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Archive for February, 2008

I’ve been considering PR as a career choice lately, and through Chris Clarke’s blog have found tons of useful resources. I got this from New York University PR Forum, which was first taken from Sam Oakley’s blog, All Things PR (and some that aren’t).

Q. How do I know PR is for me?

A. You don’t know, until you’ve been doing it for a while but if you like reading, like the news, like talking and listening to people and don’t mind working very hard for very little money then you might well enjoy PR. I think there’s something of the speech writer inside most PR people in that we like seeing our words on the page or the screen and don’t mind that they’re attributed to someone else.

Q. What are important skill sets a PR person should have?

A. Writing and face to face communication are key. You also need to be flexible and willing to get stuck in, PR is not a 9 to 5. Every agency seems to be different and you have to be able to cope with that as well as different requirements of different journalists. You have to be able to form relationships quickly. I’d also say that you have to ”get” the internet and web 2.0 etc… though I doubt every MD of every PR agency would say that yet. You have to be willing to learn when someone knows more than you, have strength of convictions when you know more than them, and have the perspective to be able to tell the deference.

And another gem of a tip from commenter Ben Matthews, from delicious-sounding Pudding Relations:

If you like being in a profession where you constantly have to be aware of what is going on – and what is going to happen – on in the world around you (which can be further extended to even influencing what is going on in the world around you), if you have an interest in forming relationships with people, if you like variety in your day-to-day job, and of course a keen interest in the media and, increasingly more important, social media.

And some more sobering truth from Alain Desmier over at PR and Comms Network:

Do you passionately consume media? I don’t just mean do you read a newspaper every day, but do you read news magazines, blogs, download podcasts and actively engage with new media? You will earn you stripes by knowing and understanding your media channels. A passive interest is not good enough.

Is a lucrative starting salary what you are after? PR is rewarding in financial terms after a couple of years but don’t expect to start on the same salary as your mates at Deloitte!

The Deloitte bit really hits home. But no matter. Onward and upward!

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I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but I’ve only just got wind of the recently ended eBay seller’s strike.

Personally, I think that the emphasis on the strike having had minimal impact is rather irrelevant. eBay seems to have lost the plot somewhere. WebProNews writes:

We think they may see the protesting sellers as a less-profitable nuisance eBay would not mind seeing depart, especially if they plan to be more friendly to higher volume sellers.

Here’s what some people are saying about the company (taken from Youtube):

“Boycott greedbay – Feb 18 – Forever!”

“eBay is Big Brother”

“..they don’t seem appreciative of their customer”

“eBay is the biggest screw job on the planet lately”

“It’s about time people see FeeBay as what they really are”

“FIRE DONAHOE!”

Some might argue that these protesters are by and large made up of small sellers, and as such won’t affect eBay’s bottomline (at the end of the strike, 3rd party statistics indicated that eBay’s listings were down 13% to 13 million items, although eBay has denied the dip)

Although eBay seems unfazed by the strike, here’s why I think it should care:

1) It is not the first strike against eBay, but it has been the biggest, mostly thanks to the use of social media like youtube, myspace, Delphi Forums (about 1300 messages posted) and Facebook (although the Facebook group was considerably less successful).

Can eBay afford to have another, bigger strike? Already protesters appear to be continuing the strike till March 9th. Josh Catone at ReadWriteWeb thinks that the power of social networks cannot be underestimated. Can eBay afford to ignore the power of the people?

2) Ignoring the long tail is just not a smart strategy, especially when the success of your business depends on it. Sure, these strikers may be small, but what happens if (and when) they all jump ship? Isn’t it much smarter to make these individual, small sellers happy and keep them as customers? And when eBay’s latest policy changes seem to favour its powersellers, doesn’t it necessarily mean that buyers’ needs are ignored as well? There’s an imbalance in the equation somewhere, and I doubt even a mega corporation like eBay can sustain such an imbalance.

3) eBay competitors (such as Amazon) only stand to gain as unhappy customers look out for better alternatives, and in some cases disgruntled sellers and buyers are considering striking out on their own.

What does eBay think about this? According to this USAToday report, eBay does not plan to alter or revise the unpopular policies, nor does it seem willing to address the concerns of protesters.

In this Web 2.0 age, this kind of response just won’t cut it anymore. No company has immunity from the collective voice of the people anymore. Judging from the comments that I cited above, I do believe that eBay has lost the people’s trust.

Valerie Lennert, unofficial spokesperson for the strike has this to say (taken from Fortune Small Business):

“There are a lot of people who are really upset, and if we choose to go somewhere else as a group, there won’t be an eBay anymore. We don’t think eBay understands that. They think they’re invincible, and they don’t seem to listen to what we need. Even if listings don’t go down, we’re reached the main goal: to let them know how upset we are. I’m pretty sure they know that at this point.”

This might just be the start of a revolution.

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I found a really good blog, Student PR Blog, written by Chris Clarke, aimed at communication and PR students and graduates. Chris started blogging while still in school, and his story is really rather inspirational because he got his first job through his blog. I don’t know about you, but that made me sit up. I also like the fact that he has continued writing in his blog even though he is pretty much not a student anymore, because of his commitment to lifelong learning and his desire to help us clueless communication students.

He recently wrote an entry, Getting Hired in PR, where he outline 3 things that PR students should focus on when trying to get a job in PR:

1) Networking

Chris says that we shouldn’t be afraid of networking, that it’s just about talking to people and building relationships. Personally I don’t like the term, or rather my perception of what networking really is has made me rather resentful of it, but he does offer a good perspective on it.

2) The Internship

I think most students already know the value of a good internship. Ultimately, we want our boss to like us so much that he’ll offer us a job (that is, if we like the company in the first place). But what struck me, was this “Plenty of people out there will let you work for free”. I did a double-take. I think a typical Singaporean student (and yes, myself) would look at that sentence and think, “No way am I working for free.”

But then I think we need to look at the internship differently. An internship is an opportunity for you to prove that you have mettle, and really, you want to be noticed by the people in power. And what better way than to do that for free?

Doing the job for free benefits both you and your employer. It makes you ask yourself, does this job mean so much to me that I’d it for free? And for your employer, if you do a really good job he’ll know you did it not because of the monetary compensation at the end of every month. Passion shines through when you are willing to work for free. (It also reminds me of this post on The Long Tail which says that the biggest misconception about free is that no cost = no value.)

3) Online (presence)

Chris makes an important point here: he says that every student coming out of school today will be expected to have some knowledge of the online realm, and that it is no longer exceptional for a student to do so. Explore online, explore all the tools available and manage your online presence. I have to admit, this is a whole new world for me as well. Most of the blogs that I follow today, I never knew about the existence till I took my Social Media class, and I’m still struggling with the tools (how do I find friends on Twitter??)

But I have to say that I’ve been enjoying the experience tremendously (and a lot of things I’ve been reading, the ideas presented, have truly blown my mind). I really do think that no matter if you’re a PR student or otherwise, you can really benefit from being more active online. Read blogs, listen to podcasts, join social networks, get a Feed Reader!! It’s really a whole new world that I think everyone should join.

While writing this post, I was listening to Mitch Joel’s The Twist Image Podcast #92 about how technology makes marketing easier, and he was saying that it’s not just technology anymore, it’s now a massive university that we should all take advantage of. Although Mitch was talking about marketers, I think he said what I was trying to say in much more eloquent terms, and I really do think it can apply to everyone.

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haiku: on friendship

3am suppers —

real and ethereal

truth, beauty and love

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In yesterday’s Weekend Today, the leading article, Universities in scholarship war, highlighted the increasing trend of local universities offering bond-free scholarships to their students. What interested me in particular, was this quote by a 20-year-old student who had secured such a scholarship:

“I got disillusioned by the idea of a bonded scholarship, because I wasn’t ready to commit to a career or company yet.”

This certainly sparked my interest, as she had echoed the sentiments I had when I was her age. Most of the scholarships available 4 years ago when I first applied to university (how time flies!) were bonded, meaning that I would have had to serve for about 4 years in the company that had sponsored my studies. To a 19-year-old who had no idea as to what she wanted in her future career, the idea of a bonded scholarship sparked an inner monologue similar to the one below:

“At least I’m guaranteed of a job once I graduate, that’s good right? At least my parents can be proud of me for once.”

“But I don’t know if I like the job/company… I might end up being stuck and miserable for the next 4 years.”

“Oh but it’s only going to be 4 years. Maybe the time will pass by quickly..?”

…which pretty much added to the confusion.

The dangling carrot in the form of the sponsored tuition fees is certainly attractive to students and parents alike, given the high cost of university education in Singapore. But I think that many students balk at the idea of serving a bond, mainly because of the lack of freedom to change our minds about the company we would want to work for upon graduation. (Well technically you can buy your way out of the bond, but then you have to live with the stain of being labeled a “bond-breaker”.)

Personally, I feel that at 19 you cannot expect the average youth to know what he wants to do. Even now at almost 23, I still ask myself the same questions. What do I want to be? Where do my interests lie? Why am I finding it hard to decide on a career when others seem to have no problems? What’s my special talent?

Recently, I made an important decision. After having studied accounting for almost 4 years, I decided that I would not become an accountant, or an auditor, or a tax consultant or any other jobs to which I would have been a shoo-in for, given my qualifications.

Many people have questioned my decision. As a couple of friends put it, “With your degree, you are absolutely assured of a job”. And even when I said that I was not interested in it, they would say “just spend a couple of years slogging it out, earn some money and then switch jobs”. While I saw where they were coming from (a practical approach), I thought they were missing the point.

If I took the route they described, it would be no better than serving out a bond to which I felt obligated, without a frisson of passion for the job. I would be no better than a drone.

Sure, some would call me impractical, foolish or even reckless, but I am absolutely certain that accounting is not for me. It does not match my personality, nor any of my abilities, and frankly, I have no care for it. Like the above video from The Producers, I can definitely identify with Leo Bloom, the accountant who realises that he wants to be a movie producer (perhaps without the dancing showgirls).

As to my actual career plans? I am almost afraid to say it, but I still don’t have a clear picture of what I want to do with my life. However, I do feel like my decision to “break my bond” so to speak has been a step in a positive direction, albeit a small step.

Does anyone else feel the same way? And to those who have found their true calling, how do you decide that it is truly what you want to do and not just a hunch that you may be blindly following?

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haiku: on finding myself

moment of self-doubt

what if all I had to give

wasn’t good enough

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Here’s a rather cynical thought:

What’s the message businesses are sending to their customers?

Be biased

Discrimination is good if we’re the beneficiaries. We want you to love us so much that you think everything else is bad. And if your love for us makes you reactionary, well, all the better!

Be selfish

Just think about what you want and what you need, and don’t bother about anyone else. We will cater to all your desires.

Be spoilt

We’ll give you everything you want, and more. If we don’t give you what you want, you can whine and throw a tantrum and we will probably give you even more just to avoid the looks other people give us.

So is making the customer King = encouraging them to be biased, selfish and spoilt?

And yet, even when the customer is King, everything is done in order to sell more products, and get more money. Customer may be King, but Businesses are the Gods.

Here’s an Oscar Wilde quote that I feel is rather fitting:

“When gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers”

(From An Ideal Husband)

I think it’s time we move away from Gods and Kings, and get back to the essentials – you and me. Let’s build trust again. Let’s build relationships again.

What do you think?

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