If you want to pitch better, pitch smarter. That’s the message that Porter Novelli’s Jodi Fleisig delivered in January’s Marketing News. We took her insights and created this cheat sheet with five tips on how to pitch reporters and get results.
While you probably won’t pitch journalists as a PR intern - no matter where you work - these 5 tips for pitching better and smarter are nuggets you can take with you through your career.
A former senior executive producer at CNN, Jodi is now senior vice president of media strategy at Porter Novelli in Atlanta. She has won five Emmy Awards and was named the 2012 Media Relations Professional of the Year by Bulldog Reporter.
At the beginning of my internship, I listed one of my goals for the summer as improving my writing skills. Now, I know what you are thinking: shouldn’t I already have strong writing skills as an intern at Porter Novelli? The truth is that you always have room to improve your writing, no matter how fantastic your skills. Don’t believe me?
After my first month here, I joined a writing workshop with all the members of PN’s technology practice. Senior VPs and interns alike turned out to refresh their prose. I walked out with plenty of tricks and tips, and pulled out four key pieces of advice to help you out:
1 & 2: Keep it concise; don’t use jargon. I clumped these two together, because excluding jargon and “life sucking” words keeps writing concise. After a few weeks here, I was attached to anything with an “ize” at the end. I wrote about customers utilizing solutions to optimize results. The writing seminar made it clear that unlearning this jargon was the only way forward. There is plenty of marketing speak you will pick up within your first week as an intern, but be careful what you repeat. Every word needs to have meaning and purpose and if there is a simpler way to say it, use that word instead.
3: Find the active voice. Basically, the action is completed by the subject of your sentence. This also helps keep sentences concise. Avoid “to be” verbs, which generally lead to passive voice. To better explain, here is an example from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
“The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:
I shall always remember my first trip to Boston.
This is much better than
My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.
The latter sentence is less direct, less bold and less concise.”
Side note – a great verb does not need an adverb.
4: If you are stuck, take a walk. Writing is like any other skill; you need to “stay in shape” to perform your best. Try writing every day and don’t multi-task when you write. Focus. If you are focused and still can’t seem to get a word on paper, take a walk outside. Moving around will get you thinking again.
If you are looking for more positive feedback on your next assignment, try these four tips. Afterwards, let me know how it goes. Do you have any additional tips to add?
– Brianna Wagenbrenner, Porter Novelli Atlanta
Sometimes, old school is better than new school. Now, I don’t propose that we break out typewriters or completely take the office back to the 1960’s, but I have learned over my internship that occasionally it is more efficient to pick up the phone than to send a message over that new-fangled internet.
I have to admit that in this technical age, our generation is a little too comfortable sitting back behind our glossy computer screens, buffered by firewalls and spell check, as opposed to picking up the receiver and having a direct, real-time conversation-offline. I too have been guilty of a slight phone-phobia, occasionally even ordering my take-out online.
My roommate and I sadly realized, however, after waiting an hour and a half for our Chinese food, that online systems can be unreliable when it comes to time sensitive matters, such as ensuring your won ton soup and moo goo gai pan arrive before the end of the primetime lineup. This holds especially true when you are on a deadline in an agency environment.
Why send an email that might be ignored for days when a simple question could be answered in minutes over the phone? A quick, two minute phone call could save hours of digging through confusing websites or waiting on responses to emails, making you a PR hero in crunch time.
- Sarah Colgrove
I graduated in May with no definite plans for my transition into the real world. I was definitely pounding the pavement, but was also enjoying my last summer break with trips to the beach, the lake, the river, the pool—basically any body of water— to escape the sweltering heat. After a few weeks of fun in the sun, I looked at my friend and said, “I think I’m ready to work now. I actually want to get up at 7 a.m. and have something to do.” Reading a Cosmo at the pool, grabbing a slice of pizza at Little Italy and renting cult flicks from Vision Video had become a boring routine. After four years of college and one final vacation, I felt prepared to make the transition from student to professional.
Two days later, I got a call from Porter Novelli to join the intern team. I was so excited to be able to integrate myself into the working world and trade my bathing suit in for a button down. The following week I threw an air mattress and a few skirts in the back of my Jeep and drove from Athens to Atlanta, ready to begin my post-grad life.
Now, just three weeks into my internship, I am quickly learning the ropes of the technology practice and becoming fully-emerged in the Porter Novelli culture. I have had lunch with my co-workers, contributed to a case study discussion at the monthly Cases and Cases meeting, joined the Wellness Circle’s walking challenge (go team Left, Right, Left!) and even participated in my first kickball game.
The Porter Novelli internship program is giving me a real life course in Public Relations Agency 101. I have worked in several different areas of public relations before, including food and beverage, luxury consumer, hospitality, non-profit and music, but technology and business-to-business are new to me. I have also never worked in such a large firm with offices all over the world.
This internship is a chance for me to ask questions, get involved and build a portfolio of actual client work. I am expanding my skill set everyday at PN and acquiring knowledge about the industry that you just can’t learn in the classroom. Two months ago, when I turned my tassel, I was feeling a little weary about the future, but now I am looking forward to the next nine weeks of my internship, confident that I am building a solid foundation for a career in public relations.
In case you haven’t heard, Porter Novelli Atlanta will be the premier, Summa Cum Laude sponsor at this year’s PRSA|GA Real World Conference, which welcomes students interested in PR from throughout the Southeast.
Look out for us during Session Two of the Conference in “Get the Interview. Land the Job,” with Tia Jackson, human resources manager, who will give you great pointers on interviewing techniques, salary negotiation and business dress etiquette.
In “Campaign Storm,” Kristy Grulikowski, vice president of Strategic, Planning & Research (SP&R), will be joined by Fuzebox in an interactive brainstorm to create a tactical PR campaign for Fuzebox’s upcoming documentary on cyber-bullying while showing off Porter Novelli’s SP&R best practices.
If you want to learn more about Porter Novelli Atlanta and our internship program, visit our booth during the Career Expo to get to know Tia and several interns-turned-full-time-employees working in both the Technology and Healthcare practices.
And, if you’re really just coming for the freebies, we’ll also be raffling off promo items with our new transformer logo in the booth.
Whether you’re at the conference or following along from home, you can keep up with all of the action on Twitter with the #PNID and #RW2011 hashtags. We hope to see you there!
- Katherine Mason, Porter Novelli Atlanta
While I was in college, I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in Public Relations, so choosing PR as a major was an easy decision. However, choosing a major can be a daunting and overwhelming process. It is entirely possible that you might realize late in your college career or just after you have graduated that you want to work in PR, but did not major in any sort of communications field or have much PR experience. An internship is a perfect opportunity to test out PR and see if it is really something you would like to pursue.
Do not let your major or degree deter you from applying for a PR internship. Tia Jackson, Porter Novelli Atlanta’s Human Resources Manager, provided some tips for those of you who may be interested in PR, but did not major in it:
Join a Club.
- If you won’t be receiving a degree in PR or have not completed any PR internships, look to gain experience in clubs and organizations on your campus. Some good places to start are the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
Sell yourself in your cover letter.
- When you apply for internships,make sure you indicate all of your transferable PR skills in the cover letter.
Network, network and then network some more.
- The more you put yourself out there and network with people already working in the PR industry, the more likely they will be to advocate for you when you are applying for internships.
Two of the current PN Atlanta interns do not have communications degrees. Various educational backgrounds bring diversity to an office, so regardless of your major or degree, never hesitate to apply!
-Mary Featherstone, Porter Novelli Atlanta
The fall 2010 interns have arrived. We think it’s only necessary that we officially introduce ourselves before adopting this blog as our own. We look forward to giving you a glimpse inside Porter Novelli and the life of a Public Relations intern!
Barbara Ann Luttrell:
I graduated from the wonderful Auburn University in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in French.
Prior to my position at Porter Novelli, I interned with NASA’s Environmental Programs Branch and had the opportunity to study abroad at both Cambridge University and the University of Paris.
I am now a member of Porter Novelli’s health and social marketing practice. Since starting my internship, I have had the opportunity to provide assistance to various clients such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Piedmont Healthcare and the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.
I am excited about the coming months and hope to provide you with some helpful insight!
Hello everyone! I hope you will join me and my fellow colleagues on our journey as Porter Novelli interns for the next few months. My name is Christin Clay. I’m originally from Houston, Texas but graduated from the University of Miami with degrees in Public Relations and Psychology.
Prior to my position at PN, I interned at ESPN, Inc. supporting the event marketing department on various hospitality programs. I also interned in the public relations department of Ideal Lifestyle Concierge, an on-demand personal assistance service for business professionals.
At Porter Novelli, I work in the technology practice, focusing on HP. I moved to Atlanta with the hope of finding a PR position that was both challenging and rewarding, and within a short amount of time this is what the Porter Novelli internship has already given me. I’m excited for this opportunity, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
I joined Porter Novelli in September of 2010 as a member of the consumer and digital practice. I will have the pleasure of providing support across several varied accounts as well as the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation.
Before coming to Porter Novelli, I hadn’t had any pure public relations experience. I have done quite a bit of public affairs work through internships at various elected officials offices both in Atlanta and Washington D.C. I am pretty sure it was those experiences as well as my past research and work with digital and social mediums which allowed PN to take a chance on me.
I majored in International Affairs and Spanish at the University of Georgia and finished a master’s degree in International Affairs at Georgia Tech this May. During my educational experience I was able to study in Cuba, Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland.
As you can see I am operating a little out of my normal field. However I am excited to be able to try something new at this stage of my life and do some good work for Porter Novelli.
I joined Porter Novelli Atlanta in September 2010 as an intern in the technology practice. I support a variety of clients, including HP, Manhattan Associates, Strategyn, the Consumer Electronics Association, SK C&C USA and Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation, our pro-bono client.
Prior to joining Porter Novelli, I served as a PR intern at Cox Communications and US Lacrosse. I was also an active member of PRSSA at the University of Georgia and the PR Chair for the UGA Women’s Lacrosse Team.
I am originally from Warrenton, Va., but attended UGA, where I graduated in May 2010 with degrees in Public Relations and Political Science. I love my friends and family, reality TV, Mexican food and my dog, Penny.
This is the first in a three-part series from Porter Novelli Atlanta HR manager, Tia Jackson. As a former intern, I sat down and spoke with Tia to get college students and recent grads the inside scoop on how to best position yourselves to capture that plum public relations internship after graduating. The thing she emphasized first? Get started now! There is no substitute for strong PR experience, and the best way to show it off is with a compelling resume and complete portfolio – two things that are impossible to assemble at the last minute.
- Based on the competitiveness of the industry, you will want at least three internships. Request letters of recommendation before you need them and keep them on-hand.
- Save records of your best projects as you do them. It is a lot easier to file away that article, writing sample or event highlight reel now than it will be later.
Additional Resume Tips
- Keep your resume to one page
- Try to describe your experience in the most descriptive, positive way. For example: instead of writing “Wrote press releases and pitch letters,” write “Wrote press releases for a Fortune 500 company and successfully secured local media for…”
- Use your cover letter to provide additional details or expound on your experience
- Bring extra copies of your resume
Stay tuned for part two next week!
-Mark Avera, Porter Novelli Atlanta
After completing an amazing summer as interns at Porter Novelli-Atlanta, Justin, Maggie and Whitney have all transitioned to full-time employees. The experience has been one of incredible personal and professional development, which they continue to accrue as account coordinators in their respective practices. Watch as the three recount some of their greatest experiences, best memories and biggest takeaways to welcome the new class of Fall 2010 interns!
In John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, he famously states that no man is an island. While that was written back in 1624, it’s still true today. No student is an island, no intern is an island and no employee is an island. For me, it can be easy to forget those who have helped along the way. For me, it takes conscious effort to remember to pick up the phone or type out an e-mail. But to me, it is vital to stay connected with those got you to where you are today.
First, the connection shouldn’t simply be self-serving. One of the best ways to repay the kindness shown to you is to say ‘thank you.’ That alone makes the effort the person made recommending you, coaching you or mentoring you worth every second. Also, as you build your network (as we have discussed in previous posts), find ways to help connect people and give back. If your teacher edited your cover letter and resume that helped you land a job, offer to help coordinate a future class trip or come back and speak to a class.
So, even as you travel away from your home town or the city where you went to school, don’t forget those who got you to where you are today. And, most importantly, don’t forget to help others along the way too.
-Justin Grimsley, Porter Novelli Atlanta