Fireside / November 2015

Networking Tips for Young Professionals

This week I’m attending my very first PRSA International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  The conference offers a mix of educational sessions and an opportunity to meet PR professionals from across the word.  In preparation for the event, I thought I’d provide some tips to my fellow young professionals for getting the most out of this and future networking opportunities.

  • Have your elevator pitch down-pat. A great elevator pitch is crucial to engage others during a networking event. You’re going to meet a lot of people, and if you want to grab their attention, you better do it quickly.  A great boss or supervisor will take the extra step to ensure you have yours perfected before attending your first networking event (I know mine did).  Introduce yourself and give a brief background on your company, for example: networking hello tags
    • Where is it located? How many locations do you have?
    • What do you specialize in?
    • What types of clients do you have? (If applicable)
    • What are your primary job responsibilities?

Be sure not to ramble on too long about yourself, though – elevator pitches are supposed to be quick!

  • Put down your phone. If you don’t know anyone at an event, the worst thing you can do is to be antisocial and glued to a mobile device!  When I first started attending networking events in college, I would often turn to my phone instead of actively introducing myself to others.  As you grow as a professional, that urge will disappear.  You will realize after your first few networking opportunities that having your phone as a crutch is only going to hurt you.  If you have your elevator pitch perfected, you can go confidently into a room full of strangers and share you story.
  • Be proactive. You may have handed out countless business cards to hundreds of contacts at every event you’ve attended. The next step is to sit back, relax and wait for them to start reaching out to you.  Right?    The only way you can be sure opportunity knocks is to reach out and grab it yourself.  Instead of waiting on others to come to you, call or email new contacts to touch base and remind them of you.  Even a quick note saying “it was great meeting you” puts the ball in their court, prompting a conversation.
  •  Become a follower. In most cases, you hear “be a leader” – but this case is an exception.  Creating new connections is the easy part of networking.  Maintaining them is the hard part.  You didn’t meet all these new people for nothing!  Find the social profiles of the people you met.  Connect with them on LinkedIn.  Follow their company on Twitter.  ‘Like’ their company’s Facebook page.  Stalk them online (just kidding).  You get the picture.  Follow them in every professional capacity you can, and when applicable, like and share the content they are posting so they know you have a genuine interested in what they are saying.

I hope some of these tips were useful to you!  What networking tips do you have for young professionals?


The Rules of Engagement: Impacting the Bottom Line from the Inside

We recently attended a PRSA seminar and though the agenda covered a variety of topics, one theme echoed across the board: employee engagement.  Surveys from a range of sources place the national employee engagement level around 30 percent, meaning that 70 percent of employees – regardless of industry – are non-engaged in the work place.  The number is staggering and the implications are even worse: if employees are not reaching their full potential then the companies they work for can never achieve maximum output.  Unengaged employees have a direct impact on the bottom line, with Gallup estimating that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 to $550 billion each year.  office7

Over the past few years, driven a great deal by the latest and largest generation in the workforce – the millennials – there has been a shift in the structure of company benefits and incentives.  While pay is still an important factor, its relevance has been toppled by a deeper connection to a company and respect and recognition within an organization.  Employees, especially those among a generation that’s shaking and shaping the workforce, want to know that the company they are working for is making a difference and in turn, that they are doing the same, and that their hard work is being recognized and rewarded.  By definition, employee engagement is the willingness and ability to contribute to a company’s success.  In order to foster this type of connection between a company and its team members, an employee-centric culture must exist within the work environment.

Company perks, such as flexibility in work hours and casual Friday, play a key role in employee satisfaction, but are only one component to achieving complete engagement.  Building a team that has an inherent interest in the work they are doing and the guiding principles of the business is the best way to fuel a company’s productivity and improve overall well-being.  Based on extensive research, Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report, companies should consider the following to optimize employee engagement and positively influence the bottom line:

  • Hire the right people. Seminar speakers Abbie Fink, vice president and general manager of Phoenix-based HMA Public Relations, and Tom Hoog, former president and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, emphasized that organizations should hire for fit, not skills.  We should assume that potential employees have the specific skills required to do the job.  What we can’t assume though, is that they are a natural fit for our organization based on the impressive background summarized in their resume.  Take time to get to know candidates during the interview process and ask questions that can help you determine if their goals and aspirations are in line with those of the company.  Especially at the managerial level, seek those that will support, mentor and effectively lead their teams.
  • Recognize team members’ strengths and empower them to build upon those strengths. Research shows that employees who use their strengths on the job everyday are six times more likely to be engaged on the job.  While some strengths emerge naturally, others may not be as obvious and as a result, may remain dormant and not effectively utilized.  One resource used by many organizations as a means to tap into talent is StrengthsFinder.  Companies will see great benefit from recognizing the strengths of its employees and empowering them to nurture and expand those skills to achieve full potential.
  • Focus on the well-being of employees. Gallup research showed that employees who are engaged in their jobs are generally in better health and have healthier habits than employees who are not engaged or are actively disengaged.  Supporting the well-being of employees helps companies keep their health costs lower and output higher.  Initiate programs aimed at improving the health of employees and hold team members accountable by setting realistic goals.

It’s up to each agency to cultivate their own culture from within and create a work environment that fosters employee engagement.  Here at Wireside, we fully recognize that our team is our most important asset and take steps to let them know how much they’re valued.  The workplace culture is reflective of the collaborative spirit of the agency.  While the work is fast-paced and challenging, the agency ethos is to be supportive and transparent.  As a small agency, we have the flexibility to design work perks around the things that matter most to our employees.  For example, we often send our team to fun, off-site learning seminars and extend business trips to accommodate time for personal travel/exploration.  This year, some of our team members went on a once in a lifetime adventure in Kyoto, Japan as an opportunity to get to know each other better and share a truly special experience.

What methods, practices or principles has your organization implemented to enhance employee engagement?


Today on The Jetsons: Drones Delivering This Holiday?

I recently attended a PRSA talk titled, “Send in the Drones – Keeping Journalists out of Harm’s Way,” where Rose Mooney, executive director, Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership gave attendees a full debrief on the what, why and how of drones and their use in journalism. drone

Being a part of a high-tech PR agency, as well as a consumer, I was interested to learn more about this emerging technology and how its use cases seem to be evolving.  Originally designed for military use, the flying copters have made their way into other industries such as farming and will soon be landing into the hands of thousands, and maybe even millions, of Americans.  Drones are expected to be one of the hottest gifts this holiday season and top retailers are seeing far greater value in the gadget than being just another item (literally) flying off the shelves.  In case you haven’t heard, Walmart recently asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permission to test drones for making deliveries to customers in its parking lots and to customers’ homes.  After testing drones within facility walls, the major retailer wants to follow in Amazon’s footsteps with its drone efforts.

Earlier this year, the FAA began allowing Amazon to test drones for its new delivery system, Amazon Prime Air.  This was step one in turning Amazon’s new, futuristic delivery service into a reality.  Amazon Prime Air’s goal is “to safely get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles,” according to the Amazon website.  You can view a demo of Amazon Prime Air here.  Pretty cool, huh?

Of course, not everyone is completely on board with the idea of drones.  According to a recent Fortune article , FAA official Rich Swayze says that as many as one million drones could be sold during this year’s holiday season.  These UAVs (unmanned aircraft vehicles) have proven to be dangerous on several occasions in the past.  For example, pilots have reported drones flying too close to their aircrafts, and some drones have even obstructed firefighting efforts.  The FAA is moving quickly to regulate the use of drones.  Educational efforts are also underway by big box electronic retailers like Best Buy who have begun offering e-learning courses on proper use and safety regulations for recreational drones.

But the reservations of the FAA aren’t stopping Amazon.  CEO Jeff Bezos says that someday, drones will be “as common as seeing a mail truck.”  Furthermore, the company has requested that specific air space be designated for commercial drones so it can do quick deliveries.  Although this plan has been in the works for several years, it will take several more to actually be implemented.

In the meantime, we’ll look to the skies to watch this Jetson’s inspired world unfold.  Have you seen a drone in action?  If so, do you think they are the delivery force of the future?  And more importantly,  will you be adding a drone to your Christmas list?