Cindy West, Author at INK inc PR

Media Relations: Knowledge=Success

Media-Relations-Success

I was reviewing a story about one of our clients, Philip and Katy Leakey, written by David Brooks of The New York Times, “The Question-Driven Life.”  There is a quote referenced in this article by the late Richard Holbrook that stands out, which describes the philosophy of the Leakey’s, one which they live by and makes me smile with memories of my interview with Philip:  “Know something about something. Don’t just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it around.”

It reminded me of why educating clients on what media relations is, what it’s based upon, and what it does, makes for a partnership that delivers successful outcomes.

Media relations in its most basic form is convincing a journalist that a client has the most newsworthy story that they’ve never heard…then convincing this journalist to present that story to their audience.  The former is done in the form of a pitch that tells the journalist the who, what, when, why and where that is informative but not an ad.  The latter is explaining why this story is a great fit for their audience.  But it all starts with knowledge.

To gain that, we must work in tandem with the client and immerse ourselves in the background of the company and how it has evolved. We find out how it differentiates itself from its competitors. We want to know what problems it solves for businesses; or how its product enhances the life of those who buy it. We want to know what was the creative genesis of the company.  And we want to how the business operates.  Is there anything significant that sets it apart in their corporate culture that makes it stand out amongst top companies.  How does it handle client/customer service that end users rave about?  Does it push industry standards to another level? Where do you see your industry in 5 years or more? Is the C-Suite full of thought leaders, and what areas of expertise can they speak to? Can the company provide examples of success? How is the CEO on camera in delivering great information?

We are a client’s first interview.  We think like reporters and producers and many of us at INK, have that experience and those news instincts. We prefer to meet in person and at the client’s place of business because this is the best climate for discovering the nuanced story angles that most clients never think about.

Bottom line, successful media relations is based on education and knowledge.   We and our clients must “Know something about something. Don’t just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it around.”

Now go and check out our case study on the Leakey’s and enjoy the story.

Influencers and Impostors: How the latter killed the mommy blog

Mommy bloggers are not what they used to be.

Courtesy of Adobe Stock/Peshkov.

 

One of my first projects as a public relations professional fresh out of college was to work on an account that sold a product whose target demographics were women or the party planner of the family. One of their goals with media outreach was to get their product into the hands of bloggers who would review and give away their product to their readers. I worked closely with multiple bloggers, many of which you could refer to as “mommy bloggers” and gained a lot of knowledge very quickly about how they operated.

It is because of this experience that I will say the ‘mommy blog’ is dead or at least on its death bed… but that doesn’t mean they have disappeared completely. Like most things that work well for a few people, the mommy blogs have been overrun with impersonators and individuals trying to make a quick buck or find and try new products for free. Are all of them this way? Of course not. Those who started this endeavor early, as an outlet for their experiences as a mom, genuinely wrote about products they used and how it made their life easier. They were true journalists, and advocates of the stay at home or working mom – but very few of them still exist.

The problem is the vast majority of them have ruined it for the few. In general, I have had pleasant experiences with the people who run mommy blogs. It goes something like this: I send them a pitch about a product that would speak to their audience. They would reply, sometimes quickly and sometimes not, requesting a sample and possibly a gift card for a giveaway, which I would promptly send. Upon receiving it, the author then writes a great post about the product and offers up a prize to one of their readers. It all goes well; the client is happy and all of the readers of the blog begin to buy the reviewed product. That is how it all happens… except when it doesn’t.

During my time pitching products to mommy bloggers I have run across nearly every kind you could imagine. There are the coupon queens – always posting about great deals on products and full of competitions and giveaways. There are also the ones who don’t use spellcheck. There are even those who talk exclusively about all of the fun (and not so fun) things they do with their kids and families. I have had products taken and not written about (or returned), I have received written reviews which were word for word what I sent them in the pitch (which is great because we wrote that pitch with SEO in mind), and I have even had blogs that looked promising disappear altogether after sending the product.

There was once a time when one could look to mommy bloggers as influencers who had important thoughts about products they used with their kids and wanted to share with other parents. That time has passed.  We no longer know if the thoughts that these bloggers have are indeed based on a great experience they had and wanted to share with the world. Instead, it could just as easily be them saying that since ‘my blog is the only source of income I have,’ I will let leading product companies pay a decent amount of money to have a review written (which, most of the time, they write themselves). Just so we’re clear, that is an advertisement, not journalism.

Regardless of whether it is a mommy blogger or a news website that writes and reviews the newest and coolest technology, what matters is how influential the author is and how they use that influence to move their audience to take action by writing their thoughts online, through blogs, websites, and social media. In the end, it all comes down to sales for the client. We as PR professionals must be able to distinguish between the influencers and the imposters to ensure that the product is catching the eye of an audience who will be apt to take action.

What Do Interns Want From Their Internships?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

By Joshua Brown

While some people get an internship with the intention of just getting the mail and making coffee runs, a majority of college students are looking for more than just exercise. In today’s job market, most employers look for entry-level employees with some experience on top of their degree. As a result, most college students are also searching for that experience. Additionally, students are also gauging the reality of their career choice and whether or not it’s the right fit for them. Here are a few things interns are looking for in the firms that choose to hire them.

1. Real World Experience

Professors assign homework on a regular basis. While students appreciate what they learned in the classroom, they understand that there is no substitute for real world experience. In many cases, a class assignment has no value nor use after the grade, and carries less weight in a portfolio than something done working for a real client.

No matter how small, interns are looking to help with something that a firm needs or assists in getting the job done. Not only is it a better learning experience, but it also gets them good content for a portfolio.

2. Constructive Criticism

Nobody likes criticism, but interns understand that if they are not told how to improve, their work will not get any better. In fact, without constructive criticism, one could say that working with the intern is a waste of time. We have established that interns want the real world experience- they also want to learn from the experience. Interns understand they will never be able to get a permanent position by producing intern level results.

They will stumble from time to time and maybe (but hopefully not) make a big mistake. Interns aren’t asking to be yelled at, but they want to know how they can improve. An employer can give interns insight into how they would do things and how to be successful. In a way, employers have the power to mold the perfect employee.

3. Input

Yes, we know, listening to an intern does not sound ideal. However, one cannot escape the fact that target audiences are gearing more and more to millennials. It just so happens that most of the interns are millennials. From a marketing standpoint, they may be able to offer some insightful angles and different ways to reach this audience.

In other career fields, the ability for interns to give good input might be a bit more limited. For example, with fields like engineering, barring a catastrophe of the laws of nature, there are only so many ways that two plus two can be solved. There is a chance, however, that an intern may be able to find a glitch in the logistics or find a system to make a process more efficient. Interns are looking for internships where they can put in educated feedback and be treated professionally.

4. Freedom to ask questions

It may be common belief that interns don’t know anything. In a way that may be true, imagine what an intern has to process during the first days at a new job on their very first job. Sometimes they will be hesitant or shy to ask questions. What many of them appreciate is a work environment where they can ask whatever questions they have. Some things may be common sense to an experienced professional; however, interns are not experienced. As stated in the first point, they hope to gain that experience from the employer.

Much like how a happy employee gives good work, by following these step the intern will enjoy working for the company and give their best, every time. It becomes a win, win situation. It is also good to consider asking the interns what they expect or are looking for to manage more specific needs.

What Do Firms Want From Their Interns?

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Every summer, thousands of college students start their transitions from school to career by taking on internships. For many of the students, landing an internship can be enough cause for celebration as getting one has become highly competitive. The high levels of competition bring the added pressure of performing to the expectations of the firm.

Although personal experiences can vary from firm to firm, the best way interns can prepare for the internship is by being aware of the following tips geared towards performing well on the job.

1. People like results

Here at INK we are all about results, but we are not the only ones that find value in the results-oriented approach. Having something to show for the hours spent working for the firm is a great way to meet the firm’s expectations. Firms primarily hire interns to get help in performing a task, the ability to perform that task then will be the primary variable that interns are “graded” on.

How interns show results depends on the type of work being done. Many internships have a set of performance goals or tasks that must be performed. Ensuring those tasks are done and goals met is a sure way to show results.

What about research? Nobody likes answering the question “What have you done for the past five hours?” with “research” while having nothing to show. While doing research, writing down notes or links to information is a good way to not only help present what one has done but also to help organize the research for later use.

2. Be on time

Whether it be to work in the morning or to an office meeting, being timely is important for generating good relations with the office. Especially in group meetings, everyone’s time is being set aside for the particular function. It is unfair to the others in the group to have them wait, as some operate on strict schedules throughout the day.

It is true that different cultures work on different values of time, but generally speaking in the Western world, timeliness is very important and will help in receiving good recommendations. Nevertheless, the company atmosphere plays an integral part in the internship and is something to consider; thus, the third tip.

3. Absorb the company atmosphere

Companies understand that internships are an opportunity for interns to learn more about the career path they are planning to follow. They also understand that interns are looking for “an experience.” As a result, many companies have set up their internships to showcase the company atmosphere. Even in internships that are not set specifically that way, passive observation will often reveal the way the company’s employees interact.

As an intern, it is important to absorb this atmosphere. It will be helpful in dealing with other employees, and it will also keep you from doing things that would get you in trouble with the higher-ups. Dress code, professional speech, and work ethic are all things an intern should be mindful of as one starts to settle in. Unsure of how relaxed the atmosphere will be? It is a good idea to err on the side of being too professional than not enough. The last thing you want is a repeat of the case where all but one of the interns were fired for a petition against company policy.

4. Learn

Although this might seem like a no-brainer, if an employee gives an intern advice or pointers on how to do certain tasks, it is in the best interest of the intern to do things that way. One shouldn’t be afraid of asking why the tasks are done a certain way (this helps with critical thinking in case a situation rises that is different from the norm), but 98 percent of the time, the people in charge of running the business know what they are doing.

Following directions flows from this tip and it should be apparent that interns will make their employers happy by doing what they are told to do.

These simple tips will put interns on the path to success, or at least help them get through an internship while trying to figure out if this is the right career or not.

Are there any tips we missed that you would like potential interns to know? Feel free to share any experiences from past interns on the do’s and don’ts in the office.

How to Create an Internship Program

By Kaleigh Lorenz

Internship Program

With many students scrambling to get extra work experience through internships, it may be possible that one or two of them have come across your office asking if there are any internships available. Maybe you had to turn them down because you did not have an internship program and then decided you might want one, or maybe you are looking for extra help and feel that an intern would be a better fit for the job than a full-time employee. Regardless, now you are left with the dilemma of starting an internship program from the ground up.

The question is how does one go about creating an internship program?

1. Educate Yourself

The first step is to educate yourself.

Start with the basics: understand the laws both the state and the federal government have for internships. These laws are very clear on guidelines you must follow when it comes to hiring paid or unpaid interns. Many small businesses unknowingly break federal law when employing unpaid interns. In order to work with unpaid interns, there are six standards (according to the Internships Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, April 2010) which must be followed to qualify:

  • The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  • The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion, its operations may be impeded.
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

State laws vary on what the employers must do when it comes to filing work compensation and other financial benefits if working with a paid intern.

After you have settled on what type of an intern you will employ, become familiar with local universities. Typically, it is a good idea to have one contact per university. The point of contact will be able to relay your opportunities to potential interns as well as inform you of upcoming career days. Lastly, become familiar with online boards to post your opportunity. Websites such as Indeed and CareerBuilder are resources that interns and employers use to look for and fill positions.

This is by far the most intensive step.

2. Plan

Next, develop the company portion of the plan. Before interns can be hired to work, there must be work for an intern to do. Develop a plan to explain how the company works, daily tasks, expectations, office etiquette and an employee handbook.

Provide an intern coordinator; this could be a specific employee for each intern or one employee to cover all the interns. The intern coordinator will be the point of contact for the interns and it must be somebody that is willing to be patient as well as answer any questions the interns may have.

Afterward, develop a plan for the project(s) the interns will work on. This will be something to get their feet wet and give them a taste of the type of work the company does. The intern will thus have an opportunity to build a portfolio, gain experience, and ask questions.

3. Set expectations:

Make sure the company has the basic questions answered clearly to all interns before the intern accepts the position. Interns need to be aware of what is expected of them: hours, tasks, start and end dates as well as being informed on the payment situation- if the internship is paid or not.

Many students do internships for college credit, be prepared to give the intern the information needed to ensure that the student can fulfill the requirements needed for credit. For example, in some cases, students need to work 60 hours or more for one college credit and will need you to sign off on their hours at the end of the internship.

4. Interview process:

Before viewing resumes and conducting interviews make a list of the top things the company is looking for and how many interns the company can accept. This will help narrow down the applicants. Evaluate resumes and conduct interviews.

Remember, although the company is interviewing and evaluating the applicants, the applicants are also evaluating the company. The applicants may have great skills and be a top pick for the internship program, but if the applicants did not have an enjoyable interview process, an offer might be declined. A relaxed interview to get to know their personal qualities and keeping the conversation open is ideal. Allow the interviewee to ask questions about the company and the type of work they will potentially be doing.

After the conducting the interview, it is time to extend offers. Extend the offers with a clearly defined deadline to accept the offer. Many students will try to wait until the last minute to make a decision. Make the deadline upfront so there are no surprises and so that if the applicant declines there enough time to extend another offer and fill the position.

5. Execute

Now that the company has done the research, planned, established expectations and hired the interns, it is time to execute the plan. All employees should be aware of the intern’s arrival and prepped on being hospitable and welcoming.

Interns are going to be nervous, but it is important that they feel comfortable. Not only can they be potential employees but also at the end of the internship they will go back to their college campus and let peers know about the experience they had with the company. An intern’s first day will be overwhelming, but it can be less overwhelming if it is structured. A good idea is to have a welcoming luncheon to give the interns a chance to meet staff and show a sense of community within the company.

The first couple days should be spent explaining things to the interns. Explaining everything from “this is where the restrooms are,” to “our database works like this.” The more you answer questions at the start, the less time will be spent on figuring them out later.

In the end, an internship program can be a great asset for your company as well as a great tool for college students. Feel free to share tips or asks questions about internship programs in the comments.