Thursday, September 29, 2011

Roommate Relations: The D.I.C.E. Approach

By Sarah Alvarez, Account Executive 

During my junior year, I decided to switch my major from pre-nursing to public relations.  Oh no. The switch required me to get to know new faculty and add one more year of classes and internships. That also meant one more year of roommates. 

Although my public relations coursework is geared toward my professional future, it first taught me the effective communication skills I use now to strengthen my roommate relationships. 

I had to quit being a passive-aggressive, petty roommate and actually communicate. So, I compiled these four public relations concepts that can be applied in a personal setting. It is time to use the D.I.C.E. approach in roommate relations. 

Damage control: PR majors are prepared to deal with crisis.  So whether your significant other just broke your heart on Facebook, or someone snapped a not-so-flattering photo of you this weekend, we can help put a positive spin on your personal problems. 

Image management: Professional communicators are constantly networking online, but also are aware anyone can gain access to these public forums, so we’ll never talk trash online or behind your back. 

Communication: We want to communicate for a living, so if your dishes are dirty we’ll approach you about it nicely instead of leaving a snooty note or hastily cleaning them ourselves. 

Extra eyes: No time to edit that term paper? Having a writer around means there is always an extra set of eyes available to help proofread your paper before it is submitted. 

Being a PR major means you’re learning to communicate better personally and professionally, and it will definitely help you avoid sticky roommate situations.

You’re Invited

By Naubil Oropeza, Senior Account Executive

No, it’s not my birthday. You’ve been invited to Google+. 

The invitation to test Google+ during its launch has created buzz and
curiosity over the new network. The product itself could change the social media landscape creating a new platform for marketing and public relations pros. 

So what does this mean for us? As modern-day PR professionals in-training, it's our job to explore new communication technologies. Google+ streamlines all the Google features many of us use. 

New tools offered on Google+ can help improve digital strategies already in place for our clients. The "Circles" feature allows for industry-specific forums with more control over these groups and how you communicate over the web. 

Google+ as the new “circle of trust?” With the most reliable search engine and endless features, Google+ is setting the stage for a Google world. 

The "+Sparks" feature also allows open communication encouraging users to join public forums and discuss specific topics -- perhaps a new medium for focus groups and a new way to research marketing strategies. 

The mobility and accessibility makes Google+ desirable to both the new generation of tech users and the professional, making online sharing that much easier. 

But is this a direct alternative to Facebook? While Google+ is still in early stages of development, it’s difficult to tell. Are you on Google+?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Buon Viaggio! The art of traveling on a shoestring budget

By Nicole Lee, Assistant Account Executive

The idea of week-long trips in countryside Italian villas sounds fantastic, but it doesn’t necessarily fit the budget of an average American college student.

So, as an experienced European traveler and two-time study abroad student, I have compiled a list of money-saving ideas for those wishing to travel throughout Europe while studying abroad, but wish to do so on a budget.

Take advantage of cheap airfare: Travel sites like Ryanair and easyJet offer low-cost airfare and great last minute deals. Booking in advance will assure you less expensive tickets with almost any airline. 

Avoid baggage fees; pack a carry-on: Like in the U.S., many European airlines charge to check a bag. For shorter trips, try packing only a carry-on or backpack. Some airlines do weigh carry-on baggage, so be sure to check your airline’s weight limit before packing.

Forget the five-star hotels; opt for a hostel: When on a budget, shelling out the cash for a bed can definitely put strain on your wallet. Websites like are great for finding favorable rooms without the hefty price tag. But if you can’t live without free mini hand soaps and a turn-down service, try for hotel rooms at lower costs. Be sure to check guest ratings and comment recommendation for any place before you make a reservation. While it may look fantastic on the web, it could turn out to be less than satisfactory in person. 

Utilize Google Maps: The cost of renting a car or taking a taxi may not always be figured into your spending. Google Maps is a great resource for getting directions to your final destination using public transportation. 

Always bring your student ID: Many museums and popular tourist destinations offer student discounts on entrance fees, bus tours and more, so always ask if there is a student discount offered. 

Skip dining out; make your own: Eating out can get expensive fast. Making your own meals can save cash and most hostels have kitchens available for guest use. Packing a picnic lunch or buying a pastry from the local market can also be a great way to have an adventurous and inexpensive dining experience.

Remember, sometimes paying higher prices for things is unavoidable. Don’t skip out on making memories that will last a lifetime because the price tag is higher than you had hoped. For example, my 70 euro gondola ride through the canals of Venice with three of my best friends was definitely worth every penny. 

Nicole and her friend Meredith Andre on a gondola ride through the canals of Venice.
Gondola's in Venice at sunrise.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Say ‘No’ to Nervous Breakdowns

By Jennifer Hoffman, Editorial Assistant

Life can be hectic sometimes – no new story there. Trying to balance multiple deadlines, projects and meetings can be difficult – not to mention a social life and everyday responsibilities. 

I know from experience. Working 30 hours a week last semester, while taking a full course load, nearly incited a nervous breakdown. If it weren’t for effective time management and efficiency techniques, my brain would have been toast. Burnt toast. 

Luckily for me, I have happened to accumulate a few tricks over the years. These are tools that have helped preserve my sanity and my GPA at the same time. 

The Pareto Principle is often known as the 80/20 rule, and basically states 80 percent of your success stems from 20 percent of your efforts. 

Think about it and you’ll be able to identify which of your efforts are really gaining you the most rewards.  Focus your time on those. 

This principle is immensely valuable because it can be applied to all types of scenarios. If you use it the next time you’re overrun with projects, you’ll be able to prioritize in a way that maximizes your time and energy. 

Fredkin’s Paradox is more of a quote than a tool per se, but an incredibly useful one.  For anyone who suffers from extreme indecisiveness like I do, it can be exceedingly helpful. 

It states: “The more equally attractive two alternatives seem, the harder it can be to choose between them – no matter that, to the same degree, the choice can only matter less.” 

In other words, if you’re having a tough time coming to a decision, it’s most likely because one choice doesn’t offer any clear advantage over the other. Just flip a coin already, and be done with it. Then celebrate with all that time you’ve just saved yourself. 

Parkinson’s Law gives permission to stop obsessing and worrying about every last detail. This law explains how work will expand to fill the time allotted to it, making you work harder, not smarter. 

Extra time most often fills itself with anxiety and tension, not productivity. That project you’re working on is only going to grow in complexity if you spend two days on it when all it really needs for a solid framework is two hours. 

Usually the best solutions are the simplest, which you’ll never find if you’re busy climbing mountains that should be molehills. 

While I am not some sort of time-management guru or project-efficiency expert, my credentials are that I, probably just like you, am a very busy individual. These are tried and true methods, and they can bring you the same success they have brought me. 

Besides, nervous breakdowns are so overrated.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PR’s Role in Web 2.0 Music Releases

By Paul Wilkie, Account Executive

The days of lines outside Tower Records for newest hit releases are over. Not to mention, Tower Records lost its place in the music business years ago. It now rests quietly in the memories of old enthusiasts such as myself. 

However, don’t despair, especially if you’re a public relations professional with a passion for music. The web and a tidal wave of do-it-yourself music software have made music production dynamic and simple. This enables more artists to produce more music every day. 

Many up-and-coming artists now require innovative ways to get their music on the airwaves and into the ear buds of consumers ready to pay for their albums and song tracks. This is where PR professionals come in.  

So, how should we be going about music promotion? Through the eyes of a shrewd up-and-coming PR professional (I’m talking about myself, of course.) the most obvious route is media channels. This includes print, video, online, radio and all of the other media we have been trained to manipulate. 

Yet, in the era of Web 2.0, consumers want more. They want to interact with music, debate about music, be the first to hear music, and be the first to state their opinion in cyberspace. In other words: first person advocacy. 

Some examples of these trends in the music release world are: studio footage, band blogs and tour promotional videos. These materials help bands, artists, labels and all others involved with publicity, and they increase the likelihood of obtaining advocacy. 

One agency that is capitalizing on this interactive, advocacy-based Web front is Amp3 Public Relations. Their use of social media, video releases and other interactive platforms (including blogs) is exactly the route I believe the future of music promotion and release will take. 

Although many artists will find hiring PR agencies like Amp3 useful in their campaigns to release, promote and gain fan base, the main issue is funding. 

A path that many newbies on the music scene are taking is signing onto independent record labels. What are the advantages of this method? 
  • One, they sure as hell cost a lot less – and by less, I mean they’re free in most cases. 
  • Two, they have the freedom of dictating their own messages. 
  • Finally, they can explore a variety of media platforms they see most fit, not necessarily the “proven” method used by many PR agencies.
Sumerian Records is an independent record label that enables bands in more obscure genres of music such as metal, progressive rock and hybrid forms of the two to spread their wings. The label does this by performing many similar functions that a traditional PR agency would.

Sumerian Records hosts its own YouTube channel, Facebook and Twitter as tools to promote itself and the bands it represents. These platforms all cater to the interactivity that many consumers crave and the advocacy that bands need to be successful in new-age music releases. 

One thing to look for is the steady increase of band-, label- and solo-artist-generated content on the Web. Although the media tools are readily available for anyone to manipulate, only those with a true understanding of PR will have the ability to stay on the cutting edge of Web 2.0. The future of PR in music is bright.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

So you think you can graduate?

By Kelsey Eidbo, Editorial Director 

Somehow after three years of stress-induced hives, weight gain, weight loss and anger, I’ve pulled through to graduate next spring. Honestly, I expected to be here until at least December 2012, but I sat down and added up  my units and courses last semester and came to the relieving truth that my hard work was worth it, and I will be out of here in May.

And the stressing didn’t stop. Why? Because I didn’t take advantage of academic advising. The following are problems I encountered on my path to graduation, and the reason you need to talk to an adviser ASAP: 

1. Overlooked classes:  This has gotten me twice. I need one more class for my major, and one more for the diversity requirement. If I hadn’t reread the catalog obsessively, I would have gone through next semester taking only two classes... then kicked myself next fall while taking two more. 

2. Summer classes are not always equivalent to school year classes: While declaring my TESOL certificate last week, the adviser said, “This is really good to put on your resume because you can say you’ve worked with native speakers in ENG 470.” *silence* “Oh, nevermind, you took it in the summer. What was that, online quizzes?” Yep. 

3. Thanks to budget cuts: Many classes are only offered one semester. A class I was banking on taking next spring for my certificate is only offered in the fall. I lucked out and there’s one other class I can take instead. However, this class is four units -- just how I want to spend the relaxing spring semester I had planned. 

4. Declaring things post grad-app makes things CONFUSING: After running around getting various signatures for my TESOL certificate, the TESOL adviser told me it was the wrong form if I had already applied for graduation. The necessary form required one signature and she took care of the rest. I’m still entirely unsure as to when the certificate will show up on my records. Please make it pre-May?

It’s certainly possible to graduate with no help, but from personal experience, I wouldn’t recommend it. As far as I can tell, all the kinks have been worked out. However, one simple meeting last semester could have saved me the last three weeks of panic.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Don't just intern, WINtern

 By Ian Twamley, General Manager
Internships are awesome. Getting a paid internship at a place like Facebook may be what you have your heart set on, but if it doesn’t work out, don’t think you can’t have just as great of an experience somewhere smaller. Looking at my past experiences, I made this short list that helped make my internships some of the most useful experiences of my life.

1. Relax, you are there to learn: It may be your first time working in an office setting, and it’s easy to feel numb with anxiety. You can’t make the most out of your experience if you are scared of screwing up. Just trust yourself, be diligent and enjoy the experience.

2. Learn names: Nothing is more awkward than trying to explain you were given a project by “the lady with curly blonde hair and the robust body type.” Learn names quickly.

3. Ask questions: Want to hear something crazy? In the real world, projects don’t come with directions lined out in step-by-step detail like they do in school. I know, NUTS. Usually you are given a task verbally or by e-mail and expected to figure it out. Ask lots of questions before starting a project. You will thank me.

4. Loosen up!: You are probably the youngest person in the office, which automatically makes you the coolest. Have fun with your co-workers, joke around and get to know them. Showing a little personality will keep you fresh in their minds long after your internship has ended.

5. Schedule informational interviews: You committed to this internship so that you could build the skills that one day will help you find a “real job” right? Set up informational interviews with everyone you work with. From presidents to entry-level staff, they all have tons of insight that will be invaluable to your future job-hunt.

6. Show initiative: Ask to sit in on a meeting; see if someone needs help on a project; offer to write an entry for the company blog. Companies want hard-workers that can be productive on their own.