Author Archives: Tessa Schaaf

Blogger vs. WordPress

It seems that everyone is blogging nowadays, from travel enthusiasts to sports nuts to professional chefs. With so many free platforms it is very easy to start your own and tap into the benefits of the blogosphere, but which to choose? The vast array of platform options can be overwhelming. However here is a brief rundown of two of today’s most popular free options and the Pros and Cons of both.

If you are looking to dip your toe into the whole blogging scene and to check it all out, Blogger is a great place to start. A fairly simple and intuitive platform, it is a great choice for blogging newbies.

WordPress is definitely a bit more advanced; it takes a little longer than with Blogger to grow accustomed to it. WordPress is a favorite among businesses and companies for their offering of clean, professional themes. It is also a great platform to use if you plan on using your blog in your professional portfolio when interviewing for internships or jobs.

PROS of Blogger:
-It’s free
-Option to decide if you want ads displayed on your blog or not
-Option to customize your domain name for free
-Has a collection of templates that are easy to customize

CONS of Blogger:
-Limited storage capability of 1GB
-Does not offer password protection for individual posts
-Does not offer contact forms, however you can add third-party contact forms.
-Can only upload one photo at a time

PROS of WordPress:
-Free
-3GB of storage space
-Spam protection for comments can be added with the Aksimet plugin
-Password protection for individual posts
-Easy-to-add contact form
-Great for search engine optimizations (SEO)
-Additional exposure from the WordPress.com homepage directory
-Detailed traffic stats
-Easy to upload and edit images

CONS of WordPress:
-No control of whether or not ads are displayed on your blog
-Cannot customize domain name without a fee
-No template-editing, can only change the theme.

How to Look Like a Professional Superstar, Even if You’re Not: Logo Design Basics

The presentation of your professional materials is important. First impressions go a long way. Be it submitting your resume and cover letter during your job/internship hunt, leaving your resume at networking functions or even just trying to impress that cute girl or guy at the bar by suavely slipping them your business card, you will leave a much more memorable and professional impression if all of your materials cohesively maintain a personal brand. By “personal brand” I mean designing a logo of your own that reflects your personality to put on your resume, cover letter, business cards, blog, Facebook page, etc…

THE DESIGN

A few things to consider when designing your logo:

  • Do your homework. Look at what logos are out there right now that you like. What is it that you find appealing and memorable about them? Clean lines? Bright colors? Cool font? Think about WHY these logos are attractive to you and take note of it. Here is a video I found on YouTube of what I consider to be good logos, take a look here for some inspiration.
  • Sketch out your ideas. Try and come up with something that is clean, simple and reflective of you. When it comes to logos, the simpler the better.

THE TOOLS

  • There are many programs out there that can be used to design a logo but I happen to be most familiar with and prefer Adobe Illustrator.  Check out tutorials online to learn the basics and then download the 1-month free trial.
  • Sometimes all you need for your logo is an awesome font. There are many websites that allow you to browse different fonts and offer free downloads. One of my favorites is dafont.com.

THE LOGISTICS

  • Printing can be EXPENSIVE, even more so when you are dealing with crazy colors. Try and design a logo that works well in black and white AND color so you can give yourself options when it comes to printing cost.
  • Make sure that the logo you design can be both blown up and scaled down. It shouldn’t be too complex or involve too many lines, as said before, the simpler the better.
  • Check out the printing services near you and online to see if certain businesses offer “first-time specials” or student deals. Vistaprint offers 250 cards for $10; you can browse their templates and customize them by uploading your photo or personal logo.

Now go get started! Take that lackluster, boring resume (or business card or cover letter…) and jazz it up. You have all the tools you need to fake it ‘til you make it and network like the professional superstar your logo says you are.

Media Relations 101

One of the most important skills of a public relations professional is media relations.  If you don’t know how to interact with the media, you are toast, finished.  At the beginning of most entry-level jobs in public relations what you will be doing mainly is “pitching and placing” or calling various media outlets and pitching them your news story so as to hopefully get coverage in their publication. In order to be successful you need to know how to approach the journalist and how to tailor a good pitch to that specific journalist.

For my media relations course we were given an assignment to prepare us exactly for that type of situation. We had to call various journalists and ask them about such things as their work habits, what makes a good story, what they like and dislike about their job and what they like and dislike about working with PR practitioners.

These are important question because being a PR professional is a “people person’s” kind of job. You are developing working relationships with journalists, but they are not friendships. It is very important to remember that, however close you may think you are with a journalist. At the end of the day, it is their duty and job to report the news, regardless of whether or not it portrays your company or client in a negative light.  The key to developing these relationships is to know how journalists work and what they need.

After interviewing various Boston-area journalists, my group members and I found these factors to hold true across the board:

  1. Know what is newsworthy. Don’t even think about calling a journalist before you are sure you have something that is worth covering. A good story will have at least one, if not several of these factors: prominence, interest, proximity, timeliness and consequence.
  2. Know who you are talking to. You cannot make the same pitch to every journalist. What publication do they write for? Are they a hard or soft news reporter? Are they a columnist? What kind of things do they normally cover? Where are they from? Does the news item resonate with this journalist in particular?
  3. Know their deadlines.  Don’t call a journalist when they are close to their deadlines or you are sure to get chewed out on the phone.  The only exception to this is if you have breaking news, even then, be prepared for some attitude.
  4. When you follow-up make sure you don’t end up sounding like a broken record of “Did you get my email?” Hunter PR, a consumer product public relations firm in New York City, made a satirical youtube video addressing this called “Stuff PR People Say.”

If you can make a journalist’s job as easy and streamlined as possible, and most importantly not waste their time, you will be well on your way to being a media relations pro and successful PR practitioner.

The Follow-Up: Tips To Keep Those Connections You Made at PRAdvanced

So you rocked out PRAdvanced, you scored tons of business cards and made a lot of connections. Now what?

The follow-up to networking functions and the maintenance of the relationships initiated there are just as important as making the contacts in the first place. Without proper maintenance those budding connections will fade away and no longer be of use.

Housekeeping
Create a database of some kind to store all of your new-found contact information. Business cards are great, but they are small and can be easily misplaced if not logged carefully.  A good way is to use a Word document or Excel file. Entering all of the information from the business cards makes your contact list more organized and also makes it searchable (command F). If any of the people you met have a Facebook or LinkedIn profile it is helpful to copy and paste their profile photo into your document so as to better remember which faces go with which names.  Another useful tool to keep those business cards organized is the business card reader by SHAPE services.  You can “import contact information from a business card directly to your iPhone address book” simply by snapping a photo of the card.  You can download the app on iTunes or right here.

Check Yourself
This should have been done before the networking function but it is always good to double-check. Make sure your personal website or blog is running smoothly, that your Facebook profile is cleaned up (privacy settings thoroughly set in place) and that your LinkedIn profile is up to date.

Add Contacts to Your Social Media Network
If the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter information is listed on the contact’s business card, now is the perfect time to connect to them on your social media network while they still remember who you are.

The Email
You have a few options in terms of how you want to approach the actual follow-up itself. The most standard way to go about it is by sending a simple email. However, you want to make sure to personalize the email by including references to discussions you may have had with the person throughout the night or a joke you two shared.  This will jog the memory of the contact and will set you apart from the many other people they met that night.

The hand-written Card
If you really want to stand out from the pack, you can send hand-written notes to those with whom you connected most during the networking function.  Including the same sort of information you would in an email, the card lends a more personal, polished touch.

In initiating and maintaining the connections that you make at functions like PRAdvanced, you are well on your way to developing the most important tool for any PR professional, your network.

5 Ways to Keep Your Blog On Track

Starting a blog isn’t hard at all, however, keeping it going can be difficult.  It’s so easy to let a few days go by, and then a few more, before getting back to posting.  But it is important that you train yourself to write regularly! The most important way to keep your audience happy and to gain new traffic is to produce consistent relevant content.  This does not mean you have to post everyday; however aiming for 3-4 posts a week is generally a good rule of thumb.  Here are a few tips to stay on track:

1. Make an editorial calendar. I know it sounds kind of intimidating when phrased this way but an editorial calendar is a very useful tool to keep the content of your blog fresh and on topic. By planning ahead and writing down ideas for future posts with a corresponding due date, it won’t be as hard to produce content because you will already have a general idea of the subject you want to cover for a certain day.  An editorial calendar also sets deadlines for yourself so you are less likely to fall behind on posting.

2. Make a writing schedule. Set aside a block of time everyday or every other day that you can use to write your posts, or at the very least, hash out a first draft. The best way to write well is simply to start. If you get all of your thoughts out on paper it will be easier to clean it up and edit everything down to a coherent on-topic post.

3. Keep a notebook with you. By having a small notebook with you 24/7, you can jot down a blog post idea whenever it comes to you. Simply slip it into your backpack or purse–you may have a sudden thought in the grocery store or while in line at a coffee shop. I know that if I don’t write down my ideas immediately, I will forget them. Keeping note of your various thoughts and inspirations will give you more material to add to your editorial calendar later on.

4. Stay Current. Tying in relevant current events to your blog topic is always a good idea. What is going on right now that you can relate back to your subject matter? What current event clearly illustrates a concept you want to get across? Referencing current news items gives you another avenue to reach your readers and to drive a point home.

5. Research. Set aside a period of time–in addition to your writing blocks–to research new post ideas. See what is going on in your subject area and write down thoughts of what would be good to cover in the future.

If you follow any or all of these tips you will be well on your way to posting regularly, as well as gaining and maintaining an awesome following. Stay current, stay fresh, stay motivated. Your readers will thank you.