Category Archives: Tips & Information

Playing Catch Up: Interning 101

There are only two weeks left to my summer and I’m just now writing my first blog post since April. Little did I know just how busy I would be. Since I’ve had plenty of time to think about what I learned last semester, I want to share some tips for experiencing a successful internship that I gained from personal experience and watching others intern.

1. Look at the glass half-full: Every internship is a great opportunity to learn from those who have gone before you. It may not be all that it was cracked up to be or you may discover you don’t want to do something for a living after all, but you can still glean some important lessons from your experience.

2. Be humble: You don’t know what you don’t know. And what you don’t know is A LOT. Enter each day with an open mind, a willing attitude and a teachable spirit.

3. Grow thick skin: Don’t take criticism personally. Business is business and if you learn to develop a tough exterior now, you’ll go far. Instead of taking what your supervisor says to heart, remember his/her advice for when you work on future assignments.

The Office’s Ryan “the intern.”

4. Practice professionalism: To my disbelief, there are college students who’ve never dialed an extension or can’t make a phone call without stumbling over their words. Writing out a script before you make an important call can help you, but don’t read it word for word. Also, it’s very easy for people to read what you say in an email the wrong way or blow your email off because they don’t take you seriously. Be poised and professional, and remember that you not only represent the business you’re an intern for, but your personal brand, as well.

5. Be self-motivated: If you’ve finished all of the work you were assigned, don’t sit around acting like you haven’t. You will be found out and it doesn’t make you look like you want to be there.

6. Don’t be timid: Yes, I know you’re saying “But, I’m only an intern.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to anyone in the office or get to know them. By no means am I advising you to spend all of your time socializing, but don’t feel like you always have to make yourself invisible.

7. Say “yes”: Take advantage of any task that’s thrown your way. The more you get your hands on, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll be able to determine what it is that you’re really passionate about.

8. Remember: When your supervisor corrects your work or suggests you complete a task a different way, jot it down if that’s what it’ll take for you to remember it. No one likes to repeat themselves so pay attention the first time.


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Double Vision

The problem of duplicate content has become a major issue in the writing and search engine optimization (SEO) worlds. Those who work in SEO are talking more and more about duplicate content, but there’s still some confusion as to what it is and what can be done about it.

Let’s explore three different areas regarding duplicate content: what it is, why it’s looked down upon, and how to cite sources while avoiding duplicate content.

Image Credit: “Duplicate Original” by woodleywonderworks

  •  What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is text that shows up in the same format on several different websites, blogs, etc. In some cases, duplicate content occurs because writers, webmasters, and others are trying to promote their work and the causes they’re advocating for. However, this is the wrong way to reach a broader audience. Other times, duplicate content is produced when Web users find articles and posts that they enjoy and want to share with others. If they copy and paste the text into a Web page or blog post, duplicate content is created, even if credit is given to the author.

  • Why is duplicate content bad?

Duplicate content confuses search engines such as Google. Many times, Google doesn’t know which is the original source, thus it picks one of the URLs where the content appears as the source to display on search result pages. This means the original source may be thrown to the wayside and the author won’t receive credit. In addition, those who post duplicate content may be viewed as not having anything meaningful to add to the conversation. Copying and pasting someone else’s work into a new location doesn’t create a new primary source, but rather establishes another secondary source. What value does this have and how is this expanding the information available to Web users?

  • How can sources be cited in a way that avoids duplicate content?

The best way to cite sources in an article or blog post is to use only excerpts from them. Block quotes don’t fall under that category, but short quotes are acceptable. Of course, the original source must be cited in all cases or else it will be considered plagiarism.

Valuable resources should be used as inspiration for original content. Search engines take into consideration not only how often websites are posting, but also the quality of the material being produced, when ranking websites.

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Social Media Monitoring: Ethical or Not?

With the emergence of social media appeared the issue of social media monitoring. Some PR pro’s are against it, while others are for it. So, what’s the big deal?

On the pro-social media monitoring side, social media monitoring can assist the government in finding suspects in criminal cases and eliminating bullying. It can also help companies to see who’s viewing their material, at what time, and how often, which helps them to better brand and advertise themselves and their products.

Image Credit: “Work Ethic (1 of 2)” by Brett Jordan

The naysayers of social media monitoring claim that it is an infringement on the right to privacy. It can be scary to think that there is surveillance of every move made on the Web, especially since there are laws and rules in place to protect citizens of the United States.

Even though I can see the value of social media monitoring, I don’t think those benefits outweigh how strongly I feel about the rights United States citizens have to privacy. I think there are many other ways that the government keeps an eye on the activities of Americans that social media doesn’t need to be included in that category. At the same time, social media monitoring was inevitable and I’m not so sure that there will be any stop to it seeing as how it has already begun. This will definitely be a hotly debated issue among government officials, PR pro’s, social media gurus, lawyers, and many others for years to come.

What do you think? Is social media monitoring ethical or not? What do you think can be done about this problem? How will this issue change, if any, in the future?


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What it Takes to Make it in PR

PR is a tough industry. Late hours and busy days fill the schedules of PR pro’s. The worse the economy gets, the more people companies let go. What does that mean for PR pro’s? They have to be able to be to the one person in the company who takes care of writing press releases, designing a website, writing articles, contacting media outlets, and much more, all in a day’s work. This only increases the amount of stress PR pro’s are already feeling.

Image Credit: “WWII Hoover Advertisement” by genibee

So, how can PR students make it in this chaotic world? Amy Howell, CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies, wrote an article (featured below) entitled “Think You Can Work in PR? What Newbies Need to Know.” I hope you find this article as interesting and helpful as I did.

“If you have just graduated from college or perhaps you are switching jobs and you see a posting for a position in a public relations firm, you might consider doing some research before you apply.  The PR industry is moving and changing fast—although many of the traditional core values still apply—and it’s hard enough for the veteran PR pros to keep up.  Tools such as the Internet, social media and mobile devices have contributed to the fast changes, but it’s not just technology that makes it tough. It’s also increased competition as well as savvy clients who demand more for less.

We all like to think we are the best at what we do, but beware of that pitfall.  As a PR professional, you’re never finished learning, growing and listening.  I have learned more in the last two years of my career than I did in the first ten.  So, if you think you are cut out for this business, here’s what you can expect:

  • Tough minded: You can’t win for your clients if you don’t know how to advocate and sometimes fight the good fight.  If you don’t know what that means, you will.
  • Dedicated to self-learning:  Those who go the extra mile to learn on their own will make it further.  Firms are working with limited resources and don’t have time or luxury to spoon-feed the newbies.  So, if you learned how to do a research paper in college, apply those techniques on the job.
  • Smart enough to read the paper everyday:  You wouldn’t believe how many people have worked for me that didn’t think reading the news was a priority.  They don’t work for me anymore.
  • Ability to learn client industry and know their business:  How can you expect to add value if you don’t know how our clients make money?  Get in the trenches.  Study your clients and their competition.
  • Be social media savvy: You can’t be in PR or communications and expect to move up if you aren’t on social, unless of course you work for a monster PR firm and someone else is doing all the social.  Even then, however, it is important that any PR professional know their way around the social web.  It’s easier than ever before to have access to reporters, bloggers, and influential people online.  Follow them, watch them and engage.
  • Network: The future belongs to those who can do the work and sell the work.  Build relationships in the business community. Get involved in civic and charitable organizations and don’t expect your company to pay for it all.  You must invest in yourself.
  • Good writing and communication skills, both verbal and written:  I know this goes without saying but, if you don’t know how to research a company and write a press release, you won’t make it in this field.
  • Ability to watch business trends and think critically about how that impacts clients: This trait will come in time to those who are naturally curious.  I love curiosity because I think it breeds creativity and ingenuity.  Employers, seek employees who are naturally curious.
  • Willing to put in the extra time: Think your job should be 9:00 to 5:00? When you have billed and collected three times what you are paid and when you have mastered managing client accounts, then I will tell you that’s okay.  New PR candidates are not normally productive in the first few years, if you do the math.  It takes time to cultivate your career, which means the extra time you put in gets you there faster.
  • Think “career” not “job”: I can tell the difference between those who want a career in PR vs. those who want a job.  Big difference.  If you just want a job, then accept that you may not advance.  Someone else in your firm will seize the opportunity and pass you.  If you are on a career path, you need to be sure you show that through your actions and by accomplishing tasks and projects that add value (are billable to client).
  • Teamwork matters, it is about working together toward a common goal: Be a part of the bigger picture. Help your teammates and pick up the ball if a team member drops it.
  • Understand the math: Professional service firms (CPAs, Lawyers, etc.) use the formula that each employee must bill (and collect) three times what he or she makes to be considered “worth it”.  Firms have overhead, accounting fees, legal fees, payroll, rent, insurance, etc.  There is no money tree; the producers go out and get the work.
  • Ability to identify new client opportunities for expansion OR new clients: Bring in the work and you are twice as valuable.
  • Finally, one of the most important things young people must do: Be proactive and communicate with clients before they ask.  Pick up the phone.  Emails don’t count as a blanket form of communication.  Get in front of the client!  Have a report to send? Take it to the client.

In the end, it is still about relationships.  If the PR firm/client relationship is good, chances are the client will be forgiving if mistakes are made.  The key is avoiding costly mistakes and understanding the above characteristics that will make you a winner in your firm.  Thanks for reading this and I’d love to hear additions to this list!”


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Get the picture?

Images are an important means of communication. A single shot can express emotion and tell a story. Images can make or break a blog post, article, website, or blog. A problem is created if no pictures are used or if the pictures used are irrelevant to the topic at hand. Images help break up large amounts, or even small amounts, of text. They keep the reader engaged and make them want to stay to read more. Visual stimulation is important, especially in our digital age. Readers can just as easily find satisfaction elsewhere, so writers must prove why they should spend time on their website or blog. Images are just one way of attracting and maintaining a readership.

So, where’s the best place to find images to complement the material on YOUR blog?

Image Credit: “Paul” by John McNab

  • Google– Google offers an array of images, but sometimes the image  size or quality isn’t as great as that of other sources.
  • Compfight– This is my all-time favorite source for images. Make sure you select the “Creative Commons” option once you insert your search keywords. This will make sure that the images that appear are ones that you can actually copy/paste into your blog and save to your computer. The quality of the photos is high and more often than not, you can find what you’re looking for.
  • Flickr– This is another source for great high quality images. Make sure you select “The Commons” option when you enter your search terms for the same reason as you should with Compfight.
  • Public Domain Pictures
  • Public Domain Photos

No matter what source (or sources) you decide to use to find images to enhance your blog, it is important that you find out what the name of each image is and what the name of the person who posted it is. For example, pictures selected from Compfight have a title below the actual image and off to the right, a source can be seen. I always copy/paste the link to the photo, as well, and place it in the “Link URL” box, as the capture below shows.

I hope this post helped to give you a better idea as to why you should use images in your blog posts and on your blog, as well as how to go about doing so.

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For the People, By the People

What comes to mind when you hear the term “citizen journalism?” Blogging? Newspaper or magazine articles?

According to a document by EDUCAUSE entitled “7 things you should know about…citizen journalism,” citizen journalism ” refers to a wide range of activities in which everyday people contribute information or commentary about news events. Citizen journalism encompasses content ranging from user-submitted reviews on a Web site about movies to wiki-based news. Some sites only run stories written by users, while many traditional news outlets now accept comments and even news stories from readers. The notion of citizen journalism implies a difference, however, between simply offering one’s musings on a topic and developing a balanced story that will be genuinely useful to readers.”

“We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information” by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis says that participatory journalism is “the act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires. Participatory journalism is a bottom-up, emergent phenomenon in which there is little or no editorial oversight or formal journalistic workflow dictating the decisions of a staff. Instead, it is the result of many simultaneous, distributed conversations that either blossom or quickly atrophy in the Web’s social network.”

According to Writing for Digital Media by Brian Carroll, “journalists gather and share information, applying a discipline of verification in order to maximize truth, minimize harm and provide a fair and comprehensive account…by this definition, a great number of people, who would not necessarily self-identify as journalists are, in fact, doing journalism. Technology-driven changes, including the near-zero cost of publishing via the Internet, are democratizing the profession, expanding the nature of civic disclosure and putting the tools of the craft into the hands of everyday people.”

Image Credit: “citizen journalism” by rsambrook

An article by Steve Outing on Poynter‘s website spells out “The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism”:

1. The first step: Opening up to public comment

2. Second step: The citizen add-on reporter

3. Now we’re getting serious: Open-source reporting

4. The citizen bloghouse

5. Newsroom citizen ‘transparency’ blogs

6. The stand-along citizen-journalism site: Edited version

7. The stand-along citizen-journalism site: Unedited version

8. Add a print edition

9. The hybrid: Pro + citizen journalism

10. Integrating citizen and pro journalism under one roof

11. Wiki journalism: Where the readers are editors

So, now that we’ve discussed what citizen journalism is, let’s look at some examples of it. MSNBC has a section of their website that is dedicated to participatory journalism. CNN offers iReport. Click here for a list of several other participatory journalism websites.

Do you consider yourself a citizen journalist? What have you reported on? What is your view of citizen journalism’s role in the future of the media?

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Are your headlines making headlines?

Headlines obviously play an integral in journalism of and they can either make or break the success of a post, article, etc.

Let’s take a look at the differences between writing headlines for traditional media and for digital media. According to an article by Shawn Smith entitled “Headline writing: How web and print headlines differ,” “in print, page presentation, images and accompanying text can increase a headline’s impact. Words like ‘BIG CRASH’ make sense in bold above a photo of car accident. Print headlines have presence and can be great for getting people to notice stories…On the web, headlines take on the role of telling the entire story in limited words. Let’s revisit the ‘Big Crash’ headline that we saw in print. Do those words make sense on the web without other text or images to put it in context? If a reader see only those words on a page of search results, does the reader think about plummeting stock markets or a nasty hit during a hockey game? Without putting those headline words in context, a reader can’t know what the story is about. It’s imperative that web headlines tell the story.”

Image Credit: “computer close up article” by Jean-Pierre

Below you will see a list I’ve compiled from various sources of tips for writing effecting headlines for digital media:

1. Show the benefits of reading the story. –“How to write web headlines that appeal to news website readers.”

2. Study what headlines work. –“5 tips for writing better online headlines.”

3. Start your headline with the word “NEW.” –“Right Methods of Writing Headlines for Your…”

4.  Determine what to highlight. –Writing for Digital Media

5. Skip articles such as “a,” “an’ ad “the,” especially when starting the headline. –Writing for Digital Media

6. Use clear type and legible colors, and make the text big enough to read. –Writing for Digital Media

7. Use keywords. –“5 tips for writing better online headlines.”

8. Ask questions. –“How to write web headlines that appeal to news website readers.”

9. Be clear and concise. –“How to write web headlines that appeal to news website readers.”

10. Help set the tone. –Writing for Digital Media

Looking for tips for writing effective headlines for traditional media and press releases? Check out these links.

One Big Way to Avoid a Headline Fail

Improve your headlines: 4 unconventional tips

“How to Write Magnetic Headlines”

“How to improve your headlines: Give them the ‘Breath Test.'”

“17 places to find fabulous headline ideas.”

“4 tips for writing killer headlines- from Gawker.”

“3 tips for writing stronger press release headlines.”

What advice do you have regarding writing headlines? I’d love to hear it.

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