Category Archives: Career Advice

14 interview tips for print, TV and radio

Whether you’re preparing for a big interview, or your client is, or you need to train someone on how to be interviewed by the media, here are some tips to help make it as good as possible.

1) Always speak clearly and simply. Don’t use science or technology (or whatever field you’re in) jargon. Pretend like you’re explaining something to a third grader.

2) Find the time (if possible) to outline what points you want to say or answers to questions you anticipate. Write down everything you’d like to give in a response, then go back and edit it down to its simplest and shortest form.

3) We all goof up. If you realize you’ve accidentally said something incorrectly, offer correct information as soon as you realize what you’ve done. This isn’t as easy if you’re being interviewed live on television, so don’t lose your cool. But admitting you made a mistake is much better than letting the wrong information spread into public knowledge.

4) Never assume. If you’re being interviewed for an article, and you think the reporter has heard something incorrectly or you can sense there’s a misunderstanding of something, provide another, better explanation.

5) Follow-up is key. If you promise you’ll get back with the reporter with extra information, find out her/his deadline and get it there well before that.

6) It might sound like a no-brainer, but when you’re preparing for a television interview, know whether it’s going to air live or taped. Then enjoy feeling a little more at ease if it’s taped.

7) If you’re not accustomed to doing television or radio interviews, record yourself speaking so you know what thousands (millions?) of others are going to hear. If you’re happy with what you hear, that’s great. If you’re terrorized by the sound of your own voice, then work on it.

8) Speak simply and clearly. Again, record yourself practicing your answers, so you can determine if you need to slow down or speed up or enunciate. Nerves make us talk faster. (Avoid being over-caffeinated pre-interview!)

9) Know what your body does when you’re talking. Be aware of your gestures. Make sure they look natural. Don’t flail those arms.

10) Find out ahead of time, for a television interview, if you’ll be standing or sitting, inside or outside. Then dress and style accordingly. (No short skirts if you’re sitting; tie your hair back if you’re outside so you won’t be fidgeting with blowing hair while on camera; don’t wear white socks with sandals; don’t wear a shirt or skirt that’s too tight when you sit down.)

11) Make sure and ask where to look. Usually you look at the reporter, not the camera.

12) Be aware of your fidgets and don’t do them. (Playing with fingernails, biting inside of mouth, playing with your hair.)

13) For radio, know what type of format the program is: if it’s a hard news story, your interview will probably be brief and full of sound bites. For a talk-show format, you may need to fill 15-30 minutes with content. Make sure to be able to fill that time.

14) If you’re giving a radio interview by phone, stand up while talking! (Same works for phone job interviews.) It makes you more alert and helps your voice to carry clear and strong. Trust me, it’s obvious if you’re lying on the couch with your hand in a bag of Fritos.

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So you want to change careers to PR? Some helpful resources

Recently, a colleague asked if I would sit down with his daughter and talk to her about what I do: marketing, social media, public relations. She’s looking to change careers: this field intrigues her, and she has some entry-level experience. Of course I said yes!

In addition to telling her about my background, my experience, and the ins and outs of what I currently do, I gave her some resources. And I want to share those here:

The night before we talked, I made some notes of points I definitely wanted to touch upon. One thing I knew without hesitation was that she would be the proud recipient of my copy of David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR (2011 third edition). I told her: read this book, if you don’t get excited or intrigued about what’s being talked about, this isn’t the field for you.

I also recommended subscribing to resources from Ragan.comSmartbrief on Social Media, PR Wise group on LinkedIn, and The Skinny from PR News.

What else would you recommend for her?

Related posts:
So you want to study PR? Tips for college students

So you want to be in PR? Tips for soon-to-be college graduates

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So you want to study PR? Tips for college students

Earlier this week, Sheyda, a college sophomore, read and commented on my post about recent college grads wanting to get into PR. She’s in the middle of her bio-med studies, and she feels her future being pulled toward a career in PR: “My passion lies with the drive to build relationships with people and companies/businesses,” she told me. “I want to switch my major to Public Relations as soon as I can. Is there any advice you can give me? To be honest, one of the reasons I haven’t switched is because I’m scared of the job market.”

I’d like to share my response to her question here, for anyone else in a similar situation. In a nutshell: do your homework, then follow your gut!

To Sheyda: I think you need to follow your gut instinct here, ultimately, but first, I think you should explore PR and marketing a little more to make sure it’s what you really want to do. Networking and making people feel at ease is a fun and wonderful part of PR, and I’m so glad you’re good at it and feel comfortable doing it. That’s very important.

So next, do a few things: pick up a copy of The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. The third edition is out now; I actually just bought it and haven’t had a chance to read it! David is an excellent PR professional and a great writer and teacher. If after you finish reading this you find that you’ve dog-eared, highlighted and made notes all over the book, then I think a PR major should be in your future.

You should also subscribe to one of the many industry e-newsletters out there. Ragan.com has some great newsletters that might be a good starting point.

Being worried about the job market is a smart to do, to a certain point, but we can’t let it stop us from following our dreams. PR is diverse, and just about every type of business and industry needs a communications professional. Higher education, public broadcasting, banking, non-profits, construction, the entertainment industry…most places have marketing and communications divisions and offices.

And if you’re interested in freelancing or building your own boutique, then the time to start is now. In addition to your studies at Auburn, start doing work for clients – campus groups, become PR chair of your sorority, local organizations, causes, etc – and begin building your professional profile and portfolio.

I think it also will benefit you to take some journalism classes and spend a semester on the campus newspaper, so you get the experience working as the folks you’ll be working with in the future should you delve into media relations. In fact, interning at a local newspaper might not be a bad idea, if you have the time, in addition to definitely shadowing/interning at either PR agencies or with a communications professional.

I’m so excited for Sheyda to be embarking upon a potential PR career!

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Goodbye higher education marketing, hello public broadcasting

I’ve just finished my second week as communications coordinator at a public broadcasting affiliate. After almost five years in higher education marketing, I was hungry for a bigger challenge and experience in a new area of marketing, and it’s turned out to be a great decision. (And a busy one: I’m ashamed that in not blogging for more than two [er, three…?] weeks, I’ve broken one of my cardinal blogging rules.)

While my higher education marketing position was focused mostly on media relations, my new position is a combination of traditional media relations (plus bloggers and online writers, of course) and social media. That is, I’m in charge of the success of the station’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, among other SM outlets. Now that’s the kind of challenge I’m talking about.

In 2006, I worked for another public broadcasting affiliate. I attended graduate school in New York, and I decided that I wanted to volunteer at the PBS affiliate in the city. I e-mailed the volunteer director, introducing myself and submitting my resume. She responded that she didn’t think my skills were quite right for volunteering…but they were looking for an editor for their internal newsletter, and would I like to come in and discuss that possibility? Yes, please.

My first visit to the WNET/Thirteen building on W. 33rd Street in New York is one of the best moments of my life. I got the gig, after several meetings with executives, and I literally skipped the 15 or so blocks to class that night. I had an official Thirteen e-mail address, an I.D. card, even a cubicle. I caught glimpses of Bill Moyers in the hallway. I was on top of the world. And I decided that one day, I’d work fulltime in public broadcasting.

I love the higher education arena, and I now consider myself somewhat of an expert in higher ed PR. It’s also good to experience marketing and PR in different contexts, so I’m happy to be where I am today. On a hope that she’d remember me, I recently e-mailed my former boss at Thirteen, who not only remembered me, but also recalled a story I thought maybe she wouldn’t. When we were working on an issue of the newsletter, she needed to retrieve something from my office e-mail, and I had to confess my password: pbsceo2b. Mortifying.

I don’t know about CEO, but becoming part of a marketing team for a public television station has been a great move. As with any niche of marketing, some things are similar, some are different. For this blog, it means fewer posts about college and university marketing, certainly, but also exploration of the differences between private, public and goverment sectors, and how that affects PR and social media. One topic I really want to explore is the idea of media relations and social media being in the same job description. A lot has been said on the topic.

For my loyal readers, or for those who just happened to drop by, this new PR journey is going to be an exciting one!

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So you want to be in PR? Tips for soon-to-be college graduates

Congratulations to all the college graduates who will be entering the public relations field! Last year, U.S. News listed “public relations specialist” as one of the top jobs for 2011. That can be good and bad: competition will be fierce. So here are some tips for soon-to-be graduates to stand above the competition and build a solid foundation for a long, successful career in public relations.

1) Don’t be afraid to take an internship, fellowship or other non-full-time option. Fellow PR professional Kerry O’Neill and I share this sentiment (check out her recent Ragan.com article on advice for PR grads and job interviews). Yes, you had several internships during college. That’s excellent, and there’s nothing wrong with continuing that for right now! Especially if a) you land a paying internship before you land that job, b) you aren’t sure what area of PR you want to be in (non-profit, higher ed, corporate, etc.), and c) you can land an internship in the city you want to be in.

I have a friend whose internship at a non-profit turned into a full-time position a year later. I also have a friend who interned at a major magazine right out of college. Her experience sharpened her skills and portfolio for her current marketing position.

2) Clean up your social media. If you’re applying to a position for which I’m making the hiring decision, I’m going to look you up on the three major social networking sites. Tidy up your Facebook wall and photo albums or make it private so I can’t access your information. Don’t let a Twitter account lie dormant: If you haven’t Tweeted in three weeks, start now, and make them semi-interesting (I guiltily admit that I need to work on this one myself). And make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated with as much impressive (and true) information as possible.

Considering a person’s social media activity within the context of a job interview is a touchy topic. The reason it’s important to me is because social media is a growing part of the marketing field. I’m sorry, did I say growing? I meant essential and undeniable. So if you can’t manage your own social media presence, then I’m going to assume you can’t manage my company’s or client’s.

3) Continue to learn. Just because you’re finished with college doesn’t mean it’s time to put the books down. If you really want to be a public relations professional, you’re going to have to research who the experts are, read their work, and consider them critically. Reach out to them on Twitter or on their blogs. When you’re interviewing for a position, put on your résumé and work into conversation the fact you follow certain marketing professionals. Professional and personal development is crucial to success in this ever-changing field. If I’m interviewing you, and you drop the name of an author or marketer that I’ve studied, too, it’s going to get you a gold star.

4) Start a blog. Blogging—in any field or topic, not just public relations—is a heavily saturated practice, just like the public relations field in general. But that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t create a blog to showcase, explore and expand your own knowledge and experience. That’s what I’ve done with this blog. Make sure to include blog entries as writing samples and link to your blog from your résumé and all social media accounts. There are tons of apps that’ll automatically post your blog entries to all of your social media accounts.

The Internet has changed the PR field in that it’s created a learning and networking environment that’s conducive to career growth. It’s a really, really great time to be in public relations. Begin a blog, be thoughtful and intentional with your posts, and most important, don’t leave it dormant. (Some tips from my first year as a blogger might be helpful for newbies.)

5) Create your own opportunities. Ok, you’re 22, you have a degree, and you know how to write a press release and engage people in conversation. Excellent. Why don’t you head down to your local humane society or that vintage boutique that you love or that band at that bar on Friday night and ask them if they’d like help with their advertising and publicity. Chances are, they’ll say yes, and you’ll say great, I’ll do it for free. Why? Because it’s experience that you need. You’re creating your legacy, building your career path and experience, and you’re making friends that can turn into references and clients. True PR professionals don’t work 9-5. They live PR, which is very lucky for their clients.

6) Stop taking yourself so seriously! Your dream job will come. Right now, I promise, you’re too young to know what your dream job is. In the meantime, if you’re serious about being a PR professional, take in as much as you can from everywhere you can. Not sure if PR is the right field for you? Let me know what questions you have, and I’d be glad to help you sort it out. I started college as a pre-med major, then veered off to English and journalism, attended grad school for an M.S. in book publishing: it wasn’t until later that I decided PR was where I belonged.

Congratulations, and good luck!

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