Kick-Start Your Career Advancement in 30 Days

Career management and selling your own brand are some of the hardest things we do as PR professionals. But at the seminar, “Kick Start Your Career Advancement in 30 Days,” attendees developed a set of action items to take their professional development into their own hands. Sponsored by Microsoft and presented by the PRSA-NCC New Professionals Committee, the event took place during PRSA’s Young Professionals Week.

Kick-Start Your Career Advancement in 30 Days

Kick-Start Your Career Advancement in 30 Days

According to guest speaker, Pascale Haspil, VP, Director of Professional Services at Lee, Hecht, Harrison, career success is defined like a mathematical equation. All the components–your reputation, your performance, your network–all contribute to you career advancement. If one is lacking, it will impact the end result. Knowing this, it becomes much easier to focus on the aspects of your professional development that need attention.

While many in the public relations industry will know immediately how to earn recognition for a client or a product, many struggle to represent themselves.  Ms. Haspil outlines a strategy for success in the 5 Ps.

The 5 P’s of of Career Management & Advancement

  • Person: Know Your Strengths; Ask How Am I Unique?
  • Performance: Broaden Performance Perspective; Ask What Are My Capabilities?
  • Place: Know Your Environment; Ask How Is The World of Work Changing?
  • Possibilities: Set SMART Goals; AskWhat Are My Aspirations?
  • Plan: Develop an Action/Learning Plan; Ask How Can I Accelerate My Progress?

Your Personal Brand: A Paper and Digital Footprint

Building on that concept, Ms. Haspil encouraged attendees to use their networks as a CEO would use their Board of Directors, as trusted advisors with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. A solid network can support you AND it can also give you the honest feedback that is necessary for advancement; a CEO doesn’t make decisions without guidance and feedback (nor should they!) and neither should you as an individual.

When connecting with prospective employers, the importance of an effective resume and a strong social media presence resumes to prove their worth by answering “So What?”. Every point on the resume should offer a prospective employer a chance to see a connection between an applicant’s experiences and the need they have to be filled. Use your resume to engage the prospective employer, and make sure your social accounts can back up your points on the resume. LinkedIn is a fabulous tool to amplify your network through recommendations and connections and can demonstrate your accomplishments in further detail.

Utilizing these tactics is pertinent for anyone in the PR industry whether a job seeker, or just to give yourself a refresh. Take five minutes a day to review these strategies and then another five to develop, analyze, and reset goals for your most important client, yourself.

Amaia Stecker is a PR professional in Washington DC focusing on social and digital media. 


Building Your Digital Content to Work for You

By Carolyn Sobczyk

As PR professionals, we frequently toss around the terms Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). But what does it actually mean to implement SEO and SEM into an integrated digital campaign? At a recent PRSA-NCC workshop, Aaron Guiterman, Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy at Edelman PR, applied his more than 20 years’ experience in digital campaign design to outline strategies for using search to your advantage.

Online content consumption is at an all-time high. You may have a fantastic educational video or snazzy new website, but your viewers are spread a mile wide and an inch deep. When it comes to promoting your content, you don’t want to fill your store (read: website) with a lot of people who buy nothing. Targeted, quality viewers who care about your content provide the highest value. One of the best ways to attract a quality audience is through search.

PRSA-NCC Workshop, Aug 19

Edelman PR senior vice president of digital strategy, Aaron Guiterman, addresses an audience of PRSA-NCC members and guests during a workshop on August 19.

Aaron described SEO as the way communicators send signals to their audience by optimizing content to maximize the number of visitors reaching your content through organic search. “Relevance is the fastest growing metric with search engines,” said Aaron. “Google favors unique, quality content.”

SEM, on the other hand, are the signals your target audiences send back to you through search, which helps you effectively place cost-per-click ads on search engine results pages with the goal of driving traffic to your content and gaining visibility.

The key to SEO is creating a symphony of unique content that reads from the same sheet music. Search optimization is suppressed by duplicate content and the website is only one component of your full content strategy. Integrate your campaign to incorporate desktop/mobile content and an ad campaign that complement one other, and layer SEO into all aspects of your campaign.

Implementing SEO into Your Digital Strategy

  • Create relevant content that resonates with your audience. People don’t care about the company they’re advocating for, they care about how that issue relates to them. Frame your content according to values, beliefs and behaviors that motivate your audience.
  • Abandonment rates are key to SEO, as sites that lose audiences quickly result in declining organic search rates. Regularly review your site’s performance to optimize your campaign. What draws people to your content? What content is not succeeding?
  • Use Google AdWords to calculate the value of words and quantify the value of words according to those that are most receptive by your audience.
  • Conduct a website audit with an online tool such as Raven to find duplicate content and broken links. This is low-hanging fruit that will help increase organic search. You don’t want to build a great website that no one visits. Build it for search and social.
  • When working with your web team, develop copy in Word and include a brief description of each page (under 177 characters) for your coders to tag in the site. Provide captions (alt text) for images, so they’re easy to find via search. Google content analysis won’t read your entire page, it focuses on the tags.

Driving Traffic to Your Kickass Content with SEM

  • Find all possible keywords by identifying existing conversations and select the best performing keywords to implement in your online ads.
  • Invest time to secure your Google Analytics Certification. This can take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months. Google offers free resources to show you how to use their tools.

Developing a digital campaign is not like Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will not come [on their own accord].” Instead, SEO and SEM offer proven ways to increase visibility, measure results and drive traffic to the content you worked hard (and spent a lot of money) to create.

For more information about SEO and SEM, check out Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide and AdWords Step by Step Starter Guide.

Carolyn Sobczyk works at JPA Health Communications in Washington, D.C., where she specializes in patient advocacy relations and media outreach campaigns. Connect with her on Twitter at @carolynsobczyk.

PRSA-NCC New Member Welcome Lunch

by Jirasith Sindhusake

As a new face in Public Relations, I came across PRSA as a full-time PR intern and dual-enrolled graduate student. With my intentions focused on professional development and networking opportunities, PRSA became the clear answer to attaining my goals. Despite being apprehensive about joining because of my busy schedule, I joined the National Capital Chapter (NCC) in April and became as involved in the organization as my schedule would allow. I am now part of a network of professionals who have been nothing but helpful in helping me achieve my goals.

 [Photo credit: Got Credit -]

[Photo credit: Got Credit]

At this year’s PRSA New Member Welcome Lunch, new members of the National Capital Chapter were invited to the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Northwest, D.C. to discover ways to get involved and maximize their PRSA membership. As new members trickled in, the beginning of the lunch was a friendly gathering of individuals getting food and networking with other professionals. It might have been the excitement of seeing new faces, or the enthusiasm of discovering ways to get involved; despite the reason, everyone in attendance was ecstatic to meet other individuals who are new to the National Capital Chapter of PRSA.

After a good amount of networking and stuffing ourselves full of sandwiches, we took our seats to hear from sponsors and chapter leaders. The lunch started with a few words from Chapter President, Mitch Marovitz, who began the program by introducing chapter leaders for the new members to meet. Among those chapter leaders were Lauren Lawson, Vice President; Danny Selnick, Board Member; Katelynn Wiggins, New Professionals Co-chair; Farah Latif, Special Events Committee Chair; and Adara Ney, University Relations Chair.

After brief introductions, the chapter leaders and committee chairs sat with the new members and provided overviews of what the chapter and respective committees offer and ways to get involved. This continued until every committee chair and chapter leader met with each new member tables to share insights. To conclude the lunch, members had the opportunity to participate in a final Q&A session and thank everyone who contributed their time to the New Members Lunch, an overall successful event.


Learn more about the PRSA-NCC New Professonals Committee

Brevity, Clarity and Thoughtfulness: Position Your Media Training for Success

By Lauren Wiggins, News Generation, Inc.

Moderator and Panel

Moderator Susan Matthews Apgood and Panelists Ed Barks and Carol Buckland

What is the biggest problem Ed Barks of Barks Communications and Carol Buckland of The Communication Center have with media training? It’s not always long-term.

On Wednesday, July 22nd, PR professionals from around the D.C. area came together, with a range of questions, to learn how to make their media training better. The biggest piece of advice given to listeners: keep it ongoing.

Media training begins internally. There are key parts of your message and it is important that they are communicated effectively. Both Barks and Buckland agree, relationships with journalists are important. However, it’s also important to remember that they are business relationships. Journalists can, and will, ask the tough questions. It’s all about how you are prepared.

President and CEO of News Generation, Susan Matthews Apgood, moderated the discussion. Though the questions were diverse, the takeaway can be summarized into a few key ideas -much like the panelists’ advice that your message should be.

Buckland provides us with three types of news stories: those that confirm conventional wisdom, those that contradict conventional wisdom, and those that create conventional wisdom. If public perception of your organization is negative, stories that contradict convention wisdom are crucial. However, if your organization is new in the public eye, stories that create conventional wisdom are a PR professional’s greatest opportunity.

Barks told us there are also three categories of questions: the questions you expect to get every time, the questions you want to get, and the questions you never want to hear from a reporter.

Moderator Susan Apgood and Panelists Ed Barks and Carol Buckland

Moderator Susan Matthews Apgood and Panelists Ed Barks and Carol Buckland

So how can you prepare your spokesperson for the tough questions when time isn’t of the essence? Buckland says that in order to get prepared you can create answers for questions with similar themes. She brought up the example of the FAA after 9/11. Officials were asked numerous questions such as, “Would you get on an airplane?” or “Would you allow your mother to?” But, the underlying theme was simple: is it safe the fly?

Low stakes situations create the most confidence for when the stakes get high. Sometimes your spokesperson will need to defend your message and they need to be prepared. By being able to respond and handle tough questions in a low stakes situation, your spokesperson will be more confident handling the more challenging questions. Carol Buckland suggests simple changes such as having a new person chair weekly meetings or recording your spokesperson speaking and providing constructive feedback.

One audience member brought up how soundbites and answers to questions have gotten shorter over time and Buckland and Barks agreed. With increases in technology and access to information, attention spans have gotten shorter. Therefore, a shorter, concise message is easiest to remember. However, Barks tell us that the parts of a message that are typically ignored are imperative. Your message needs context and it needs call to action.

In terms of ground rules of media training, no matter what you say, everything is on the record. The minute your spokesperson walks out the door they are representing your organization, and everything they say or do can be captured. Awareness is not only key, it’s critical. Much of the emphasis of the panel relied on the fact that preparation, message development, and media training are all the responsibility of the communications expert.

This panel emphasized the importance of an ongoing media training plan. It’s not just a one day workshop, it’s a continuous learning experience. It is the responsibility of the communications expert to ensure that not only the spokesperson, but the organization, is comfortable with the message and prepared to handle media. Preparation, familiarity with the message, and comfort with answering questions and dealing with media are all of utmost importance to ensuring that a media training plan is not only effective but sustainable.

Why Trade Media Coverage is Top Tier Coverage

By Bridgette Borst

Moderator Aaron Cohen and Panelists Panelists Virgil Dickson, Aaron Mehta, Kevin Bogardus, and John Gilroy (Photo Credit: David Ward)

Moderator Aaron Cohen and Panelists Panelists Virgil Dickson, Aaron Mehta, Kevin Bogardus, and John Gilroy (Photo Credit: David Ward)

Why is trade media coverage top tier? PR Pros from around the nation’s capital packed their list of questions and piled into PRSA-NCC’s most recent workshop to hear it straight from top trade media journalists: Virgil Dickson, of Modern Healthcare, Aaron Mehta from Defense News, Energy and Environment Publishing’s Kevin Bogardus, and John Gilroy, from Federal News Radio.

Aaron Cohen of Aaron Cohen PR moderated the panel discussion. Here’s the scoop on how YOU can convince your boss or client that trade media coverage is top tier coverage –

  • The niche audience of trade media publications cares more passionately about the story than the average reader at a major national outlet.
  • Trade media keeps professionals informed about their particular field and they are passionate about these issues, ideas and/or products.
  • Trade media are more likely to seek out public relations practitioners as sources for stories, unlike mainstream journalists.
  • Trade media have time (and space) to “go deep” on a story.
  • Most often, mainstream media stories start with or are inspired by, stories first published in trade publications.
  • Trade media stories are more effective in getting your message in front of the right people because the stories are likely read by everyone that matters in your field.

One panelist summed it up by asking the attendees, “Do you want a more right, informed piece– or a watered down piece designed for a wider audience?”

The journalists continued to dish out “tricks of the trade” to help public relations practitioners get in the door and strengthen their pitches.

Federal News Radio’s John Gilroy offered this tip, “Find out what reporters are going to conferences that you’re already attending and then try to set up twenty minute face-to-face meetings with them.”

“Trade journalists are more subject matter experts so be prepared for tougher, more technical questions,” said Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare. Dickson added, “I like to go on Twitter to find out what’s trending.”

The attendees brought lots of questions with them that ranged from current best practices to how trade journalists use Twitter, how to write a great subject line, daily deadlines, and more. Not only did the panelists talk about what works in trade media and why it is top tier media coverage, but they also shared feedback that’s applicable to mainstream media pitching.

“I don’t like press releases – they’re overused, just send us a quick email,” said Aaron Mehta, Defense News.

“If you’re going to call or email me, don’t make it look like a blanket outreach. Pretend that you’ve read something that I’ve written. Please tailor it to me, don’t waste pixels and one last thing – I am a hundred times more likely to read your email if I recognize your name,” said Kevin Bogardus, Energy and Environment Publishing, the publisher of Greenwire.

All of the panelists stressed the importance of having personal relationships with media, and no matter how pitch perfect your story idea is, having a personal relationship with a reporter still matters most in this business.

“Generally, if you put something like, ‘Think you might be interested in this’ or ‘I saw your story about…’ in the subject line, then I will at least open your email,” said Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare.

The Q & A style workshop proved to be a popular event because it spanned all of the major industry trades and provided public relations practitioners of different industries with valuable insights. Bottom line, attendees learned that yes, 10,000 readers are better than three million when all 10,000 readers care about your ideas or products.

6 Tips for Working with Today’s News Media

By Angel White

Washington Post Media Blogger Erik Wemple and IPRA Membership Committee Member Robert Deigh of RDC Communications. Photo credit: Sabrina McGowan

Washington Post Media Blogger Erik Wemple and IPRA Membership Committee Member Robert Deigh of RDC Communications.
Photo credit: Sabrina McGowan

Washington, D.C. is considered the news capital of the world and a great place from which to observe big changes in the media industry, so it should come as no surprise that our hometown paper follows the changes closely – reporting on big players and rising stars alike. In a May 7 Independent Public Relations Alliance program, Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple discussed ways that PR professionals should be engaging with reporters and focusing on the new reality:


  • PR people are a growing part of the press industry. News organizations are becoming similar to corporate America by creating their own PR departments. Often, you have to go through a PR person in order to speak to anyone at the news outlet. The result is the media has become more regulated by the people we are trying to talk to which can result in frustration for reporters.
  • Beats are fragmentary and boundaries are disappearing. Reporters are expected to cover a lot more news these days trying to feed multiple platforms. So, don’t give up if one reporter isn’t interested in your story – share it with another reporter.
  • Deadlines are obsolete. Reporters are working in a 24-hour news cycle, always writing and always on deadline. This reality changes how and when we approach reporters.

Here are Erik’s six tips for creating the strongest relationships with reporters:

  1. Pick up the phone. PR professionals tend to overlook the value of making calls to reporters in order not to interfere with deadlines. Ignore the adage of “don’t call a reporter on deadline” – if you have a reason to communicate with a reporter then do it and be direct.
  1. Write letters. Another effective but underutilized tool is the handwritten letter. Yes, snail mail still exists and reporters pay attention to it.
  1. Use Twitter. PR professionals should be using this tool to message reporters on Twitter – a simple “Have you seen this?” can be an effective way of reaching reporters you know and those you want to know. Reporters also monitor their mentions on Twitter more than email and voicemail.
  1. Pay attention to bloggers. In the past, journalism standards didn’t always apply to news blogs. But, today’s news blogs are held to the same journalism standards as other media. PR professionals should work with bloggers in the same way they work with traditional reporters.
  1. Maintain trust. Don’t ask a reporter to do something considered un-journalistic. It’s expected that they will talk to your competition for a story, so don’t ask them not to. That will only erode their trust in you and make you look defensive.
  1. Engage early. There’s no excuse for a reporter not getting the facts straight, but there are also areas of judgment, interpretation and nuance that go into writing a story. These are areas where you need to engage the reporter early – it will be too late to do so after the story is filed.

The state of the news media today is being driven by the rise of social media and the consolidation of traditional media outlets that affects the way in which we regard reporters. PR professionals who understand these changes will ensure they have the most beneficial relationships with reporters.


Angel White is a May 2015 graduate of George Mason University where she received her bachelor of arts degree in communications​. She is a former vice president of the Public Relations Student Society of America at GMU. Connect with her on LinkedIn at

Public Relations’ Biggest Image Crisis – The Industry Itself

Digna Joseph, Communications Consultant

Digna Joseph, Communications Consultant

By Digna Joseph

Two years ago, while pursuing my Masters, I was assisting a professor for an Introduction to Communication course, where the topic of Public Relations inevitably came up. At this point, the professor, who interestingly had been a Journalism major, informed the class of mostly freshmen students that the public relations industry was really just a bunch of unethical people, hacks to be precise, spinning stuff to make their clients look good.  As someone in the public relations field, to say I had to bite my tongue, would be an understatement.

Unfortunately, the reality is this professor’s view of the public relations industry is hardly an unpopular one. Multiple studies have shown that many in the public believe the industry and its practitioners to be unethical. The perception is that it is a less than respectable career field. Many consider public relations practitioners to be manipulators – that is, individuals who use their skills to come up with clever strategies, aimed at convincing individuals that what is wrong, is actually right. Some believe that the true work of a public relations practitioner is to distort reality, withhold information from the public and promote questionable industries and organizations, as well as bail them out of negative situations.

While some of these negative perceptions are not completely untrue, such as, it is the job of a public relations practitioner to assist an organization or firm in a crisis situation, it does not mean the work being done is unethical or meant to deliberately lie or mislead the public. However, these negative perceptions and opinions of the industry continue to persist, possibly making the biggest image crisis in P.R., the industry itself. So how can the industry turn things around?

There are a few steps that while they may not completely change the public’s view, at the least, it might make some regard the industry as more ethical than previously believed. Such as, establishing an industry approved and recognized Code of Ethics.  Yes, I am aware that the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) have both established industry codes. However, particularly in the case of the PRSA’s Code of Ethics, the language and tone of the Code is very passive and lacks authority and “bite.” It reads more like a suggestion of what practitioners should do rather than a stern declaration of “this is what should be done, no questions”. A Code of Ethics with a firmer voice and tone is necessary.

This leads me to a second and very important step that should be taken, if the practitioners want the public’s negative view of the industry to change. That is, a strict outline of specific consequences, should any of the rules of the Code be violated, must be established. With no standard for punishment, many understandably deem the Code meaningless.

Another important step is for more transparency and visibility from the industry. Public opinion and studies have shown that many still do not really understand or know what public relations practitioners do beyond media relations efforts. A greater depth of knowledge and understanding might alter some of the negative opinions.

Finally, there should be a greater promotion and visibility of all the nonprofit work done by the industry. Many individuals are aware of the promotional work for for-profit organizations, businesses, etc. but forget or are simply unaware of just how many NGO’s and nonprofit organizations the industry is just as heavily involved with and just how crucial  the work they do for these organizations, is.

However, even with all that said, I question if the negative perception and opinion of the P.R. industry can ever really be changed. Especially, when the reality is the industry will likely always represent some companies and organizations deemed unethical, and crisis management will always be a key component of the work practitioners do. But maybe the problem is not so much the industry per se, but how it is often categorized.

I have found it interesting that while Advertising, for example, has its detractors, it does not seem to be met with nearly the same disdain and criticism as public relations. And I wonder if part of the problem is because P.R. is often categorized into the School of Communication, and often lumped in alongside Journalism, versus Advertising which is often categorized as a Business function. Consider how many former journalists who successfully transition from journalism to working in public relations. More importantly, the defining difference often outlined between Advertising and P.R. is that the former involves paid media, versus the latter which utilizes earned media.

In other words, there may be more of an “acceptance” of Advertising’s negative qualities because as with any business function, individuals view its bottom line as making profit. After all, the advertiser’s job is to convince the public to buy its product. Now do not misunderstand me, I am aware that it is considered unethical for advertisers to tell bold faced lies about their products and the advertising industry does recognize and punish for this. However, many in the public seem to willingly accept that advertisers may often employ obvious subtle manipulations, to get individuals to buy their product.

Public Relations however, is often considered a storytelling function of sorts. The public relations practitioners’ job is seen as promoting and telling their clients’ story and getting as much coverage for that story. Thus, perhaps there is a greater expectation and demand for complete truth. One key aspect of public relations is media coverage and for many, the media is supposed to be a bastion of truth and honesty. Thus, the rationale is that if something is covered in a paper or television news report, it should be honest and truthful. And perhaps it is this blurred line of public relations, intertwined with the media that increases the public’s ethical expectations for the field, and simultaneously increases their negative perception of it.

*Digna Joseph was a Hill+Knowlton Corporate Communications International Fellow and is now back home doing PR in her native St. Lucia