The Forgotten Art of Research

Photo cred: Troy Holden

Research.

It’s an art.  One that we practice for many years, but forcefully forget.

It’s something that was drilled into us since the first day of school.  If we wanted to learn something, we had to read about it in a boring, overpriced textbook.  We would then have to take a test, write a paper, or do something to prove that we actually did the research.

It sucked.

It sucked so much that the second that diploma is handed to you, you feel a huge sigh of relief knowing that you’ll never be forced to study again.  You can now spend the rest of your days reading what you want, and learn by doing.

Research is still valuable long after you graduate but you avoid it because it feels like homework.

The professionals and entrepreneurs that really go far are the ones taking in as much information as possible related to their topic.  If you want to be great at your job, you have to research the crap out of it.  Read books, blog posts, case studies…do anything you can to make yourself more savvy and get an edge.

BUT…relying on blogs or twitter to learn everything won’t cut it.

Bloggers don’t dig deep enough…and twitter lacks any depth whatsoever.  Google the term “research”.  The number 1 result is Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is the cliff notes for the cliff notes.  They can all be great research tools but will only teach you so much.

Don’t forget about research.  It takes time and commitment.  It’s not easy to find the right information.  In the end though, it will pay off.

When was the last time you really researched something?  Has the art of research been forgotten?

If you have any good research tools or practices, share them in the comments.

Facing Reality: My First Step Into The “Real World”

Photo cred: Mike Epp
Photo cred: Mike Epp

This is my second week working with Scribnia and I have already learned so much. I’ve come to a lot of realizations, some good, some not so good and some a bit scary. I hope that as I grow as a professional and learn these valuable lessons, that I can share them with you. My writing should in no way replace actual experience, but rather give those of you who haven’t been there a bit more insight, and bring in those that have been there to discuss their experiences.

There are many things that I’ve consistently heard people say in their blogs and conversations that I thought I understood. So many concepts, issues, questions and ideas on which I thought I had a strong grasp. It’s impossible to truly understand some of these things without experiencing them first hand. Situations that are easy to solve in writing become 100x harder when actually facing them. That’s the difference between conceptual discussion and experience.

One good example of these concepts is the one that goes, “every situation is different, and you have to adapt and apply.” This is SO true and is something that I understood in concept, but didn’t really understand when it comes down to actually acting. It is also something I am learning VERY quickly. There will very rarely be an “answer all” solution, in any situation. What separates the great from the good from the bad is the ability to adapt, and see what works in each unique situation. This is something that I hope to develop as a professional.

So expect to see a lot of posts about these “realizations” that I have as I experience more in my career. If you’ve had similar experiences, please share them with the community. If you haven’t, I hope that these help prepare you, but don’t take them for your own experiences…because you will only truly understand some things when you experience them for yourself.

Bookmark and Share To share specific article, click on the post title so that you’re only looking at individual post, then share.

How I Used Social Media to Get a Job

road
Photo cred: Jason (aka Jasmic)

First off, I’m proud to announce that I have been hired for this Summer as the Community Manager for Scribnia (in alpha), a web start-up based out of Boston, but working out of Philly. I am extremely excited about this opportunity and look forward to what should be an amazing experience to work with some great people.

Of course I use social media for a number of reasons, with finding a job only being one of my goals albeit the main one recently.  I would not have been able to create this job opportunity without the help of the social media tools I have frequented over the past several months.  I’d like to share my journey to this point with you in hopes that it might inspire some of you who are in a similar position to embrace these concepts.

I started off at my internship at Ruder Finn Interactive (RFI) which I may be referring to as the start to my career for the rest of my life. A big part of what I did at RFI dealt with reading and outreaching blogs. I quickly learned the value of blogging and began to read more and more about the social media space. There was a lot of talk on these social blogs about Twitter and so I checked it out.

I spent a couple months not really “getting” it and really only used my Twitterberry 2-3 times a week. I started following a lot of people in the social media space like @chrisbrogan @SoItsComeToThis @Skydiver @Scobleizer and other people that I already knew that were on twitter. Eventually Twitter “clicked” for me.  By connecting and following more and more interesting and helpful people, I was directed to a lot of great blogs where I started reading and commenting like crazy. I found my passion.

I reached the point in reading and commenting on blogs while connecting on twitter where I realized that I had a lot to say about this stuff, and decided to start my own blog. I went to wordpress.com, whipped up a blog and just started writing. It didn’t take me long to realize how tough and rewarding writing a blog can be. It would take me 2-3 hours to write each post, if I can come up with good ideas for posts. For a while I was also facing the new blogger’s dilemma, where I felt like I was speaking to the world and no one was listening. It’s not a fast or easy method, but you have to stick with it.

Fast forward…after months of reading, writing and connecting, I’ve created some amazing connections/friendships with professionals who share my passion. My blog has a small but amazing community, and has allowed me to show potentially hiring companies my level of knowledge and that I have a passion for the industry. I’ve learned more from conversing and sharing with other professionals than I ever could have from my classes or books. I’ve even had the privilege to guest post at blogs that I’ve followed and looked up to from the start, like Mashable and Kyle Lacy.

The biggest lesson I think I’ve learned is to never pass up an opportunity to connect and to network. These social media tools have made it easier than ever to network and you should use it to its fullest. Even if you don’t think there is that much to gain directly from connecting with someone, you never know where an opportunity might develop. By connecting and sharing with each other, you contribute to the community and make it better for everyone… including yourself.

Stuart Foster, a smart and wittily sarcastic consultant who created The Lost Jacket asked me to write a guest post for his blog. I immediately responded telling him I would. I wrote the post where a pretty interesting conversation ensued. One of those people in the conversation checked out my blog, and found me to be a good candidate for his company’s community manager position. I am now moving to Philly this Summer (=.

Regardless of your passion, you can contribute, connect, and share using these tools.  You never know where your opportunities will come.

Bookmark and Share To share specific article, click on the post title so that you’re only looking at individual post, then share.

Advice for PR and Marketing Grads

m00by
Photo cred: m00by

This is a collaboratively reworked version of Lauren Fernandez‘s post “Let’s Be Frank: Some Advice for PR Graduates” that I thought was SO great, I needed to make it available to my readers with a few additional insights of my own. I also spoke with Lauren after her post to find answers to some additional questions I had which will also be included here. Here we go…

  1. Build experience and set goals. Participate in internships, take offices, join clubs and do community service.  Find jobs that you are interested in and work to become qualified.
  2. Be realistic. Many companies have become big by retaining their employees and job openings are limited, especially in today’s economy.  You shouldn’t always shoot for the big name companies.  You will find that smaller – medium sized companies are the ones looking for bright new entry-level people to join them as they grow.  At these small agencies, you can gain a lot of experience because you really get to see the ins and outs of an agency.
  3. Don’t rush to grad school. Focus on building some experience first.  PR students should always have some experience before going to grad school. Really, a masters in PR is geared toward if you want to go into teaching. However, you can always go for Emerging Media, Public Affairs, Communications, etc. In many situations, only YOU would know what’s the right approach when considering going to grad school. In general, I would recommend having at least 2 years of professional experience first.
  4. You are not too good for ANY offer. As long as an organization has a good reputation, there is no reason to not give it a shot. You might find it’s a great fit, and you will definitely learn from it – good or bad. Also, you might hear of a development coordinator job opening – this is geared toward fund-raising and developing the brand. This is great for a young PR pro because you can really fine-tune your pitching and customer service skills.
  5. Stay open to doing internships after you graduate. Not everyone coming out of school will get a job right off the bat.  If you are set on the big agency, be prepared to take a paid internship for a couple of months before being offered an entry type position. Don’t look at this as a disadvantage!  Since you have a degree, you will be given more responsibility and greater consideration for full-time opportunities. You will take away great experience, contacts and if you do your job well, a recommendation.
  6. Set up interviews around graduation time Sure, your finance and business major friend already landed a job back in December but guess what? This is PR and marketing. The job offers WILL come.  Those hiring, unless stated differently, usually want someone to start within a month of the interview process. This is a field that is constantly on the go and constantly changing.
  7. Network until you graduate! The key is to establish a connection with professionals and stay involved until interview season. Three quick networking tips:
    1. Use social media to it’s fullest! Tools like linkedin, twitter, and professionals networks have made it easier than ever to meet professionals in your field. If you feel comfortable enough, have a lot to say and can say it well, start a blog!  Make sure to be respectful and professional in your online presence. Word gets around in these fields and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation.
    2. Go to networking events! There are always events going on in major cities.  They are a great way to make some real connections with experienced professionals who will only be impressed that you are networking before you graduate.
    3. If you’ve made a contact, communicate with them once a week – either by email, phone or even meeting for coffee. It’s the simple things that keep a relationship alive, and that drive to connect with PR pros is going to get you very far. Face-to-face communication is ALWAYS the best route to create meaningful relationships, especially for those that haven’t jumped into social media yet.
  8. You can focus your job search on social media. As many have argued, social media doesn’t exactly fall under marketing or PR but more of a mixture, and there isn’t an accepted method to approach social media. If you’re set on working in social media, consider an association/non-profit job. Contrary to popular belief, this is where a lot of job opportunities will be coming from. They all need in-house PR, and they also have a great need for the 20-something who is great at social media. In non-profits/association, you truly know the ins and outs of your client, because you ARE the client. In these settings, you also gain a ton of experience because you get to do a lot more, and are trusted a lot more, than in the agency atmosphere.

What did we leave out? What advice would you give to PR and marketing grads?