, who decided these (and countless other examples – I’m looking at you, Abercrombie & Fitch) apparel items were a great idea? We never know what goes on behind closed doors; however, one would think that in these meetings and creative sessions there would have been at least one person that should have said, “Hey guys, this is a really bad idea.” And if that idea made it through the filters of those initial meetings, you would think that someone in the C-suite group would have put a stop to it immediately. And, theoretically, if everyone else in the company decided “said shirt, with said offensive design” was a real winner and would make the company a ton of money, I would hope that a public relations executive would have gotten wind of it before production and done the right thing.

In life, we are all faced with decisions – some of them much easier to make than others. As PR professionals, it is our job to make sure the public-facing aspects of whatever company or person we represent is done so in the best and the most honest and ethical way.  Our recommendations are not always the most popular, but they are in the best interest of the company and should be listened to.

While the above-mentioned blunders were likely the result of multiple checks and balances gone wrong, the PR teams certainly fell down on their jobs in the worst way. The worst offenders are those from Zara, Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch who let these “mistakes” happen again and again. In my job, when we make a mistake such as including the wrong boilerplate in a press release or quoting the wrong spokesperson, we take steps to make sure that it never happens again. If I were the spokesperson for these retailers, I would do everything in my power to make sure not a single piece of merchandise could be mistaken for a horrific historical event or crime against humanity –  never, ever again.

Do what’s right, do what’s ethical and all will be well – I promise.

September is PRSA’s national ethics month. For more information on PRSA’s code of Ethics, click here.

Four Ways to Refresh Existing Website Content

Gini Dietrich

Guest post by: Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich and lead blogger at Spin Sucks.

In late 2011 and early 2012, the Public Relations Society of America undertook the big task of redefining public relations.

Before this happened, the industry was working with a definition that was 40 years old. It hadn’t been reviewed since 1982.

In 1982, E.T. came out. John Belushi died. Knight Rider was a popular television show. Prince William was born. Seven people died from taking cyanide-laced Tylenol. The first issue of USA Today was published. And the Times “man of the year” was the computer.

A lot has changed since 1982. Not only have TV shows and movies grown up, so has Prince William and an entire industry. Social media has completely turned the PR industry on its head and technology is changing more quickly than ever before.

The evolution of technology is so fast, it’s reaching millions -and even billions-of users in no time at all.

Consider this: It took older technologies years to reach 50 million users…and then just a few months as it evolved.

  • Radio: 38 years.
  • TV: 13 years.
  • The Internet: Four years.
  • IPod: Three years.
  • Facebook added 100 million users in just nine months.
  • iPod app downloads hit one billion in nine months.

Nearly every year we have a new social network introduced. Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, SnapChat. The list continues to grow and it’s not only the job of communicators to keep up, it’s your job as business leaders to stay abreast of the changes so you can lead your team during the digital age.

Websites are about the Customer

Technology is creating some amazing opportunities for all of us, but also causing some distress. You used to have a PR team (internal or external) that focused on employee communications, media relations, reputation management, financial reporting, the annual report, public affairs, and maybe some events.

Today PR professionals also have to be knowledgeable about web development, mobile marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and more.

The web, it turns out, is extremely important in the job of a PR professional. Much more important today than it was in the previous decade, as new technologies are introduced and companies are struggling to figure out how to add the latest and greatest tool to its overall marketing strategy.

It used to be your website was an online version of your corporate brochure. But times, they are a changin’. Your website now needs to be a living and breathing document that changes consistently (at least once a week, according to a Hubspot study) and becomes less about you and more about your customer.

Refresh Existing Content

The first place you want to start is your website by taking out the French – the we, we, we (oui, oui, oui – get it?!?).

  1. Find the French. Depending on how you like to work, you can either print out every page of your website (not very green, but it works) or you can go into your content management system and do a search. Look for every word that is about you. Look for “we,” “our,” “us,” and similar words. This is the copy you’ll have to rewrite.
  2. WIIFM. What’s in it for me means the copy you rewrite becomes about the customer, instead of about you. You tell them what your organization does for them. You use words such as “you” and “your.”
  3. Testimonials. Update your testimonials. Some of you will have them in text as a quote. Get these on video. We have a client who held a user’s event a couple of weeks ago. They hired a videographer to spend two hours at the conference and the marketing director got users on video talking about who they were, what they do, and how they use the client’s product. The stories ended up being really compelling. One user rescues dogs and finds them permanent homes. He talked about that and then spent 30 seconds talking about the client’s product. Mailchimp also does this really well. Rather than have the customers talk about how much they love the email software, they talk about their own businesses or interests or hobbies and how the product fits into their lives. Very compelling stuff.
  4. Case studies. This is what we’ll call social proof – the reason another person should buy from you. Most case studies are boring text with nothing interesting in them. Make them multimedia. Add images. Add charts. Add infographics. Even think about whiteboard automation. Make them so interesting, prospects can’t wait to buy.

Once this project is complete – and it will take some time – you can focus your energies on other owned media, such as white papers, webinars, blog posts, and videos.

To learn more, check out Gini’s latest book – Spin Sucks – on sale this week!


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is officially here!

PR Ethics – The Difference Between Right and Wrong

“Jiminy Cricket at the Magic Kingdom / Disney World by JeffChristiansen, on Flickr”

Let’s face it, gang, PR ethics is – at the very root – knowing what is right and what is wrong. It is a motto that we all must live by, whether you are in public relations or not. Every day when I drop my daughter off at school, without fail, I tell her these three things:

  • I love you.
  • Be a good friend today.
  • Do the right thing.

Doing the right thing can be tough, though. Just ask Johnny Manziel and the communications team at Texas A&M. It’s rather obvious that we (the public) do not know the whole story, nor will we probably ever know for sure if Johnny Football took that money for signing autographs. But it’s highly likely that (he did) and that the athletic department insiders at Texas A&M know the truth. But because of pressure from the University and the looming kick-off to the 2013 football season set with high expectations for the SEC Aggies and their Heisman trophy-winning quarterback – things were, let’s just say…”taken care of” and Johnny Manziel was benched for only half of a football game.  All of this justified because, well, that’s just the way college football works. Who cares if it was slightly unethical and against the rules?

When the pressure is high to succeed, sometimes PR ethics can be chucked out the window. But that doesn’t make it right. As PR professionals, our ethics are what build our reputations – with clients, media and analysts. At Ketner Group, we pride ourselves on being honest and transparent to our clients as well as to the media and industry analysts that we work with on a daily basis. As Michael Herman, APR Fellow with the PRSA said at the recent Southeast Region Conference, “Tell the truth, always. That way you don’t have to worry about what you said. How you treat people matters.”

September is Ethics Month at PRSA and is a time for members and non-members alike to think about what ethics means to them, both on a personal level as well as within their own organizations and the clients they represent. Check out the line-up of activities that PRSA has planned to help inform and educate us about PR issues in our industry.

For those of you in Austin, make sure to register for the September luncheon where you’ll be treated to a terrific line-up of speakers who will lead a discussion on PR ethics in the digital age with plenty of “tips and tricks” on how to use social media responsibly.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” I love this quote for many reasons, but it does have a relatable message for those of us in PR. If you feel like what you are doing is wrong, then it probably is wrong. If your gut tells you that the “communications decision” you are about to make is wrong, listen to your gut – it’ll never steer you wrong.

If you are still not sure what the right decision is, download the PRSA Ethics mobile app to set you straight. It’s like a mini PR ethics book in your back pocket or purse.

And if you are still not sure what to do, well, I would encourage you to listen to the words from the song “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide” from the classic Disney movie, Pinocchio.  Those songwriters MUST have known someone in PR!

Happy pitching!

What Makes Things Popular Online?

“108 High Resolution Dark Denim Social Media Icons” by webtreats, on Flickr

The PR industry is rapidly changing. To stay competitive, PR agencies are learning how to develop digital skills or are maximizing marketing partner resources in order to satisfy the new media landscape. In a media world where anyone can be a journalist, news breaks on Twitter and memes are popping up and disappearing every week, PR professionals have their work cut out for them.

To address this, I recently planned a PRSA Austin Chapter event titled “There’s a Meme for That,” where our panelists discussed how to incorporate new digital media ideas into company strategies to boost chances of getting noticed, and increase social shares and engagement. Our panelists included digital marketing executives from Bazaarvoice, Edelman, Facebook and W2O—and they collectively had an extensive portfolio of examples of brands successfully using digital marketing strategies to reach consumers.

We started with the golden question: What makes things popular online? Why do some memes take off while others fall flat? What makes people share content and why do images and videos go viral? There are several inherent traits that exist in successful digital marketing strategies.

A human element

People need to be able to identify with the things they interact with every day. Dove, for example, has created a successful way to engage with its audience using “real” people in their ads and other communications. Recall the “Dove: Real Beauty” sketch campaign executed back in April. Dove expanded upon its “real beauty, real people” theme with this internet campaign that went viral, featuring sketches of women describing themselves to a sketch artist opposed to sketches of these women as described by someone else. The results were surprising. The message was positive, relatable and had that core human element that made the video such a success.

Socially shareable

If a campaign isn’t easy to share on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other blogs, it won’t do well, obviously. What makes something socially shareable? Images! Today, images go much further than words have ever taken us. Most social sharing sites are geared towards image-based storytelling, and visuals trump the written word in today’s fast-paced media environment. Before a message can ever go viral, it must be depicted in a visual, succinct medium. Such media include short videos (take a look at these cool Vine videos from brands), meme-like photos like these, infographics or just plain photos.


Popular online content is usually centered around a timely topic or event. Do “The Royal Baby” or “You can still dunk in the dark” sound familiar to you? Both social media-born topics—one from pop culture and the other from a food brand, Oreo—gained popularity during high profile events. Even though campaigns such as these are short lived, the boost in visibility for the brand has a much longer lasting impact. Companies should be careful how they jump on the trend bandwagon, however, as people can tire quickly of memes. Check out these examples of brands attempting to capitalize on the Royal Baby trend, and then the people’s reaction to it.


People love to share their experiences (good or bad) on social media. People share information online because they hope or expect to get something back in return. This is part of the reason why product reviews are so popular. People are open to sharing commentary, because in return, they’ll get feedback from likeminded people or recognition from the brand. This psychology is similar across the social media landscape—and everyone is a movie, food, music, or [insert any category here] critic. The key is to share good, positive messages and never capitalize on negative trends or tragedies (like an Epicurious intern did).


Companies absolutely must pay attention to their audiences. What do they want to see? What performs best with them? Once this is understood, companies can shape their media and PR around those understandings. The Facebook panelist let attendees know that there are Page management tools that allow brands and companies to see which posts garner the most engagement. This is a good example of measuring the effectiveness and sociability of campaigns. There are many PR reporting tools and platforms that track and measure social campaigns, as well, such as Hootsuite, Radian6 and Meltwater News.


What are some of your favorite memes or digital campaigns? Have you run any that were positive and successful? Feel free to plug here!

#KeepPRWeird: Top 3 Take-Aways from PRSA 2013 Southwest District Conference

I’m on the PRSA Austin Chapter board and gladly volunteered to serve on the planning committee for the PRSA 2013 Southwest District Conference, which was June 5-7. I had an exciting job as the Special Events Committee Chair, which means that I got to plan the social events. What conference goes without networking and happy hours?

And what networking happy hour goes without a life-size poster board of John Wayne? He went with us everywhere!

Here’s a small group of us keeping it strictly business, of course, at Lustre Pearl during our Rainey Street Pub Crawl. That’s me in the cowgirl hat and glow sticks (yep, glow sticks).

To get back to the REAL reason PR pros from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and more gathered in the capital city of Texas, we were there to learn how to “Keep PR Weird,” which was the official conference slogan. Not only did David Lieber, Watchdog Investigative Columnist at Dallas Morning News, say that #KeepPRWeird was the best conference slogan he’s seen in 20 years, it was trending locally for both Twitter and Instagram (thanks to our Pub Crawl photo contest), so check out the conversations!

If I had to take three lessons home from the conference, it’d be these:

1. Storytelling is everything.

Stories are the reason humankind has some idea of our past. From the beginning of time, humans have been passing on important information through stories–whether it was carvings in a rock, through song or written down. We still share and remember important information through stories, and we’re wired to think that way. David Lieber, the opening keynote speaker, emphasized the importance of companies and brands telling their stories. Each story should have a hero/heroine, and the story should have a beginning, climax and end. Make sure to describe the problem you’re solving and illustrate the challenges that brought you where you are today–it makes your company seem much more human. And people crave that human touch.

2. Measurement of Social Media? Possible!

Angela Jeffrey, APR, Senior Counsel for CARMA International, presented a session titled, “The R Social Media ROI.” This was a really useful session, because all PR people know what a headache it can be to try and measure anything in PR, let alone social media. Angela is a fan of the AMEC Social Media Valid Framework, and if you are unfamiliar with it, you can read up on it at (a very helpful presentation) or take a look at Angela’s PR News article that breaks it down nicely. According to Angela, “The philosophy behind the guidelines states that to truly demonstrate the value of PR, metrics need to be linked to the business objective of the program, and move beyond measuring outputs to measuring outcomes. The Framework helps you identify suitable metrics for PR and social media programs that take you from cursory to meaningful measures that resound with the C-suite and help you refine your programs.”

Angela gave attendees a very specific 8 step process for measuring social media activity:

  1. Define organizational goals
  2. Research stakeholders and prioritize
  3. Set specific objectives for each key stakeholder group
  4. Set traditional/social media KPIs against each objective
  5. Choose tools and benchmark (using the AMEC Framework)
  6. Analyze the results and compare to costs
  7. Present to management
  8. Measure continuously and improve performance
To learn more about her process, visit and download her latest white paper.

3. An organization can survive a crisis through honesty and passion

The closing keynote was awesome. Katherine McLain, VP of Communications at Livestrong Foundation, spoke on how to overcome a crisis situation, especially when your organization relies on donations. Following the investigation into and admittance of Lance Armstrong’s doping use, the Livestrong Foundation took a hit. Ken Berger, President and CEO of Charity Navigator had said, “[They are] not going to be able to survive if the person who is behind the spirit of [the organization] is in trouble. It is just going to devastate them.” Ouch! What Livestrong ultimately did was focus on the positive: They are there to help people through difficult struggles in their lives. People with cancer. People who need the foundation to assist them with their fight. Livestrong developed a hashtag that helped position them above the controversy: #FightWithUs. They also developed videos that illustrated individual peoples’ battles with cancer. They focused on the positive, distanced themselves from the negative and marched on.

If you want to chat more about what I learned at the PRSA Southwest District Conference, hit me up on Twitter! @CaitlinNew


Caitlin New is Austin’s PRSA Member of the Month

We just wanted to give a shout-out to our Director of Company Branding, Caitlin New, as she’s featured as the Public Relations Society of America’s Austin Chapter member of the month for January.

Caitlin is currently serving on the PRSA Austin board as Programs Chair, and is also on the planning committee for the PRSA Southwest District Conference (June 5-7) as the Special Events Chair. Check out her member spotlight article here!

Enough shameless bragging, now.