“We Never Retire”—The Secrets to a Successful Life in Communications

Last week, I had the honor of dining with Mary Henige after listening to her speak in my PR writing class and before I heard her speak again at my PRSSA meeting.  This polished and powerful woman hails from Detroit, where she is currently the Director of Social Media & Digital Communications at General Motors.  For over two decades, Mary has been blazing trails through a variety of communications-related positions at GM (which, as a side note, has been rated as one of the best places to work).

Fortunately for us at Marquette, part of Mary’s simple success formula is helping others.  “Always give back,” she told both our class and our PRSSA chapter.  As a result, Mary makes sure to do what she can to help budding PR professionals like us succeed in today’s communications environment.

Speaking of her simple success formula,

  • Be prepared:  This is the second guest speaker to have emphasized the importance of preparedness.  As we all know, “expect the unexpected” is a phrase that anyone in the communications field needs to embrace.  Stay on top of your toes, and be able to adapt to anything.  We were just discussing this at my internship just last week!  One girl mentioned that she had once participated in an interview where the company inquired about her thoughts on zombies.  We can only imagine that this was asked in an attempt to both test her creativity and her ability to ad-lib.  After all, no one plans on being asked about zombies (I think?).

  • Show up:  Whenever Mary made a point, she attached a famous quote with it.  The quote for this one was by far my favorite: “80% of success is showing up”—Woody Allen.  How great is that?  It certainly is true, though.  Eventually, if one continually shows up at meetings and events, they are bound to get noticed.  Simply continuing to be present implies a certain amount of responsibility and dedication.  Showing up can lead from anything like great networking to a future career!
  • Get involved:  Similar to showing up, getting involved can seriously boost one’s reputation.  Not only will it reveal one’s passion for their work, it provides more opportunities for “showing up” and obtaining leadership positions!
  • Work hard:  Mary truly emphasized the importance of working hard.  First of all, no one likes a slacker!  Secondly, working hard encompasses everything a PR professional should strive to be.  It covers all the little things.  The phrase “work hard” means be professional at all times.  It means pay attention to detail.  It means expand your network.  It means follow up with people.  “Work hard” also means be self-directed.  In sum, “work hard” epitomizes everything about working in the communications field.  Do it all, and do it well.
  • Keep learning:  Things are always changing in our world.  Social media takes on new trends, the public develops new opinions, people begin to learn differently, technology upgrades, celebrities appear in the news, and politics continue to make waves.  For these reasons (and many more!), we need to keep learning.  PR professionals need to keep digesting new information every day.  This applies to everyone, whether they are in school, whether they just graduated, or whether they have been at their job for 20+ years.  Re-invent yourself as time goes on.  What can you add to your repertoire?  Learn, learn, learn!
  • Help others:  The reason I am able to write this post is because Mary graciously donated her time and knowledge to our class and community for a couple days.  Mary emphasized that we all blessed with the knowledge and the skills to go somewhere with our lives.  However, none of us would be where we are today without the help of a variety of people.  It is our duty to continue that chain of donating our services to the community.  Quite simply, it is the right thing to do.

See?  That is all it takes to conquer the communications industry.  Take it from a pro like Mary!

 

Thanks again to Mary Henige for speaking to our class and PRSSA chapter!

Advertisements

How Pinteresting!

Imagine a world where delectable recipes, cute do-it-yourself crafts, phenomenal fan art, memorable quotes, and life-saving wedding planning tips are organized into neat little boards that are easily accessed and shared among your friends.  Well, this world exists, and it is called Pinterest.

Identified as a “virtual pinboard,” Pinterest is “a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.”  Pinterest can connect to the Twitter or Facebook accounts of their users to draw friends from and expand one’s Pinterest community.  In addition to allowing users to peruse the pins their friends have added to their boards, Pinterest provides an easy-to-install “Pin It” button which allows its users to conveniently find pictures or recipes on other sites and, as the button implies, pin it to one of their boards.  Below are a few examples of the fun things to be discovered on this social media site:

ImageImageImage

Naturally, the million dollar question is: How can such a magical place be used for PR?

This B2C website boasts about the consumer interests and the sheer amount of traffic that Pinterest receives.  How can companies harness this power?  Tip #1 from this creative agency is to make sure that your products are “pinnable”.  The easier it is to pin your product, the more likely it is that others will catch on and repin your products.  With the mass amounts of traffic that Pinterest receives, as long as your product gets pinned, it will be sure to receive recognition.

The more creative you can be with your product, the more likely it is that it will catch on.  Pinterest is all about DIY products and cutesy-creative crafts that can be easily replicated.  Can your product be used to brighten up a room?  Display it in a way that will be attractive for pinners.

Personally, I quite enjoy Pinterest.  This may be due to the fact that I am a social media addict, but it truly is a fantastic site.  It certainly doesn’t compare to Facebook or Twitter, but then again, it isn’t supposed to.  It’s a way for people to flex the muscles in their right brain and discover new things.  For example, through Pinterest, I discovered a lovely website that offers a plethora of low-priced boots.  It would not have happened without Pinterest!  I am forever grateful.  Thanks, Pinterest!

“Be Cool, Stick Out, Make a Difference”

On Tuesday, our professor brought in MU alum, PR professional, and inspirational quote machine Molly Currey to speak to our class about public relations outside of the classroom.  Since 1999, Molly has been working at Chicago’s GolinHarris—where she’s done some amazing things.  Molly was the driving force behind the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago and the Elysian along with an impressive litany of successes with her motorsport clients.  Needless to say, she knows what she’s doing.  We learned a great deal from her, but here are some quotes that particularly impacted me:

  • “You never know what will happen the day you walk in the door.”

Molly labeled this nugget of wisdom “the biggest lesson” she’s learned over the years.  I have to be honest, the first thing that came to mind when she said this was the song “Be Prepared” from The Lion King.

Image

Be prepared, indeed. Watch your step, Simba! Uncle Scar’s got it out for you.

But honestly, Molly speaks the truth.  Every time I’ve been interviewed for an internship, the interviewer emphasizes how important it is to be able to adapt to any situation.  I am often told that every day is different.  PR professionals have to be on top of their game.

  • “You can do it all.  Play hard.  Work hard.  Live hard.”

This made me smile.  Some other things you may not know about Molly are that she is a former off-roading world champion and that she is a breast cancer survivor.  She epitomizes the idea of living hard.  Seeing her passion inspired everyone to fight for their goals—both personal and career oriented.

  • “Be cool, stick out, make a difference.”

When discussing how to succeed in the PR industry, Molly put serious emphasis on the importance of being awesome and showcasing your life experiences.  Everyone will have some amount of former experience.  What’s important is the lifestyle experience you’ve had.  Shy and boring are two qualities that cannot be applied to any successful PR person.  Having a unique perspective and interesting life stories imply creativity and an ability to tell spin extravagant tales with ease.  Again, be passionate.

So, to sum it all up:

  1. Expect the unexpected.
  2. Give it everything you got.
  3. Don’t be afraid to showcase your awesomeness.

Thank you, Molly, for sharing your wisdom with a room full of young hopefuls.  What wonderful lessons to live by!

The Latest Trends

Advertising!  Public Relations!  Journalism!  What’s happening in the wonderful world of communications?  Well, this article claims that brand journalism is the current hot topic in marketing communications.  In fact, it’s such a hot topic that the Public Relations Society of America has actually declared it to be one of the top 12 latest trends.

You see, standard advertising is no longer having its desired effect on today’s population.  People are tired of being bombarded with advertisements and harassed by salespeople.  We ignore their suggestions and instead look to someone we can trust to weigh in: friends, family, coworkers, friends of friends.  Really, just about anyone whose salary does not rely on force feeding you a product.  Therefore, companies have been trying to figure out a new angle at which to approach the public with their products.

In an attempt to reach out to the general population on a deeper level, communication professionals have delved into the idea of storytelling.  Everyone loves a story.  Stories reel people in and bring corporations down to a more human-like and relatable level.  It makes former salespeople seem significantly more similar to that friend you trust to give you solid advice.  Suddenly, they aren’t in your face with an obnoxious pitch.  Rather, they are just communicating with you in a meaningful way.

Storytelling is powerful.

Out of storytelling comes brand journalism.  Brand journalism gives your product a story to which people can relate.  Blogs and other social media sites have given companies the power to create a personable persona and cultivate a relationship with their target audience.  Brand journalism is the phoenix that was reborn out of the ashes of old ads and defunct journalism.  And this firebird is taking off.

PR professionals are loving it.  I’m loving it.  Everyone’s loving it.

Stories are magical.  It’s about time that we start using it this way.

Image

Survey says…!

What’s your name? If you prefer to be called by a nickname, please indicate that in parentheses.

Rebecca (Becky) Binns.

What is your hometown?

I hail from Port Washington, WI (about a half hour north of Milwaukee)

Have you worked as an intern? Where?

Unfortunately, not yet.  I’m still in the process of trying to land an internship.  I’m stuck in a loop of “you don’t have enough experience” related rejections.  However, I believe that I’m certainly qualified enough for an internship, and have faith that I will land at least one before I graduate in May.

What is your ultimate dream job?

My dream job would be working on a PR/Marketing Communications team for a concert hall, band, record label, or other music-related source.

How would you describe your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

My grammar isn’t perfect.  I occasionally struggle with trickier punctuation, and things such as dangled modifiers go unnoticed from time to time.  On a different note, one of my strengths is that I know how to effectively reach a variety of audiences.  My writing voice can be tapered to fit any circumstance.  Serious, comical, lengthy, short, professional, relaxed—I can do it all.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel about writing? (1= I hate to write; 10= I love to write)

10.  Easily.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you assess your writing skill? (1 = Poor; 10 = Excellent)

I’d say that I’m a 9.  I am confident about my skills, but there is always room for improvement!

What do you do to relax?

Some of my favorite ways to relax are: reading, sketching, and figure skating.

Name a foreign language you know.

After many years of schooling, I can understand a good amount of Spanish.

Cat person or dog person?

Most assuredly a cat person!

What ethnic food do you like and dislike?

Ah, this is difficult.  I am a huge fan of food in general!  At the moment, Indian and Pakistani food seems to be at the top of my list.  This could be because I haven’t had an opportunity to indulge in it for a few months.  To my full-blooded Puerto Rican mother’s dismay, I don’t altogether enjoy Puerto Rican cuisine.  Plantains upset my taste buds.  Mexican food is great, though.

What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?

Ah…The Amazing Spiderman, I believe.

What is your favorite TV show?

Law and Order SVU!!  Or at least, it was.  Haven’t watched any of the Stabler-less episodes.  The show was perfect in my mind, and I refuse to tarnish its image.

What picture is on your computer wallpaper?

A slightly pixelated (it was taken on a different friend’s flip phone) picture of my best friend and me from the early years of high school.  Even though the quality is poor, I still love it.  Here’s the picture:

Image

Do you have a Twitter account? If yes, what’s your twitter handle?

Yes! @Becky_Binns.  Check out what I have to say!

Name three things most people don’t know about you.

1)  I hate when my food touches.  Unless it’s supposed to touch, like gravy on mashed potatoes (or any Indian food with any other kind of Indian food), I can’t handle it.  Ugh.  It bothers me if I get chicken juices on my bread roll!

2)  In 2006, my old synchronized skating team took 2nd at Nationals!  Here’s a picture of us with our silver medals (I’m in the middle of the top row), followed by a picture of our kick line at an ice show later that year (I’m the second from the left).

ImageImage

3)  I’m actually young for my grade.  I began college as a 17-year-old in fall of ’08 (didn’t turn 18 until December).  I figured that since I skipped a grade in elementary school, I’m definitely allowed to take an extra year to finish my bachelor’s degree.

Come one, come all!

One of the more important things to know about me is that I’m a competitive figure skater—I’ve been competing for over a decade now!

Welcome to my new blog.  Here, I shall unleash the inner workings of my mind onto the world.  Get ready, everyone!  Coming up soon will be a “get to know me” piece.  In the meantime, some of my basic interests revolve around concerts, photography, art, literature, writing (obviously), and figure skating.  I hope to be the owner of a better camera by the time Christmas comes around, but until then you’ll all have to deal with photos from my unfortunately low grade digital camera circa ’03 or ’04.

Anyway, read away!  I look forward to your comments!