Cindy Brugge

A Public Relations Student

Month: May, 2014

Personal Public Relations: Using PR to Help Promote Yourself

The natural reaction to graduation is job hunting. Therefore, for the past month I’ve been perfecting my resume, filling out job applications, sending cover letters and meeting for interviews.

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It’s a restless experience that is, not only nerve-racking but, overwhelming. There are so many options for young job seekers.

Do I invest time in an online CV or should I stick to a print portfolio?

How design savvy should my resume be?

What exactly should I include in my resume?

These are all valid questions and every professional is going to say, “Well, it depends on the job.” This got me to thinking – a job-hunt parallels perfectly with a communications campaign.  When broken down into one, it’s incredibly easy to assess the best steps for a career search.

Like any great communications plan, it’s best to evaluate the client first. Take a stab at a SWOT analysis for yourself. This will help you understand, which qualities to highlight in interviews and areas that a future employer might point out for growth.

Here are a few items on my SWOT analysis:

Strengths:

  1. Critical thinker that takes big projects and breaks them into digestible steps
  2. Friendly and outgoing, while also professional 

Weaknesses:

  1. Recent graduate with no full-time experience
  2. Deep need to please authority figures can put a lot of stress on me in a professional environment

Opportunities:

  1. The public relations market is growing and expanding.
  2. Companies are recognizing the need for PR.
  3. Young students are associated with prowess in digital media.

Threats:

  1. There are hundreds of other students searching for the same jobs and looking to work in this industry.
  2. There are many people transitioning from other backgrounds into this industry.

The next step is to decide on your target publics and key messages. Which companies are you reaching out to and what is the message you want to send to them? This should be slightly different in each industry.

For example, I’ve applied to a PR agency, a corporation and a non-profit. Each company is searching for a slight variation of my skills. I must pinpoint what I want to display to these future employers, to determine which direction I should take my cover letters and interviews.

Finally, it’s important to put together a list of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics, which can be very simply put into practice.

Goal: Acquire a public relations position in the Dallas area that pays $X+ and will provide opportunities to operate in my strengths.

Objective: Find 10 jobs that fit my description and apply to each with materials created for each position.

Strategy: Appeal to general hiring manager by displaying skills that match the job description and promote my strengths

Tactics: Cover letter, Resume, Practice interview questions, Professional outfit and Portfolio

These communication plan components seem obvious, but laying out this groundwork can make the final steps much easier. When you know where you need growth, you can better prepare for an interview. When you know your strengths and opportunities, you will be able to recognize when you’re right for a position. When you recognize a company as a target public, you can prepare the message that you hope to send to them.

However, it’s still ultimately important that the tactics are completed with excellence. We cannot overlook the importance of the final product, but this preparation makes the process much simpler. 

A Shift in Focus

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My “Ethics, Law & Diversity in Mass Communication” ended today. It was my last course of my college career. 

Today, I finished my last course of my college career. It was surprisingly sad to say goodbye (not officially, because I don’t graduate for a week and a half.) But I still had that twinge of sadness to leave it all behind. Of course, it was hiding under gallons of the excitement associated with an end to all-night study sessions and brain-bending, soul-crushing group projects. However, it got me thinking about what I have gotten out of my public relations degree at the University of North Texas.

Full disclosure: Lately, I have wondered if I should have pursued a more extensive and difficult degree, such as engineering or math. I question if I should have chosen a path that didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve pondered if should have spent the same amount of money on a college education that taught me something completely out of my comfort zone, knowing that I earned every moment I was there with the blood, sweat and tears of learning something new.

It’s a good question. Was a communications degree worth it?

Communication has always come very easily for me. I am the oldest of three girls, so I’m a natural leader (which is just the code word for bossy.) However, with two sisters, you quickly learn to be a mediator and a counselor, as well. We have talked our feelings and thoughts to death. We’ve discussed schoolwork and professional issues. We have fought. And when girls disagree, we have no use for fists. Nasty words are much sharper and do far more damage. Plus, most of my family is very extroverted. Like I said, communication is instinct for me.

So, entering into a journalism degree with a focus in public relations was just up my alley and in high school they encourage you to pursue what you’re passionate about. Therefore, I fell into the loving arms of PR.

But the question remains, was it worth it? Did I learn anything new. 

This question haunted me this afternoon, as I left my final ethics course. Were this course and my time worth the money? Immediately, my answer was a resounding yes. 

In “Ethics, Law and Diversity in Mass Communication” alone, I have learned more than I expected. I think it’s one thing to understand the daily tasks and skills of a profession, but what I’ve seen in this course is that the ethical dilemmas bring in the nitty-gritty situations that separate individuals within an industry.

My actions and their resonant implications define who I am as a professional. Choosing ethical actions highlights me and sets my eyes to higher standard. This is imperative for the public relations industry, which is so commonly deemed unworthy of ethical distinction. We are seen as the greasy guys doing the dirty work to make a bad person look good.

I don’t want that for my life or my career. I choose a life in the light. I want to help people – good people – share their talents with the world. I want to associate with worthwhile causes and meaningful organizations. I want to do good and bring positivity to this world.

All of this starts with ethics. It begins where we draw the lines of right and wrong. Yet, it can come crashing down just as fast, when ethics is overlooked to pursue another goal. Case studies have shown me that, in reality, it’s not always quite so simple. Sometimes there is no right answer and no right way of doing it. These studies have given me grace for others in sticky situations and patience for stupidity.

However, they are also a reminder of where the prize remains. I’m in this for the long haul, but to stay in the game, I must engage in ethical decisions on a regular basis. I must be a reminder to my clients of not just what they want, but what is right. I mustn’t lose my heart in the pursuit of money or fame or anything else.

I know this all sounds very idealistic and somewhat childish. But I must ask people thinking that I’m just a silly girl, why does this have to be unrealistic? It is our actions and our thought processes that bring about our reality.

We can choose a new reality for this profession and rearrange the negative image of public relations. We don’t change this image through a PR campaign. No. We change our daily work. We change our incentives. We change our focus.