Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Social Surfing

The past few weeks, I have been trying to learn how to surf (no, not the Web... like, the actual sport.)  But I'm really bad at it (like, really bad), so after a few failed attempts I finally did a YouTube search for videos on "how to surf."  Through my search, I came up with this series of viral videos by Florida Surf Lessons.  Not only were the videos very informative, but the series is an example of a company that really understands both it's consumer-base and the power of viral video campaigns.  

If you think about surfing, what age group comes to mind?  Well, aside from the occasional 60-year-old going through a mid-life crisis, the majority of people looking to take surf lessons is likely the younger age group... the group that is most engaged in social media.  So naturally, a viral video campaign would work well for a surf shop.  And the 'how to' format of the videos are great for anyone who is just starting out.  The videos are short, sweet and to the point, and at the beginning of each segment the instructor says his name, company, location and Web address.  Obviously a viral marketing tactic created by the company, but very tactfully used.  

UPDATE:  So I spent the day surfing yesterday in Santa Monica, and I used the advice from these videos - they worked!  I actually caught waves!  I am now an enthusiast :)  

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bake Your Network From Scratch

As we begin the long transition from college into the professional world, the number one thing we are told is build your network, build your network, BUILD YOUR NETWORK!  (OK, we get it already!)  But what if, a few years down the road, we decide that the place we built our network isn't quite right?

OK, take me for example: I attended college in Oregon and was actively involved in PRSSA, PRSA and AHPR, attending meetings and conferences on a regular basis.  Through these organizations I was able to build a solid network in Oregon throughout college, so when it came time for me to look for jobs in Portland all I had to do was call up a few of the people I had networked with!  Landing a great job seemed almost too easy... 

But job-hunting in LA has been a bit frustrating for me, largely because I haven't had a chance to build a network down here.  Sad, but true, that our resumes are worthless unless we can get them in front of the right people.  And that usually takes knowing someone.  Aka, networking.  While job hunting in LA over the past month, I have picked up a few good techniques to build a network... from scratch.    
  • Join a local PRSA chapter as soon as you arrive in your new town.  Begin attending meetings, and let it be known that you are an excellent candidate on the prowl.    
  • Pick up the phone.  Call companies you are interested in and ask to set up a time for an informational interview.  Most companies, even if they aren't hiring, won't say no.  And if you wow them during the interview, any smart company will try to make room for you.  
  • If the prior fails, try turning to social media.  More and more companies are begining to use social media to find qualified candidates, and if you are active in the social space it could work to your advantage.  I found several jobs I applied for through LinkedIn, and I even spent some time browsing LinkedIn Exec. resumes to surface good companies in the area.  
  • Start your own blog.  As more clients are beginning to ask their agency counterparts for social media guidance, having a knowledge of social media is a huge value that young professionals can bring to an agency environment.  And there is no better way to showcase your knowledge than by blogging about it.        
  • Ask former coworkers, friends - anyone - if they know someone in PR and if they wouldn't mind sharing the person's contact info. with you.  For example, my roommate (who has nothing to do with PR) mentioned she knows a guy in PR, and two days later I had an interview!  I never would have even thought to ask her, so sometimes the least likely people can have the best connections.  
  • Last but not least... Building a network from scratch is hard work, and it takes some time.  Don't expect to move somewhere and get a job right away, but definitely do all you can to build your network prior to relocating.  

Thursday, September 11, 2008

For the Pros or All Age-Olds?

Last night as I was spending some time blogging, my roommate came into the kitchen (yes, I write in the kitchen) and our conversation went something like this:

My RM: "Whatcha doing?"
Me: "Writing in my blog."
My RM: "Blog? What's that?" (It took all my strength to not respond Really?! Did you not grow up in the 21st century?!)
Me: "Well, a blog is like..."
My RM: (Looks over my shoulder) "Oh my gosh, are you writing about smart people stuff?! You nerd!"
RM exits scene to the left.

For those of us who work in tech. PR - or PR in general for that matter - social media such as Web blogs and Twitter have become second nature.  Example: I used to get my daily news from television, and maybe the occasional newspaper (when I felt like sifting through one ;) ).  But now I get nearly all my news sent straight to my RSS feed and Google Reader.  Social media has, in a sense, become part of my daily routine.  I wake up, check my Google Reader, then my facebook, head to work (ok, well let's pretend like I actually have a job for this post), start up my computer, sift through my target influential blogs for news that may have posted over night, send a good-morning e-mail to the analyst whose blog post I particularly enjoyed reading, jot down a few morning thoughts into my own blog, IM a coworker (whose desk is likely not more than 20 feet away) in search of a 10am coffee break buddy, respond to a tweet StaceyPR posted about her "manic Monday morning," open up a pitch saved in SkyDrive I had been working on from home the night before, add a few more things to my "To Do" Google widget...  Oh my gosh I could go on forever, and it's not even noon!  But then again, if you're reading this, you probably have already had a day similar to mine.  

But reflecting upon my pre-PR days, I can only barely remember a much different schedule (which probably actually included picking up a copy of the Register-Guard, since I didn't have cable, throwing rocks at tweeters, and poking my crushes in person).  So could it be that the PR and tech-savvy are just ahead of the times?  

On the contraire, could it just be that social media is so ingrained in our lives that we don't even think twice?  Could it be that when people, like my roommate, visit sites like LAist and MSNBC, they don't realize that they're looking at blogs?  I went to college just as social media was beginning to emerge (ah, I remember the article I wrote for the PRSSA newsletter once upon a time entitled, plain and simple, "What's a blog?"  I barely even knew what I was writing about at that point in time!  Oh, and does anyone remember the first facebook, where the wall was just a solid block with text?!  Come on, don't make me feel too old...)  Fast-forward three years, where 1 in 4 online Americans, according to Forrester Research, read blogs, social media and many social apps have become mainstream for many (particularly those younger than my age group).  But they still have a long way to go before they become the norm for everyone.  Aka, those 3 out of every 4 Americans who don't read blogs.  Heck, I just helped my grandma set up an e-mail address!    

Anyway, I feel like I'm running around in circles right now, but now that you've heard my thoughts, what do you think?  Are blogs and other social apps becoming mainstream?  Or are they still only for the PRos?  

**A third alternative - Maybe I just need to give my "behind the times" roommate a lesson or two in blogging :)  


Monday, September 8, 2008

PR and Politics

I just got back from a weekend of sightseeing in Washington DC, which I think merits some sort of political PR post, wouldn't you agree?

This was my first trip out to see the East Coast (well, unless you count the PRSSA National Conference in Miami or the 10 hours I spent on layover in the Phili airport) and I have to say, I was quite impressed!  Traveling Europe inspired me to want to see more of my own country, and what better place to start than DC?  It was nice to spend some time in our nation's capital, doing some sightseeing, etc. (although, I have to say, the White House was quite a bit smaller than I had originally anticipated).  But all in all, seeing the great monuments and learning a bit about the history helped me find a renewed faith in my country, and I was inspired to immerse myself in politics once again (it was, after all, my minor).  

As I mentioned in an earlier post, while in France I was surprised at how interested and engaged in politics everyone seemed to be.  Our dinner conversations centered around questions on my views toward certain American policy issues, or the political agenda of Nicolas Sarkozy.  Even most of the young people I met fired off political questions.  But of course, when I mentioned I was American many people would immediately bring up Barak Obama... the celebrity.

This election sure has been an interesting one, and more hyped than any I can ever remember (which, granted, account for maybe 2 past Presidential elections...)  Whatever happened to fair and balanced political news coverage? (um, take last night's VMA show for example?)  Now a days, while most people can ramble on about Hillary's 'incredible' fashion sense or the exact size of Palin's cinnamon-roll bun, if you ask someone about Obama's main platform points you're likely to hear something along the lines of, "um, change?"  The media is so drawn to the drama in elections that they fail to provide the American public with an accurate view of  the issues our potential leaders stand for and how they will use their time in office.  And as a consequence, the Paris vs. Nicole-esque media coverage is pulling, not only GOP and Dems, but also like parties apart instead of uniting us as a nation.  

But to a second degree, I don't completely fault the media.  This is what we want to see and hear about, right?

If the candidates want to really connect with the people in the upcoming election, they need to break through the media hype and show constituents what they're really about.  Meaning, their publicists need to work overtime.