Student Portfolio Reviews Reveal Successful Tools & Tactics
For several years I’ve volunteered to review hardcopy portfolios from graduating University of Oregon public relations students. As part of the U of O program, each student presents their portfolio to a panel of three PR/marketing/communication professionals who rate their demeanor, presentation skills and mastery of career-related projects and assignments.
This experience, in addition to reviewing the daily emails and resumes sent to AM:PM PR by new hire hopefuls, has given me a good idea as to what makes a job candidate stand out. I’ve come to appreciate the value of a portfolio – it may be the best and most underused tool by jobseekers. While not always necessary, a portfolio can bolster the information found on a resume by demonstrating an expanded understanding of communication challenges and solutions.
Your portfolio should be easy to follow and easy to share. For the in-person interview, bring a hardcopy, or a tablet to walk through your work with a little digital pizzazz. Either way, make sure you bring extra printed copies of your best work to leave behind with your interviewer, who may want to share it with other decision makers.
Assembling the Standout Portfolio
Great portfolios for PR job candidates include:
- an up-to-date resume with skills and experience highlighting abilities related the the job you are interviewing for.
- a compilation of writing samples, i.e. pitch emails, press releases, blog posts and college assignments.
- before/after analytical data, such as website or social platform analytics from projects that you worked on.
- graphic, presentation or information design assignments. If you’re using printed pieces within a hardcopy portfolio, make sure you use high quality images. Pixelated images give the impression you don’t really understand the tools or you won’t go the extra mile on the job.
- materials or case studies from previous work or school experience that demonstrate strategy and results or challenges and solutions.
Leave a lasting impression
If time allows, offer to walk through your portfolio during the interview. Explain each item you’ve included as a case study – the assignment, how you thought through it, how it was executed and what the results were. The students who stood out most in the portfolio reviews I’ve experienced identified PR-related challenges and demonstrated their solutions and results.
Create a professional portfolio website. Think of it as your own personal branding tool. An attractive website demonstrates you value good design. Share links to your successes i.e. social sites, earned media, guest posts. Draft engaging and relevant blog posts. It doesn’t hurt to write fan posts about professionals you admire either. Like this interview with our very own Pat McComick.
Think about how you appear everywhere online. Include as much as possible on your LinkedIn profile and any other digital platform you use professionally, including your personal website. At 33-years-old, and only 7 years removed from a fledgling rock’n’roll career, I’m not a curmudgeon, per se – but even I recognize the importance of a clean social media profile. Consider the professional reputation you are building and what potential employers could take away from the messages you type or the information you share. You don’t have to stop having fun, but you do need to demonstrate you understand privacy settings.
Now, go get ‘em.
Manipulating the weather. Super speed. Telekinesis. We’ve all thought about what our superpower would be. While for many, this thought may not have crossed our minds since our pre-teen years, now is a good time to revisit the question: What would your superpower be?
A new trend on the job market is leading employers to be more creative in their interview questions. While a few years ago, the biggest trend interview question was, “what is your biggest weakness?” Now employers want to know your greatest strengths.
In the fast-paced, unpredictable field of public relations, having superpowers in your arsenal is essential to success. Knowing what they are and how to access the skills that set you apart from the rest of the team is the first step to finding your place amongst extraordinary PR professionals.
Why it’s a smart interview question:
- It breaks the ice. Everyone knows that interviews are nerve wracking and a more off kilter question gives applicants a chance to take a breather and go off book.
- It gives more insight about the candidate. This question is essentially just asking, what is your greatest strength? However, the format allows the employer to more fully assess the applicants personality by forcing them to give a more candid answer.
- The answer is honest. It’s easy for an interviewee to say what they think their potential employer wants to hear and interview answers can often be overly rehearsed and impersonal. Being able to answer this question honestly conveys your strengths in a more honest, and personal way.
The reason this question works is because when you honestly consider the superpower you wish you had, it tells you something about your personality. The key to success when coming up with your answer is to identify the positive attributes of your personality that power represents and how they will be advantageous to your future employer.
“My superpower would be mind reading. I’m very in tune to people’s thoughts, emotions, and needs. It allows me to predict what clients want and need from me. It also gives me the foresight to address issues before they become a problem.”
“My superpower would be shape shifting. I’m a very adaptable person and I’m comfortable filling many different roles. To me, change is a good thing and I’m always ready to face a new challenge head on with fresh perspective.”
~ AM:PM PR holding auditions for summer intern ~
The ideal performer has:
★ An understanding of the fundamentals of public relations
★ Strong writing and communications skills
★ Familiarity with all the top social networks and review sites
★ Ability to multi-task, manage under pressure
★ The ability to think creatively
★ A desire to learn, work hard and take constructive criticism
★ The ability to self-manage and work independently or as part of a team
This is a paid internship and your responsibilities may include:
✓ Media relations – drafting press releases and conducting outreach
✓ Drafting blog posts and updating WordPress sites
✓ Social networking engagement
✓ Website analytics
✓ Attending staff and client meetings
✓ Administrative tasks
✓ Jumping through flaming hoops, juggling, clowning around
If you would like to be considered for the internship position at AM:PM PR, please email your resume to Alexis Dane by May 6, 2014.
One of my favorite things about working at AM:PM PR is that we’re constantly meeting fresh, exciting and creative entrepreneurs who are willing to try off-the-wall tactics to get some well-deserved attention for their cool ideas. Unfortunately we can’t help every brilliant bootstrapped business-baron that marches through our chambers, but we can share some pointers about typical challenges we see facing these cash-conscious capitalists.
Below are four tips for entrepreneurs looking to get some guidance related to common public relations challenges. These are based on four common challenges we observe when businesspeople are trying to bootstrap their public relations efforts.
CHALLENGE: Lack of formal public relations training or experience
Some factors that negatively impact promotional efforts include: improper messaging, poor timing, and targeting the wrong audiences. It’s common to see businesspeople muddling their efforts with inconsistent language, improperly identified promotional goals, products pitched during the wrong time of the year, ignoring relevant lead times for the media, or targeting the wrong media to begin with. These are all obvious challenges for brains marinated in marketing-oriented mindsets, but for the un-anointed, these challenges are breeding grounds for time consuming trial-and-error.
Solution: Spend a little more time researching and thinking about who is most interested in your product and where you might reach them. Pick up a couple of books from the library that explain the basics of marketing and public relations and read them six-months before launching your product or campaign.
CHALLENGE: Lack of time
Running a business is time consuming, and the nuts and bolts of daily operations often get in the way of the nuts and bolts of your marketing and public relations efforts. It’s important to take time to regularly check in to see if your efforts are in keeping with your 5-year plan, your one-year plan and your goals for the month.
Solution: Find some time throughout the month to visit less-stressful pastures that allow you the freedom to ruminate on your approach. Research upcoming media opportunities related to holidays, anniversaries, celebrations or other relevant dates on the calendar; keeping in mind that media lead times differ between print publications, radio and digital media.
There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but sometimes overconfidence stands between identifying and achieving relevant goals, and obtaining the success you deserve. Think of marketing as you would accounting. Marketing should be planned for as a cost of doing business, just as accounting, production and payroll would be. Too often we see businesses with great ideas, but they can’t afford to tell people about them because they were overconfident in word of mouth. Remember the Harlem Shake? This article points out that you didn’t make the Harlem Shake go viral, corporations with marketing teams did.
Solution: Include marketing costs in any business plan or product idea. Whether you hire an in-house public relations professional or hire an outside team of professionals to guide your marketing and public relations efforts, a long term approach will ensure you have properly identified future opportunities. Developing a marketing plan also ensures consistency, budget efficiency and offers a roadmap for meeting objectives.
CHALLENGE: Keeping pace with communications trends
If you’re not constantly consuming media and keeping up with the latest trends, you’re missing out on opportunities. Imagine if Don Draper were parachuted into the 2013 media landscape – his ideas would be sexist and archaic (not to mention his daytime drinking habits would be a bit off-putting). During the past five years the media has experienced another sea-change and if you haven’t been paying attention it’s time to get with it, or reach out to someone who has.
Solution: Read the newspaper, magazines and industry-related blogs. If possible, find the equivalent of Don Draper’s grandson. Join us for Speakeasy and present your challenges to the group.
Conclusion: We hope these challenges/solutions are helpful. Feel free to post a comment if you have a specific question.
Other good resources:
American Express’s Open Forum
Entrepreneur.com’s Marketing Strategies & Ideas for Your Business