A Word to Communications Majors Entering the Real World: Network First, Cover Letter/Resume Second

English Major SymposiumHow many English/Communications/PR/Journalism majors realize that 70-80 percent of jobs available are never posted on traditional job sites or posting boards?

I was honored to present to a group of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduating English majors from Ursuline College, Walsh University and Mount Union College last Saturday as part of  a group of professional writers giving a little reality therapy on what to expect when entering the real world of job seeking and the workplace after (or while) earning that hard-earned degree.

It was a brilliant move on the part of Dr. Ronald Scott, Walsh University Division Chair and Associate Professor of English, to bring about 100 students together for a half-day focused on An English major? What job will you find with that?”

During my presentation, it was a show of hands for how many have ever attended a professional networking activity (i.e., IABC, PRSA, SPJ, NEOSTC):  I believe I saw 2 hands go up.

A show of hands for how many had a profile on LinkedIn.  It looked like 3, maybe 4.

A show of hands for how many have put together a portfolio to take out to interviews and post on personal website.  Again, it looked like 3 or 4.

And finally, a show of hands for how many have had or looked into corporate or company  internships.  That looked like a good half-a-dozen at most.

A good portion of the symposium was spent on presentations by college career center coaches on how to “perfect” your resume and cover letter.  Don’t get me wrong–this is a very, very important step and needs to be handled.

Yet, I hoped to get another message out there loud and clear on the importance of getting out there and networking, too.  And how to make it a priority and elevate it to a high art.

Listen up you starter millennials, whether majoring in English or not:   It’s who you know. It’s how you stand out. It’s how you relate to business professionals one-on-one.

To succeed in the art of networking, that means:

1. Maintaining eye contact and leaving your smart phone in your pocket on silence.  Okay, okay, smartphones can come out when typing in contact information or showing something from your online portfolio.  After that, shove it back in your pocket…and keep it silent.

2. Asking a lot of inquisitive questions about others and their struggles and challenges on the job– it’s really not about you at first–in fact it seldom is.

3.  Instead of trying to fit in and following the rules–get outside your box and take chances.  Find your gimmick, schtick, juice…and let ‘er rip. Don’t be annoying, just charming.

Scary? Yeah, maybe at first, but it fades quickly.  If you reach a level like me where every day you go out there, make a fool of yourself somehow, someway…and in the end no-one really cares.  Get out there and stand out a little–that’s what counts!  And in fact, by doing this you will most likely endear yourself to someone who will want you more than anyone else.

And…let’s not forget the most crucial element in the art of networking that will jettison you to the top because only maybe 5 percent of job opportunity seekers will do this:

networkingFollow up!  Keep sending appropriate, clever, focused, awesome correspondence that will keep you top of mind when an opportunity arises.  Don’t be a pest, just persistent.  Believe me, you’ll eventually nail it!

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#1 Marketing Trend for 2015: Quality Information Content

professional_writer_buttonQuality writing still matters… and now, it’s more important than ever!

Here’s why:

There are more social media venues for marketing than ever before, and the ever-increasing desire to segment and personalize requires quality copywriting and content creation versatility.

Today,  your business relies on its online reputation. Ongoing quality correspondence and professional sales collateral supports that reputation.  Hiring a professional writer is a great way to maximize your company’s online and offline branding potential.

With this mind, here’s the Top Five Reasons why you should invest in an expert writer:

  1. write stuffYour website represents your entire company. If your site features well-written, engaging content, you promote a high-quality entity. Remember that in most cases what you write is less important than how you write; therefore it’s mandatory to collaborate with a content writer who can put facts, feelings and an effective call-to action into words in an ideal manner.
  2. Connect to your clients more effectively. Professional writers know how to write for different audiences. Trained writers know how to analyze audiences and then target them with various writing strategies.
  3. Google values fresh content. If you don’t have a full-time writer on staff, chances are your website content rewrites and blog posts are afterthoughts. To maximize your SEO potential, you need to frequently update your website and blog with quality information. Good SEO practices will help your website rank higher in search engine results, draw more visitors and enhance the popularity of your website, ultimately generating increased revenues.
  4. Concise social media content reaches more people. People are far more likely to share information via social media when it’s engaging. Professional writers have been trained to write effective headlines and titles, which is an important skill for managing any company’s social media accounts.
  5. Completing projects more efficiently. With a professional writer on hand, you can plan and implement group projects much more quickly. Communication is key when developing long-term plans, and your writer can help you develop tangible goals that everybody understands. The professional writer knows how to work effectively in a team with graphic designers to make the images and visual style work with the words.

damn good writing

“The Need for Quality Information Content as the Most Important Marketing Trend” is based on research conducted by Washington, D.C.-based TorchLight Hire, one of the nation’s largest  marketing and communications recruiting and staffing firms.

IABC Heritage Conference 2013 Elevates My Game

IABC Heritage Conf TitleLast month, I had the privilege of attending the International Association Business Communicators (IABC) 2013 Heritage Region Conference in Indianapolis.

At first blush,  I wasn’t much enamored with visiting a city in a “Red” state nicknamed “India-No-Place” nor do I spend much time sports fanning (conference theme was “Elevate your Game,” and Opening Night Reception was held at the NCAA Hall of Champions).

But, whIndy Canalen I found out  that my fellow IABC Cleveland/Akron Board Member Kavita Sherman was one of the instrumental conference organizers;  that I was being offered a nice stipend to cover the majority of my costs; the location was just one state over and less than a five hour drive; and that coincidentally I could “Priceline” a top hotel overlooking the Central Canal Culture District that I covered in a recent article I wrote on “stormwater management”  for Turf magazine,  I couldn’t pass it up.

I’m pleased to report that my preconceived notions about the conference were blown away quickly after experiencing the incredible hospitality of the city and conference hosts together with the quality of the conference programs and presenters.

Chapter Leaders Forum

IABC Cleve logoMy first encounter at the conference was attending the Chapter Leaders Forum.  Here,  I picked up a lot of great tips for working on building and retaining memberships serving on the Board as Membership Director for the IABC-Cleveland/Akron Chapter.*

Key Take-aways:  Try “Tour and Talks” by holding your meetings at members’ workplaces; keep age differences in mind when programming; consistency (time, place, etc) and quality of speakers is paramount; mentoring and buddy systems for new members; guest coupons; robo reminder calls mixed with personal calls; assign special short-term projects for members to feel involved and special–joining Board can come later.

 Keynotes

 McClearyWhat’s Your ‘It’   Tim McCleary, The Involvement Practice, Sandy Hook, CT.

Tim was backed up by “graphic recorder (aka mindful artist)  Breah Parker,  who continually synthesized verbal content into detailed graphic charts, bringing the words and interactions in the room to life for participants– way cool as I never experienced that before. Key Take-away:  When influencing, your constituents will only remember 50% when you dialogue, 75% when immersed, 90% when involved.

SiteLogoWhats in it for Me?  Cindy L. Graham, Goodwill Industries, Indianapolis, IN.

Key Take-aways:  The customer is the boss; be available to the customer 24/7 and reach them wherever they are on multiple channels; the customer conversation never stops; create communities where they can dialogue with you back and forth; people love loyalty programs.

 Break-out Sessions

SmithJump Start Small Business Communications  Will Smith, EScreenz, Entre Computer Systems, Rochester, NY.

Key Take-aways:  Small businesses with small marcom budgets represent 50% of working population and generate 65% of the new jobs for marcoms.  Spend time and money on making a killer world-class website with lots of links; use the newswires.  Case studies:  Small bank offered community free meeting space, Manufacturer developed fan base for snowplow lovers with killer YouTube videos and online chat sites.

 WilliamsWhy Reptation Risk is More Than a PR Issue  Sean Williams, Communication AMMO, Cleveland OH.

Key Take-aways:  Technology, data security, regulatory compliance are types of risks; the “reputation” economy is growing all the time; Good measures of reputation include (1) direct feedback from relevant publics (2) positive share of social media (3) positive share of media coverage; Communicators notoriously fall flat on knowing numbers, regulations and business; content analysis is too much on “boiling the ocean.”

ImmEleven Ways to Rock Your Communications Career  Tracy Imm, Charm City Chicks, Baltimore, MD.

For someone like me in “Career Mid-life Crisis,” clearly experiencing age discrimination in job searching and straddling the two worlds of corporate employee (though part-time) and freelancing–I was at full attention sitting in this one. I walked out with no less than a dozen books and blogs I need to read in order to keep moving forward! Key Take-aways:  Discover your “Why”  and don’t start with your “What”; check out Ralph Marston’s “Power of Purpose” and subscribe to his “Daily Motivator”; the reason you may be unhappy at work is that you have a “Values Conflict”; Be an early adapter, stay relevant and never stop learning–at least one hour a day!; luck happens when prep meets opportunity; ask the universe for what you want, own that room and then you’ll be sure to get it.

 EnslenWrite Normal  Samantha Enslen, Dragonfly Editorial, Tipp City, OH.

Why can we not write like we talk?  The best writing is simple–like you are targeting it to a clueless kid–but most writers can’t do that.  Key Take-aways:  Use “The Universal Story” template and you can’t go wrong–“Once Upon a Time,” then “Suddenly,” then “Luckily,” and finally, its “Happily Ever After;” readability needs to be at the 7th grade level; vary the length of your sentences.

 DemoBarattanstrating ROI: How Public Relations & Social Media Drive Business Metrics  Melissa Baratta, Affect, New York, NY.

Key Take-aways: 30% of us are not tracking ROI; Setting realistic goals include grounding in reality, knowing the limitations of resources and commitment from executive leadership; you’ve got to keep a good mix of PR, social media and marketing going; Social media audiences–LinkedIn is for the B-B commercial and industrial, Twitter is for small business tips and Facebook is for consumers; quality over quantity.

Student Involvement: Key to IABC’s Future?

On either side of the conference, I had the opportunity to taxi a Kent State University student to and from the conference.  She was put through the ringer by competing on one of three student teams whose challenge was to come up with a full-fledged marketing communications campaign for a new sports service within a few hours. She indeed survived the challenge and had a great time at the conference. But. she was the last student standing for our Cleveland/Akron chapter and was now checking out for good.  I learned from her that IABC needs to ramp up student involvement.  Makes sense–after all, they are our future!

* The Cleveland IABC chapter hasn’t officially “slashed on” Akron, but since half the Board works and lives in Akron, and we’re re-introducing programs and focusing on recruiting there, I add it on whenever possible.