Power of the Pen…or the Blogger – Sunday Coffee Contemplations

To blog or not to blog? A friend of mine posted a question on Facebook about whether she should start a blog as a complement to her solo professional consulting business. Most of her friends chimed in that of course she should, although one added the caveat that she should avoid calling herself a journalist as a result. The whole exchange got me to wondering – with all the blogging going on today, who has more … power, for want of a better word: journalists or bloggers? It’s something to ponder over my Sunday coffee.


PR Pros: How to know when you’re overqualified?

OK, you are a public relations professional of a certain age, with a certain level of expertise. You find yourself adrift in the current job market, fruitlessly networking, applying to one posted position after another, with no results in sight. You are, in fact, entering the Overqualified Zone.

How do you know when you’re overqualified? Like any other terrible condition, there are signs to watch for:

  • You have worked in the profession for more than five years.
  • You can speak in complete sentences without using “OMG” or “LOL” as words.
  • You have been in the profession long enough to have a master’s degree or APR after your name.
  • You remember what it was like when computers had large floppy things called disks, and phones had cords.
  • You have real, actual experience on your resume that matches the position description.
  • You have natural gray highlights in your hair that didn’t come from a salon.
  • You can actually spell without Spellchecker.
  • You remember when “social media” was the local society columnist in the newspaper.
  • You remember when cell phones came with their own suitcase.
  • You remember when the printed page came out of a machine with its own complete keyboard and ribbon….called a typewriter.
  • The PR agency account execs look and sound to you like they’re twelve.
  • You know what a phone booth is – and have used one.
  • Professionals went to the PRSA International Conference and actually looked up at the speakers instead of down at their smart phones.
  • You remember when there actually was a news cycle.
  • And if you were really good, you wrote a press release that actually got printed on real printing presses.

This is for all my fellow unemployed 40somethings out there – we need to laugh a bit at this to keep out of the doldrums of watching the professional world pass us by. What’s your take on this? How do you know when you’re overqualified?


A Tale of Two Writers: What Happens When Blogging Goes Bad?

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before: You’re starting a new professional business venture, and you’re getting advice that establishing your professional image online is an important step you must take toward helping your business find success. So you create a website, carefully populated with information relevant to your customers/clients. You sign up for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. And of course, creating a professional image isn’t complete these days without a blog. To be seen as an accomplished, experienced professional leader in your field, a blog is nearly as vital these days as a cell phone. Blogging can build your reputation as a knowledgeable professional and connect you with professionals and clients that you might otherwise never meet.

Or you’re in the job market, which is increasingly moving online as employers move away from traditional sources. Word of mouth searches conducted via online job sites and social media outlets like LinkedIn groups are replacing the “Help Wanted” ads.  Placement firms and professional associations urge you to post data and publish ideas online to develop and promote your “personal brand” – your credibility and expertise in your field.  Establishing that reputation online takes time, patience and strategy. And it can vanish in an instant. Continue reading


Overqualified Overused? Sunday Coffee Contemplations

Is “overqualified” just an overused excuse by companies to discriminate against older workers? Is “discriminate” even the right word to use – maybe mistaken would be more appropriate?

I was watching CBS Sunday Morning today, and one segment profiled the plight of older workers who are facing seriously lesser chances of ever finding a job. They reported on Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging & Work’s newly released study “The New Unemployables” on the issue that found unemployed older workers are less likely to find new employment than unemployed younger workers. Older workers were also involuntarily working part time because they cannot find full-time employment. Others are becoming discouraged and dropping out of the labor force, believing they will not find new jobs.

I’m not alone in being turned down from even getting to interview because I’m “overqualified.” At the same time I want to give kudos to the rare prospective employer – one of which I spoke with just this week – who is up front about that fact but is willing to talk to me long enough to find out why I applied for the position.

So why do employers choose inexperience over experience? Is experience truly a bad thing? I don’t know about you, but when I have the chance to get an exceptional product at a bargain price, it’s a wonderful thing. Why doesn’t the same logic apply to hiring?

Or are employers conditioned to think that way and just haven’t stopped to consider whether they really want the headaches of training the inexperienced worker? Why not go for the worker who really can “hit the ground running”?



HootSuite Happy Owls Crisis Communications – What if it Were Real?

HootSuite CEO pulled an April Fools prank by sending what was supposed to be an inadvertant email announcing the launch of a new game, Happy Owls, that would represent a move into gaming. The email purported to be directed to investors, the board, and advisors. A follow up email was sent 16 minutes later asking recipients to delete and ignore the email – a move calculated to get everyone to take the first message seriously and fall for the prank. Right.

My first thought, upon reading the messages, was more along the lines of “what a stupid move by HootSuite.” My second thought was to be thankful that although I’d set up a HootSuite account, I pretty much ignore it in favor of TweetDeck. The last thing I want to deal with is a service provider insisting I need some game.

But a couple of days later, I have to wonder “What if?”

What if a real company had really sent something confidential out? How would a crisis like that be handled? What would I do?

Now I’m curious – I want to know: What would you do?


Writing the 60 Second Pitch

In public relations writing, half the battle is coming up with ideas to the media. Some would say that’s the easy part, others claim it’s the hardest part of their job. Either way, once you have your idea, the work of figuring out how to shape your idea into a story that reporters and editors will want to use begins.

Despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, most editors, reporters and bloggers don’t mind being pitched to as long as they are being pitched to by someone who is prepared and approaching them with a concise story idea that is relevant to their publication.

Like anyone else, reporters and editors hate to have their time wasted, especially when they are working on deadlines that seem to come faster and faster every day. Thanks to 24-hour news channels and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, reporters are “on deadline” virtually all the time now, and they do not have time to waste while you practice your pitch on them. Continue reading


Public Relations Vs. Propaganda

Public Relations‘ perpetual problem: It’s Monday morning after a long weekend, I’m trying to chase away the grouchy mood with copious amounts of coffee and the silliness has already started. Waiting in my inbox was a LinkedIn discussion on whether public relations is a form of propaganda or two different concepts. My response follows:

Oh, here we go again! Discussing the difference between propaganda and PR is like discussing the difference between a doctor and a stethoscope. Propaganda, publicity, media relations, speechwriting, public relations strategy – all are tools used by those in the varying segments of the public relations PROFESSION. If you’re going to have a meaningful discussion, at least make sure you have the elements of the discussion correctly defined. Continue reading


Coffee Contemplations – Are You Offended by the Term “Flack”?

Are you offended by being called a flack? I’m genuinely curious, and want to write a post about it. I know my own opinion, but I’m curious about yours. So for the inaugural Sunday Morning Caffeine Contemplations, in which I ponder the weighty issues of the PR world while working my way through my second pot of coffee (the first is required solely to wake me up), I’m asking you:

Are you offended by the term “flack” when referring to public relations professionals? Why or why not?

P.S. Blame my husband for the name – obviously neither one of us have had enough coffee yet to come up with something better. Suggestions are welcome!


What’s Wrong With PR?

I’m skipping today’s planned post in favor of a question: What’s wrong with PR?

I opened my inbox this morning to see yet another post from another in an endless line of journalists complaining about PR people sending irrelevant, annoying press releases: Peeve, Burr and Hosanna: Editorial Director Sounds Off On PR’s Most Irritating Habits. I have to say I can find no fault with his complaints. What I’d like to know, despite literally hundreds of similar complaints, is why this problem persists? In the 20+ years I’ve been in this profession, these complaints have been a steady drumbeat. I wish I had just a penny for every time I’ve heard this – I’d land on Forbe’s List of Wealthiest People. Continue reading


(Un)Common Courtesy – Death of the Thank You Note

Anne Buchanan recently wrote a thought-provoking article , Why You Will Never Get Hired at Our PR Firm, that should be required reading for every job hunter out there. Several of the responses should also be required reading – particularly those on the doing the hiring.

Anne’s blog post detailed the complete lack of manners and courtesy shown by a college student who had the opportunity to have an informational interview at Anne’s firm, a courtesy extended to this young lady who was the niece of “a friend of a friend.”

As Anne puts it, “We’re nice people. We try to help almost anyone who asks in the right way.” After several weeks, the student emailed several questions, and two of Anne’s employees wrote “lengthy and thoughtful” replies to the student – and heard nothing in reply. Not a thank you, not a that was really interesting and helpful – nothing. Silence. Then after a period of silence, the student wrote again with a long list of questions she needed answers to – in order to fulfill a class assignment.

Seriously? Continue reading