Monday, November 21, 2011

Entering the Marketing Communications Job Market? Ten Tasks to Tackle Today

Last month, I participated in a panel discussion of fellow UW-Oshkosh journalism alumni to provide students with advice on entering the “real world.” And while their questions were particularly helpful for soon-to-be grads, much of the advice also was beneficial for entry-level professionals.

Here are the top 10 pieces of advice from our panel:

  1. Keep building your skills. Gain experience in writing, design, web, social media, etc. Today, employers are really looking for a jack (or jill)-of-all-trades.
  2. Keep your résumé to one page. Take the short and sweet approach. Whether you’re fresh out of college or looking for your second adventure, be objective – only include experience that really demonstrates what you can do on the job.
  3. Illustrate your abilities in cover letters. Match your expertise to a company’s specific needs. If they’re looking for someone with web design experience, describe a successful project and add metrics of success.
  4. Create a portfolio and make it available online. While hard copies are nice, an online portfolio showcases your work in a format that’s easy to revisit, which is especially important with a limited amount of time during interviews.
  5. Secure internship experience. Whether you’re still in school or recently graduated, an internship can provide valuable work experience that allows you to expand your capabilities – or get your foot in the door at a specific company.
  6. Network. A lot. Stay in touch with fellow students, alumni and professors to remain in consideration for job openings. Attend professional development events or alumni networking opportunities, and use social media to maintain connections.
  7. Express your self-confidence. Hiring managers want to know that you won’t be afraid to offer ideas or contribute to team projects. Be bold and outgoing, and show your passion for the job.
  8. Maintain professionalism. Even though you may think you know what’s acceptable in a company’s culture, err on the side of caution and present yourself professionally. You’ll earn respect as you get to know the company’s personality better.
  9. Take initiative. Ask questions. If your supervisor gives you a challenging project, don’t be afraid to ask questions and take ownership. Be proactive and anticipate clients’ or supervisors’ needs.
  10. Drive your own growth. Don’t be afraid to ask for more responsibility. Ultimately, you’re the one in charge of your career, and if you don’t speak up, you may not get to where you want to go. In addition, don't be afraid to move on if you feel you can no longer grow professionally.

Want more? Check out this PR Daily article for additional insights: 5 tips for landing your first PR job after college. I’d also encourage readers to follow the #HAPPO and #PRStudChat conversations on Twitter, which offer regular advice, tips and suggestions for students and entry-level professionals.

If you’re in a hiring position, do you have other suggestions for young professionals, and if you’re a young pro, are there other questions you’d like us to address?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

3 Keys to Creating a Great Online Newsroom

As promised, here is a follow-up to last month’s post on 3 Reasons Why Your Website Needs a Newsroom. Building on the basics of what a newsroom is, what it isn’t and what it can accomplish, let’s look at three best practices of successful online newsrooms and a client example.

1. Keep it simple: Facilitate easy browsing and discovery.

Make sure the newsroom is easy to find and can be accessed from any page on your website, and vice versa. Done correctly, a newsroom will be one of the most visited pages on your site. Get more out of that traffic and enhance the user experience by linking visitors to other sections of the site. The user experience is more than just site navigation – it also involves strategically planning content. Think like your audience: What are they most interested in? Where will they look first, second?

2. Add more substance: Content equals more than just words.

Use digital media such as videos, images and graphics. Use original photography or develop simple graphics to add visual stimulation and excitement. But, be conscientious about balancing your message and using complicated images or technologies. Many users will view your site on mobile devices and tablets, so don’t be too flashy (literally, don’t use too much Flash video) and make sure all essential elements are easily viewable on different devices.

3. Let them see the real you: Showcase your personality with social feeds and other information.

If you maintain social media channels, bring your newsroom into the mix, housing feeds from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other networks. These not only provide strong calls-to-action to engage with your company, but they often show more of your company’s personality. Link to related research, educational materials and industry articles, as well as tradeshows you’re attending, events you’re speaking at, awards you’re receiving, etc. If someone wants to start a conversation, let them know what you’re up to.

In general, keep in mind that newsroom visitors are your potential or current customers, employees or media contacts. Make sure they know something more about your company after stopping by.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Utilizing Virtual Events to Reach a Larger Audience

Milacron Plastics Technologies, one of our plastics manufacturing clients, recently hosted an open house at its Ohio manufacturing facility for customers, media and industry personnel. The three-day event showcased a variety of technical demonstrations, expert presentations, product overviews, facility tours and other programs.

While aggressive promotion resulted in high turnout at the event, there were still many individuals who couldn’t attend.

Because the information and demonstrations presented at the open house provided significant value to those in the industry, Milacron didn’t want to limit its scope to only in-person attendees. The company decided to consolidate the content and make it available online in the form of a ‘virtual open house.’

Hosting a virtual event like Milacron’s open house can provide visitors with an interactive experience of the event, which can include:

  • Video demonstrations
  • Attendee and exhibitor interviews
  • Photo slideshows
  • Downloadable presentations and collateral
  • Links to media coverage of the original open house

Milacron launched its virtual open house through an email campaign to customers, prospects and media. PlasticsToday summed it up by saying: “…We don't need convincing that a virtual event can be just as instructive, and a lot more convenient, than traveling somewhere.”

Look for more open houses and other events to go ‘virtual’ in the near future. It’s a great way of leveraging technology to reach a broad audience. And, by hosting an in-person event and following it up with a virtual event, you may be able to get the best of both worlds.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

State of Emergency: Manufacturing’s Workforce Problem

In a recent national survey of manufacturers administered by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, 67% of respondents said they face a shortage of qualified workers.

As a result, many manufacturers can’t keep up with demand. It’s hardly the first time we’ve stressed the manufacturing worker shortage on this blog. But it’s worth revisiting today because the problem is increasingly urgent. How can we reinvigorate our stagnant national economy if one of its most significant drivers, cannot grow?

As a country, we must increase the supply of manufacturing workers with technical skills and education. But the relevant training programs are no longer as popular as they were for the baby boomers, a generation that was more fully supported in their pursuit of manufacturing careers.

Although the federal government is trying to address the manufacturing skills gap through various workforce development initiatives, manufacturers and their communities must also begin closing the gap on their own.

5 Ideas Manufacturers Can Implement Today

Create an employment brand. Just as you need the right messaging to attract the right customer, you need a strong employment brand to attract strong employment candidates. Ensure that your company’s values and culture are represented in this brand.

Refresh your careers section. Make sure you’re appealing to a younger generation. Include testimonials and biographies of current employees so young people can relate. Make your employment brand prevalent.

Use social networks. Reach young people where they hang out. Create a Facebook page and a YouTube channel and populate with videos. Showcase your facility, employees and what a day in the life looks like. Remember, most people never have been inside a manufacturing facility but have nevertheless formed negative opinions. Prove them wrong.

Start mentoring and onboarding programs. Engage and guide professional development and ongoing training. Implement a regular performance appraisal and feedback process. Maintain open and transparent communication between employees and management.

Form partnerships. Reach out to local vocational and technical educational facilities and organizations dedicated to workforce development. Work with them to design programs that include facility tours, open houses, speaking opportunities, student internships and teacher externships, apprentice programs, scholarship opportunities, etc. Get creative!

These are just a few examples of the many opportunities to attract and retain an engaged and productive workforce. What are some other ideas or programs have you seen implemented?