PR Through The Eyes Of A Young Professional

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Finding Your PRofessional Niche

In Internship, Jobs, Public Relations, Social Media, Specialty, Young Professionals on February 25, 2010 at 11:48 pm

One of the hardest things for me as a young professional has been trying to identify my professional niche. Entertainment, health care, technology, education, …. So many to choose from.

The weird thing is, I’ve never had a specific specialty that I wanted to focus on within public relations. As a student in college I was simply enamored by the concept of PR. After realizing how powerful public relations could be, I immersed myself in learning as much as I could.  In regard to identifying a specialty, I assumed it would come with time and experience.

During my time in the profession, I have encountered several fellow  practitioners who also share my “generalist” approach to identifying a specialty. Most PRofessionals are satisfied with this approach because it doesn’t limit them in their field. The “well-rounded” strategy is the best, and it is the road I’ve taken in securing my status as a truly dedicated practitioner.

But there are several professionals who feel lost without having a specialty to focus on. But if you MUST, here are some things you may want to consider while on your search:

1. Various Internships: Prior to obtaining  full-time employment try doing as many internships  as you can in different areas of PR (at least three) to get a variety of experiences. Hopefully you will be able to identify one or more areas you find most interesting.

2. Agency Job: If you aren’t able to get as many internships as you would like while in school, then try seeking employment at an agency where they have a variety of practices. Working at an agency generally gives you an opportunity to work with  different clients and teams, allowing you to have your hand in various projects.

3.  Your Passion: What are you passionate about?  If you have always been interested and knowledgeable in the music or fashion industry, try collaborating your professional passion with your personal passion. Work will never feel like work again.

If you apply these 3 little tips I am confident you will be on the right path to identifying your PRofessional specialty.  Yet I insist that you don’t stress yourself about finding one specific area.  You will be more marketable to employers if you’ve had a variety of experiences, thus not limiting yourself professionally.

One of my favorite quotes:

To find a career to which you are adapted by nature, and then to work hard at it, is about as near to a formula for success and happiness as the world provides. One of the fortunate aspects of this formula is that, granted the right career has been found, the hard work takes care of itself. Then hard work is not hard work at all.

Mark Sullivan(1874 – 1952)


Najja Howard #HAPPO Chicago

In Jobs, Public Relations, Social Media on February 19, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Why You Shouldn’t Hire Me…

Let me just start by saying, I am not your average practitioner. I acquire several traits, personally and professionally that may classify me as a “risk” or “hazard” to the status quo.  For example:

  1. I  Am A Critical Thinker (I challenge ideas constantly)
  2. I Don’t Practice “One Size Fits All” PR
  3. I  Respect and Honor the Power of Words and Relationships
  4. I Refuse to Set Creative Boundaries
  5. I Encourage the Open Exchange of Ideas
  6. I Truly Believe that Social Media Is the Best thing Since Sliced Bread (and I tell clients that everyday)
  7. I  Easily Adapt To Situations That Are Beyond My Control (what economic downturn?)

If your company has zero interest in someone with these traits, but instead  is looking for a candidate  who is meek, bland, “yes” men and women, unchallenged ,uninspired and unmotivated- Please don’t hire me!

However if you are looking for someone with these traits and so much more then please continue reading.

In May of 2009 I received my master’s degree in Public Relations/Corporate Communications from Georgetown University in Washington DC. During my graduate career I had the great fortune to intern at some of the most respected agencies and companies in Washington DC. While searching for full-time employment, I have remained resilient and current in the field by contributing my skills and talents as a freelance Public Relations Specialist. To question my passion and dedication to this profession would be both baffling and devoid of reality.

In the past I’ve had the opportunity to work as an integral member of integrated marketing campaigns, social media strategy sessions, media relations, social marketing, event coordination, community relations initiatives, crisis communications, etc. My experience ranges the spectrum in areas of, entertainment, education, nonprofit, political, healthcare, corporate, green sustainability, lifestyle, etc. Some of the companies I’ve worked with include: AARP, Bridgestone Firestone, Sirius XM Radio, Georgetown University, Green Technology and Training Center, Pfizer, and the Law and Civics Reading and Writing Institute for Urban Males,  just to name a few.

The tremendous skills and knowledge I have received from these experiences are bursting at the seams for a dynamic company dedicated to excellence and success.

I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully building a wonderfully productive relationship.

Twitter: @NajjabeePR

YPN Chicago PRSA January Featured Pro of the Month —>Click here to read profile


Current  Client

When it comes to organized professionalism I can think of no better two-word phrase than Najja Howard. Najja has worked with the highest sense of duty and determination while serving as my Publicist over the past year.  Najja has brought such a high level of refinement and structure to my business as a Television and Radio personality that I dare stop to think of what I looked like before her arrival, or what I may look like if she ever decides to move on to bigger and better things?  Najja is a pro in every sense of the word, while simultaneously having the ability to maintain a pliable mind that allows her to grow from the moment an opportunity presents itself to the successful realization of her clients best interests.

Current Client

There are three quick observations that I will offer, without a trace of equivocation, regarding how valuable Ms. Howard has been to our Institute. The first is that in a very real sense we owe our very existence to her uncanny thinking abilities, which permit her to find common themes where they did not apparently exist. In other words, she has a professional gift for quieting noise. Secondly, her trademark “30-60-90 day” communication plan definitely placed us on the road to success. Finally, the three words I feel best define Ms. Howard are: hard-working, collegial, and creative.

Former Supervisor

Najja is probably best described as a person with a strong appetite for challenges. Not only does she meet the challenges others set for her, but her personal goals as well. Najja holds herself to the highest standards of professionalism and personal development, always pushing herself to exceed everyone’s expectations. Najja’s strengths are her critical thinking abilities, and quite simply, her ambition. Her critical thinking abilities allow her to anticipate client’s needs, often meeting them before they are articulated. Those skills are a complement to her problem-solving skills. Najja is remarkably good at approaching problems from various angles to reach the most desired, effective and equitable solution to problems.

Ashley Marshall #HAPPO Washington D.C./Atlanta

In Jobs, Public Relations, Young Professionals on February 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm

The great recession has made me greater. The unprecedented economic crisis was shocking, but rewarding all the same.  After receiving an advanced degree from a top tier school and working one year on K Street, surely this had propelled me on a firm career path. However, I have had to be very innovative and do a lot of creative brainstorming to stay relevant as a new professional. From consulting a religious organization on social media practices to working on a campaign to continue to hone my public relations expertise; I have had to think outside of the box within the past year.  For this reason it is so important to form and maintain strong relationships. My long standing relationship with Disney has resulted in me co-hosting a school assembly called “Move It,” which spreads the Disney brand to Atlanta area schools through exercise while still searching for full time professional opportunities.

As a recent graduate of Georgetown University with a Masters degree in corporate communications and public relations, I completed a public affairs internship at one of Washington D.C.’s top K street public affairs firms, Adfero Group where I gained invaluable experience. As apart of the Adfero team I worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, The American Institute of Architects, and many congressional offices on Capitol Hill. This experience provided me with much relationship building expertise such as written communications, new media, web-based research, website development, developing communications strategies, advocacy campaigns, and Internet advertising analysis. My impressive work at Adfero Group resulted in my semester long internship being extended for one year.

My resume can offer you a more detailed analysis of my experience. Although I currently reside partly in Atlanta and Washington D.C., I am open to exploring other locations. I am confident my abilities and experience can substantively contribute to an organization while increasing my experience in public relations. They always say the best laid plans often change. While the great recession is certainly unexpected it has enhanced my skills and expanded my creativity.

Shannon Smith – Chicago – #HAPPO

In Jobs, Public Relations, Social Media on February 19, 2010 at 7:02 am

Why Hire Me?

My desire for experience as well as my ability to provide excellent work in the area of communication will make me a valuable asset to any company.  I have acquired hands on experience in an academic, personal, and professional atmosphere. I am a graduate from Northern Illinois University (NIU) with a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communication and I am currently enrolled in NIU’s graduate program, where I plan to receive my Master of Arts in Communications in August of 2010.

My experience at NIU has allowed me to build a foundation of knowledge and experience. I immersed myself in campus life where I served on the executive board of the SISTERS Organization and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc, Delta Omicron Chapter where I served as public relations chair and vice president. These position allowed me an opportunity to create and publicize events that spoke to the campus needs and interests.

Professional Experience

I completed my internship at WFLD Fox Chicago where I worked hands on with the morning show producers. There I participated in daily meetings while observing the day-to-day operations of creating a morning show both in and out of the studio.

As a marketing intern at , I was responsible for creating a buzz and introducing innovative ways to gain loyal viewership and awareness of this urban television network. I created a presence and consistently updated information for and its major programs on all social networking sites as well as interacted with viewers daily to gain feedback on their opinions about programming. My time at has helped with my ability to help mold an up and coming company into the vision of its founders.

Goddess Magazine is a magazine dedicated to inspiring urban teen girls by allowing them the ability to become leaders and readers.  As a public relations consultant, I have assisted this company by creating press releases, proposals, and helping plan the magazine’s 1 year anniversary. I have assisted in creating a teen expo which will celebrate the magazines success by providing positive professional and personal growth for teenaged urban girls.

I am currently open to all internship and work opportunities that allow me to hone my communication skills and in exchange I will offer my experience presented with impeccable professionalism.

If you believe I will be an asset to your organization please feel free to contact me.

For resume my click here

Writing Sample 1

Writing Sample 2

Young PRos and Freelance: 5 Tips Before You Take The Leap

In Freelance, Jobs, Lessons Learned, Public Relations, Young Professionals on February 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Chances are if you’re a young professional ( 1-3 yrs exp.) working in marketing, public relations,  advertising, or any other communications discipline, you haven’t done much in the world of freelance. Freelance/Contract work is traditionally a niche community made up of  professionals who have been practicing in the field for some time and are looking to have more creative control over their work. Some freelance work also may be done in order to earn extra income . Whatever the case , the freelance world is generally not the place where you will find many young professionals.

However due to the economy, there are more qualified professionals than there are available jobs. Traditionally PR, for example, is a very transit field. However hiring freezes and low client budgets has brought everything to a screeching halt. Nevertheless in light of this reality, several young professionals such as my co-author , my Twitter Buddy Keeyana Hall and myself included, have taken that leap of faith into the world of freelance.

Having not been fortunate enough to secure FT employment right out of graduate school, I have remained resilient and dedicated to my craft by becoming a freelancer/contractor and using the skills I’ve acquired.

No use wasting all that education and training… LOL.

Deciding to become a freelancer, as a young professional, is not a step that should be taken lightly. I guarantee your novelty to the field will  be tested, therefore it is imperative that you be ADEQUATELY prepared. 

Here are 5 Tips (in no particular order) I think every young professional should remember before taking on any freelance assignments. I would also encourage them to continue to engage these tips throughout their career.

  1. 1. Know your strength: As a professional you MUST know in what areas your strength and weakness lie.  It is safe to say:  “You Don’t Know Everything!” ;and it is important that you don’t pretend to. However you should definitely be cognizant of what you do well. But more importantly you should know the basics. For example as a PR pro you should know how to write and format press releases and  how to clearly and definitely answer “What is PR exactly?” and “How can it help MY business?” when someone (and they will) asks.
  2. Be Confident:  The worst thing any pro can do is seem hesitant and unsure of their work. No one will know you only have two years experience working in the field (internship and PRSSA  experience mostly) unless you tell them.  Remain confident in yourself and it will show through your work. One of the greatest leaps of faith you will take as a practitioner is going out on your own, professionally, without supervision. Being your own boss is a very powerful feeling.
  3. Form an Advisory Committee: As I mentioned prior, no one is great at everything, especially a young pro. Therefore I recommend creating a small team of people who you can brainstorm with, help you edit materials, and even  pitch a reporter or two just to help. This team should  consist of  a professional mentor,   an educational colleague, and a more experienced professional in your field.  I guarantee these people will be essential to your success!!
  4. Stay Relevant: READ, READ ,READ!!! Every morning I wake up to  an email full of RSS feeds from some the industries most respected sources; (Ragan Communications, PRNewser, PRWeek, just to name a few). And I love it! While freelancing, it is your duty and professional obligation to your clients,  to stay current on all relevant issues of the industry. Although you may not be working FT at a firm or organization , you want make sure you know just as much if not more than your professional colleagues that do.

And last but certainly not least,

5. Know your professional worth: I can’t stress this  tip enough. Just because you haven’t been practicing for 10 + years doesn’t mean your work isn’t worthy of compensation. I can’t lie, in the beginning this concept was very difficult for me. All I wanted to do was practice my craft; money had no immediate importance.  I worked for free on several occasions and sometimes when I was lucky I got paid pennies (literally). When you meet with a potential client have your  range for compensation (less for NPO and more for Corporations) already in mind. Don’t be embarrassed, this is business.  Remember  you don’t have millions in the bank ( and if you do, can I have a dollar?).  If you are doing freelance work , while still looking for a fulltime job, chances are  money is essential to your lively hood. Do research on rates specific to your skill set, experience, and geographic location.  Your advisory committee will be extremely useful at this point.

I hope these tips help.  And if you have other tips that you think young pros should know before jumping into the world of freelance please share!

Reminder: Your greatest professional recommendations will undoubtedly come from your clients that you’ve worked so hard for.

Prove It To Me!

In Corporate Social Responsibility, Public Relations on February 10, 2010 at 5:06 am

I like to shop, just like many other women, I also like a good deal. For this reason my frugal wallet and I graced the aisles of H&M the other day. As usual I browsed through the euro-centric apparel hoping a shirt would jump out and tell me to buy it.


I had found yet another shirt to add to my collection of “seemingly unique but similar to all my other tops” shirt. I then proceed to the register with my new find and the cashier asks, “Would you like to make a donation to help the victims in Haiti, H&M will match all donations made.” Without thinking twice I responded, “No thank you,” and proceeded to check out.  

When the cashier asked that simple but heavy question, I could just see my donation sitting on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia in a tightly tied bag waiting for recycle pick up because they had too much of it. Many of you may remember the embarrassing New York Times article about the clothing giant’s flagrant behavior toward an influx of unworn clothes.  

Money On The Ground Royalty Free Stock Images

Yes, the company made a reactionary statement to show they are in fact a very charitable organization. But, what about people like me? People who will shop at H&M but will never donate to H&M for fear their donation may be in vein or for the people will no longer shop at H&M at all. This may be troglodytic of me because everyone deserves a second chance, but here is the number one question… How do you get that second chance? How do you go back to that untainted place in the consumer’s mind when you were the best retailer ever?

This is a hard question but holds a simple answer… Maintain VISIBILITY! You may say you are a very charitable organization, but I want to see it especially after tossing tons clothes.  For example Disney’s “Give a Day Get a Day” program is a great way for people to get out and get involved to improve the communities around them on behalf of Disney.

Get out there in the local communities in which your stores or organization reside. It only takes a consumer one second to categorize your organization as untrustworthy. In the mind of a few consumers your organization may be dead forever, but in the process of building your charitable appearance you will most likely gain back the trust of most of your consumers and new consumers as well.  

We all know how important a company’s appearance is in maintaining the customer. Therefore after a big let down, we do not want to have to change the brand image of a company just to maintain the customer. I want to be able to grow tired of seeing your organization and how charitable it really is. It’s almost like having a person apologize to you a million times before you give in.

As for H&M, I will shop there but I will not give my money to H&M on behalf of any cause. Prove to me you are who you say you are!

When Your Luck Run’s Out…

In Crisis Communications, Lessons Learned, Public Relations, Young Professionals on February 6, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Very, very very few companies are fortunate enough to avoid a crisis at some point in their history. While  only a small number of companies  face a crisis so catastrophic that its relief seems inconceivable.  It can be safely assumed that most companies will indeed face hardships.  

We all know that some industries, such as transportation, are more prone to high volumes of crisis situations compared to less risky industries.  An occupational hazard, such as a plane crash,  doesn’t necessarily  mean that the aviation industry’s (or even the plane company’s)  reputation is damaged.  Well, that  is unless a plane crashes everyday. But we can all agree that crisis’ are bound to occur in one form or another. Therefore every company should be adequately prepared right?  

Raises Hand 

Then my next question is:   What happened to Toyota?  Was there nothing the playbook about this? I must say that I  am a little disappointed (but not too much because I drive a Honda 🙂 ).

When I think of a crisis,  popular case studies such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill or Tylenol’s product tampering,  instantly  pops into my head as the highlighted examples of “how to effectively and efficiently handle a crisis”. These studies have been the revered by the entire public relations industry as two of  the best crisis plans ever executed. However these are just a few rare situations where the company/industry was able to bounce back and regain the trust of its stakeholders after a disastrous course of events. Will Toyota’s future prove to be the same?

In my opinion, it will take several years.

It is without question that motor vehicle accidents can be lumped into the presumed hazards of the transportation industry. Car accidents occur every day, and unfortunately many of those accidents prove fatal. However when an accident doesn’t occur at the  fault of the operator, but the manufacturers…. then that changes the game drastically.

For many years Toyota has sat high on a pedestal as one of the world’s most reliable vehicle manufactures. With a brand that screams, reliable, affordable, and quality, Toyota has been one of those “fortunate” companies I  referred to earlier. Practically skating through without any bad press or general negative perception, Toyota has had a good ride. Pun intended. 

But now their number has been called…

Lately my personal perception of the brand  can be expressed as : faulty construction, and poor communications. In the beginning, Toyota’s communications efforts  appeared as though the company was  crossing its fingers and praying that  the problem would simply go away. But phantom accelerations and “floors mat entrapment”, started snowballing into a much bigger problem.  As the public and industry outrage became louder, a recall was announced. Finally when U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took his concerns of the cars malfunctions to the public,  we finally saw our first glimpse of Toyota’s public relations.

In every PR , crisis communications guide, Toyota’s response can be seen as untimely and  unacceptable.  FYI:  this situation has been brewing since last year.  In PR to react first is a very powerful sign. Its shows that the company is taking the crisis seriously.  While the actual fatal accident was an event that could not be predicted, it was up to the company to act hastily in light of the news to avoid…well… BAD PR.

Whether it was Toyota’s arrogance, or just lack of planning, they will indeed feel the negative affects of their actions.

Nevertheless I always find that situations like these, and even those superficial circumstances like the Tiger Woods scandal, brings  about very important  lessons for PR  folks. Unfortunately the greatest teaching moments in our lives, come from tragedy and hardship.  If we are to grow professionally, we have to learn from others mistakes. As a young professional I am always watching and listening to the teachings of the industry. You should do the same…Young and Old.