I was inspired to write these tips after reading Katelyn Mashburn’s fantastic post on making the perfect pitch to journalists. This got me thinking about not only how important it is to get the pitch right when you’ve got the job, but also ensuring that your pitch is up to scratch when you’re talking to potential employers.
I say this as my colleagues and I see an increasing number of graduates who connect with us via social media channels. Social media provides great opportunities for sharing and discussing ideas, finding out the latest news and networking – but occasionally I’ve noticed people take a sledgehammer approach coupled with a fair dose of pester power when sounding out a role.
Before we start, I must say that this post is not intended to criticise people, but offer constructive feedback and more importantly, tips that will help pitch your skills, personality and knowledge to an employer using social media – and hopefully land that job. In addition, with many PR Grad Schemes at the international agencies closing in the coming months, this post may also be useful for those looking to connect with the top dogs at smaller consultancies.
My point is that one person’s good intentioned persistence can be perceived as a bit overwhelming – or worse. Sociologists and HR directors have been quick to cast Generation Y as having great expectations and being known for expecting (and demanding) to get what they want. We’ve seen some of this, but most of the pester power approaches can be put down to youthful exuberance, enthusiasm and perhaps a touch naivety. I suppose the best advice is to put yourself in an employer’s shoes. Will your pitch place some doubt in a potential employer’s mind about your ability to pitch to journalists, bloggers or other stakeholders?
The PR industry is all about relationships and your ability to identify, nurture and enhance relationships is a vital skill. The way I see it, the best way to pitch yourself to a potential employer is by demonstrating that you have a good understanding of the industry by curating and creating content, commenting on blogs coupled with real life experience and a big measure of creative thinking.
Here are steps that will help pitch your skills, personality and knowledge to an employer using social media.
Highlighting useful industry news and opinions on Twitter is an effective way to start curating content and building up your own knowledge of the industry. Don’t just re-tweet everything a potential employer tweets, but concentrate on curating content that adds value. Be discerning. They key points to remember are listen, understand and engage in a personal way – don’t spam people with links and you’ll soon notice your number of followers from the PR industry increasing.
Tip: with the demise of Delicious not too far away, use a tool like Diigo to bookmark every Tweet that contains a link, so you can return to your curated content.
I would strongly recommend to any PR student or person wanting to break into the industry to start creating online content of some description. The reason being is that producing regular content takes planning, creativity and commitment. The content you produce could take the form of a blog, podcast, video or photo album. If done effectively, you’ll find that you’re not just creating content, but a community of fans too. Whilst being able to write well is a prerequisite of the PR industry, an understanding and experience of what makes good content and community management are valuable skills to pitch.
Tip: Acquaint yourself with WordPress. Almost without exception this is the default platform we advise clients to utilise and a working knowledge is a great advantage.
I know many PR students who blog, but too few regularly engage in the online conversation by commenting on other people’s blogs. Making comments is a great way to show your understanding of industry issues, a grasp of online netiquette and your ability to form a balanced argument. It is also a good opportunity to network with industry professionals and promote your own content which will encourage feedback and comments from others.
I frequently recommend that people should publish real work they have undertaken on a blog, e-portfolio or personal website – all of which I consider the evolution of the rather staid paper CV. PR is a creative industry, so you need to use every opportunity to demonstrate your real life experiences in an imaginative way. At the very least, graduates should move beyond a static Linked In page and make it dynamic by synchronising it with Slideshare, Twitter, their blog and Behance. If you’re serious about creating an e-portfolio, I suggest you investigate Behance, it’s the e-portfolio platform for creative professionals.
Tip: Flickr is a great tool to store and manage press clippings or print screens of online success. It can also easily be embedded into blogs and personal websites.
Admittedly this is easier said than done. But there are some fantastic examples of people who have used really creative social media ideas to pitch their skills to a potential employer and support their application. Creative and fresh thinking is the lifeblood of the PR industry and the ability to demonstrate creativity coupled with successful execution is a winning combination. Recent and well-documented examples include Graeme Anthony, Jed Hallam and Laura Tosney who have all stood out from the crowd to land jobs and gain promotions.
In addition, to these tips, an overarching consideration has to be your online reputation. Remember that what you do online often leaves a digital footprint – your activity is permanent, immediate and instant. Are you managing yours correctly? Here are some useful techniques which can help enhance your Personal SEO and manage your reputation.
Ultimately, a subtle, balanced and tailored approach is the best way to begin relationship building and pitching with potential employers. What tips would you recommend to graduates making the pitch to potential employers?