|January 28, 2013|
|Atlanta PR Job Fair Needs Dose of Reality|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|About 200 job-seeking students are paying up to $80 each to attend an all-day “Real World” career fair Feb. 22 in Atlanta at which national PRSA chair Mickey Nall will speak.|
Another 100 regular chapter members and guests will be at the lunch when Nall speaks on “Navigating the Multi-generational workplace.” Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Nexters are all working side-by-side and have different values and needs that must be tended to for maximum client service, he says.
This is a laudable effort on the part of the Society’s Georgia chapter but we find a lot of gaps in the program and wonder how much real job-getting information and tips the students will get.
One session will consider “PR Niches,” meaning specialties such as “food & beverage” and “healthcare.” That just scratches the surface of the PR specialties which have skyrocketed in size and breadth over the past two decades.
The O’Dwyer Co. has tracked the growth of 12 PR specialties since 1992, publishing more than 500 such rankings in 2012.
While corporate and institutional PR departments have been shrinking for decades, often focusing mainly on internal communications, the agencies have been racking up double-digit gains in revenues and staff sizes for many years.
The world’s biggest PR firm, Edelman, had net fees of $660 million in 2012, 4,600 employees, and leads in 11 of the 12 categories.
The defensive nature of much corporate PR was captured last year by New York Times columnist David Carr who wrote that what he typically encounters at companies is “a wall of communications operatives” who block access to the CEO. He said they deliver “slop” meant to “obscure rather than reveal.”
Corporate PR vet Tim Cost has said that “Corporate PR experiences a press call as a drive-by shooting.”
Unacknowledged and unreturned phone calls and e-mails are epidemic in PR, journalism, business and even among average citizens.
A Jan. 28 New Yorker humor piece by Colin Jost titled “Automatic Reply” tells of one person pretending not to have access to e-mails and phone calls when actually he is downloading his e-mails every few minutes and endlessly checking his voice mails.
Literature Table Needed
Chapter president Alicia Thompson of fried chicken chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen said there are no plans at the moment for a literature table but she and others will think about this. We hope that decision will be changed because not having one will be an injustice to the students who will attend.
We would donate ten O’Dwyer’s Directory of PR Firms that has 1,600+ firms including 43 in Georgia; subscriptions to the O’Dwyer website and newsletter, and subscriptions to the monthly magazine. We would send several sets of 12 magazine issues, each one focusing on a PR specialty. One of the magazines will be the January O’Dwyer’s PR Buyer’s Guide with data on more than 100 firms offering nearly 1,000 PR products and services. There are lots of jobs in the PR services industry.
Products of the other PR trade publishers should also be on display including Contact of PR Week/U.S., which has information on corporate departments as well as PR firms, and the products of PR News including PRnewsonline. Ragan’s also has products of use to jobseekers including webinars, seminars and the Ragan website.
Students, many of whom will graduate owing tens of thousands of dollars, need all the information they can get without limit or politics.
Book Describes Reality of Agency Life
Since “real” is the theme of the conference, the literature table should display copies of "Army of Entrepeneurs" by Jennifer Prosek, who heads the $12.5 million Prosek Partners of New York, a gem of a book that captures the go-go atmosphere of a PR firm.
Agency PR is wildly different from corporate/institutional PR as students will learn from this book.
The more than 50 Prosek staffers have been taught for years to prospect for new clients wherever they are including the person next to them on a plane or a bus, fellow exercisers at a gym, friends at a barbecue, former classmates and girlfriends, boyfriends, ex-roommates, relatives, etc.
Counselors should always fly First Class since that is where business prospects might be, she and others advise.
Prosek herself snagged a major client by contacting her former high school boyfriend who had landed a big PR job at Mercedez-Benz Credit Corp. She called him ten years later.
Prosek Partners pays 5% of client fees to whomever brings in an account for the life of the account. Employees are also told to constantly look for new services that can be provided to clients. Those also generate finder’s fees.
Staffer new biz activities and contracts signed are constantly reviewed. Workshops in such activities are also held.
New biz experts are not born but are trained, says Prosek.
Lots of Personal Service in PR
Textbooks don’t often cover it but helping clients with personal issues and problems is a major part of PR.
Another book that should be on the literature table is "Always Live Better than Your Clients" by New York Times reporter Isadore Barmash. It’s a 1983 book but far from outated.
Ben Sonnenberg became perhaps the richest PR counselor in New York by zeroing in on what is in clients’ “heart of hearts.” He found that making more money was not their problem but rather dealing with a wayward offspring, or a son or daughter who needed a career or a job, or is trying to get into college, or a bored wife who wanted to get into the right clubs.
He helped them with such problems 24/7. An anxious client once called him at 3 a.m. and demanded he come to his apartment. Sonnenberg did so and found a father who was distraught because his son wanted to go into the theater.
Don’t worry, Sonnenberg advised, breaking in is so tough your son will soon give up. He was right.
The PR counselor owned a 12-story townhouse on Gramercy Park and was famous for the elaborate parties he threw for clients, celebrities and media figures.
Join Local Social, Business Groups
A job tip we would give (in case this fair asks us to speak) is for students and recent grads to volunteer for local charitable and civic groups. Business leaders and their spouses can be found there. Local PR groups are apt to be loaded with other jobseekers.
PR newcomers must accept that a PR job is not apt to be served to them on a silver platter. Recruiters tell us that the way for a PR person to get a job with a PR firm is to bring in an account.
Having an outgoing, pleasing personality is one of the skills that is necessary for PR success.
Doing PR for a restaurant on a barter basis is one way to start a PR firm. Handle PR in return for meals, which cost the restaurant almost nothing.
Plenty of things can be bartered including possibly cars, apartments, clothes, etc. Knock on doors, is our advice.
Barter is a big but largely untold factor in the business world. Students who take unpaid internships are engaging in barter—exchanging their time and effort in return for a learning experience and a blurb on their resumes.
Politics Is Royal Road to Jobs
Working or volunteering for a political office-holder at the local, state or national levels has become the royal road for PR careers in recent years.
Companies have found that public opinion may go one way or another but what really counts is what laws are passed and whether and if they are enforced and how they are enforced.
The National Capital Chapter has nearly 1,500 members or double the size of the New York chapter. Those proportions were once reversed.
In the South, which is overwhelmingly Republican based on the voting results of the 2012 elections, being associated with a Republican candidate or office-holder would be the logical course for a PR jobseeker who intends to remain in the South.
Millions of businesses that can’t afford advertising can benefit from the cornucopia of services that PR firms and individuals have at their command.
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