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Do you Educate… or Perpetuate?

7 Feb

This afternoon I received a slightly disheartening, mildly pathetic, and seriously troubling email through the contact form for my employer’s website. The message was simple:

I go to school full time and work part time. I need help paying off student loans and would like to intern and/or work for you.

The. End. No greeting, no sign off, no signature. Nadda.

Now, at first glance, my initial reaction was astonishment. Did this person honestly expect that my organization would be willing to hire them just because they needed us to? Lest we not forget, they clearly displayed no attempt to understand what we do, let alone look into whether or not we were even currently hiring.

I let the email linger in my inbox and went on with actual pressing matters.

Then I got home and started to think about where I came from. There was once a point in time when I didn’t know the value of a resume or the proper steps to take in order to land a good job. However, I was fortunate enough to have tools and a network at my disposal to educate me… but not everyone’s that lucky.

Partly inspired by PR pro Becky John’s recent post, Stop Whining and Start Teaching, I decided to take the extra five minutes to write a hopefully-helpful response. I politely thanked them for their interest and explained that we were not currently hiring at this time. From there, I decided to take it a step further and suggest that they circulate their resume on career search sites, or visit the local Capital Area Michigan Works for employment assistance.

There’s no guarantee that they will even read past my first sentence explaining our lack of ability to help them pay for their tuition, however, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Helpful? Possibly.
Necessary? Debateable.
Good? No doubt.

I may have just helped a college student find the correct steps to take in order to land a part time gig. Or, I may have just wasted my time. Bottom line is, those few minutes that I took to write that email certainly didn’t ruin my day.

Maybe it’s the recent grad in me, but I’d rather help educate a student on proper etiquette than perpetuate a bad habit (and stereotype of my generation).  I’m not saying that employers should pull out all stops to make a stranger’s life easier, but maybe they just don’t know any better, and in that instance, as professionals, we can help.

Have you LISTENED lately?

21 Oct

Like, really listened?

I just got done with a webinar put on by the National Association of Counties (NACo) called “Listen to Understand” in which listening as a communicator was discussed. I had an overwhelming urge to tweet each powerful idea that was presented but found that each idea centered around the topic of being SILENT. So, I resisted the urge and jotted down a few important notes throughout the presentation, on paper. Let me outline a few of those below.

  • The Paradigm of Listening:

o   Ineffective: ‘I listen with the intent to reply.’

o   Effective: ‘I listen with the intent to understand.’

o   In order to fully understand what we listen to, we need to approach each conversation from an angle of wanting to understand, not wanting to respond. Once we allow ourselves the appropriate amount of time to understand what it is that we are being told, only then can we formulate a complete response.

  • Multitasking:

o   One of the first things the audience was asked when the webinar began was ‘what is the biggest problem when you listen’ and overwhelmingly, 86% answered (myself included) that we multitasked when we should be listening fully.

o   Point is, in good listening situations, you MUST stop multitasking when someone needs you to listen. Make time for them.

  • Empathic Listening:

o   IS reflecting what is said and saying it in our own words.

o   IS NOT advising, counseling, replying, refuting, solving, fixing, changing, judging, agreeing, disagreeing, questioning, analyzing, or figuring out.

  • WAIT:

o   “Why Am I Talking”

o   If you find yourself talking when you should be listening, WAIT. Ask yourself, why am I talking? The answer is that you should not be, now go back to listening.

o   If there is high emotion in what you are listening to, stop talking. Wait until the emotion is down or you are asked to respond. Until then, just listen.

  • Don’t Be Afraid of Silence:

o   It’s ironic that both LISTEN and SILENT have the same letters, just rearranged.

o   As communicators, we are taught to respond, to communicate, to fear silence. However, we need to remind ourselves that sometimes it’s necessary to be silent in order for us to be completely effective at our job.

o   Being an effective listener allows us the chance to be an effective communicator, one that provides the complete, correct message in return.

Finally, one last tidbit that I would like to share with you is the Chinese symbol that means “To Listen With a Virtuous Heart”. Note that the symbol contains the following symbols: Ears, Eyes, Heart. It does NOT contain however, the Mouth.

Effective two-way communication is becoming the norm for companies nowadays. It’s not just about pushing out a message, but also about answering questions and listening to what our audience needs and wants. In all honesty, the information in this webinar was total common sense but it opened my eyes. Well done, NACo. We all need reminders like these.

When Will I Be “Old Enough”?

31 Aug

Isn’t that a perpetual question in life?

“When will I be old enough to see a PG-13 movie?”

“When will I be old enough to drive?”

“When will I be old enough to vote?”

“When will I be old enough to drink?”

Well, I’m at another ‘when will I be old enough’ point, only this time there is no definite number that can answer that question. This is where you come in.

I’ve been at my job for almost six months now, and I’ve earned the respect of my co-workers, and slowly, the respect of others in my industry. I know I’m still a young professional, and I would never deny that I still have much to learn, but when I’m asked something and find a definite flaw, when will my suggestion be considered valid? When will I be old enough for my opinion to count?

I’m going to try to be as nondescript as possible about this scenario, but I need you to understand. I was asked to proof a PR piece today that was not written by me. According to what I was taught just a couple short years ago in college, there were more mistakes than I cared to count.  I mean.. if I had submitted that to a professor, it would have come back to me looking like this:

I know that this PR piece was written by an older professional, and I know that if I were to mark the hell out of it, my opinion would be snubbed. So what’s a girl to do?

When will I be old, or maybe, experienced enough, before my opinion counts?

Networking WORKS

22 Apr

Last year as a sophomore, I had the privilege of attending the 2008 Central Michigan Public Relations Society of America Pace Awards. I was sponsored by my chapter to attend and showed up early to help with set up. I did not receive any awards, or make any outstanding impressions, but I did quietly sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. As a sophomore, it was very overwhelming and I was not yet comfortable with approaching PR professionals.

This year, my junior year and also my last year being able to attend the Pace Awards as a student, my story is quite different. I am going to be graduating early in December of 2009 rather than expected May 2010. I didn’t try to graduate early, but credit wise it worked out that way and I don’t mind not paying another semester of tuition.

This year, I had the opportunity to meet some of the planning committee such as James Roney, Boys Scouts of America; Josh Hovey, Rossman Public Relations; Christina Jackson, Pace & Partners; and Melody Kindraka, Michigan State Police among others whom I have met in passing before. This time, I know names, faces, places of business and what they do. I also sat by Denise Donohue with the Michigan Apple Committee and realized what a small world it is and that I know some of her family members.

I didn’t receive an award, a fancy plaque, or any big recognition to make me stand out of the crowd but what I did receive is much more valuable. I began to build relationships, or better known in the PR field, I networked. I’ve been to CMPRSA breakfasts, awards ceremonies, and many meetings where I sat in the back and watched. Today I successfully made impressions.

I think that students hear a lot of talk about the need to network but very few actually have the initial courage to do so. It took me awhile to come around to networking and I wish I hadn’t waited so long. Students: put yourself in situations where you can network, and DO IT! I had a great time at the 2009 Pace Awards, met quite a few wonderful people and hope to attend next year as a graduated PR Professional!

Congratulations to all award winners this year and special congrats to PRSSA’s Professional Advisor, Kelly Rossman for Rossman Public Relations winning Best of Show!

Is the internet becoming Too Much?

30 Dec

My dad is a pretty smart guy. He is a self educated Web site designer, in his SPARE time. He works full time at General Motors as an engineer and he runs his own disc golf Web site for a club he is a representative for, The Motor City Chain Gang.

 

My dad and I often use each other when it comes to computer programs. He helps me with PRSSA because I am the Webmaster and I help him with new CSS things he is not as familiar with for his site. Being the little PR young professional that I am, I mentioned to him that I felt he should join Twitter to help get word out about MCCG. This lead to a discussion about how the internet is just too much.

 

My dad thinks that the world is becoming too wrapped up in visiting Web sites to keep in touch rather than actually maintaining face-to-face time. This coming from a man who never leaves his laptop’s side. He’s on Facebook, he has his own forum on his site, and he is getting his graduates degree online. He is by no means, unfamiliar with the computer or the internet. Then why would he refuse to join into the social network online?

 

Are we becoming too dependent on the internet? Or are we finding that some circles of people are just better suited for the online world?

 

The Motor City Chain Gang is not desperately in need of reaching out to their audience. It’s a very close knit group of people who are dedicated to disc golfing and generally share things via word of mouth. I suppose I am just going to have to conclude that some groups of people, while they could benefit from reaching out through social media, just don’t need to.

 

While social media is becoming almost essential in my field, it’s still up for debate in other areas. I think I’ll keep tweeting and blogging just the same… and of course, bugging my dad to join in.