How to build your personal network with follow up skills

The job market is very competitive and now a days it is all about who you know, not what you know. Connections are key in landing the career of your dreams, but it takes hard work to get there. I know many other professionals would agree with me, including Brad Lomenick, about how difficult it is to build your network. Lomenick gives his readers advice in his blog post, “The Skill of the Follow up,” about how to seal the deal with potential employers.

By taking it a step further, I encourage all job seekers to follow up with any professional they meet that is connected to their field, not just your potential manager or boss. Like I said above the key to landing a job is connections and the bigger your network, the better your chances are to be discovered. Here is some advice I have gathered from Lomenick, other professionals and my personal experience on how to follow up:

1)   Be persistent

I have been told you can never be too persistent. Don’t be afraid to send another email, or make another phone call when you do not get a reply. I have friends who got their jobs because they were so persistently annoying that their employer gave them an interview just to shut them up!

2)   Be different

Don’t send out a general email, the employer will move it straight to the trash if they feel like it was a mass sent email. Make your words stand out and show that you care about and want to be apart of the organization.

3)   Be clear

Make it easy for them to respond and set a date for when you want a response or a favor fulfilled. Urgency will help your connection know when to get back to you, or do what you are asking of them.

4)   Make a personal connection

Try to play off of the first meeting you had with your connection. If you guys connected over sports or a hobby, mention that in the email. This will help the employer remember you, which is a really good thing. Since employers deal with SO many people it is hard to remember everyone they talk to. Just being remembered puts you ahead of your competitors.

5)  Say Thank You (and make it genuine)

Don’t forget to thank them for their time. Even if things don’t work out, you never know when you may see that person again. They could be your future boss or fellow employee so make sure that you do not ruin relationships.

If you really want to show off, send your connection a personal hand written note saying thank you. You will impress them with your professional and personal follow up skills.

How athletes can improve poor social media skills

Professional athletes are now all over Twitter and Facebook, displaying their thoughts and day-to-day activities to the world. Athletes are always appearing in headlines and new stories. With so much media exposure, pro athletes should have some training in social media and responding to the public because athletes often get themselves into trouble by making inappropriate comments. Everyday I am amazed at the lack of professionalism athlete’s display in public.

Each athlete represents a brand or an organization and it is their job to make their organization look good. Too often athletes misuse social media tools like Twitter. The Pro Sports Communications blog explains the common mistakes that athletes make on social media. Here are big mistakes that I agree with:

Lack of social media education

Social media should be approached with a plan and purpose when used by anyone, especially athletes. For an athlete, social media tools should be used to focus on things like increasing your fan base, representing your brand and being a role model.

Bad Language

I understand that locker room talk is not necessarily clean because you are with your friends, but make sure that it does not carry over into your social media posts. Swear words are not appealing to all viewers, so keep it exclusive to conversations with the homies. Also check grammar, we want to know that jocks have brains too.

Focusing on the haters, not the supportive fans

There are no benefits from getting into Twitter battles with haters. You have more supportive fans anyways, so interact with them and ignore the negative comments.

Forgetting to represent your brand

When you become a professional athlete you are no longer representing yourself, you are representing your team and your organization. So don’t embarrass yourself, or your brand with social media mistakes.

My advice, get social media training. As a freshman college soccer player I was clueless about the importance of representation. I am a University of Oregon athlete and the community recognizes me as representing Oregon. Thankfully, early on I was taught how answer to the media and how to represent Oregon. Now I am careful what I post on the Internet because I am part of something bigger than just myself. Just like on social media, I am aware that I a may be recognized when I am out in the community, so I have to carry myself responsibly and respectfully at all times.

Gisele speaks too much of her mind

The Super Bowl has come and gone and it is now old news. Basketball season has taken over and Baseball season is even receiving some spotlight time, but one PR mishap remains…Gisele Bundchen’s bold and borderline inappropriate comment. After the New England Patriots lost to the New York Giants, Gisele, the wife of Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady, complained “My husband cannot throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time.”

I personally like coming across stories like this because I have experience participating in a competitive college sport and I hear fans and onlookers make comments about the game all the time. In defense of Gisele, let me start by saying that she may have made a socially unacceptable and rude comment, but she was surrounded by her friends and she did not think that she was being publicly recorded. We have friends so we can talk openly and say whatever we want, no matter how cocky it sounds.

On the other hand, who is Gisele to talk? I don’t recall her becoming famous for being a professional athlete. She does not seem to know the importance of having teammates in a team sport. What people do not understand when they support a loved one in a sport is that they are always biased. I hate to say it, but everyone is. If you asked my parents you would hear mostly great things about me, while I am confident my coach would also say good things about me, she would also be realistic, knowing that I could be better if I worked on my weaknesses. Fans focus on the players they are personally connected to and always see them in a better light. What they often miss is that players would not be as successful as they are without their teammates. Brady is a stud, but no matter how good you are, you need your team to succeed when you participate in team sports.

I still strongly believe that MVP awards are important to recognize key players and I understand that games are often won because one player steps up and puts in the extra work to get the winning touchdown, but never, ever should that player take all the credit.

My advice to Gisele, say whatever you please, just make sure you are not being watched by outside sources. Potentially being the most famous supermodel in the world and being married to an all-star NFL quarterback, she needs to realize that eyes and ears are always on her. She chose her lifestyle and with it comes sacrifices like never being able to publicly speak your mind. Every career path has its pro and cons.

Ryan Braun’s PR mishap

It’s that time of year again, baseball season! As the weather slowly begins to warm up and the sun tries to peak through the clouds, baseball players start reporting to spring training. Baseball did not intrigue me when I was younger. Now, attending the University of Oregon has presented me with the opportunity to watch some college baseball games and I must admit, I truly enjoy the game. It took me most of my adolescent life to understand the mechanics, mental toughness and skill required to excel in baseball, but now I respect the players participating in such a skilled sport.

The sport may be exhilarating to watch, but some of the players are not always as enjoyable to listen to. Ryan Braun is a recent athlete that has lost my respect because of his unprofessional behavior. If you do not know the story, Braun plays outfield for the Milwaukee Brewers and failed a urine test in the beginning of October. The results of the drug test displayed extremely high levels of testosterone, which resulted in a punishment of a 50-game suspension for Braun starting in the 2012 season.

Braun challenged his drug test and provided enough evidence to overturn his suspension. He proved his innocence by showing that his statistics have not changed since he entered the professional level and that the test displayed levels of testosterone exceedingly higher than any other test in MLB drug testing history. The fact that the urine sample also sat in the collector’s house for two days also played in Braun’s favor. Braun presented himself as a victim to the public and the league and won his case with sufficient evidence.

But winning his case wasn’t good enough. Braun should have shut his mouth right when he was cleared to play, instead he took his situation a step further and extended the story by wrongly accusing the man who collected his urine, Dino Laurenzi Jr. If you were wrongly accused and greatly inconvenienced, why would you return the favor to someone else? A better-advised athlete would have known better. Here is my future advice to Braun and his PR adviser:

1) Stop while you are ahead (that should be obvious)!

2) Drop the issue once it is settled.

3) Don’t blame someone else; instead suggest refinements within the system.

 

Braun is a great player, but he could have carried himself better in this situation. It sucks, as an athlete, to be punished after you have worked so hard, but even if you are innocent, you should never personally attack others involved. You may be right about your accusation, but if you are not, you could end up really hurting someone’s reputation and making yourself look really bad.

How to execute a great presentation

As the end of winter quarter approaches, the challenges and pressures are increasing in all majors for everyone approaching their last spring term before they graduate. For example, Public Relations majors (that means me!) are required to do what some people fear most…speak in public. Even though our professors are preparing us with helpful tips on executing a good presentation, I still feel the anxiety building from my fellow classmates, and I must admit, myself.

Growing up in a society that thrives off of media news, gossip and social media, I find it funny that we, in general, have so much trouble getting in front of a group of people and giving an educational presentation.  Why are we so scared? We shouldn’t be scared because we have been practicing our social and communication skills basically everyday since we were born. The posts and pictures we post on Facebook are on display for the public to see, so why is public speaking so hard?

My conclusion is that people love attention, but hate being judge. Facebook doesn’t require educational statements in each post. People are judged off of how interesting they are on social media sites, not how smart they are. On the other hand, a presentation requires that you teach a group of people that could know more about your presentation than you. Talk about PRESSURE to impress your audiences, or in my case, get a good grade!

Now, through lectures and blog posts, I understand that the presentation isn’t about me! It is about the material I am presenting. Once that clicked, the cloud of anxiety that surrounded me lifted. Here are three easy tips to giving a good presentation.

Be Yourself.

People like stories, so be passionate about what you are presenting and relate it to your own experiences if you can. It is no fun to listen to a speaker who doesn’t want to be there.

Visuals are important.

In general, people will learn more from the presentation if they can pair visuals with the information they learned. Make sure that you keep your presentation cohesive and match a picture with what you are talking about. Don’t forget that you are also something for the audience to look at, so be enthusiastic. Don’t distract away from what you are saying with obnoxious or awkward body movements. Lastly, remember to smile.

Intrigue your audience, but keep it simple.

Keep it simple. People can only take in so much information at one time. Through simplicity, make sure that you keep your audience intrigued. Visuals are a good way to stimulate attention. Contrasting ideas, as well as triggering people’s emotions will keep people from getting bored.

The University of Oregon men’s golf team mixes PR and humor

What kind of sports blogger would I be if I didn’t blog about my very own ducks and fellow athletes?  This month, the University of Oregon men’s golf team caught my attention. They were recently ranked No. 2 in the nation after their competition on Friday, Mar. 3. I must admit that second in the nation is pretty impressive, but I have found that golf is not their only skill.

Businesses are always looking for new ways to improve their communication and relationships through PR. With the growing presence of technology, like the iPad, there is an increase in demand for visuals by consumers. Videos are particularly popular because they (usually) add audio explanation to the image being viewed. Realizing the increased popularity in social media outlets like YouTube, the golf team saw a video as an opportunity to reach out the community in a personal way.

Here is some advice; if you are in a slump and cannot think of a good way to get your name out there, start with the basics. Try to trigger people’s emotions and get some kind of reaction. Humor is always a good way to get the attention of a certain target public.

What did the golf team do to boost their awareness and support?

They…

Got creative!
Triggered emotions and made people laugh.
Were personable and open.
Reached out to multiple target publics, including college students and families.
Disseminated their video through social media.

 

The golf team may not be marketing or PR professionals, but they are very creative and keep their idea simple. They didn’t add special effects or use expensive props; instead they kept it simple and used what they had. The statement “less is more” is a good guideline for PR professionals because too much detail often creates clutter and confusion when dealing with large numbers of people. It also can make the message appear cheesy, in a bad way.

Another appealing PR attribute that the golf boys executed was being open and vulnerable. Trust is built between a corporation and its publics when they are open and honest. They goofed off and opened up in an attempt to create relationships with current and potential fans. Lastly, the golf team used the connections they had, like the athletic department, and the social media available to them to get the word out about their video. By getting the word out they hoped to gain attention and increase their fan base. Facebook and Twitter helped, but YouTube was the outlet that really got the attention of users. PR is all about connecting and building. Get creative like the golf team, stay simple and get out there! There are so many ways to use social media, take advantage of your opportunities and the technology available!

The Knicks gamble on Lin and win big

Jeremy Lin takes a jump shot against the Lakers on February 10, 2012 in Madison Square Garden

Being a college athlete, I always love hearing about the player that perseveres and proves everyone wrong when he was expected to fail. I have the utmost respect for hard working players like Jeremy Lin, who never let what people say stop them from achieving greatness.

Like a few others, Lin has branded himself in the world of sports. He surpassed expectations and silenced the non-believers who pushed him to the side. His brand, known to some as #Linsanity, defines the ultimate illustration of perseverance.

Lin deserves all of the credit for the hard work he put in to become the starting point-guard for the Knicks, but without the Knicks he would not be the talked about sensation he is today. By taking a chance on an undervalued player, the Knicks presented a competitor to the NBA that we would not have known about otherwise.

What PR moves did the Knicks do right?

Made a decision based on sight, not word of mouth.

It is dangerous to make a big decision off of rumors. If you are smart you will take the time to research who and what will be the best fit for your team. Whether it is a PR team or a sports team, you want the new addition coop with everyone and be a positive influence on the surrounding players or workers. The Knicks knew Lin was good, that is why they added him to their team. Lucky for them, good ended up being phenomenal.

Took a chance

Sometimes the risks end up being the most rewarding decisions a corporation makes. Coaches, critics and fans never expected Lin to impact the Knicks and the NBA in the way he has this season. When research doesn’t give you all the answers, sometimes you must take a chance. When you cannot attract the big talent because of money, sometimes gambling on the underestimated player works in your favor.

Overlooked appearance

We have all heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” well, Jeremy Lin was judged by his cover. His size and Asian heritage made him less appealing to college and professional coaches even when his history proved that he could deliver on the court. Make sure that you do not base talent on appearance. To move forward within your corporation you need the most innovative thinkers, not the best looking chumps.

As Lin moves forward, I just hope that his current fans will support him at all stages of his career. The progress he has made and the inspiration he has spawned should be remembered no matter how his future in the NBA plays out. His brand is so powerful and inspirational that a bad game should not change the impact he has made. Maintaining brand support over the long-term is a challenge PR professionals deal with everyday. Lets see if Lin is up to the challenge. I think he is!

Inspiration found through “Zaching”

Inspiration is hard to come by in any area of life. Coaches struggle to inspire the players they lead. Bosses find difficulty in motivating their employees and creating a spark in the workplace. Teachers look for new activities and lessons everyday that will stimulate the students to learn in their classrooms.

Tim Tebow is a player that found motivation from within to inspire teammates and admiring fans throughout the nation. His humble gesture, which was also annoying to some, of kneeling to pray, became a trademark throughout the nation known as “Tebowing.” Whether Tim had a PR staff advising him or not on how he responded to the pressures of the media, he was always respectful. He maintained composure, continued to answer challenging questions and ignored numerous degrading comments.

Zach Lederer is not a NFL star, or a famous NBA player that is coached by PR specialists on how to deal with the media. No guidelines were given to Lederer when he spontaneously trademarked a pose that became inspiration for those who are battling brain cancer. His pose, expressed in a similar way as “Tebowing,” became known as “Zaching.” It is a pose that was never meant to gain attention, but because of his tenacious and hopeful character, it became an inspirational movement for many.

Lederer, 18, has been battling cancer on and off since childhood. His muscle man pose was to “show everyone how strong I am right now, they’ll stop worrying about me and think,” he said. His dad posted the picture via social media and it quickly became a web sensation.

PR does not always have to be a thought out strategic plan to be meaningful. Inspiration does not have to come solely from people in the sports world; it can come from all categories of life. He promoted himself in the same way PR professionals work to promote their clients and companies everyday. The big difference is that Lederer’s pose was a genuine gesture and was not planned out.

The Oregon Women's soccer team pose in support of the new "Zaching" sensation.

Thousands of people, including my soccer team, have now taken on the action of “Zaching” and posted pictures on the web of their support for him and other brave people battling cancer. PR can be used in many different aspects and can result in positive or negative. I personally love when PR happens in the world around us on accident.

“Zaching” is an example of unexpected PR. Lederer did not plan out his media popularity or presence, it simply just happened. He created supporters and followers through a spontaneous action created by sincere belief. He is a true example of inspiration and his positive reputation is the type of reputation PR professionals spend their entire career working to build and maintain.

Don’t get fired because of stupid social media decisions

I have found that in my recent posts I am not necessarily drawn to Sports PR posts, which is the field I plan on working in someday, but posts that give advice on getting a PR job and keeping it. This is probably because my next step is getting a job to gain experience, whether it is in Sports PR or not. Experience will help me achieve my end goal, but no matter where I work I still need show that I am responsible and dedicated.

So here are some tips to make sure that you do not lose your job because of social media mishaps. Social media is a great way to get attention from various publics, but don’t make the mistake of creating negative attention for yourself. Here are five pieces of advice I have gathered from professionals and blogs:

Represent

You are representing yourself and the organization you belong to. I am part of the University of Oregon Women’s soccer team so I have to be respectful to others and represent myself and Oregon athletics at all times. You never know where someone will recognize you and pair you with the organization you are a part of.

Respect

Everyday I look on Twitter and see numerous negative comments’ users post about classes and professors. Once you post something it is on the web forever! Your professors and potential employers can see how you interact with friends through your social media profiles so don’t embarrass yourself. If you are not professional, how do you expect to get a recommendation for a job or even find a job?

Instead of wasting your time complaining, take the responsibility on yourself to make things better. My coaches have always told me “you are the only person that can determine your outcome.” This statement is true to all aspects of life, not just sports. Spending time complaining and degrading others with not make your situation better.

Be yourself

Employers want workers that are experienced, hard working, outgoing and innovative. Show your personality so that the employer can determine if you are a right fit for that team. Every workplace needs chemistry to really thrive and if you are not a fit with that workplace it will be better for you and the job you didn’t get in the end.

Here is a social media tip; don’t act like an outrageous partier on your social media sites, but don’t try to hide who you really are. Employers become skeptical when privacy settings are too private.

Know where to draw the line

As important as it is to be influential in social media do not waste all your time, if you have a job, on Facebook and Twitter. DEFINITELY DON’T BASH YOUR BOSS, CO-WORKERS, OR CLIENTS VIA SOCIAL MEDIA! It will make you and your company look bad.

Be truthful and objective

The public does not see PR professionals as being objective and truthful. Show that you can display both qualities through tweets, statuses and pins because employers are looking for those qualities to reshape the reputation of PR.

Lukewarm for Tebow

Tim Tebow has been in the media spotlight since he was a teen. The name Tebow was famous even before he entered high school throughout the state of Florida. Now, Tim has become a nationwide icon and is highly talked about by critics and supporters. Listening to observers you find only two types of Tebow groups, the haters and the lovers.

No matter where you look there is no middle ground on the subject of Tim Tebow. There are virtually no lukewarm supporters, either you want him to succeed or you want him to fail miserably. One thing is for sure, whether you hate him or love him, you are drawn to him and can’t help but watch him every Monday night the Broncos step on the field.

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos quarterback.

He attracts the public’s attention because of his unique character and humble statements. His views, actions, and beliefs may bother some, but for others they are traits found in a quality role model. No matter what the critics say, Tim has created great hype and PR for himself, his beliefs, his team, and the NFL in general. He proves that rough and tough language is not the only way to gain attention as a professional athlete.

Tim Tebow always diverts the attention away from himself, giving his Lord and Savior, or his teammates credit. Lebron James, a Tebow supporter, took his interview question about Tim and attempted to turn it into good PR for himself. Lebron claims “I can relate to him a lot. I see how the media plays it sometimes and how the critics go at him. To see him prove them wrong … he continues to stay positive and move forward. You respect that.” Lebron appears to be on the “love” Tebow side, but he also definitely loves himself. I respect his support for a fellow athlete, but his comparison was used to focus the attention on himself. Selfish self-PR?

I am not trying to bash Lebron because I do like him as a player, but not necessarily as a role model. Tim Tebow is a selfless athlete who never uses the self-PR tactics many other athletes do. It is almost impossible ignore his national presence. Rooting for or not, his media popularity is obvious. He is anything, but a lukewarm topic. Tim is not concerned about his fame. He is in the NFL to play and win. Take it or leave it because I can guarantee you will not remain indifferent about the Bronco’s quarterback for long.