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    1. The Differences Between In-house and Agency PR Roles

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      PR pro Ryan Greives

      After reading his interview in Bulldog Reporter, I quickly became “Twitter friends” with PR pro Ryan Greives. As Senior PR Specialist for subscription billing provider cleverbridge, he leads the company’s global PR and social media strategies. But before that, he worked at an agency, filling the shoes of Vice President of BLASTmedia’s B2B Practice Group.

      Talking with him got me thinking about the differences between PR roles working on an in-house team as opposed to agency life, including the challenges and perks of both. I’ve also worked on both sides of the aisle and have my own opinions on what these differences are, but let’s see what Greives has to say about it.

      Here, he explains the unique business challenges and benefits of both experiences to help other PR and communications professionals find their best-fit career paths.

      Rebekah Iliff: You spent six years at an agency and three and a half in house after that. Let’s talk differences.

      Ryan Greives: When I worked at an agency, it was extremely fast-paced. I had a varied portfolio of clients, was constantly learning about new industries, and was surrounded by a bunch of people all doing similar things.

      Working in-house, I’m able to focus on one brand, getting a much deeper understanding of the business, its clients and competitors; and I’ve taken on additional responsibilities such as social media and content marketing. I hear throughout the PR industry that there’s a fear of becoming bored when working with only one brand in-house, but it’s never been the case for me.

      RI: Should newbie PR people start their careers in-house or at an agency?

      RG: I think it’s completely up to your individual career goals. If you already have a passion for a specific vertical and believe it’s where you want to be long term, dive in, learn as much as you can about the space, and cultivate media and influencer relationships whether the role is in-house or with an agency.

      However, experience isn’t always the best teacher when you’re first starting out – sometimes the right mentorship can be the deciding factor. Coming out of college, I needed to gain experience in the trenches and learn from senior people who knew more about PR that I did. An agency was the perfect first step because I was able to learn quite a few vertical markets and gain experience in the fundamentals – client management, media relations, and PR best practices. I also gleaned a great deal of wisdom from more seasoned PR pros, and that’s not always available when you’re working in-house.

      RI: So, what do you miss the most about agency life?

      RG: The thrill of winning a new client — having the kickoff meeting, developing a PR strategy and plan, and delivering on the client’s goals will always be missed. While it can be a lot of pressure, I loved the challenge.

      However, working in-house has delivered many similar opportunities. When I first started my current position, we went through a corporate rebranding and began targeting new industry verticals. That was exciting. I also get my “new-client fix” by freelancing for a cool wireless power company based in Chicago.

      RI: What are some of the benefits of working in-house?

      RG: I’d say there are two major advantages to working on an in-house team. The first is getting greater access to the executive, senior management, and sales teams. At an agency, we were confined to our client contact and depending on the client, maybe a couple other thought leaders within the organization.

      The second advantage is getting to be a part of a truly integrated marketing team. Many agencies do their best to be integrated with their clients’ marketing efforts, but you’re still at the mercy of how well the client facilitates between the agency and the various parts of their operation.

      When you’re meeting regularly with your marketing director, product marketer, bloggers, copywriters, event planner, and marketing automation specialist, it’s much easier to collaborate and ensure that communications strategies are consistent across all channels.

      RI: How did your PR measurement practices change when you made the jump from an agency to an in-house team?

      RG: When I started working in-house, I gained a deeper understanding of Google Analytics so I could track how PR efforts affected site traffic, organic search, leads, and content downloads. This varied from my experience in B2B PR earlier in my career when it was the norm to only track higher-level, “semi-vanity” metrics including number of media hits, print circulation, and so forth.

      The second change was the shift to content marketing, which completely changed the marketing game and the role of the PR professional. Now, instead of spending 80-90 percent of my time on traditional media relations efforts, I’ve taken on much more original content creation.

      While I still track the typical PR metrics, success today is more about leads, blog subscriptions, content downloads/signups, and interactions with our prospecting campaign content which we track via our marketing automation platform.

      RI: What’s your best piece of advice for PR pros working in-house?

      RG: I have a quote from the late Steve Jobs: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” In an agency, you’re surrounded by people much further along in the PR world that can inspire you to be better as well as peers that push you to be competitive. When working in-house, you might be the only PR professional there is, so it’s even more important to never be satisfied and always push yourself. Don’t get too comfortable…

    2. LinkedIn’s leading ladies talk PR, tech, and changing the world


      As a career professional, can you imagine a world without LinkedIn? It would be like trying to function without a pencil in a one-room schoolhouse. Ridiculous.

      LinkedIn has essentially replaced the need for business cards, since you can basically use it as a modern day Rolodex. #Connections.

      Furthermore, if you’ve ever looked for a job, hired people, or simply wanted to showcase your savvy skills so that others (maybe recruiters, perhaps former love interests) can continually watch you rise to super star status you’ve certainly benefitted from it. #Compete

      More recently, particularly for those of us who love to hear ourselves speak, the LinkedIn publishing platform is usurping established digital incumbents as a viable channel for sharing news, thoughts, and anything in between (minus the annoying cat photos and celebrity rants). #Content

      Because I’m a HUGE fan on LinkedIn, not only as a utility for my every day professional life, but also as a company, I was thrilled to sit down with a few of my favorite “LinkedIn Ladies” (Sarah Clatterbuck, Erica Lockheimer, and Kenly Walker) to talk PR, tech, and how they are generally making the world a better place.

      Here are a few highlights from the interview, which I highly recommend you listen to below.

      1. Hear about some of the exciting #WomenInTech initiatives going on at the company including World Pitch on June 24th and 25th.

      2. What recent acquisition will enable learning? According to Forbes it may have been the best acquisition money could buy.

      3. Umm, this one’s really important: learn how to make your profile “Anonymous” so people can’t see you’re stalking them. It’s a little hidden, so it’s not you!

      4. Did you know…Journalists actually often do preliminary research on LinkedIn, and CEOs appreciate that journalists do their “due diligence” and are often more willing to chat.

      5. Sarah Clatterbuck (Director of Web Development) tells us how to best use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool.

      6. Kenly Walker (PR) gives tips on using LinkedIn as an “owned media channel” for company news.

      7. Learn about the modernized Girl Scouts and what they’re doing with STEM: “from cookies to computer science.” It’s not your mom’s Girl Scouts!

      8. Want to know what a “Happy Path” is? Erica Lockheimer (Director of Engineering Growth) tells all.

      That’s just the tip of the iceberg…there’s so so soooo much more…

      Be sure to check out  the full interview and give yourself a few more reasons to HEART the world’s leading business-oriented social networking service.

    3. PR’s Past, Present and Future as told by Sally Falkow

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      When it comes to PR prowess and expertise, there are not many individuals who possess both in droves like Sally Falkow. As president of PRESSfeed and one of the industry’s leading minds on new technology and digital PR, Ms. Falkow brings over 30 years of PR experience to the table.

      Sally Falkow headshotSal (as she often signs her emails) generously offered to sit down with me at her beautiful home in southern California for a candid conversation about the past, present, and future of PR.

      Needless to say, the takeaways were endless.

      Here’s just a sampling of our dialogue, which most definitely included talks about what happens when you eat too much cheese, real time anagrams, and a Rosetta Stone case study guaranteed to blow your mind.

      The entire interview can be heard below. I suggest streaming it as you make dinner this evening or book marking it for an upcoming flight.

      Sally Falkow Notable Quotables

      • You cannot approach PR like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Your whole content strategy should be informed by analytics. Analytics allow you to know what is needed and wanted.
      • PR absolutely must embrace the PESO approach (Paid, Earned Shared Owned). Start with Owned (produce the content). Owned gets Earned (picked up by media). Amplify and push content with Paid, and then it will be Shared (social engagement).
      • Whatever you’re doing in PR, it has to tie back to the business goals. It’s about outcomes, not outputs.
      • PR goals cannot be vague (e.g. raise awareness, get more FB likes). They must be measurable. Identify where you are now, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there.
      • Not measuring PR is like playing soccer with no goalposts.
      • 80% of firms are starting to spend more on digital skills, but there aren’t enough people with those skills because most students are still being taught very traditional PR.
      • You can’t teach someone to be a brilliant strategist, but you can certainly become a more critical thinker than you are today. People can learn to play chess, which requires critical and strategic thinking.
      • You need to understand the basics of coding, and the basics of the Internet. Otherwise you won’t know what’s coming or what’s possible.
      • All PR people should find one or two sources that they read to stay up to speed with all of the changes.

      You can soak up more of Sally’s infinite wisdom by visiting her fantastic blog.

    4. Tech Talk With Sir Mix-A-Lot

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      I get a lot of email. Like, A LOT. My team often teases me that my inbox and calendar look more like an anti-productivity war zone than the carefully color-coded, organized chaos it actually is. There is a method to my madness, people!

      Back in January, I received an email that basically made my year, thus far.

      “Would I be interested in chatting with Sir Mix-A-Lot ahead of SXSW 2015?” Uh, does a bear sh*t in the woods?

      Mixalot02Did any of you know that the “Butt Guy” (as he lovingly refers to himself) is a self-proclaimed tech dork AND a huge proponent of the power of convergence? I mean, it’s like we nerd soul mates or something.

      So after some careful orchestration among the very adept and very thoughtful PR folks from SXSW, I got to sit down for a solid chat with Mix. That’s what I call him now, cuz we’re cool like that.

      I wasn’t EXACTLY sure what I was getting myself into, but then again – that’s the way I like it. Jumping head first into a potential pile of steaming cow dung, hoping my parachute will open up at some point before I hit the ground.

      Needless to say, we had a blast and his publicist emailed me later saying he thought the interview was…and I quote caps and all: “F@CKING AWESOME.” Lucky for you, I did record the entire thing for your listening pleasure.

      Editor’s note: There is some content that has been bleeped out, so be forewarned. And he says the F-word approximately 68 times, but it’s entirely contextual.

      Here’s just a taste of what The Real Mix served up and some of the highlights of our candid conversation:

      • Baby Got Back’s roots actually lie in racial and social commentary, not sex (it was a serious song about women of color)
      • Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 2 favorite 4-letter word expletives (because every one needs to expand their adult vocabulary)
      • His thoughts on the convergence of tech and music (hint: there’s a lot of opportunity and the consumer has never been more empowered)
      • Why Apple is just a giant record label (this guy is not afraid to call a spade a spade)
      • Why he views music as connected content and why a one-and-done mentality equates to irrelevancy (hmm…that sounds familiar)
      • 2 of his biggest failures during his career (pro tip: be wary of dried fruit)
      • Where real wealth resides (it’s not where you think)
      • His favorite tech buzzwords (do you sprechen sie geek?)
      • Who inspires him (besides Ice-T)
      • Why he’s pumped about his first visit to SXSW and what he’ll be focused on accomplishing in Austin

      Have 45 minutes? Check it out the interview now (or download it for a hilarious listen on your next flight!) and make it a great day.

      PS – Tweet to @AirPR and @TheRealMix and tell us what you thought!


    5. 4-Part Guide for Interview Preparation in a Pinch

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      You’ve reviewed the 7 Signs You’re Ready for PR and landed an interview with star business reporter after chatting them up at a networking event. Giggles dispersed, you now come to terms with the part that makes you panic: They want to interview you tomorrow!

      You choose to

      1. Feign illness (complete with faux coughing) while making the call to cancel.

      2. Politely ask if the reporter would mind rescheduling (Until you’ve had enough time to build key messaging, prepare talking points, and buy the perfect interview outfit)

      3. Accept with enthusiasm, kick it into overdrive, and nail down some strategic talking points stat. You’ll dedicate some extra time to building messaging after the interview so you’re more prepared the next time you hook one.

      If you chose A or B, shame on you! When opportunity knocks, it’s in your best interest to answer the door. It’s fine to agree upon a different date and time than the one a reporter first proposes, but this should be due to scheduling conflicts, not your want for a generous amount of prep time.

      If you chose C, great job! You have enough time to pull together talking points, and transform into the star spokesperson we know you can be.

      The following 4-part guide is packed with ideas and tips for interview preparation when your time is limited. You’ll just need a trusted colleague who understands your messaging objectives and business goals and a few free hours to hash out a plan. Reserve a conference room and have at it!


    6. What’s in a hyphenated last name? We sit down with Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer

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      Happy New Year!

      To kick off the amazing-ness that is sure to be 2013, I wanted to take a moment to say how grateful we are for all those who have supported the AirPR journey thus far.

      In case you don’t know who you are, let me re-mix and re-serve it up: our investors (the foundation); our journalist friends who have told our story in a positive and compelling way; our PR community who make the Marketplace tick; and last but not least…the Clients we serve.

      As Mark Suster recently alluded to in his blog post The Valuable Unsung Heroes of Startups, it’s easy to forget the multiple parties who truly make a startup crawl, walk, then run. Not for a moment do we want to take these folks for granted.

      That being said, it’s also important to get to know the founders – the ones who have poured their lifeblood into something they believe in, make sacrifices most will never see, and take daily risks that propel the company in a forward motion.

      So as we kick off 2013, let’s start there shall we…

      First up, Co-Founder & CEO of AirPR, Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, who (despite how snobby a hyphenated last name may appear) is a constant source of non-snobby inspiration and laughter to those around him.


      What inspires you about entrepreneurship and innovation?

      Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer: One of the most impressive things is the perseverance required to innovate and make industry shifts. I am continually in awe of an entrepreneur’s passion and drive.

      Another thing is the ability to start a venture with little or no money, live off of nothing, find a way to raise money, make a deal, have it fail, get back up and do the same thing over again because he or she believes in the idea. Beyond that, entrepreneurs play multiple roles (CEO, COO, head of sales, product lead, coder, garbage man, designer and everything in between). Being that versatile in the face of catastrophic failure is impressive in its own right.

      But the number one thing that inspires me is the ability for entrepreneurs to excel under pressure. This is a prerequisite that exists with athletes. Those who can out-innovate often times excel under pressure.

      What got you started? In other words, when did you get “bitten” by the entrepreneurial bug?

      SFM: Coming out of undergrad I was debating whether to play hockey full-time [Editor’s note: He had a couple offers to go play in the NHL]. I knew I wanted to follow my passion – and unfortunately, it wasn’t hockey anymore. I received offers from the traditional large technology companies and a small startup, Appian. I chose to go with my gut feeling and the two things that stood out were that Appian consisted of a great team, and a disruptive industry vision.

      At Appian I managed my own project for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: the first tracking system for complaints. This was a $5M project and eight years later is still used. Through this experience, I got to wear many different hats (coder to biz development, sales, HR, recruiting, managing a team), which in turn made me more well rounded and better prepared to handle the work life of a startup founder.

      How is AirPR setting the stage to disrupt the PR industry?

      SFM: PR is a unique industry that hasn’t had much innovation in the last couple of decades, which is especially surprising because it’s playing in a $10B industry. There are very few software companies in the PR space, which means it’s ripe for some “shaking up.”

      Fortunately for us, not enough technologists want to solve the rampant problems in the PR space – in part because solving service problems via technology is much more complex than solving just a technology product problem. We want to increase performance through our technology platform – which in short means we want the PR industry to be better understood on a variety of levels by creating standardized systems and processes that haven’t been tackled. Technology is the driver to enable this vision.

      In your opinion, where (what industry segments) are the most opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs?

      SFM: I see five emerging and growing opportunities for those willing to put in the time and energy…

      1. Big data analytics – there are multiple funds allocated just for this opportunity because the potential applications of it continue to multiply. And no wonder: with the massive amounts of information we now have access to the next logical step is the ability to actually use this data.

      2. EdTech – software or mobile products that improve learning across the globe is a hard space because a massive percent of the sector goes to paying teacher salaries. It’s a hard space with slow cycles, but poised for continued innovation.

      3. Healthcare – the system is archaic and backwards, and begging for innovation. Although it faces similar issues found in EdTech, companies and funds are starting to take note. It will be slow, but through continued “small steps” this space will eventually be modernized. Entrepreneurs will drive these changes.

      4. Collaborative Consumption – also known as “social utilization”, this segment focuses on increasing the use of an existing asset. This idea goes after the transient demographic, which is rapidly growing because of the many behavioral shifts fueled by our economic downturn.

      5. Interconnectedness of devices – everything in the future is going to be Internet enabled. The solutions here will be interesting.

      When things get tough, what keeps you going? What are some of your tricks? In other words, how do you stay SANE?

      SFM: I take a break from life by going for a run, playing hockey, and catching up with friends.

      Who inspires you? Do you have any mentors that have been an integral part of your success?

      SFM: I took an entrepreneur-focused class with Ed Zschau in college. While I was juggling hockey and job offers, he was extremely supportive of my decision to work for Appian. No one understood my choice in working for the small startup. This was a real turning point for me. He taught me to follow my passion because that will continue to drive you and make you successful.

      What are some [surprising] things about you that most people don’t know?

      SFM: I speak fluent Farsi and I love wakeboarding (sometimes barefoot water skiing). I spent most of my life playing hockey. Oh, and I love to cook, but not as much as I love to eat. That’s about as exciting as it gets!


      Follow Sharam: @sharamfm

      Connect with Sharam on LinkedIn