Friday, August 31, 2007

Constructing a PR portfolio

What is a PR portfolio?
A portfolio provides prospective employers with evidence of your ability to do the job. Traditionally, the student gathers materials into a binder (use plastic page covers) and brings it to job interviews.

What items are included?
You can choose from a wide array of items based on your interests and career goals. Examples include:
The one thing I do hear is that prospective employers like to see variety--items geared at different audiences or different media; things from different jobs/internships/volunteer projects; and so forth. And the most important thing of all is to choose only your best work. Quality is vastly more important than quantity.

Note: PR newbies can include course work. As a professional once told me: "We know they're students." If you include group project materials, you should specify what you actually did.

How do I organize it?
I've heard different advice on this. First, where to put it. Richard Bailey says at Leeds Met they use large artist's portfolios. One of my former students recommends not spending a lot on a leather-bound book ("We know they're students" comes to mind again here.) The main thing, I think, is making sure it's clean, neat and well-organized.

As for organization, again, there is room for creativity. Some people organize contents by job or project. Others organize by type of material (press releases together, Web content in another section, etc.). Your organization will reveal something about your personality as well as your job interests. If you're a traditional person looking for a job in a conservative sector like banking and finance, bright colors and weird fonts aren't going to work.

Some people give the portfolio a theme and use section dividers that are tied to the theme (for example, a theater theme or an architecture theme)-- I don't actually recommend this because they tend toward the cutesy rather than the professional; and I heard a story (possibly apocryphal) about a person who used a "bomb" theme with lots of "dynamite" and "explosives" throughout. Not a good idea in the post-9/11 world. But the theme approach has worked for some people.

However you organize it, recognize that organization is vital. Most employers say that they only skim over a portfolio, often while they're interviewing you. Those with obvious errors--grammatical mistakes, crumpled pages, poor design--get tossed aside, while good ones may get only 15 minutes. Make the most of your short time.

What about electronic portfolios?
The computer-savvy student can put most of these same items online and provide the link in your cover letter. However, you've got to consider security issues. Don't put personal information online (yours or anyone else's -- references, professors, teammates from group projects, etc.). Convert writing and design samples to PDF files. Provide links to your blog or other social media, or to news stories that ran because of your work. You will probably want to keep a print version to take to the interview as well.

When should I start working on it?
Now. I can say that without equivocation because no matter what stage you're at, you can be doing something. If you're just starting out, think about what kinds of materials you want to include and set about making sure you have them -- volunteer to plan an event and save all the materials; write for the school paper and cut the clips; get an internship that involves media relations or B2B. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE! I've had so many graduating seniors tell me, "I did this or that but I didn't keep it." If you're almost ready to graduate, you have less time but you may be more aware of the exact type of job you want and can therefore focus your efforts on that industry (such as arts, politics, or healthcare) or function (such as media, investor, or community relations). I titled this post "Constructing" because I want to emphasize the idea that you can have a plan and build a portfolio that suits your career goals.

See also: 2003 Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune article on portfolios.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

If you were a freshman

Beloit College has released its annual list which its creators call an effort "to identify a worldview of 18-year-olds in the fall of 2007." Among the life experiences of a college freshman today:

Thanks, Meg Lamme, for sending the link.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More on the Blogging Less meme

Josh Hallett has posted on "That Blogging Less Meme," when it seemed like everyone was posting about how they weren't going to be posting or explaining why they hadn't been posting at all lately. I didn't keep track of them, but I recall that Robert Scoble, John Wagner, and just today Joe Thornley posted about it -- in addition to Josh.

Our Spanish-speaking PR friends have been talking about maintaining the motivation to keep a blog. Octavio Rojas, of Weber Shandwick in Madrid, says that maintaining a blog is like writing a love letter: you have to be truly passionate for it to work. And Fernanda Grimaldi, a PR instructor in Argentina, has offered one solution: she's committing to 10 minutes a day.

As for me, I just keep plugging away. :-)

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PR Campaigns: ICA update

My spring 2007 Campaigns team for the UGA Department of Intercultural Affairs will be pleased to learn that all the faculty received in their mailboxes today a calendar of events for the year--with that troublesome logo and "I Am Intercultural" theme front and center. Lauren, Christy, Jamie, Charlotte, Mezelle, Allie and Kerri: all that hard work is finally paying off!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Teaching PR history

Just had a great discussion with my grad seminar students on public relations history. We read Margaret Duffy's article (in Critical Studies in Media Communication, 2000-- sorry, can't find a public link) criticizing the presentation of PR history in leading textbooks, which most frequently present PR as a progression from bad (in terms of ethics and effectiveness) to better to good.

Some thoughts:
We in the Grady College never fail to ask the tough questions. :-)

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Monday, August 27, 2007

The Week's Best, 27 August 2007

Social Media Class Blog, Kaye Sweetser
Learn to Podcast in Three Simple Steps, Paull Young
PR People Shouldn't Do Brothels, Stephen Davies (and read Stuart Bruce's response)
Job Market is Stagnant: How MARCOM Professionals Can Stand Out, Kami Huyse
PR Taking It in the Teeth, Kelli Matthews
Mattel, Emmanuel Tchividjian
How to Sell the Value of Social Media to Your Boss, Rohit Bhargava
Public Relations Courses in Universities are Unnecessary, Writes the Princeton Review, Toni Muzi Falconi

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

PR/social media conference update

My students are hard at work this week planning our PR and social media conference -- starting with coming up with a decent name. :-) When the Web site is up, I'll provide a link.

In the meantime, I've just about wrapped up the program. In addition to all the big names I've dropped before (click the "conference" tag if you haven't been following this) -- Kevin Dugan, Katie Paine, Josh Hallett, Constantin Basturea, Dr. Walter Carl, Paull Young, Dr. Kaye Sweetser, etc. -- we've confirmed a few more.

In an afternoon session, we'll consider social media's influence. Johnathon McGinty, Dr. Barry Hollander, Sherry Heyl, and Mike Neumeier have agreed to speak. In addition, Robert Sprague, an expert on legal aspects of social media, will join the panel of educators. Finally, my students are doing a survey of people who have signed up for the conference's list to find out what exactly people want to know about PR and social media. This will help us develop break-out sessions for "how-to" information, where the experts will teach the rest of us what we oughtta know. (Like the Web site, when the survey's ready I'll provide the link. Or you can send an e-mail to to add your name to the list.)

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Teaching portfolio

My teaching portfolio is finally complete and up on the Grady Web site. Thanks to all who commented on my teaching philosophy last summer, both here and via e-mail.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

The Week's Best for PR Students, 20 August 2007

Great stuff floating around the blogosphere for students (and other newbies) this week. Check these out:

The Spin War to Protect China's Brand, Eric Eggertson
Our Social Media News Release Video, Stephen Davies (3.5-minute video that explains SMRs)
Newbies Guide to Twitter, Chris Brogan (via B.L. Ochman)
Building a Bridge Between Your Story, Bloggers, and People -- Part I, Brian Solis
Editing Wikis and Facebook-- the New PR Disasters-in-Waiting, Gerry McCusker
Digest of the Social Networking Space, Jeremiah Owyang
Johnson and Johnson Suit Against the Red Cross, John Cass

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Meet the Teacher: Tim Penning

Last week at AEJMC I actually got to meet a fellow PR educator/blogger, Tim Penning, of Grand Valley State University. Of course I invited him to be the next participant in "Meet the Teacher." Here's what he had to say.

Q. How and when did you first get interested in blogging? When we met, you mentioned that you try to keep your blog focused on the local area; how does that relate to the purpose of your blog?
A. A friend of mine in D.C. has written for the Post about local blogs. It occurred to me that as social media advances, there will be occasions where local emphasis will be appreciated again. There are millions of blogs, thousands about PR, few if any about PR in my neck of the woods. I also see my blog as an extension of my role as an educator, to reach out to area professionals and comment on/start discussion about PR. It’s like an ongoing PRSA chapter event of sorts.

Q. Tell us a little about your school and how PR is taught there.
A. Grand Valley State University has grown rapidly in recent years. We now have more than 23,000 students. Our Advertising/PR major has grown from 280 students to over 500 in four years. The Ad/PR major is one of eight majors in a school of communications (i.e., not under a journalism dept. or business school). We have a communication core, and then students take most classes together for either advertising or PR consisting of three courses. We then require an internship and two electives. Our PR courses match the recently updated recommendations in the Commission on Education in PR Report. When I came to GVSU seven years ago I worked to add a research course, a tech course, and revised our writing courses. I’m pretty happy with it but realize from the recent AEJMC conference that we should always be thinking about freshening the curriculum and/or pedagogy. We try to blend theory and practice in how we teach PR--our school’s motto is "the integration of liberal arts and professional practice."

Q. In what ways do you incorporate social media into the classroom? Are you using any other social media? What would you most like to do that you aren’t already doing?
A. I have to integrate more. I am using the Blackboard software for all my courses. I have used discussion boards and offer links and supplemental reading only. It seems participation needs to be required to get students involved. I’m toying with podcasts and vidcasts, but not of my lectures. I want students to attend class! The cases would be interviews with area pros etc. as a social media version of a guest in class. I want to be sure I’m not just using tech for the whiz bang effect but that it enhances learning. The other thing I do is demonstrate how PR pros are using it, applying age-old principles to new media.

Q. Do you have any advice for other PR educators who are considering starting a blog or getting involved in social media?
A. Most importantly, have an objective. Secondly, be sure you have time. I did a "soft launch" to make sure I had time to do this regularly before I started letting people know it was out there. I have lots of students and alumni reading, which is a nice way to maintain relationships.

Q. I've noticed that your blog roll is an eclectic mix of PR, media, and other kinds of sources. Would you say this is indicative of your interests or your blog in general?
A. I aim to comment on advertising and PR in West Michigan. Sometimes that involves reports by area media. I haven’t had time to "report" and offer "scoops" on my blog often, though I will when I can. Mostly, my blog is commentary. I’m trying to offer my ideal, normative view of PR, to humbly offer that perspective to pros who see PR as only publicity or who may not always practice ethically.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fall Campaigns class

It's the first day of classes, and I'm meeting with the Campaigns students for the first time later this morning. I've got two clients lined up: the American Cancer Society, which is creating a Colleges Against Cancer chapter at UGA -- I've posted on the success of the annual Relay for Life twice before, but this new chapter will promote education more extensively -- and Grady's PR and social media conference I've been promoting.

I will be asking the students to integrate a number of social media tactics in their campaigns, so I'm hoping you'll be seeing their work soon.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Introductory PR course for graduate students

I am teaching Public Relations Foundations, our "PR bootcamp," for the second time this fall. It's a course for first-year M.A. students who weren't PR undergrads, and it's my job to teach them everything they need to know in 15 weeks.

This year I'm trying a new textbook, Guth and Marsh's Public Relations: A Value-Driven Approach, which they'll read in the first month of class, along with a case studies book, Werther and Chandler's Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders in a Global Environment, which I'll use a springboard for discussions about strategic thinking, planning, and writing.

I'll let you know how it goes.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

I've been tagged!

I've been blogging for 16 months now, and for the first time, I'VE BEEN TAGGED! Most everyone else, as far as I can tell, considers it a burden to take part in these silly memes. Me, I'm thrilled. I'm off the bench and in the game. Thanks, Kelli and Nedra. :-P

8 Random Facts
  1. I own a baseball signed by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, and Kent Mercker -- the starting pitchers of the 1995 World Champion Atlanta Braves. And I still have the ticket stubs to games 1 and 2. (I also saw Bob Horner hit 4 homers in a game in 1986).
  2. I adore Audrey Hepburn and watched all but two of her movies in one summer (couldn't find 'em).
  3. I used to be a foster parent for dogs and still support Athens Canine Rescue.
  4. I love R.E.M. and once "accidently" touched Michael Stipe's back at a film festival here in Athens. I've seen them all in person around town and in concert in 3 states.
  5. I have a ticket to the NCAA gymnastics championships next year (how 'bout them Gymdogs!?!).
  6. I own a single share in the Green Bay Packers. I have attended shareholder meetings on the glorious (not frozen) tundra of Lambeau Field. But I've never seen a game there.
  7. I was president of my sorority and had big '80s hair.
  8. I will read anything.

Now I get to tag a few people. No surprise, they're other PR educators: Kaye Sweetser, Tim Penning, Bill Sledzik, Les Potter, Gary Schlee, Ross Monaghan, Fernanda Grimaldi, and Lauren Vargas.


The Week's Best, 13 August 2007

Just back from AEJMC and found 73 items in my aggregator. It's tough to choose on short notice, but here are some of the week's best posts for PR students:

Deleting Users, Audiences, and Messages from PR and Social Media, Brian Solis
Why Google's "News Comments" Idea Will Fail, Todd Defren
Mobile Marketing for the Social Marketer, Kristin Foster
Social Bookmarking in Plain English, Lee Lefever
Social Media Measurement Deconstructed, Mike Manuel
Bob Lutz Responds to Bloggers' Questions, Adam Denison

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Going to D.C. for AEJMC

I'll be in Washington for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication meeting for the rest of the week, so don't expect to hear from me. Unless you're in D.C., in which case you can catch me at any one of three presentations on Arthur Page (guess I overdid it a bit on the submissions this year), or between sessions at the Cap City brewery. :-)

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Monday, August 06, 2007

The Week's Best, 6 August 2007

Blogger Relations -- It's More Than Links or Information -- Ask First, Josh Hallett
Don't Rank Blogs by Numbers, Paull Young
Reputation Risk pdf -- a Handy Framework, Gerry McCusker
Student Digital Resumes and Portfolios: Summer 2007, Robert French
NCR 035: Learning about, Bryan Person (via Sarah Wurrey)
Influence, Credibility and Advocacy, Heather Yaxley
Seven Top Tips for Students Starting Work, Beth Kay (via Stuart Bruce)

And links to some academic reading:
Communicating through Crisis, Kaye Sweetser
Edelman/Wal-Mart Blog Campaign Revisited by the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Constantin Basturea

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Meet the Teacher: Kelli Matthews

This week's "Meet the Teacher" features Kelli Matthews, who has her feet in the worlds of both academics (instructor, University of Oregon) and practice (managing director, Verve Northwest Communications). Kelli's blog, PRos in Training, focuses on and often features her students.

Q. How and when did you first get interested in blogging? What is the purpose of your blog? I know you're on Twitter; are you using any other social media?
I got interested in blogging a little more than a year ago. I was doing some research for a presentation I was giving to a local United Way and the search results results kept coming from blogs--specifically Kami Huyse's Communication Overtones, and Nedra Weinreich's Spare Change. While I'd certainly heard of blogs before, it really dawned on me doing that research that this medium could be so powerful. All of a sudden, two women I'd never heard of --and without their blogs, I would probably have NEVER have heard of them--are my "experts" for a particular topic. I used the blogrolls of these two "seed blogs" to build my own list. I began my student-focused blog in June of last year--114 posts later, I'm still having fun and haven't quite run out of things to say. Other social media --I'm on Twitter, but barely... I'm also in Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and MyRagan. I'm in SecondLife, but I'm still going through "training."

Q. Tell us a little about your school and how PR is taught there. What are the pros and cons of being both a professional and an educator?
PR at the University of Oregon is a major in the School of Journalism and Communication. We have five classes: Principle, Writing I, Writing II, Plans & Problems and Campaigns. The Intro class is a large lecture class (125 students), and all the others are between 16 and 20 students in size. The first writing class focuses on media-related writing and the second (which has only been part of our major for 2 years) is more direct to consumer writing. Plans & Problems is a case study class and in Campaigns the students work with real clients to do research, planning and implementation.

I think the pros of being both a professional and an educator far, far outweigh the cons. I am bringing daily PR experiences into the classroom and finding that my research interests and academic strengths enhance the work I do for clients. Students love that I practice PR and clients love that I teach--and I really love doing both. The biggest con is the time management factor. I have an 18-month old son, too, so it's really like having three full time jobs sometimes. But I have an incredibly supportive partner who gets to be a stay-at-home dad, so we make it work and somehow it does!

Q. How do you incorporate social media into the classroom? What would you like to do that you aren't doing already?
In Writing II, I have the students write an industry-focused blog (public relations, advertising and marketing). I also have them write a social media strategy for a client. Because this is a new class, there's some trial and error with the details of the assignments, but in both cases, the students appreciate being forced to focus on social media. In fact, at least two of my students got their first job or an internship because of their blogs. (I've got a pocket full of "I told you so!" for them and "Seeeee?!" for my future students). I also use social media tools to collaborate with students and share resources. I have a page that’s very PR focused. I use tags related to assignments to collect resources I think might be useful. I use Slideshare to share presentations with them, too. I think as the students become more familiar with social media and begin hearing about it more, thinking about it more and using it more, by the time I get them in the senior seminar style classes we can begin to think more critically about the tools and take the planning and strategy to another level. Right now they are babes in the social media woods, so it's sometimes difficult to even get beyond the basics. I'd like to take social media thinking and doing to a higher "level" with the upper-division students.

Q. Do you have any advice for other PR educators who may be considering starting a blog or getting involved in social media?
I think my advice would be to go for it. I think that we get hung up on the academics sometimes and have a hard time just communicating at a human level. You don’t have to be creating publishable work with every post. Just talk. Your students will listen. In my experience, they are eager for someone to help them understand why and how the hype is relevant to them and their careers. And and educators, what could be more important?

Q. I've noticed you incorporate a lot of video into your blog. Why is this important to you? What do you think it accomplishes?
Well, lately it's been because it's summer and I'm feeling lazy. But, the videos I choose are usually funny or particularly creative. I hope that students get inspired to think about what's possible and think about how to (re)create the share-ability of the videos that I post (or that they are sharing and posting in their daily lives).

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Conference update: Keynote Speaker

Kevin Dugan, of the Strategic Public Relations blog and the Bronze Anvil award-winning Bad Pitch blog, has agreed to deliver the keynote speech on Friday, Oct. 19, at UGA's PR and social media conference. In addition to his other honors, Kevin's blog was named one of the top 10 Cincinnati blogs yesterday.

I'll be working on nailing down the last big speaker, sponsors, and the afternoon sessions in the next week or two.

Update: a new list of influential PR blogs lists Kevin at #2!

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"More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given" --Bertrand Russell

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