So this is what it’s like after you graduate

•August 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Greta's OSU graduation

I would like to formally apologize to all my readers for not posting for the last four months. I think that after I got a job, I felt no need to impress cyberspace (read: potential employers.) I also write a lot at work, so it’s like, do I really want to go home and write? Turns out the answer is yes, sometimes. I actually kind of miss being on here and I know my two dedicated readers (hey mom, hey dad.) have really missed my blogging. So….I’m baaaaaaack! You’re welcome.

Since I last graced you with my blogging presence, I have graduated college, started a full-time job as a communications specialist for a quasi state agency (Yeah, you heard me. Quasi.) and moved to Oklahoma City. Well, I mean other things have happened, but those are the main points. At any rate, I am now a productive, employed member of society. I can’t lie, it has its pros and cons.

There are things that I just didn’t predict or plan for in this post-graduation time of my life but I think that’s just the way it goes. Years ago, there must have been a conversation between university presidents where they talked about what was important to learn in college. They must have decided on maximum textbook education and minimum real-life skill. There are a lot of things completely unrelated to my major that it would have helped to take a class in! In case anyone influential at OSU is reading this blog, I’ve come up with a few classes you should consider offering.

It’s a small world, after all – This course will arm you with skills for choosing which guys to date. Discussion topics include subjects such as: resisting re-dating someone you’ve dated before, there are billions of other people in the world, the two of you living in the same city doesn’t mean crap, gray area is bad and where NOT to meet potential boyfriends.

Late fee-avoidance – This course stresses the importance of paying rent on time, documenting what scummy landlords tell you and provides other tips to avoid getting a $900 bill in the mail.

Co-workers: how to deal – An in-depth look at how to handle the delicate friend/competitor/resource/lift you up/tear you down/keep you sane/make you crazy relationship between co-workers.

Early mornings 101 – This course provides you with tricks of the trade for surviving early mornings. Topics will include: the importance of setting more than one alarm, swiping coffee from other departments when you’re too lazy to make it, how to get ready quickly when you oversleep and making a messy bun look professional.

When you think you’re finished, you’re not really finished – An overview of how to handle others editing your work, going through a 10-step approval process, how to get present material so that what you want chosen gets chosen, not taking things personally and the art of being able to discern what will be approved by administration within seconds of reviewing it.

Drive to arrive alive – This course will get you accustomed to a 30-minute commute twice a day. You’ll learn skills such as: driving aggressively, finding alternate routes, multitasking, driving on E without running out of gas and driving while applying makeup.

Anyway, those are just some ideas. If you’re reading this and you have an in with Burns Hargis, feel free to pass it along.

Overall, I have to say that this summer has been really good for me. I’m really liking my job, I love OKC, I’m having fun, I’ve made positive changes in my life and I’m remembering what is really important to me even through all the change. Like I said, there are pros and cons, but this is where I’m at, so you better believe I’m going to enjoy it!


Love them or hate them, they’re there to stay

•March 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Team projects are a lot like family. You can love them or hate them, but they are here to stay. Just like that cousin that irritates the mess out of you but is at every holiday without fail, team projects are a part of just about every syllabus starting around your junior year of college. But it doesn’t stop there! There’s a reason that professors put students through the torture of working with 4 strangers to create a cohesive paper, podcast, campaign or whatever it is. And it’s actually a pretty good reason. Team projects are here to stay.

It’s true. In most businesses, collaboration is key. Why? Well if you think about it, it’s much more beneficial to have 5 talented individuals contributing on a project than to just rely on one person. Each person brings something different to the table that could potentially improve the final product. By putting a team together, you are theoretically gathering different points of view, backgrounds, experiences and styles. All these things come together and challenge people to think outside of the box, and maybe even do something in a way they never had before. Sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know. When you have always done things a certain way or looked at things from a certain perspective, it doesn’t even cross your mind that there might be a better way.

Sure, it might be a tough pill to swallow to know that someone else’s approach is a better fit for the situation, but everyone brings something different. Your area of weakness might be someone else’s strength, so take advantage! Successful collaborations occur when everyone finds their place. Playing off of each person’s strengths and weaknesses (in a good way!) will show you how you all fit together. Every machine has specific pieces that fit together to make it run smoothly, and a
group like this is no different. Should people be flexible and be competent in many areas? Absolutely! But when people know what is expected of them and are given the chance to excel at something, they usually will.

When each person finds their place and contributes in their own unique way, that’s when the fun happens! (Yes, I know I’m talking about group projects and fun in the same sentence. It can happen!) Im talking about brainstorming, creatively bouncing ideas around, picking each other’s brains, thinking big and outside the box, and developing and fleshing out ideas! Sure, this stage brings its own set of challenges (read: everyone thinks their idea is the best), but it’s amazing to see what you come up with as a group.

Next time you’re gifted with the opportunity to make the impossible possible, try to look at it with fresh eyes. Group projects can run smoothly and end well! Yes, it will be challenging, but just like every professor is probably thinking when they assign group projects, these types of collaborations are here to stay. So sharpen the skills you need to work in groups now – It will be worth it!

A note to myself on Valentine’s Day

•February 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment
Dear Me,
You really are the best valentine that a girl could ask for. I mean, come on….you’re gorgeous, funny, stylish, have good taste in movies and restaurants. I’m so grateful to have you as my valentine. No one knows what you want on this holiday better than I do. I’ll let you watch the movie you want (No ninjas, cowboys or aliens..remember those dates? ehh). I won’t take you to Jack in the Box, or make you go somewhere you don’t want to go for dinner. You can choose…whatever you want! (And I KNOW you’ll choose somewhere with chips and salsa.) I won’t run to Walgreens and grab a bag of hershey’s kisses and a card that says “from the both of us” (when it’s clearly from 1 person) 10 minutes before we’re supossed to exchange gifts, or buy the $3 mini teddy bear and strawberry hard candy combo at dollar general. And I PROMISE I won’t give you anything that came from a storage unit that I bought. Instead, I will buy you flowers! That was our deal…meet your weight loss goal thisweek and you get flowers. And the fact that you did it makes me love you even more!
But really, self, Valentine’s Day isn’t just about us. It’s about the people around us that we love and that love us. Luckily, we love all the same people! Unlike that one valentine that didn’t care for your friends, or that other one that hadn’t even met our family but didn’t like them, I LOVE your friends and family just as much as you do!
So thank you, self, for being the person that you are and allowing us to spend this holiday together. I promise you that we will always be together and that I will ALWAYS love you.

Ready, Aim, Fire. Wait, Where’d the Bullet Go?

•February 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Last weekend I fulfilled a dream that was three years in the making. I put on ear and eye protection, shuffled past 10 or so burly men, and watched as a Russian guy, who insisted that I have one of the biggest guns available, showed me how to load the 22 with bullets. Shooting guns is something that I had been wanting to do for a LONG time, and although quite a few people said they would take me, it never actually happened. So my roommate and I (who also knew very little about guns) purchased Groupons for a shooting range and took matters into our own hands. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It was everything I thought it would be!

Going into it, I automatically thought I’d be a natural at it, but it came about as naturally to me as any other sport. (Memories of lost middle-school basketball games come to mind.) The thing that I didn’t anticipate was how hard it was to aim! I should have known I would struggle with this part considering I run after the tennis ball more than my racquet actually makes contact with it, but I just assumed I’d be a pro. As I kept shooting, there were various issues to correct like too far to the left, too high, or the ever-popular, “Wait, where’d the bullet go?” Luckily, my friends helped me make adjustments as I went, and in those rare moments when I did everything right at once, I got pretty dang close to where I was aiming.

As I was contemplating my (lack of) skill with a gun, my mind jumped to public relations. I blame all those professors that have been drilling it in my head for the last two years. I started to think about how people say, “If you aim at nothing, that’s what you’ll get.”, which is true, but a lot of times you can feel like you’re amazing at something specific, and still miss completely. So the question here is what went wrong.

As you’re working in public relations, the first thing you have to determine is who you’re target audience is. This is really where aiming at something specific comes into play. It might be college students, ages 18-24, or it might be working moms that are 35-45. Your target audience just needs to be the specific group that you need to reach in order to achieve your goal. Once you’ve figured this out, it’s time to determine what you need to do to reach this group.

I learned that if I wanted to shoot on the right side of the target, I needed to stop leaning my body to the left. In PR this might mean that in order to reach college students, you need to revise your slogan or advertisements. It will take some practice (as it obviously did for me) to determine exactly the changes that need to be made, but it’s worth the time and effort. If you know which direction to go, then you’ll be ready to put your plan into action.

Now I know, this is much easier said than done, but there is no substitute for a well-executed plan. For me, it was about remembering what I had learned before, as I was actually shooting. Here’s a tip, though: Consistency is key! If you don’t put in the effort throughout the entire campaign, you won’t have an accurate measurement of what worked and what didn’t. At the end of your campaign, or fundraiser or whatever it is you’re working on, take a look at how effective you were. It’s up to you to decide how to measure this, and unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than seeing where the bullet hole is on the target.

Although I wish I was a SWAT team-level marksman, that’s just not the case. It’s going to take practice, correcting my mistakes and learning from other experienced shooters to bring my game up, and it’s the same way in PR. But in the long run, you’ll see that the more you plan and do, the better you’ll become!

That Awkward Moment When You’re a Rookie…

•January 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The last several months have brought about so much new public relations knowledge and experience! I’ve spent countless hours doing research, analyzing media markets, creating things in InDesign and making presentations. But one of the things that has been most exciting is getting the opportunity to meet with clients. Sure, It’s a big part of our job in the communications industry, but having a flawless client meeting is something that takes practice. It’s an acquired skill.

Unfortunately, It’s also something that you don’t want to figure out the hard way. (Read: An angry/annoyed/confused client…and boss.) So to help you pull off a disaster-free meeting, here are 5 tips to take with you. Some of them, I’ve learned the hard way, some of them I just learned along the way.

1. Don’t ask questions that you could find the answer to by using Google. As any communications professor will tell you, public relations begins with research. This is not only fundamental, but will save you from irritating your client and appearing to be unprepared for the meeting. If you take the time to research the company or person, you’ll know which questions you do need to ask and even discover future opportunities that you might have missed by simply asking the client face-to-face. People tend to leave things out and give you the short version when you ask them in person, but Google doesn’t hide anything.

2. Take notes.  Unless you have a super-human memory (which I would be really jealous of), you aren’t going to remember everything that someone tells you. Whether it’s an old school note pad and pen or your iPad (again, kinda jealous.), jot important things down as they talk. For me, it’s also important that I have a notepad because innevitably, ideas will come to me while we’re talking. Keep in mind, though, that you are sitting there with an actual person, so it’s not time to flesh out your ideas or record a transcript of the meeting. You may also want to look into recording your meeting, just make sure you have your client’s consent.

3. Listen more than you talk. Depending on what type of meeting this is, you may do a lot of talking or not much of it, but either way, “listen first, talk second” is a good rule to go by. Listen to what your client wants, what they expect from you, what their ideas are (no matter how rediculous) and then respond accordingly. Coming from a self-proclaimed (and going off what others tell me) chatterbox and talker, I understand that it’s hard to cut yourself off sometimes. But think about what you want to take away from the meeting, and make sure you take the time to listen and get all the answers you need to take your next step.

4. Don’t muddy the waters.  When it is time for you to talk, keep things clear and concise. Many of us public relations and communications people might be creative, free thinkers, but our clients might not be. Now I know that to a certain extent we have to sell our ideas to our clients; It just goes with the territory. But our work should also be able to speak for itself, and when you do add your take on it, make sure the client sees what you see and can understand exactly what you’re talking about.

5. Be yourself, be personable and be ready to build a relationship. You’re not an accountant delivering a presentation of the annual fiscal year. You’re in public relations, and as you know, it’s all about relationships. So when you’re meeting a client for the first time, view it as the beginning of a long-term relationship, not just a 30 minute exchange of information. When choosing a public relations firm, the majority of clients make their decision based on relationship. That can be intimidating, but more than anything it’s an opportunity!

Keep these in mind as you start meeting with clients, and as you continue to meet with them. And don’t worry fellow rookies, mistakes happen.

{In my mean boss voice} Just don’t let it happen again! 🙂

Ten for Joplin

•November 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

There are very few things in life that are worth waking up at 3 a.m. for. I mean VERY few. It’s just a weird time. Sure, there have been nights (mornings) that I didn’t go to bed until then, but purposely going to bed with the intention of waking up in the middle of the night is just a little ridiculous. So when I found myself on the way to board a bus for Joplin well before the sun was up, I was thinking, “Who’s brilliant idea was it to sign up for this?” Mine. It was my idea. Well, I blame Lyndsei also, but I knew what I was getting myself into. We boarded the bus with about 60 other OSU students and began the sleepy three hour bus ride from Stillwater to Joplin, MO.

As we pulled into Joplin, the bus driver flipped the lights on and I began to wake up from my half sleep. I couldn’t believe what I saw. On both sides of the street were piles of rubble, trees without branches and hundreds of homes damaged beyond repair. Even as bad as I knew that the tornado had been, it was eerie and all too real to see it up close. Where were these people staying now that they don’t have a home? How could they possibly start their lives over? There were so many thoughts running through my head, but I was so glad that I had woken up early to make this trip.

We drove through Joplin and arrived at the high school, which isn’t being used because of the extensive damage. We were there to help with Habitat for Humanity‘s Ten for Joplin build. Ten houses for ten families in less than a month. We signed in, put on our t-shirts and were shuttled to the work site. I was at build number eight. A four bedroom, two bathroom house that would go to a young family with two school aged kids and a baby. The husband actually worked with us all day and it was really cool to get an up-close look at who we were helping. The mom and kids came later and hung out and I felt lucky that we got the chance to see who they were.

Our work started at 8 a.m. and we finished at about 5 p.m. It was a really long day and I was exhausted by the time we boarded the bus again, but it was so worth it.Through the course of the day, I helped with a bunch of stuff and even got to use an electric drill (not the first time but it was fun) and a nail gun. I now have a new love for power tools, (I can understand why men like them so much! It makes you feel like a beast!) and if anyone wants to know what to get me for Christmas, please consider a nail gun. It was amazing. I think we were fortunate to have a few really patient leaders on our team that worked with us and made us feel like we could do it.

As we walked back to the shuttle, there was of course more damage to survey. Like the wooden cross with a light blue, deflated balloon next to it marking the place that a child had passed away. It was in the empty lot right next to us all day, and I didn’t notice it until my last walk back. I got the feeling that you could walk around for hours looking at it all and there would still be more to see. I had a hard time wrapping my head around how the entire community could just keep moving, keep rebuilding and start over, but that’s exactly what they were doing. Several businesses had rebuilt, dozens of homes were replaced and even the trees, sticking straight up in the air with branches less than a foot long, were growing leaves. It was a sign that someday, after a lot of heart ache and hard work, the Joplin tornado would be a bad memory. It seems to be a strong, but hurting community that is working through the pain, so to speak.

I was proud to have gotten the chance to help and grateful for what I had. I know that ten houses isn’t a huge number when you think of the 7,500 homes that were destroyed, but it isn’t just about the homes. It’s about the people that will reside in them and the hope that we can give them. With many living in hotels and shelters and who knows where else, it’s a step in the right direction.

To help with Ten for Joplin, go to their website here. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Sporting the hard hat and safety galsses

What PR Professionals Can Learn From Their Parents

•October 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

From the time we were born, our parents started grooming us on the correct way to do things. They told us not to throw temper-tantrums in public, to share our toys and when we got older, to pay attention in school so we’d be smart. Most of us followed their advice, but as we get older, we sometimes forget those lessons. As public relations professionals, we need to go back to what our parents taught us. After all, mom and dad are almost ALWAYS right.

With PR jobs, we are always in the spotlight. We have a lot of responsibility to those that we represent and those that we aim to reach. In some professions, the way you carry yourself, treat others and the things you do after work are really irrelevant. No such luck here. We are a walking billboard for the organizations we work for and their stakeholders. Since we can always improve on something, here are some lessons mom and dad taught us that we should still remember.

1) Be nice – to everyone you meet. This is probably the simplest lesson we learned, but it’s also one of the easiest to forget. In a world where it’s all about who you know, it’s incredibly important that as you’re networking, you make an effort to be kind to every person you meet. Sure, not everyone you meet is going to remember you, but they’re guaranteed to remember a bad attitude – and it will come back to bite you.

2) Pay attention in school- My mom always told me to pay attention in my classes so I’ll be smart and sound educated. In the same way, PR pros should learn as much as they can from people and sources around them, and continue learning as their career matures. The communications industry is constantly changing, but we have more tools than ever before at our fingertips. In an interview with Jessica Miller-Merrell from Blogging 4 Jobs, Jessica said that reading industry magazines, networking with other professionals and reading blogs are some of the ways that she stays relevant in the industry.

3) Share – This is so hard for so many kids to master, but in our industry, the more we share, the better! Sharing your knowledge of the field, the PR tools you use and your tricks of the trade makes you more desirable to others. For instance, I follow @CyndyHoenig on Twitter for the simple fact that she shares PR tips. Also, when you are sharing your tips, people are more likely to share their PR tactics.

4) Don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry” – When me and my siblings were really young, my mom and dad once worked with my brother for an entire day before he would say he was sorry for hitting me. Unfortunately, some adults are just as relucatant. We are certain to make mistakes, both professionally and in our personal lives, but admitting we’re wrong and offering a genuine “I’m sorry” goes a long way.

5) Don’t be afraid to try new things – Sometimes parents have to encourage their kids to try new things, even if it might be scary. We’ve all had stage fright, or sports-fright (for those of us that are athletically challenged), but our parents encouraged us and pushed us to branch out into new things. In the communications field, we’re going to have to try new things. This might mean a new PR internship, or just a new way of doing things. Some might seem risky, some might even give you that ‘butterflies in your stomach’ feeling, but it’s always the riskiest ones that pay off. If you want to be average, do what everyone else does. If you want to be different, do something different.

So after all that eye-rolling and sighing we did as kids, it turns out, those were pretty good lessons our parents were teaching us.  Don’t you hate it when mom and dad are right?