Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PR Skills

In an earlier post found here I talked a little bit about the role of a PR practitioner, basically what your job will be when you get into the working field. However, what I did not add in your role as a PR practitioner, are all the necessary skills you need to have to maximize your potential and get the most out of your career.

So what type of skills am I talking about? Well they are the basic things which countless teachers, parents, have tried to ingrain into our heads as being important, that we never took seriously.

Dad: Now I know you don't like to read like your brothers and sisters, but it is really a necessary thing. You don't want to be reading in newspapers about their success and not your own...

Or this one...

Mom: How are you doing in English dear? Remember writing is very important, I don't want my little one to fall behind. So will you be a dear and get started on that 10 page book report, you don't want to disappoint mommy, do you?

Now maybe a little of what Mom and Dad have said about these two skills, writing and reading, is a little exaggerated. That is for you to decide. This isn't a place to debate whether that is important.

What is important though is these two skills of reading and writing, along with the skill of listening, form what I call the "PR skills trifecta" (I think I'm beginning to take a liking to coining new phrases see "life at the desk" in my eariler post), three core skills that PR practitioners must possess, for him/her to really get the most out of their careers.

You may ask how I came across this "PR skills trifecta". Well to be honest it came to me quite naturally.

After thinking about what I learned during this past year at school, a very long year that included 7 courses in the first semester and 8 courses in the second semester last year, everyday my reading, writing and listening skills were strained to their fullest.

Now at the end of the year, I know my skills could be much improved. If you aren't constantly looking to improve, it is hard to stay pace in as the cliche goes, a very competitive dog eat dog world, especially the PR world, being competitive is undoubtedly true.

So with that said it is time for me to spruce you up your skills. I'm going to help you improve your PR skills by introducing the skills I think every PR practitioner should have, the skills found in the "PR Skills trifecta" (reading, writing, and listening) and my experience with these three skills and how they have helped me thus far in my career. Prepare to get mom and dad off your back for once...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Life at the desk

With a second month of volunteering soon to be concluded, I can officially say that I am getting the hang of it. Everyday I come to work with a fresh number of articles to read through, interpret, and judge accordingly. Most of time when I arrive, around noon, I get finished by the early afternoon, as the speed in which I can input the articles into the report has gotten much quicker.

But yesterday it was a little different. I was in the office till 4 p.m. Now four hours might not seem to be a lot to the seasoned volunteer, however for me being glued at a desk for that time I beg to differ. Don't feel sorry for me though (I already can feel the sympathy from here) because I could have taken a walk around the office, gone for a bathroom break or found some other way to break from my duties.

I had that choice and chose not to take one. This is because I was so focussed on my work, so into what I was doing that I felt what it is like for many of those who work 9-5 everyday. I felt what it is like to have your life at your desk.

Now what I mean by having your "life at the desk" is the idea that the work you are doing at your job takes a precedent over everything else, making anything outside of this work seem insignificant.

For me this characterizes exactly what yesterday was. The countless articles that I had to read, analyze and input (45 was yesterday's total to be exact) for this months report became my "life at the desk". I could not get away from them. They held me like cement, keeping me rooted to my chair.

Whether this is something that I look forward to next week is something I'm still not sure of. While not having the ability to leave something you enjoy is a good thing, there comes a point where breaks are necessary, just to let your mind relax and get back into the real world. Until next week, I might have a better idea where I stand...

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Boardroom

A heavy metal door, equipped with a key pad for entry, blocked me from entering the boardroom. How was I supposed to get inside? With the meeting minutes away and no tools to aid me to gain access such as a blow torch, crow bar, I was left helpless...or so I thought. With just minutes to go, the secret code was punched in by a member of the office, crisis averted.

When I started my volunteering I thought I would spend the majority of my time at a desk, on the computer doing hours upon hours of data entry. This is still the case. However, everyday presents new and exciting challenges so although it is essentially the same task, volunteering remains a fun and fulfilling experience.

An experience which got a lift this pas week, because in addition to my regular duties, I had the opportunity to sit in on a office meeting, in the boardroom. Not only was I sitting in on the meeting, but I had the responsibility of presenting the hours of data entry that I had complied in a report. So here I was, in the boardroom, sitting in a puffy leather chair, anxiously waiting my chance to speak to the other members of the office.

On the agenda, the presentation of my report was the third item. As I patiently waited to get called upon, I observed the discussion of the four others in the boardroom, members of the communication team at the sport association.

Aside from the occasional personal small talk, they were all business when discussing the items on the agenda. There was a fair bit of PR jargon, good thing I had kept up on my terminology through the year, nestled in between an easy going, professional business talk. Basically they talked like normal people but sprinkled in a little PR terms.

So after the two first items on the agenda quickly breezed by, if you could call over an hour spent on two items, I was up.

I opened simply with explaining what my role is and what I had been doing. This can be summed up as analyzing media outlets across Canada, looking at articles in newspapers, magazines, blogs and other publications that mention the sport association, with the help of some pretty cool technology of course. Then I would classify the article as having a positive, neutral or negative tone.

After I determine what kind of tone the article is, I rate it on five criteria, defined by the sport association, and see if the article has any of these five criteria. Once I have gathered all this information it gets put into the report, which leads me to its explanation in the boardroom to the rest of my co-workers.

As it turned out, explaining what I do to you turned out to be really not that nerve wracking. In fact, when I continued on with the actual presentation of the report, I felt even more relaxed. Relaxed enough to speak to everyone else in the room with confidence, something that I wasn't expecting in the beginning of this.

The boardroom at first glance seemed like an impossible situation for me to overcome. Being thrust in a professional meeting as an volunteering intern, I was intimidated for sure. However with a relaxed attitude and confidence in my abilities, I was able to come out in one piece. Perhaps the access code to the boardroom could be coming to me sooner than I think...