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Friday, January 10, 2014

Finding My PR Stride - Pitching Like a Pro

Stride: the most effective natural pace: one's maximum competence or capability. 

I went to school to be a PR person. I remember going to class to practice writing press releases, pitch emails and phone etiquette – the teacher preaching that the best practice was by trial and error. Finding your stride, your personal pace (style, pizazz, sass, whatever) and absolutely owning it.

Fast forward a few years. I got a full time PR job, in an industry I was not familiar with, pitching a product I knew nothing about. I was assigned a PR team, wonderful people who would do my pitching for me – writing the releases and contacting press. My role? Confirming the messaging was on target, aligned with our brand, and true to our product. I loved them, they rocked.

Then a few months later, it was back to just me. My PR team was gone and I felt a little disoriented. I was nervous and intimidated. Looking for guidance, I started reaching out to people I met through social media. Those working in the same space as me - Gaming PR. People who had it on lock. They understood gamers, the industry, and how to grab the attention of the largest tech and gaming publications. I dived in. Immersing myself in the culture, following the advice of my mentors, and doing some of my own research. Don't get me wrong, a few of my first pitches were a little rough - but worthwhile lessons.

Here are a few nuggets that have been helpful along the way:

"For me, the most effective press releases are ones that incorporate humor or some semblance of personality, or appeal directly to my sensibilities as not only a journalist, but as a real person who is a fan of video games and the industry."
- Kris, Editor-in-Chief at Gamasutra

"If you can't describe what is important in three sentences, you're at a major disadvantage. You have to hone your approach. I get one hundred emails a day, most of them are poorly written. That's what makes it so important to distill the essence of your message and tell your writer why they should care in the subject line and hit it even harder in the body of the email."
- Ben, RunJumpDev

What I learned is that it’s all about learning your own style and being proud of it. Internet memes? Check. Animated gifs? Why not. For me it was finding my stride and what works best for me. What is acceptable in your industry? Telling jokes, making phone calls, or pitching in 140 characters? Whatever it is, get at it. Find your stride and you will start to feel comfortable spreading your wings.

What works best for you? What are your best pitching practices, and how did you learn them?

Originally posted: Apring 12, 2012

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Informational Interview

Have you heard of the informational interview? Did you know what a powerful tool it is for networking and job searching?

In college, before I started searching for jobs, I did a bunch of informational interviews. It was a way to test the waters, meet new people, and practice asking questions. Over the course of two years (my junior and senior year), I did somewhere between six and 10 informational interviews. A few lead to some really cool opportunities, and others included an embarrassing moment or two. The effort was worth it, and I learned so much from these interviews.

Here are four solid reasons to start doing informations interviews:

Test the waters. What types of position are you interested in? Which industries are you considering? Before you spend the time and energy applying or getting emotionally attached to a job posting, take the time to meet people who actually have those jobs at that company or within that industry. What do they like about the day-to-day of their job? What is it like working for XYZ company? What other positions did they consider, and what lead them to where they are today?

Meet new people. Networking is really high on your list of priorities right now. Meeting new people is always exciting. Informational interviews gives you the excuse to reach out to the people you admire, meet them in person, and ask them everything you want to know about them. Take the leap and reach out to someone on LinkedIn who has your dream job. I dare you.

Practice asking questions. In the normal interview process (like interviewing for an available position), you're bound to faced with this questions: "So, do you have any questions for us?". You absolutely need to have questions ready to ask your interviewer. Take some time to write some thoughtful questions for your informational interview, I guarantee you'll be able to repurpose these for an actual job interview.

Find the hidden job market. How often have you heard about someone getting a job that wasn't posted or advertised? Maybe they were moved into the position internally, or just had the right connections and a foot in the door. It's estimated that over 80% of all jobs hired for, are never made available to the public. Make a meaningful connection with someone, and perhaps when one of these hidden jobs becomes available, you will be the person that pops in their head.

Are you ready to take the leap? I'd love to serve as your next (or first!) informational interview. What do I do? I'm a marketing / pr / social media professional, working at a tech startup company here in Madison. Feel free to reach out to me by email, elliehumphrey@gmail.com. I'd love to meet you and hear about your career aspirations and goals.

Friday, December 27, 2013

PR Accomplishments 2013

This year absolutely flew by! I can hardly believe all of the changes that have happened since then. I had a bit of nostalgia after reading my 2012 PR Accomplishments posts, I decided to do another.

New NEW Job
I made the switch to a new job this year, and then a few months later - I took another leap. I've landed at another tech startup company. This feels like such a better fit for me, and better aligned with my work values (see below). Creative freedom, flexibility, room to grow. Amen.

Finding Guidance
This year, I've made a point to connect with people that I admire, and people that are willing to share their stories with me. It's been a lot of fun meeting really interesting and successful people in Madison.

Work Values
It took finding a new job to really understand my work-place values. Earlier this summer, I took an afternoon to write down everything I need to feel healthy and collaborative in a work environment. I would encourage everyone to do this! Take 5 minutes to write down the things that matter most to you at work. I'll share my list soon.

Looking Forward
My goal for this year is to start building my personal brand. I've purchased a new domain name and will be building an online portfolio for my marketing and public relations work and achievements. I'm really excited to get started.

What were your proudest moments in 2013? What your goals for 2014?

Friday, December 20, 2013

More Than a First Impression

Hello! And please excuse my absence! I've been away getting a new job and planning a wedding (woohoo!).

I've been thinking a lot lately about first impressions. It's so important to make a great first impression - but what about the second and the third? Can you obliterate a first impression with a subpar second and third encounter? My experience says absolutely. The truth is we get a bit lazy after the impression.

So you had a first good meeting with someone new. Great! You nailed the first impression, and now you get to sail through your next interactions with them, right? Not so! How do you continue to build a relationship with a professional in your network, a media contact, or prospective employer? Here are my tips for taking your interactions to the next level after the first impression.

Remember The Details: Always take a few notes when you meet someone for the first time. I have a terrible memory, which is why I use Google Contacts for this. See my post about having a crazy contact database. Before you meet someone for the second time, take a moment to review your notes from the last meeting. Things to take note of? Where they work, what they do, kids names, city of origin, favorite networking organizations.

Dig Deeper: First encounters are usually pretty surface level. You exchange niceties, personal overviews, comments about the weather. We don't dig deep in fear of hitting a nerve with someone new. We don't know their tolerability for subjects just yet. Proceed with caution, but attempt to push further into the relationship with your second encounter.

Stop Talking About You: Plain and simple. This isn't all about you, so try not to dominate the conversation. Make room in the conversation for the other party, ask questions and be genuinely interested in the answer.

Bring Something Fresh: We've all got our favorite stories, jokes, and pitches. Try to bring something new to the conversation, the second and third time. Remember the 5th time you heard about your co-worker's crazy trip to Las Vegas? Me too. Consider keeping tabs of your conversations in your contact notes.

Thank Them: You followed up the first time you met them, why not do it again? "Jane, thanks so much for meeting me yesterday, it was great to catch up." - it can be this simple. Or even a tweet,"Great meeting up with @_____ this evening. Enjoy your trip to Colorado!"

What do you think? What are your best practices for making a good second and third impression?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What PR Pros Can Learn From Terrible Baby Names

Hello Mad Girls! Amanda here, today we have a guest blog post from corporate speaker and author Jeff Havens. He lives in Madison and helps people succeed at leadership, communication, professional development and more by telling them exactly what not to do. Enjoy!

So New Zealand has gone ahead and outright banned certain names for babies, which they obviously felt forced to do after receiving birth certificates with names like “Lucifer,” “Midnight Chardonnay,” and “Number 16 Bus Shelter” on them.  (I’m assuming that last one was named in honor of where the little tyke first came into being; for the full article, read here).  Those of you who have seen my Uncrapify Your Life! show know that I often make fun of terrible baby names.  My longtime favorite has been Ladasha, spelled “La-a” because sometimes you just need to say the dash.  But I think Number 16 Bus Shelter might be the new winner.

Anyway, it occurred to me that we could all improve our marketing efforts by taking inspiration from some of these people.  So here are a few tips to help you ruin what might otherwise have been a wonderful product:

Pick a Long, Exhausting Name Nobody Wants to Say!  One of the names in the article above (totally not making this up, although I wish I were), was “Lula Does the Hula from Hawaii.”  That poor girl’s mother and father are unquestionably the worst parents of the year, and of last year too.  But you can take inspiration from that tongue-twister of an appellation and do the same with your products or companies.  My current favorite?  Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo KK, which was Sony’s original name.  Just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?  “Hey, did you see the latest Tokyo Tsushin Kyoto…wait, the latest Tokyo Sous Chef Kogyo…wait, nevermind.”

Call Things Exactly What They Are!  Some of the folks cited in the article above just named their kids “3rd” or “5th”, presumably because that was their birth order and they didn’t feel like trying harder.  And you should do the same.  Someday I expect to see an automobile called “The 2015 Nissan Car!” or a grocery store item called “Food!”  I think the closest we’ve come to that so far is sour cream, which is delicious but whose marketers made absolutely no attempt to make it sound delicious.  “It’s cream, and it’s sour – eat it.”

Pick a Name That’s Offensive in Some Places!  Some of the names on that list are names I can’t reprint here.  And while some words are perfectly innocuous in one language, they are hilarious inappropriate in another.  Don’t believe me?  Then go find out what Pinto means in Brazil, or what LaCrosse means on the streets of Quebec.  I would tell you if I could, but this is a family article.

Hope that’s helpful to all of the marketers and PR pros out there.  And in return for helping you, I would like you to please help me.  If you ever run into anyone who named their kids anything on the list I’ve just shared with you, please, please, please encourage them to just have pets instead.  I can handle stupid pet names.  But the first time I run across someone who named their son “Mr. Wiggles,” I’m probably going to get arrested for assault.
Question:  What’s the worst name for a product you can think of?  Or what’s one product your company offers whose name could be improved?

Image (via) 

Want to see Jeff speak in person and network with some awesome marketing and PR pros in the Madison area?  Join us at the Vintage Brewing Company on June 11th at 5:30pm for the Ad 2 Madison annual meeting. Sign up here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Who Rescued Who? A PR Girl's Guide To Dog Adoption

When I first moved into my apartment here in Madison, it seemed like all of my neighbors had dogs!  As a self-proclaimed crazy dog lady, I was happy to see their slobbery faces in the hallways, yet I yearned for a fur kid of my very own.  After much deliberation, I finally adopted my dog Violet.  I am crazy about her and adopting her was one of the best decisions I ever made, but I’m glad I didn't make it lightly. If you’re a busy PR girl that’s considering pet parenthood, take these tips into consideration.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Being an Introverted PR Girl


When I was a little kid, I was painfully shy. Really simple things would make me incredibly nervous. I always picked out the simplest, most uncomplicated things on restaurant menus, because I didn’t want the server to ask me any follow-up questions about what I wanted as my side. I begged my mom to make my doctor and dentist appointments for me, because I hated talking on the phone. When I would raise my hand to answer a question in class, my face would break out into a bright red blush before I even said anything.

Though less shy these days, I still see myself as more of an introvert, which seem few and far between in the world of outgoing, extroverted PR girls. I still blush pretty easily (blame it on my paleness), but I have learned a few strategies to help me be more confident and outgoing when it comes to work. 
  • Preparation is key. It’s so much easier for me to participate in a meeting or brainstorming session when I’ve had some time to think about what I want to say first. Before stepping into a meeting, take 10 minutes to write down a few ideas or questions you have. Not sure what the meeting will entail? Don’t be afraid to ask your boss or coworker for more details on what you’ll be talking about. 
  • Talk to everyone. This may seem obvious, but the more you talk to people, the easier it becomes to work your voice into any conversation. Make it a point to try and strike up conversations with your coworkers in the break room, your Cision rep, or the barista making your latte. The more you practice just talking to people, the more confident you’ll be with clients, in meetings, or at events.
  • Set goals. Each week, make a list of personal goals to help push you out of your comfort zone. It can be something simple, like making a point to speak up at least 3 times in an upcoming staff meeting, or something more complicated, like presenting a new campaign idea to your boss and colleagues. When you set manageable goals, your personal growth becomes more of a priority, and less of a daunting task.
These are a few strategies that have worked for me – feel free to share others!

Photo credit: http://familymobileapps.com/social-skills-vs-developing-good-habits-part-i/