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September 28, 2016

Dear Writers, Lose Your Style

By Megan Keohane, 4:03 pm

As PR professionals, our career is so heavily focused on writing – news releases, pitches, emails, blog posts like this, etc. We are all “idea people” full of creativity. But sometimes, as creatures of habit, we can get caught in the monotonous routine of writing in the same style for each client. It is great to have a system that allows us to write quickly and efficiently, but sometimes that comes at the cost of our underlying creativity. And after all, isn’t that supposed to be the bread and butter of what we do?

So what do you do to keep from falling into a routine? Answer: Don’t limit yourself.

When meg-sept-picdrafting content for a client, we educate ourselves as much as possible so we can write knowledgeably on the topic – especially complex ones. While this is a necessary step, we often have much to gain by exercising our writing chops beyond the subject matters covered by our day-to-day client base. Believe it or not, writing a movie review or sending a handwritten letter to an old friend can help renew a whole different layer of creativity that may have been hiding beneath your standard writing style.

As writers, we must continue finding new ways to stay fresh and keep the juices flowing. Here are some ideas every writer should consider.

Write for another outlet. Recently, I started writing for The Odyssey. I love this because it gives me an outlet where I can write about almost anything, express my views and get published. If you find yourself with the opportunity to contribute to an existing outlet, go for it. But, creating your own blog is equally as good – even better if you hold yourself accountable to regular, consistent posts. This forces you to stretch your brain in a way that it is not used during the day and think outside the box.

Make use of LinkedIn Pulse. If you do not have the time or resources to maintain your own blog, another option is to share content on LinkedIn Pulse. LinkedIn Pulse serves as a blog platform and news aggregate where you can share your own posts and follow the posts of others. The content you write and share will be visible to your connections, as well as to a broader industry network, based on the topic.

Keep a daily journal. Or weekly – whatever works for you. This could be about anything from a food log to daily happenings. For some, this may be less pressure than writing something that will be published. However, it is still a great way to put pen to paper and keep stretching your brain.

These are just a handful of creative outlets where writers can express their style and continue strengthening their talent outside of the daily work grind. Writing in all sorts of ways helps keep us on our toes and can make it easier to bring new ideas to the table at the office, too.

Fellow writers – anything else you recommend trying?

September 20, 2016

Hey Future PR Professionals, This One is For You

By Lesley Amy, 11:30 am

Landing a full-time job right after college graduation is the ultimate goal of students today, and I was fortunate enough to do just that.  I graduated from Drexel University in March, accepted an internship at Buchanan Public Relations in April, and joined the staff as its newest full-time employee in July.

After being a full-time team member for a few months now, I am looking at the potential intern interviews through a new lens. As a former job-seeker, I know what it’s like to want the big, full-time job right away. My greatest piece of advice? Take the internship.

lesley-sept-picThe only reason I am a full-time employee with Buchanan today is because of my decision to take an internship, and it was easily the best decision I could have made for myself and for the beginning of my career. Here are some reasons why you should accept an internship, too.

  • You obtain real-life experience. Internships provide the real-life experience you need to see before going out and doing it yourself.  Classwork teaches you the basics of WHAT is done, while an internship teaches you to apply what you’ve learned in the professional world and learn HOW it’s done.
  • You receive really great advice. Some of the best career advice I received was during my internship. Everyone you talk to is genuinely interested in seeing you succeed and wants to provide you with every little tidbit of helpful information to get you there. Whether I chose to stay at Buchanan or not, I felt like I was equipped to be successful anywhere.
  • You build an amazing contact list. Once you get to know the people you work with, they become great contacts to help you after you leave. My previous internship was with the Philadelphia Eagles, and I’m still in touch with my former co-workers there from time to time. LinkedIn is a great way to stay connected, as well. I learned that the Eagles were a previous client of Buchanan a few years ago and having your contacts overlap really helps to strengthen your professional network.
  • You can get your feet wet. An internship is the perfect opportunity to see what your college major looks like as a well-oiled machine and if it is the right choice for you. You can take this time to really fall in love with what you want to do, or figure out what your next step is going to be.

Entering the job market is intimidating for a new graduate, but an internship can take the pressure off by allowing you to see what the job requirements will be, and if you are really happy with it. And if I can believe what I’m told, your happiness is the most important thing because if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!

Do you have some great reasons to take an internship? Leave them in the comments below.

September 15, 2016

Honesty is the Best Policy

By Jen Tedeschi, 11:47 am

One of the first lessons I remember learning as a child was that honesty is the best policy. It may or may not have taken getting grounded a few times for it to sink in, but my parents made sure that I knew it’s always better to tell the truth, even when I’ve done something wrong.

Fast forward to 2016, and several people in the spotlight seem to have forgotten this important lesson. With recent scandals ranging from Ryan Lochte’s fabricated robbery story to the Wikileaks debacle and Donald Trump’s upinocchio-5nending string of dishonest statements, it appears that more public figures are choosing to lie than admit their faults.

When it comes to crisis communications, owning up to your mistakes right away is almost always the best course of action. While it’s never easy to admit that you’ve screwed up, the backlash you’ll endure is much more manageable than the often irreversible damage caused by getting caught in multiple lies.

If you’re feeling stuck and unsure about how to respond to a crisis, here are some tips for how to admit the truth gracefully and help your brand recover:

Act fast. When a crisis strikes, it’s crucial to have the facts ready to share with the media before the story goes public. Staying silent about the issue creates the impression that you have something to hide, and can offer reporters the opportunity to fill in the gaps themselves. Being proactive about sharing a clear, concise message allows you to regain control of the narrative before it gets out of hand.

Take responsibility. Although placing the blame on someone else may deflect criticism momentarily, the truth will catch up to you eventually. Taking full responsibility not only shows that you are truly sorry about what happened, but also helps the public remember that we all make mistakes. You are far more likely to be forgiven for a genuine error than for intentionally lying.

Show what you’ve learned from the issue. Regain trust by showing how you’ll move forward from the matter. Creating and implementing an action plan to prevent the situation from happening again proves that you care about doing the right thing.

Although no one wants to have a crisis happen, responding in an honest, empathetic way is a true display of bravery. Mistakes are inevitable. It’s how you react that makes a difference.

What other tips do you have for responding to a crisis?

August 30, 2016

Four Quick Ways to Enhance Your Website

By Joe Cerrone, 2:54 pm

There are myriad factors to consider when assessing the quality of a website—from aesthetic design and layout to the type of content presented and its overall standing in search engines. Sometimes, planning basic website improvements becomes a trip down the rabbit hole, with conversations jumping from slight modifications in copy to whole-scale redesigns. Nevertheless, for those who want to tidy up their website without too much fuss, here are four helpful tips for making some simple enhancements.

Balance your use of keywords.

Once you have developed a list of targeted keywords for use in your SEO strategy, it may be tempting to use them with wanton abandon—peppering every title, paragraph and photo caption with as many targeted words and phrases as possible. Despite this inclination, Google’s search algorithm, and average readers, are too smart to be tricked by keyword overload. Choose carefully when and how you use certain keywords, ensuring that they support your overall message, and do not overshadow it.Image result for website icon

Take advantage of coding.

Although the actual task of coding an entire website is too complex for all but experienced professionals, there are several steps that anyone familiar with WordPress or similar platforms can take to improve page quality:

  • Be sure to use internal links in your web copy that connect to other parts of the website—blog posts, “about” pages and job listings are great places to start. Including these internal links, and ensuring that they do not contain the “nofollow” attribute, will encourage readers to delve deeper into your site and will send a positive message about your website’s quality to search engines.
  • In order to maintain a proper text hierarchy, be sure that each page contains only one <h1> heading. This largest text size should be used for the main title or heading of a page, with sizes <h2> through <h6> being utilized for sub-heads, photo captions, body paragraphs and the like.
  • Take advantage of each page’s meta description, which gives you the opportunity to write a brief, keyword-focused description of the content of the page that will appear on a search engine’s results page. Most platforms offer widgets that make including a page’s meta description easy and accessible to all.           

Improve text-HTML ratios.

Although unseen by readers, website crawlers will notice the ratio between how much actual text is present on a page in comparison to the corresponding amount of code. Pages with a low text-HTML ratio (meaning more code than text) can negatively impact a page’s search engine ranking. Adding more text to a page or removing code-heavy scripts and styles are two possible ways to improve your website’s standing in this area.

Increase word counts.

When producing website copy, every word counts. Too much or too little text can not only affect how the content looks on the page, but how visitors and search engines perceive the page’s overall value. Ensuring that content-heavy pages, such as blog posts, company overviews and staff profiles, have at least 200-250 words is an important step in increasing your website’s perception of quality. Crawlers may be more favorable to pages that appear to have robust content, which can affect rankings on search engines, such as Google. While not going overboard, maintaining a minimum content length for all pages is a relatively painless fix that can have great rewards.

While plans to improve your website can easily become sidetracked or too big to handle, taking a few short steps, such as the ones presented above, is a great way keep on the path to ever-improving web quality.

 

August 23, 2016

Surviving the World of PR

By John Reynolds, 10:35 am

“Survivor” recently announced the cast for its upcoming 33rd season, which premieres September 21. Before I go any further, I’ll answer your question. Yes, “Survivor” is still on the air.

Any time I tell people I’m a die-hard “Survivor” fan (I’ve tried out for the show multiple times and may use this blog post to try out again), I almost always get a response along the lines of, “Oh, that show is still on?” “Survivor” began as a social experiment, having strangers coexist and survive on their own in the wild, and it has since grown into one of CBS Network’s most successful TV series. As I’ve binge-watched old seasons in anticipation of the season premiere – along with my daily dreams of winning the title of “Soul Survivor” – I’ve started to notice some parallels between being successful on Survivor and in public relations. Here are some of the key characteristics shared by successful “Survivor” players and PR professionals.

First Impressions – On “Survivor,” you’re placed in a tribe with a group of strangers. First impressions are crucial here, because in a game where those strangers decide your fate, you want everyone to see your value. You can’t come off as too aggressive or bossy, but you also don’t want to be too quiet or distant. In PR, whether you’re meeting a client for the first Johnny Aug Pictime, pitching a potential new client, or reaching out to a reporter, that first impression can make or break the relationship. You need to show that you are knowledgeable, approachable and trustworthy, so a reporter will be open to working with you in the future, and clients – new and old – can trust you to handle their business.

Strategy – Being strategic is a focal point of “Survivor” and public relations. The worst thing to do on the show is to run around like a chicken with its head chopped off – and that’s not because the starving contestants will want to eat you. To advance far in the game, you need to develop a proper strategy with respect to whom you’re going to target, when to look for a hidden immunity idol, or even who will go on a reward with you. Each decision you make ultimately decides your fate in the game. PR professionals are similar in that a proper strategy is needed for a successful campaign. We don’t go around sending unsolicited pitches to every reporter with an available email. We take the time to research and develop in-depth media lists to target the proper reporters for each particular pitch.

Timing – Building off strategy, timing is a crucial part of public relations and “Survivor” that will greatly impact a plan, no matter how much strategy is put into it. Survivor is all about making a big move, but timing that move correctly is pivotal to its success. Do you take out a big player too early, leaving yourself as the biggest threat? Do you tell people who you’re voting for too early, giving that person time to flip the vote? Likewise, in PR, timing a pitch could be the deciding factor between success or failure. PR pros need to stay up-to-date on the latest headlines and news stories, as well as what reporters are covering, so that a pitch is relevant but will also not be overshadowed by a more prominent event. Additionally, we need to consider the time when we’re sending a pitch. Is it a Friday afternoon in August? The Monday after a holiday weekend? Proper timing, in both “Survivor” or public relations, is key.

Alliances – In “Survivor,” it’s called an alliance. In PR, we might refer to it as a relationship. Either way, the end goal is the same. Alliances have become one of the show’s trademarks. To be successful, you need a solid alliance built on trust. Wavering between groups will constantly leave you on the bottom of the totem pole, and most likely, the first one they’ll vote out when it comes time is you. While you’re not necessarily forming an alliance, PR pros need to build successful relationships with reporters. Similar to “Survivor” alliances, these are built on trust. Giving the reporter quality information and quick access to knowledgeable sources will build this trust, and opens the doors for future work. If you’re constantly slow in answering emails, offering sources who are unavailable or providing lackluster information, the reporter will vote you off his or her Rolodex.

Perseverance – There might not be a quality more visible in a “Survivor” winner and PR professional. Survivors must battle Mother Nature, who might reveal herself in the form of extreme heat, torrential downpours or vicious wildlife, as well as compete in challenges testing their physical and mental abilities, all while living on minimal food and water. They must do all this while attempting to maintain alliances and not ruffle any feathers. In PR, you can spend all day working on a pitch and building the perfect media list, only to get zero replies. Or better yet, you get a snarky response from a reporter questioning you on your pitch. Good PR professionals will not let this discourage them, though. They will rework the pitch, make a new list and continue looking for a successful connection.

Are you a die-hard “Survivor” fan too? Or do you see parallels between your favorite TV series and your work? Let us know in the comments. And before I finish, I think there’s only one line that can truly close a “Survivor” themed blog post: The blog post has spoken.

August 16, 2016

Public Relations vs. Journalism

By Amanda Mueller, 3:56 pm

It’s 10:30 a.m. in the newsroom, and our newscast has just wrapped up. That’s when the calls start. My phone lights up, as pitches and press releases begin to pop up in my inbox. I wonder what it’s like to live the life of a PR representative – to supply information and connect sources with the reporter, instead of delivering the finished story to the viewer from the TV screen.

That was a year ago. The truth is, I didn’t know what a public relations executive actually did.

Now, I am one.Amanda Aug Pic

As someone who crossed the bridge from broadcast journalism to public relations, my professional world can be a messy one. Lines blur for me on a daily basis when it comes to decisions regarding story angles and writing style. I still hesitate to pick up the phone or press “send” on emails to a journalist when I know she’s on a strict deadline. I have seen the reaction in the newsroom over an ill-timed pitch firsthand.

I know that journalists and public relations professionals are frequently at odds and frustrated with each other, but the truth is, we need each other. A deeper understanding of the different challenges we face would go a long way toward generating better content and cultivating improved relationships.

Product Reception
In journalism, your worth is counted in ratings and clicks. It doesn’t matter if your viewers don’t like your final product, as long as they react. There is a certain luxury in printing the facts and not ultimately having to care about your critics. In public relations, your success depends on your clients’ satisfaction with the coverage of their story. If the client is not happy, your job is not done.

Information Control
When I was a journalist, I lived with the assumption that if I dug far enough, I could find all the information on my own. Once I entered the world of public relations and crisis management, I was shocked to realize how much information regarding prominent litigation exists but never makes it to a news desk, simply because the media hasn’t asked the right questions. The fact is, journalists aren’t the only watchdogs in the information world, and a healthy working relationship between reporters and PR professionals would benefit news consumers greatly.

Deadlines
Journalists have daily, sometimes hourly, deadlines that they meet each day. The rush is best explained by comparing it to a roller coaster—the steady ascent as you go through editorial meetings and collect your sources, and then a midday freefall as you struggle to make your interviews and execute your story before your print or on-air hit time. It is an adrenaline and caffeine-fueled world, but each day brings a finite end to the rush. PR deadlines are a different beast entirely. Oftentimes, it is a waiting game until that story is approved or that crisis call comes through… and then you are off and running. Deadlines in public relations are not fixed; you often work on a story or crisis until the issue is resolved, which can be days or months.

At the end of the day, there is a reason the crossover rate between PR and journalism is so high, because we share more characteristics than differences. Both jobs require tenacity, a way with words, and most importantly, thick skin. Oftentimes, it’s the interactions with each other that leave us needing that last thing the most.

Let’s work to close that gap, and create better content for everyone.

August 4, 2016

Design and PR

By Staff, 9:37 am

–Laura Tabbut

On my first day at Buchanan Public Relations as the agency’s first-ever Graphic Design Intern, I wasn’t really sure what I would be doing for the company. Of course I did my research on PR firms and discussed general ideas for what I would be doing in my interview, but I was still unsure how design would fit into the PR world. Now, after a couple of months working here, I see that design has a perfect place in public relations.

There are many facets of PR that greatly benefit from graphic design. Here are a few I’ve noticed during my internship.Laura Aug Pic

  • Social media posts – Making a memorable social media post often involves an image, especially with the popularity of Instagram. A graphic designer can make an original image that suits exactly what you want to convey (without using ugly clipart).
  • Presentations – Whether it’s for a media training session, a potential client or internal meetings, a clean, professional, interesting PowerPoint presentation makes a huge difference in how the information is remembered.
  • Websites – The first thing someone will do when researching your – or your client’s – business is scope out the website, so it must be perfect. Not only should it look nice, the user experience must be seamless, so the user does not get frustrated with the site. These are things graphic designers are always thinking about and could be overlooked by someone in a different field.
  • And many more – While I’ve been at Buchanan, I’ve created animations and designed flyers and audit reports, all things that I didn’t expect to be doing at a PR firm. It goes to show there are many areas where design can be utilized for PR.

Graphic design and PR go hand-in-hand. With these two fields combined, there are many more options for you to offer to your clients, thus expanding and improving business. How does your company use graphic design? Let us know in the comments.

July 28, 2016

Philadelphia – Complex, Historic and Beautiful – Welcomes the DNC to Town

By Staff, 3:42 pm

–Anne Buchanan

The Democratic National Convention’s selection of Philadelphia for its historic convention this week is no accident. A city often overlooked between the towering shadows of New York City and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia offers convention-goers and watchers a unique experience.

For starters, its historical pedigree is second to none. The fifth largest city in the U.S. and the second largest on the East Coast behind New York City, Philadelphia is considered the birthplace of the nation. Right smack in the middle of the original 13 colonies, it played a pivotal role in the American Revolution. It was the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787. Philadelphia twice served as the nation’s capital.

In addition to its key role in the birth of the United States, Philadelphia is also a distinctly Democratic city. Democrats outnumber Republicans 7:1. The state of Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992.Anne July Pic 2

Former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Karen Heller, who now writes for the Washington Post, wrote an excellent piece on her former city in which she describes Philadelphia as:

“…more complicated, more beautiful and verdant, more interesting, more more than outsiders believe it is. Philadelphia is a secret of a big city, one that often acts like a small one. It’s perpetually underrated. It is Washington’s opposite: friendly, passionate, muscular, a bit rough, huge of heart and frequently thin on ambition.”

Here are one insider’s thoughts on some of the Philadelphia stories beyond the Liberty Bell.

Big City Challenges. As one of the nation’s largest cities, Philadelphia is Exhibit A in the challenges facing American cities. Its poverty rate is the highest in the nation. Our public schools have struggled for years. Out-of-towners are often shocked by the number of homeless. But it can be a surprisingly creative city, too: The new Mayor just pushed through the nation’s first tax on sodas and sugary drinks, which will fund a pre-school initiative.

A Distinct Attitude (pronounced Atty-tood). From its dialect (native Philadelphians refer to water as “wooder”) to its sports passion (Philadelphians are equally invested in loving and hating their own sports teams), Philadelphia displays a common-man grittiness that is embodied in the overdone but universally recognized figure of Rocky.

Meds and Eds. For all of its unvarnished authenticity, Philadelphia is also home to an astounding number of colleges and universities (nearly 90, with the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania the city’s largest employer) and medical institutions. Its Children’s Hospital is one of the highest ranked hospitals in the nation.

A Town for Foodies. When you mention Philadelphia, many think of cheesesteaks. But the city is known for much more than that. Its restaurant scene is vibrant. And when PRGN members visited Philadelphia a decade ago, they were enchanted by Reading Terminal Market, the nation’s oldest, continuously operating farmer’s market and home to more than 100 food vendors.

Thriving Journalism. In a widely watched move, Philadelphia’s two daily newspapers and its shared website were donated earlier this year to a newly created non-profit intended to protect the entities through the digital age. But my favorite journalism story coming out of the Convention is this journalism class at Temple University, where 20 students are serving as correspondents this week for small papers that could not afford to send a reporter to cover the DNC.

This marks the second time in a year that the world’s eyes are on Philadelphia (the Pope visited last September). Even though Philadelphians can be notoriously hard on their own city, there is still great pride in throwing open the doors and welcoming the DNC to our hometown.

This post originally appeared on the Public Relations Global Network blog.

July 21, 2016

Happy Campers: What We Learned at WordCamp NYC 2016

By Staff, 4:18 pm

–Anne Buchanan and Jon Ericson

This past weekend, the two of us had the opportunity to attend WordCamp NYC 2016, a gathering of WordPress users and developers from all over the world. The two-day conference was held at the U.N., which was a mighty cool venue for an equally cool event.

The conference had two tracks – one for developers and one for users – which, in theory, worked perfectly for our Director of Technology and our agency President. In reality, though, there was quite a bit of spill-over in the sessions.

Anne July Pic

Director of Technology Jon and President Anne at WordCamp NYC 2016

Anne received education on the all-volunteer force behind WordPress. As open-source software, WordPress is “owned” by the non-profit WordPress Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, and managed by its community of users, who are continuously making upgrades and improvements to the platform. The entire weekend was about sharing – best practices, tools and tips, and new ideas. The experience made Anne feel even better about both using and recommending WordPress to our clients.

For Jon, it is always a treat to see the direction of the software, talk to the major code contributors, and receive insight into the successes and failures before they appear in the trade publications. People often reveal more in person than what appears in sanitized articles in forums and trade publications.

Here are some highlights of the conference:

  • We attended an outstanding presentation entitled “Content Strategy from Discovery to Wireframes.” As anyone who’s worked on one knows, developing a new website can be a landmine for disaster. The presenter shared her in-depth and meticulous approach to website planning and development. Two of our favorite takeaways: Test the site on actual users (“Any human is better than no testing at all!”), and use note cards you can move around as you are laying out a site’s architecture.
  • Our conviction that video will continue to explode as a communications platform was reinforced by a presentation entitled “So You Think You Can’t Video?” The presenter turned to video when she realized she hated to write, making blogging a pipe dream for her small business. She produces all of her own videos using just her I-Phone, free editing software, and a modest, $250 investment in a tripod and a light.
  • On the developer track, we learned about some of the experiences integrating popular JavaScript libraries and frameworks into the PHP based architecture of WordPress. This is cutting edge stuff. The successes and failures will influence what eventually will become incorporated into the “core” of WordPress in the future. Since WordPress comprises over 26% of all sites on the internet, this insight helps us make better informed decisions in where to spend precious resources today.
  • There are always the classic sessions that never go out of style, where even long time WordPress web designers can learn a tip or two. Examples were Internet Typography, A/B Testing, and Security Practices, to name just a few.
  • One of the most intriguing insights of the weekend came from the “Content Distribution & Platforms 101” presentation. The presenter shared a number of recent studies, including one that reports 80 percent of Buzzfeed’s readership comes from platforms other than its own website, which prompted this question from the audience: “How much longer will websites still matter?” The room burst into animated chatter; this was a shocking question posed at a conference where nearly everyone is in the business of building and maintaining websites.

For Jon – a software development manager – WordCamp was a continuation of a long and rewarding relationship with the WordPress community. For Anne, this was her first introduction to the community and spirit behind WordPress. We both walked away with some new ideas and a renewed appreciation for this vibrant and giving community.

If you’re curious about this community, there are more than 700 WordPress Meetup groups (http://www.meetup.com/topics/wordpress/) and still a few WordCamps remaining this year (http://central.wordcamp.org/). Give one a try. You won’t be disappointed.

July 19, 2016

Networking in Normalville

By Staff, 10:14 am

– Kate DiBiase

Within minutes of leaving home, I merged with caution, too much caution, to the point that I was almost creamed by a truck that had no intention of moving out of my way. My drive to Philly was stressful, clearly visible by my white-knuckles and flexed, 90 degree arms. Normalville, PA: population of just over 2,000. Never have I had to park on a street, let alone parallel park into a tight spot in a busy area. This summer I set out to not only learn something about myself, but to do something that scared me.

First, you may be wondering how a girl from a small town in Western Pennsylvania ended up at a PR agency just outside of Philadelphia. Well, in a town 15 minutes from my home, a very popular yoga class is taught by a man with a witty personality and a talent for making hot yoga fun. My mother and her friends, all regulars at this class, keep their eyes open for new-comers, so they can show them the ropes and invite them to join in the weekly ritual of going to the pub after every Thursday class.Kate July Pic

One day a few months ago, they saw a new woman joining the class and made a point to invite her to the pub afterwards. And who was this newcomer? It was none other than Buchanan Public Relations President Anne Buchanan. As Anne discussed what she did, my mother’s friends made remarks about how their friend (my mother) had a daughter who loved public relations and happened to be looking for an internship. The seed was planted, and before I knew it, I found myself driving down a busy street looking for a spot to parallel park, so I could get to bed before the first day of my internship.

While I have been taking public relations classes, I still had the impression that I would be lacking certain skills that perhaps the other interns had learned already. This of course was just an assumption, based on no facts, and I was wrong. I have more valuable skills than I thought and it turns out that the unknown is a great place to learn something about yourself.

Small-Talk is your friend

Establishing relationships is a skill that dates back to primal times. Still, some of us are better communicators than others. Yes, the business world is serious, and yes you need to bring your a-game, but at the end of the day, a personal conversation is something to be enjoyed and will be something you remember. Knowing a handful of personal details about your coworkers’ lives outside of their work will in turn make working with them more enjoyable. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your coworkers, so it’s these small conversations daily that will eventually lead to stronger relationships and a better, more cohesive team.

If you don’t know yourself, how will someone else?

Think of yourself as a brand. What makes you different? What is it that you have to offer? Luckily for me, my mother’s friends know me almost as well as she does. So when the initial small talk happened, I had someone answering with what they have learned about me over the years. I am still learning about myself, but this first internship has helped me step out of my comfort zone and think about what I actually have to offer and what I need to develop. Being confident in the skills you do have and being open to improving in areas where you’re not quite as strong, will help your coworkers find projects that allow you to excel, as well as assignments that challenge you to be better.

Networking doesn’t have to be a formal event

Networking is essential for any career, and as I have learned, connections come from the most unexpected places. Whether you are at an organized event or in the grocery store – or even at a yoga class – be open to talking to those around you. The Public Relations field is one that places heavy importance on who you know, so always make sure you stay connected to those in your network and are open to meeting new people.

Have you ever been in a challenging position while in a brand new place? If so, comment below.

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// // Commented by Jon Ericson, 29Feb2016 // // // //