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Dear Google, Why Not be Different?

April 12, 2010

I began reading the book Different by Youngme Moon, a distinguished professor of business at Harvard Business School. I must admit, this is definitely not a book I’m going to finish as quickly as I did If You Have to Cry…; However, despite its slight textbook quality (sometimes I feel like I’m back in communication theory class from my junior year), I’m really enjoying it and feeling smarter by the page. I’m not even half way through and its already gotten me thinking so much differently about why brands do what they do: follow the competitive herd.

I just came across a New York Times article on Alltop titled “Google Android Tablet Imminent.” When I saw this, I instantly thought of Moon’s critique of the competitive herd. To put it as simply as I can, Moon explains that when there are several brands, and one or more brands has a weakness, those brands work at improving their weaknesses in order to compete and stay in the market. Makes sense, right? Well try thinking of it this way: What if one of the weaker brands set its concerns about its weakness aside and focused on further distinguishing its greatest strength?

Well, the answer to that is a bit complicated. One part includes the fear of that strategy failing, and the other is that as human nature, ignoring our weaknesses is very difficult to do. When we are told of or recognize our weaknesses, we can’t help but try improve them up to par with our strengths, or the strengths of our competition, even if that means consequently letting our strengths suffer or discontinue to strengthen. Now, to tie this all into the article about Google…..

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons. Steve Rhodes.

Google is following the competitive herd (Apple and the iPad). It has recognized its weakness (i.e. doesn’t have an iPad-like gadget) and is tackling that weakness head-on to compete in the market.

Now, I do have to give some credit to Google for being a little different. The article describes Google’s tablet as something that could be the “perfect opposite of Apple’s.” Well, at least these two products will have their differences, but Google is still following the competitive herd, nonetheless. I mean, why wouldn’t they? It’s just how things are done in corporate America. Consumers would be upset and confused if it didn’t. We want variation– it’s what were accustomed to and anything out of the ordinary is, well, scary.

However, I still can’t help but wonder what sort of precedent Google could make. What if Google refused to follow the competitive herd and said something like: “No, we will not be like Google and make a tablet. That’ll be their thing. We’ll do something different. We’ll make our existing products even better.” What would be the result? I have no clue because for one, I still have more than half of Different to finish reading, and two, I can’t think of any brand that has ever done something like that before. At least none I can think of right now…

So, what are your thoughts on the competitive herd. Is your marketplace ready for some changes? Are those changes possible?

The Unpaid Craze

April 8, 2010

Monday morning I came across a New York Times article on Twitter about the unfair and even illegal implications of unpaid internships. As an experienced internshiper (I know that’s not a real word, but I like it), this is a topic that particularly interests me. I really enjoyed the article. I learned a few new things and it got me pondering. (Click here to read the article).

I never really understood and valued the importance of internships until the end of my junior year of college, when I realized was a little bit behind the game. So, I squeezed in four unpaid internships with local nonprofits during my senior year. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I landed a paid internship with Portland Public Schools.

I certainly wouldn’t consider the internships I had during my senior year to be “illegal.” I never felt like the organizations were taking advantage of me. There was always a mutual benefit.

In fact, to be honest, most of the “internships” really just felt like volunteer work. Would I have liked to be paid? Yes. But I understood and accepted that the field of work I’d chosen requires sacrifices before making it. Even though I was working for free, I felt that the trade off was worth it: a resume line and a few portfolio items.

However, I can understand the frustrations that the students featured in the article must feel. In fact, I have a few frustrations of my own.

Although I have a resume filled with internships, I am still not working full-time in the PR field. I worked my butt off for a year straight to gain the experience and portfolio items I needed for the job I wanted. I have all of that, but not the job. So where did I go wrong?

Well, the answer to that question is a whole other blog post! I won’t get into that, but the point I’m trying to make is that maybe the unpaid internship route isn’t right for everybody and every career path.  Take this excerpt from the NY Times article for example:

“In 2008, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 83 percent of graduating students had held internships, up from 9 percent in 1992. This means hundreds of thousands of students hold internships each year; some experts estimate that one-fourth to one-half are unpaid.”

According to this statistic, it appears obvious that internships are the standard route to success for many college majors. Although it may not be a graduation requirement, holding an internship (or numerous internships) seems to be an unwritten rule– a big DUH.

I don’t regret any of the unpaid work I did during college, for I gained great experience, but I can’t help but think about where I might be today if I hadn’t of followed along with the norm. (Like I usually do. Go figure).

How and why working for free became the next latest craze is beyond me (granted there ARE paid internships– just more unpaid in my opinion). But if I had to take a punch, I’d say having a competitive edge is one of the biggest driving factors for the increasing popularity of internships, especially unpaid. We all want a packed, impressive resume, and not every company (and especially nonprofit) is going to pay for that. Come to think of it… my resume is worth some big bucks!

So, to wrap up my ranting, I would just like to offer my one grain of salt about about the popularity of unpaid internships. To current students or graduates partaking in unpaid internships: think quality over quantity! Don’t just take any unpaid internship for the resume line or just another of the same thing in your portfolio. Make sure that the internship will be valuable and worth your (free) time. You owe it to yourself.

Junior Miss Fashion Show

March 1, 2010

Two days ago, I put together my second community engagement event for  maurices: a fashion show featuring this year’s Central Douglas County Junior Miss contestants.

Fifteen of the young ladies chose to participate and had a blast strutting their stuff on stage in the center of the Roseburg Valley Mall. I was very impressed by how well the girls did! I surprised them with a microphone at the end of the stage where I instructed them to introduce themselves to the audience and say a little something fun, too. I think the show gave the girls some great experience with walking and talking on stage before the big event.

Also, one lucky winner of a random drawing earned an official maurices sponsorship, which includes three outfits at 50 percent off.  Music was generously provided by DJ Rich of Roseburg.

America’s Junior Miss Scholarship Program provides thousands of dollars in scholarship money to high school seniors across the country. Young ladies compete at the local, state and national level to showcase their talents, intelligence, community and school involvement, and personality. Moreover, this program allows the contestants to develop new relationships and lend a helping hand through community service.

As a new committee member for this year’s local Junior Miss Program, I’m very excited to see all of the girls’ hard work pay off on program day, which is Saturday, March 13 at Jacoby Auditorium at UCC.

You can view the photos I took of the event on my Flickr stream.

I Love my Ducks, But REALLY?!

February 26, 2010

As a UO graduate and Duck, I can’t help but be embarrassed about the current PR crisis facing my alma mater’s football team. Over the past two months, the UO football team has had seven players involved in legal trouble, from accusations of theft and domestic violence to DUII arrests.  It’s one of those things that just makes me say, “REALLY?!” (I love that saying right now).

But, really. Soon we’ll be known as the University of Oregon Jailducks. At what point do you stop talking and actually take some action? Regarding star player LaMicheal James’s case, I understand head coach Chip Kelly needs to get all of the “facts” straight (according to his recent interview with Oregonian columnist John Canzano’s radio show, The Bald Faced Truth), before making any rash decisions. However, there’s no doubt that Kelly is sending a mixed message about discipline to his team and the public. I strongly feel that unless a precedent is set in place and players are held accountable for their actions with real consequences, the University of Oregon’s reputation as a whole (athletically and academically) will severely suffer.

The University of Oregon Jailducks?

In an interview last week on KVAL of Eugene, one of my former PR instructors at the UO, Kelli Matthews, said that when legal matters are involved, organizations are not always able to be as transparent as they’d like. This is one of the stickiest aspects about this particular PR crisis. Although I feel Coach Kelly has done a great job with addressing the situation, maybe he really can only do so much — and so little — because of legal implications. However, I have to agree with John Canzano that Kelly’s actions do seem inconsistent according to expectations that should be held for ALL players.

I love my Ducks, but a clearer message NEEDS to be sent, or most of them will be wearing black and white striped uniforms come this football season.

My fellow Ducks, how do you feel about this PR crisis? Is Chip Kelly handling it well? What should Chip Do?

My Pitch for #HAPPO Day

February 19, 2010

For those of you who do not know what HAPPO is, it stands for Help A PR Pro Out, which describes itself as ” a community based effort to help those seeking jobs in the PR industry.” HAPPO out can be found on Twitter @Helpaprproout and has been dominating the PR Twitter world with its #HAPPO hashtags– especially today. Today was dubbed “HAPPO Day,” in which PR professionals, employers and job seekers collaborate to, well, help a PR pro out, by posting job openings, pitching themselves and making new connections.

As for my role in this day, HAPPO describes it as:

Job seekers: It’s time to share that creative blog post for prospective employers. Tweet the champions in the market and reach out to others using your regional hashtag (see below). And remember, just because you are looking, doesn’t mean you can’t help too! See a job that’s not right for you? Consider who might be a good fit! Finally, be on the lookout for some giveaways! Both national and local industry organizations have teamed up with us to support you. This is YOUR day.

So, that’s exactly what I did. I wrote a creative blog post pitching myself to potential employers and industry contacts. And although I do not have a regional hashtag (apparently I need to live in Atlanta- its hashtag (#HAPPOATL) became a US trending topic!), I decided to participate anyway. It never hurts to put myself out there, and I thought I did it in a creative way with my pitch.

I have posted my pitch below (I originally posted it on my new Posterous account).  I describe it as a hybrid of my resume and a job description of the entry-level job I’m seeking in public relations. Relatively short and sweet, to the point, and without my rambling that people most likely don’t want to read 😉 I also included my resume in the pitch, as well.

I’d greatly appreciate any feedback. Have you ever seen a pitch like this before?

AMAZING ENTRY-LEVEL PR OPPORTUNITY WITH THE WEST COAST’S BEST COMMUNICATIONS AGENCY

Position Title: Courtney Smith’s first real, full-time PR job

Benefits: Paid holidays, vacation time, 401k

Location: Preference in Oregon, but willing to relocate to Washington or California

OVERVIEW

The Agency is a leading provider of strategic communications for its clients, ranging from local nonprofit organizations to billion-dollar corporations. With our creativity and passion for excellence, we help our clients achieve their communication goals with a positive impact on their bottom line. We also pride ourselves in fostering a positive and creative work environment for our entry-level team members.

In this position, the most qualified candidate will be responsible for providing support on numerous client accounts. She will work collaboratively with account teams to produce high quality work that will help the Agency’s clients succeed at their communications goals.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to: developing and managing media lists, writing and submitting press releases, media monitoring and clipping reports, contributing Web content, producing and editing client deliverables, assisting with event planning and execution, and providing administrative support to account teams.

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism: Public Relations and Communications Studies from the University of Oregon. GPA: 3.7
  • Experience with strategic communication. Ability to develop and implement PR plans and campaigns is a must.
  • User of social media, including Twitter, Facebook and WordPress.
  • Consumer of social media. Experience with media monitoring.
  • A curious, detail-oriented mind and a quick learner.
  • Well-rounded experience in public relations gained from five unpaid internships.
  • Strong time management and organizational skills. Ability to meet deadlines consistently.
  • Values the cultivation and maintenance of solid relationships. Communicates in a timely and professional manner.

REQUIRED SKILLS

  • Excellent writing skills and knowledge of AP Style.
  • Experience writing and submitting press releases that have resulted in both print and television media coverage.
  • Proficiency with Microsoft programs: Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
  • Primary and secondary research experience, including interviewing, surveying and conducting focus groups.

TO APPLY: We already know who we want: Courtney Smith.

More about Courtney and this “job description”: As you can see, I want to work in PR, and I have a bit of a sense of humor. I think that’s what sets me apart, and I’ve decided to hone in on that with this hybrid of my professional resume and a description of the entry-level job I’m seeking in public relations.

In today’s market, you need to have more than mad PR skills to get a job. I truly believe that personality, work ethic and creativity help distinguish one great resume from the next.

With a fresh class of PR grads I am now competing against, it’s more important than ever to differentiate myself. I hope this creative submission to today’s Help A PR Pro Out (HAPPO) Twitter event has helped me stand out in the massive crowd of my very impressive competition.

The Mystery of Bra Colors Gone Viral

January 8, 2010

Yesterday, after a nine-to-five shift at work and long sweat session at the gym, I logged on to Facebook at home to see about half of my female friends with a peculiar status update. I was immediately confused, and then a little frustrated that I was apparently out of the loop with the latest viral trend. I check Twitter more throughout the day on my iPhone than I do Facebook, but I still hadn’t a clue as to how or why the trend started.

After a little snooping on Facebook and Googling “Facebook color status updates,” I was under the impression that the updates had to do with underwear. About five minute later I finally got the thread message that read:

“Some fun is going on…. just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of breast cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before people wonder why all the girls have a color in their status… Haha .”

I never thought I'd have a photo of bras on my blog. But if it's for breast cancer awareness... 🙂

So that answered one of my questions, but I was still confused about how and why it started. And, most importantly, how does this support breast cancer awareness? Yes, I get the whole viral thing, but this approach is very different– a bit mysterious.

The trend was not asking for donations, and the minds behind it (apparently a group of women of Detroit) have yet to come forward.

In many ways, I feel that the mystery of this trend is what makes it so interesting– interesting enough for me to write about and ponder many things, especially its effectiveness.

The trend’s purpose may not have been to generate donations, but like this abc News article says, it “has been a landmark in viral marketing” for its ability to generate buzz, and therefore interest.

It may not be Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), but there’s no doubt that viral trends like this may help many more women remember to do self-breast exams, schedule a mammogram or even make a donation to Susan G. Komen For the Cure, like one of my former University of Oregon PR instructors Kelli Matthews did this morning in response to another Tweeter, @debbiews (posted on her Twitter page @kmatthews). Very cool 🙂

In the article, Justin Hare, a 27-year-old editor for a Philadelphia medical publishing company, called the trend a  “clever public relations campaign.” I couldn’t agree more.

For something that appears to have little major planning and expense behind it –and was a little confusing at first– I’d say that this PR campaign was quite successful.

What do you think of all this bra hype? Do you agree it’s been a landmark in viral marketing? What do you think the next mysterious Facebook update will be?

When You’re Stuck In A Rut

November 19, 2009

I’m not gonna lie: I’m stuck in a rut.

But I know I can get out. That’s why I’m writing this. I’m a firm believer in writing’s therapeutic benefits  (as well as its ability to frustrate!). Hopefully, writing this post will help me and other recent grads stuck in a rut get out of a rut (i.e. GET A REAL CAREER JOB!).

It’s been eight months since I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in journalism, with an emphasis in public relations, and I still do not have a full-time job in my field. I work part-time (20-35 hours) as an assistant manager at a women’s clothing store called maurices. I love that I’ve been able to apply my PR skills at my job (through a fashion show and donation drive), but that is just not enough. I can’t stay stuck in this rut much longer, or I won’t be living to my full potential.

Here’s a list of things I know I need to do to get myself out of this rut. Hopefully this list will be helpful for others in a situation similar to mine.

  • Get a routine going again. Most of my college days were spent waking up at 6 a.m. to get myself to the gym by 6:30. Sounds crazy, right? I guess I sort of was… 😉 I forced myself to work out in the morning because I knew I wouldn’t do it after class (especially since the Rec Center got more crowded than a frat party by 4 p.m.).  Working out in the morning– every morning– kick-started my day. Having a routine in place helped balance my health and my studies. Although I am still working out regularly, I do not have a consistent work and exercise schedule at all.  I need to work harder on getting this back into place.
  • Schedule computer time. I know this one is important for me because it falls into re-establishing my routine. As a a college student, I spent much more time on the computer than I do now (however, I now have an iPhone). Always being on the computer made keeping up with social media much more convenient. I still try my best to keep up, but one area I’m slacking in is reading blogs and job-searching/job-preparing online. Incorporating computer time is very important to me and my future as I re-establish my daily routine.
  • Volunteer or do an…. (gasp!)…. unpaid internship. I thought my days of unpaid internships were over. Well, they are as of right now, and I’d like to keep it that way. However, if making it in my career means getting more experience at (just about) any cost, I’ll do it. Just a few hours a week of volunteering my time and skills to nonprofit or other organization will not only benefit my community, but also help keep my skills updated and my portfolio padded.
  • Update the portfolio. During my senior year, I made it a good habit to consistantly add to my portfolio. Although I have created numerous PR work samples since I’ve graduated, I’ve slacked on physically adding them to my portfolio. I’ll admit that this is most likely because I don’t have several interviews lined up like I used to back in the spring. I need to just sit down and get to work. I also may just need more outlets to show off my work. Scheduling informational interviews and attending networking events will motivate me to update my portfolio.
  • Set a Get-Outta-Here Goal. Goal-setting is a PR basic. If I’m truly a young PR pro, I should be setting more goals! (Shame on me). It’s tempting to just say, “My goal is to live and work in Portland by January 2010,” but it’s not a very realistic goal. Moreover, in order for it to be a goal, I must treat it like a goal and work on achieving it every day.
  • The obvious: Keep at it. Yes, job hunting is very frustrating these days. At times, it even seems pointless. The main thing I need to keep in mind is that if one strategy isn’t working, such as applying to jobs only via the Internet, then stop wasting time and try a different strategy. I must also never give up. And I need to get a move-on before I start competing with the graduating class of 2010. Now that’s a scary thought. 😉