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February 21, 2017

A First-Person Perspective on the Internship Experience

By Staff, 10:50 am

– Sean Udicious

Last week, Account Coordinator Lesley discussed several important ways you can turn your internship experience into a full-time job in Buchanan Public Relations’ new vlog.

This image originally appeared on Louisville’s Department of Political Science internship page.

As the agency’s current public relations intern, I’ve already taken much of what she, as well as everyone else in the office, has said to heart. Of course, in a world as unpredictable as public relations, you always need to be ready to adjust and adopt new practices. Here are some things I’ve learned.

Take a breath, take your time.

Initially, I would be so eager to get working on projects that I was assigned, and I would be so intent on getting them done quickly, that I would make careless mistakes, which could have easily been caught if I had spent a few extra minutes on proofreading. I’ve learned that promptness is an essential quality in public relations, but so is accuracy; no amount of speed is worth making mistakes.

But, don’t take too much time.

On the flip side, while you should never rush an assignment, you must be cognizant of impending deadlines. Pitches and releases do not have the luxury of rolling acceptance – if you miss the date on a deadline, that opportunity may be gone forever. Additionally, missing deadlines can harm the relationship with your client or a reporter. Now, I always make a point to ask the account manager for the timeline on each project, and I am sure to finish early enough to allow time for any necessary edits.

Don’t be afraid to take initiative.

A watched pot never boils. Similarly, a watched piece of news never gets pitched. During my first couple of weeks on the job, I would always ask others if they needed help with pitches rather than taking the initiative to identify topics to pitch on my own.  As time has passed, I’ve grown more confident and I’ve begun to send pitch ideas to the account leads. Even if my idea isn’t the right fit, it still sends the message that I have been following the news and am willing to take initiative.

Be open to constructive criticism.

Unfortunately, some people have a difficult time accepting criticism of their work. They see it as a personal attack rather than as a learning opportunity. Knowing that I lacked public relations experience before I started my internship with Buchanan PR, I have welcomed the advice thrown my way. As a result, I’ve improved my writing and know the type of news I should be monitoring. Additionally, I’ve shown my co-workers that I am willing to listen and apply their feedback to my work.

Get to know everyone.

At my previous internships, there were interns who were smart and friendly, but didn’t make the extra effort to build a connection with the full-time employees or embrace the workplace environment. For example, they might not have tried to grab lunch with others, or would go home at the end of the day without saying good-bye. Despite their can-do attitudes, they didn’t form lasting connections. The concept of “networking” that many interns fret about does not apply only to superiors. By being open with all of those around you, you gain connections that can pay dividends later.

Do you have any personal take-aways from your own internship experiences? Let us know in the comments.

February 15, 2017

From Intern to Employee: How to Make the Most Out of Your Experience

By Staff, 4:01 pm

So, you’ve landed the internship. Your next few months are going to be full of learning, networking, and new experiences… but then what? Account Coordinator Lesley has the best tips on how to turn your internship into a job offer, and she knows best– she did it herself!

February 14, 2017

Why We Passed on Your Resume (Sorry, Not Sorry)

By Lesley Amy, 2:41 pm

Congratulations! You’re going to graduate summa cum laude from a top university, and you’re applying for internships in hopes of eventually landing a full-time position. You have great work experience, relevant coursework, and joined all the appropriate clubs and college networks at your school. But wait, what’s this? Your resume has a few mistakes? You left an empty bullet point under your most relevant internship experience? You sent us a cover letter meant for another company? Yes, these have happened, and unfortunately, more often than we would hope.

This image originally appeared on Creighton Blogs.

A resume is your life blood when applying for a job. It represents who you are, and you should take pride in it when sending it to a potential future employer, especially when this is the first, and only, document the employer will use to decide if you get an interview. No one wants to be removed from consideration because of a silly mistake, so before hitting send, proofread everything and ask others to proofread it as well. Your future, employed self will thank you later.

Since the office has been very busy, I’ve started to help VP and Internship Coordinator Nicole sort through the many resumes we receive every day for internship opportunities. I go through the stack and send over the acceptable resumes to Nicole. Please take note: I look for relevant PR experience or coursework; clean, clear and consistent formatting; and no errors. Not one or two errors. Zero.

By now, I’ve seen every resume flaw in the book, but here are a few repeat offenders that will guarantee you will not be hearing from us:

  • Spelling and grammatical errors. Please, make sure your major is spelled correctly. And please, make sure your school is spelled correctly. While these are easy mistakes to make, they are even easier mistakes to fix when you proofread your resume. If you have worked tirelessly at your resume and simply cannot look at it anymore, have a friend or family member read through it. A second set of eyes can always help, and will identify what needs to be fixed.
  • Inconsistent spacing or format errors. Like I said before, I’ve seen resumes with empty bullet points on them. I’ve seen the use of too many spaces between sections, causing the resume to be longer than one page (more on that later). Please make sure you have consistently lined up all of your sections, formatted each new section the same way, and used the same colors, fonts and symbols throughout the entire document. This allows the reader to look at each section and locate the exact information she wants, and it also shows that you can lay out information in a clear and concise way. Plus, it’s easier to read, and we appreciate how considerate you are for thinking of us.
  • Too much information. Sometimes too much information can hurt you. Your resume should list all of your recent, relevant experience on one page. We are glad to see you’ve been a great leader since sophomore year in high school by tutoring middle schoolers, but that was 6 years ago. We are glad you enjoy “finding the best brunch spots and dancing.” However, these are examples of topics welcomed in the interview to highlight your personality (and believe me, we love brunch here and could use the help finding new spots). Use the space on your resume for important information like relevant coursework, college scholarship information, university honors, or class projects instead. And, don’t forget, please keep this information to one page.
  • Incorrect information, and other careless mistakes. There have been times when we look at a very strong resume in the pile and think, “We could extend the job offer to that applicant without even an interview, but look at the cover letter.” We’ve had cover letters addressed to a different agency, with the wrong year, and sometimes both. Proofreading could have prevented that. How can we bring someone in for an interview, if he or she couldn’t name our agency correctly in the cover letter?
  • List your most relevant experience first, even if it’s not your most recent. This isn’t really a mistake, but more of a helpful tip. I know some school career counselors will tell you to list your work experiences in chronological order, and yes, employers like that. However, if you’re applying for another public relations internship, list your previous PR internship first. Your PR experience outweighs your part-time swim instructor position, even if the internship happened last year. You earned that experience and now is your chance to say, “This is what I’ve learned and this is what I can bring to the table.”

No one is perfect. Everyone is human. We get that, because we are humans, too. However, if you’re applying for a position in a public relations agency, you’re likely seeking a writing-intensive job. If your resume is filled with mistakes, how can we trust you to write a press release for a client? Our clients will not (and should not) tolerate careless mistakes from us, so we can’t hire someone who doesn’t proofread their own resume. If you don’t like to proofread, you might want to ask yourself if public relations is right for you.

February 7, 2017

3 SEO Goals You Can Accomplish in 2017

By Joe Cerrone, 1:55 pm

For many people, the beginning of February means the glow of New Year’s resolutions has worn off and new routines are starting to set in. Nevertheless, there is still a chance for companies to make the commitment to improve their SEO performance in 2017. While ranking first for all target keywords is likely not in the stars, there are several goals that can be accomplished during the year to place your site on the path to greater visibility in the long term.

Image result for seo

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Revisit and Revise Keywords

One of the easiest things you can do to refresh your SEO strategy during the first months of the year is to revisit and revise your list of target keywords. Ensuring that stale or no longer relevant words are removed and new ones are added will give fresh impetus to your SEO activities.

Stay Focused on Relevance  

It’s tempting to cram keywords into all available places—from blog posts and title pages to press releases and website copy. While these types of content are invaluable places to use keywords, it’s important to maintain a balance. Ensure that keywords are always relevant to the central topic or focus of a page and avoid overloading content with too many keywords—it not only looks bad to visitors, but it can be penalized by Google. 

Make a Calendar to Track Evergreen SEO Content

It can sometimes be difficult to stay dedicated to producing SEO-useful content throughout the duration of the year. In order to remind yourself of the need to consider SEO, create a calendar of potential evergreen topics related to your target keywords that can be published throughout the year. In fact, some blog posts or web copy relevant to your industry may be able to be written in advance and tweaked at the time of publication. This bank of ideas and content can be useful when workloads grow and the time and resources that would be used to generate useful web content are needed elsewhere.

Making a commitment to improving your SEO standing is an important step for any business. Setting clear goals and strategy ahead of time and sticking to them is the best way to see improvement in your search ranking and digital presence.

February 1, 2017

The Power of Simplicity

By Staff, 1:40 pm

Have you ever struggled when it comes to pitching complex or technical clients to the media? Buchanan Public Relation’s President Anne Buchanan breaks down why simplicity is key.

January 31, 2017

Does This Tweet Make Me Look Insensitive?

By Nicole Lasorda, 2:50 pm

We’re living in a world where the leader of the U.S. tweets his every movement and #burn is so common, even grandmas know what it means.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat: We use them every day – personally and professionally. But how do we know when our online game has gone too far?

You’ve written a witty response on behalf of your employer or you wrote a joke that you thought was funny, but was really far from it. There’s such a fine line to making sure you’re still hip and jive (ha!) to the platforms and that you’re still falling in line with your client’s online persona. So, how do you know?

Speak with your employer or client before launching the program. Really talk to them and listen to what they’re saying. Show them examples of social media accounts you think are similar to where they should be, give them sample posts, discuss how far they’re comfortable going. This will help the non-social-savvy executive envision exactly where you think her company should go.

Create a social media calendar, especially at the beginning. It can be as simple as a Word doc that lists the days of the week and what your plan is. Helping your employer see what the intended posts are before they go out will help each of you learn the other’s style and comfort level, while helping him learn to trust you.

When in doubt, send it for approval. If you’re ready to post what you think to be a great reply to someone but it could potentially be considered controversial (remember, now you’ve got a pretty good grasp on what your boss wants), send it over for approval first. Simply send your suggested post and say, “Hey, what do you think?” Always explain your reasoning and see where it goes.

But remember, if you’re really questioning it, you probably know the answer.

We all want to have the greatest social media accounts, because let’s be honest, it’s a badge of honor to kill it with a tweet. But, as with everything we do, we ultimately answer to an employer or client and we must be sure we’re giving them the social voice they envision — no matter how much we want to throw out an epic, hysterical burn.

Do you have any other tips on how to be sure you’re posting the best content?

January 24, 2017

Lights, Camera, Organization!

By Amanda Mueller, 11:13 am

The last couple of months at BPR have been an exciting flurry of new cameras, lenses, audio equipment and learning experiences. As demand for video increased, it quickly became apparent that while building a new program, we needed to implement a unique system of organization. Of course, there is no “right way” to run your video program, but I’d like to share some tips that have been helpful for me during the process.

Provide a master whiteboard for your team. This may seem basic, but it’s a simple idea that gives your team a place to huddle and stay up-to-date on the video deadlines for various clients. Personally, I have two white boards in my office: one small one for my public relations projects, and one large one for the video team to use as a guide. I list each active video client (in different colors, of course!) along with the next step that needs to be taken on the account. As we complete different tasks, we update the board accordingly. It’s a great way to be able to step back and look at the big picture for the week. I also chose a magnetic board, so we can post client vlog schedules in plain view.

Draft a formal pre-production agreement for your clients. After one or two client videos involved last-minute changes, I quickly realized we needed a way to make sure everyone was on the same page right out of the gate. I designed a contract form that puts the video budget in writing and lists expectations down to equipment and location specifics. Other things to detail include crew needs, contract exceptions, deliverables, timelines and of course any additional charges that may unexpectedly pop up, such as travel or equipment rentals. If you’re feeling lost about where to start, you can find plenty of samples on the internet, like this.

Create live documents and schedules for monthly clients and in-house productions. While many clients come to us to fulfill a one-time need, some clients rely on us to produce monthly vlogs for them. This type of project is best planned out in advance – ideally, for an entire year. At BPR, we’ve developed vlog schedules, which list vlog topics, shoot/release dates and personnel for each vlog. This is a live document that is shared with the client, and may change throughout the year. Developed in a simple Excel spreadsheet, it keeps everyone updated on the next project. We liked this so much, we now use it for our internal vlogs as well! (Click HERE for our latest in-house productions.)

Make video samples readily available for potential clients. When you enter into negotiations with a potential video client, they will without a doubt ask for past samples of your work. While this may seem like a no-brainer, having an easily accessible list including links to past client videos may make or break a deal on the spot. If you want to be even more thorough, divide the video links up by type so you can easily showcase your agency’s style in different shooting scenarios. For instance, we have several different types of videos available to showcase depending on the client’s needs, including b-roll, corporate anniversary videos, and vlogs.

What organizational tips does your company use to keep your video program running smoothly? Let us know in the comments below.

 

January 17, 2017

Will you accept this…pitch?

By John Reynolds, 11:29 am

As a male in a predominately female office, I’ve had to learn to adapt to the likes and dislikes of the female majority when it comes to pop culture. One of those things, which I have now grown to love, is The Bachelor. I began by checking out The Bachelorette last season with hesitation, but during this season of The Bachelor, you can find me at the center of any office discussion involving the latest drama from the recent episode (even if nobody agrees with my support of this season’s villain, Corinne). I even joined a fantasy league!

Corinne Olympios on The Bachelor. ABC/Rick Rowell

Despite my draft picks looking like bad decisions, I’m convinced I know what it takes to get far, possibly even to win. The more I thought about what it takes to get a rose, the more I started to see some parallels to pitching the media. While the tactics used may be drastically different, there are some common themes that both the women on the show and public relations professionals should follow to achieve their respective goals.

Grab their attention. One of the highlights of any season of The Bachelor is how the women exit the limo and make their first impression. These entrances can range from bringing a small present to riding in on a camel (as Lacey did this season). While these tend to be exaggerated and silly, the simple point is that they need to be memorable. The same thing can be said when you pitch the media. And ultimately, this boils down to your subject and your opening. Reporters get hundreds of pitches from PR professionals, so having a clever, yet intriguing, subject line is key to standing out. That’s not where it ends, though. Now that you’ve grabbed a reporter’s attention, you must keep it by discussing something interesting. Make a connection between your client and something in the news or the results of a recent study that’ll justify your outreach.

What’s in it for them? She had by far the most memorable entrance. She is the most attractive woman of the entire season. She’s a shoe-in to get a rose and make it to the end, right? Wrong. While this may buy a few weeks, if a contestant really wants to have a happy ending, she’s going to need more than just a pretty exterior. Any chance the contestants have with the bachelor, they need to show their personality and make a connection that will make him want more each week. When pitching, your subject and opening might be the most creative thing you’ve ever written, and you might have timed it perfectly with the news cycle, but if you don’t offer the reporter what he’s looking for, you will not be successful. Building a mass media list with no additional research – although faster and easier – will not be fruitful. If you take a few minutes to check what the reporters cover, and find what type of person they would be interested in interviewing, you will have greater success. Similarly, if you research properly, you may even be able to offer a source who can enhance the story by commenting on an angle the reporter didn’t realize she needed.

Honesty isn’t just recommended; it’s a requirement. Did she leave her boyfriend to come on the show? Is she a known cheater? Is she lying about her age or job? If a contestant is lying about something, it’s going to come out eventually, so it’s best for her not to do it. As soon as the bachelor finds out, she will be sent home. Are you lying about your clients’ backgrounds or fudging numbers to grab reporters’ attention and secure an interview? If you said yes to either of these, please stop. There is nothing worse than lying to the media about your client. A reporter will do his research and find out what you’re doing. Not only will this be a failed pitch, but you could also end up blacklisted by the reporter and any of his or her colleagues. Your client will probably not be too pleased if they find out, as well.

Timing is key. Each episode of The Bachelor contains a group date and sometimes a cocktail hour. Oftentimes, these will be the only chance the contestants have before the rose ceremony to talk with the bachelor. If they don’t make a move at the right time, they could go home. If a contestant grabs him too quickly or interrupts another woman too soon, it could be the kiss of death. If she doesn’t grab him at all, she risks being forgotten. There’s also the matter of timing the first kiss, but I won’t go into detail on that here. Likewise, timing your pitch could make or break it. Are you pitching on a Friday or a Tuesday? Is there a major event happening that could require all of the media’s attention, like with this past election? Are you pitching right before a holiday when reporters might be out of the office? These are all things to consider before you send your pitch, and they could be the deciding factors in securing coverage.

Do you have any other tips to get the media to accept your rose pitch? Let us know in the comments.

January 11, 2017

Award Season at Buchanan Public Relations

By Staff, 11:14 am

Now that award season is upon us, we decided to look back on some of our own trophies this year. It may not be the Oscars or the Golden Globes, but Buchanan Public Relations was certainly a strong competitor at the PRSA Philadelphia 2016 Pepperpot Awards. But, we don’t always take ourselves so seriously. Fast-forward to 2:35 for a laugh.

January 10, 2017

“Mindset of a Guardian, Heart of a Warrior:” Serving As Public Information Officer For a Major Police Department

By Staff, 10:23 am

– Anne Buchanan

Last month, the Philadelphia Chapter of PRSA bestowed its Integrity Award on Lieutenant John Stanford, Public Information Officer for the Philadelphia Police Department. The award annually recognizes an individual or team whose efforts mirror the core value of PRSA’s Code of Ethics and Professional Standards, including advocacy, honesty, loyalty and transparency.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lt. Stanford at the ceremony. He kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about what it’s like serving as the PR representative and public face of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Q. What is the role of the Public Information Officer of the Philadelphia Police Department? What’s a typical day like for you?

My job is to facilitate the sharing of information to all media outlets as well as the general public.

A typical day starts with a meeting with the executive command staff of the department, discussing previous day and overnight incidents and events. I then have a briefing with my staff, including our social media guru, to discuss the day ahead of us.

Throughout the day, I will receive approximately 100 emails, speak with various media outlets, and address a multitude of issues in addition to responding to unforeseen incidents that may arise.

Q. You were a police officer before you moved into this role. How did you prepare to become the Public Information Officer?

I started my career with the PPD as a police officer, before being promoted to Sergeant and Lieutenant. My experience in various assignments throughout my career provided me with a variety of information and experience leading up to this position as the public information officer.

I had some experience in public speaking. I also worked as a public relations representative while in college at Penn State as a member of an organization called Legal Affairs. Upon stepping into this role, I participated in several training courses to enhance my development as a PIO. Those prior experiences certainly set a foundation for me to expand upon in this field.

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Anne Buchanan with Lieutenant John Stanford at the 2016 Philadelphia PRSA Pepperpot Awards

Q. I imagine you deal regularly with the media in your role. What’s that like? What is the hardest situation you’ve ever faced?

Dealing with the media can be challenging at times. While they can definitely provide assistance in our daily operations, they can also be very challenging due to the need for speed without regard for accuracy. One of the toughest challenges is meeting the needs and wants of media who are competing with one another to report incidents quickly.

Real-life policing is not like television policing, where an entire investigation is wrapped up in 45 minutes. Getting some media to understand that concept can be very difficult; you spend a lot of time correcting misinformation or dispelling rumors or presumptive information.

The hardest situation I’ve experienced was responding to the death of Sgt. Robert Wilson III. I had the fortunate blessing of working in the same district and knowing him. His death was tough to experience.

Q. You have an active Twitter account. Do you do all your own tweeting? How has social media changed the way the Police Department communicates?

I have an active Twitter account (@PPDJohnStanford) from which I tweet myself. I will often attend events, take photos and tweet them, or tweet information about various incidents.

Social media has allowed us an opportunity to reach and connect with an additional audience whom we may have never connected with in the past. Social media certainly affords us the opportunity to get information out to more people much quicker than traditional means, and it allows us to be creative in doing so.

Q. Police officers see some of the worst of humanity. How do you keep a positive attitude?

In this profession, you certainly see your share of the worst of humanity. Most of the time, police officers are encountering people on their worst days – but it doesn’t necessarily mean the people are less than human.

You also see some of the best of humanity while performing this job. Some of it comes from people dressed in the same uniform that you are wearing. While keeping a positive attitude can be difficult at times, you have to remember why you selected this profession – to help others, one of the greatest components of humanity.

Humanity simply means treating people like the human beings they are, with compassion, dignity, and respect. It’s the way you want to be treated, and the way you want your family members treated, regardless of the incident or circumstances.

Being empathic with the mindset of a guardian but the heart of a warrior is key to this profession. Difficult at times, but definitely doable.

Q. At a time when many police departments have encountered much criticism, the Philadelphia Police Department, by contrast, enjoys a favorable reputation here in Philadelphia. To what do you attribute that?

We certainly receive our share of criticism, some of it warranted and some of it not, but either way, you have to take it for what it’s worth and keep pressing forward. If it’s legitimate criticism, then you must acknowledge it, assess it and make necessary corrections or adjustments.

We will never please everyone, nor will every situation be perfect. The goal must be to create standards that fall in line with the best practices of the industry and make decisions that are guided by integrity, that are fair and honest and meet the needs of communities throughout this city.

We have the support of many communities here in Philadelphia, and we greatly appreciate it. We will continue to strive for support from those individuals who don’t quite love us.

Q. What do you wish the public knew or better understood about the Police Department or police officers?

I wish the public knew and understood how truly difficult this job can be at times. This is one of those professions that a person will never really understand until you do it. Descriptions and explanations of the job, ride-a-longs, mock trainings, movies, books, television shows – they may give a slight idea of certain aspects of the job, but it’s still not the same.

There are many great things about this profession and many great people who suit up each day to fulfill their obligation in protecting and serving. While there are a small few who don’t belong in this profession, that same fact is true for every profession known to mankind. We can’t paint all with the same broad brush.

I often compare this profession to sports, particularly football. It’s easy to examine the results or outcome of a play or the game and determine what should have occurred.  But unless you have played that sport, knowing what the training, preparation, and practice is like, as well as playing the game in real time speed, then you really never understand what it’s like to be a player on the field during game-time. And at the end of the day those players – our cops – are human; they feel, breathe, bleed, cry, live and die just like everyone else.

I long for the day that we as society stop seeing things from a police perspective versus a civilian perspective, black versus white, male versus female, rich versus poor, and start seeing things from a human perspective. That’s the day we become one as a society, and that’s what I want all people to know and understand.

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