As Barack Obama accepted the democratic nomination for president last night, other candidates were left wondering how this young, lesser-known candidate leaped above them and secured all of those votes.
Well, the answer might be social networking.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “Obama and his staff relied on a social-networking site, www.my.barackobama.com, to help supporters find one another and to disperse the campaign’s messages to a broad audience. Most campaigns had access to the same technology and didn’t have anywhere near the online-success of Obama.”
Obama’s online success should come as a surprise to anyone, as his Facebook page alone has almost 1.5 million supporters. Obama has also leveraged mobile media, as he announced his vice president via text message. In fact, Obama has a presence on almost every social networking site including Twitter (where he has over 68,000 followers), YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, and Digg.
Then through Obama’s home page, he has his own separate social networking site for his supporters, where people can get together and discuss issues, events, and other topics. If that doesn’t appear to someone, then they can turn to his blog, where there is a plethora of information about the campaign.
With this type of groundwork (which is so easy to do from a computer) it’s no wonder that he has so many young supporters, and may be on his way to the White House in 2009.
You’ve just graduated and you’re looking for your first job in public relations. Your first interview is approaching, and you want to make the second interview stage, of course. You visit the company’s website, polish your shoes and get to their offices half an hour too early!
Now what? Can you talk about your approach to press releases? No. Can you discuss case studies? No. Can you describe the work environment in which you’ll thrive? Not articulately, without work experience. Should the interviewer really ask you any of these? No. So what goes on beyond the “Tell me about yourself” opener? How should you prepare?
Here’s my list of questions you should be prepared for, and the kind of questions you should consider asking. Actually, I’ve just made my co-directors a nice cup of tea to persuade them to contribute to this list too, so thanks to Blaise and Jay.
Questions you should prepare for
“Tell me about yourself.”
A gift. A lovely open question inviting you to present your best facets. If you can’t represent yourself in response to a question like this, then the interviewer will really wonder how you can represent their clients!
“What do you know about us?”
A simple tester to determine if you are really interested in the company rather than just interested in PR per se. A relatively easy one to prepare for… just read the website, subscribe to the blogs, follow the Twitters, and conduct some searches.
“What makes you stand out from your peers?”
Coming back with one thing here probably doesn’t do you justice. Coming back with six or seven things probably overcooks it. Don’t think you need to stick to work life related stuff either, as you come as one whole person and should be valued as such.
“How organised are you?” / “Can you multi-task?”
What can I say?… obvious questions. Can you prove it?
“What have you learned from part-time jobs / travels / sports / hobbies that you think will be an asset in your PR career?”
The interviewer is trying to extrapolate from your non-PR past into your PR future.
“Tell me why you’re interested in X.”
Whether it’s consumer PR, corporate, health, technology, youth, or whatever PR, you should be able to explain your interest.
“Walk me through your use of new technologies / your life online.”
As you will know if you’ve just been studying public relations, the profession has changed irrevocably in recent years, driven primarily by the rise of new communication and information technologies (scan the titles of my blog posts for a quick take on this), so the interviewer will want to understand your use of and fluency in social networking, blogging, micro-blogging, mobile phone apps etc.
“So what does your current employer think you’re up to today?!”
Assuming you have a current employer, this question tests to see if you’re the kind of person who pulls ‘sickies’. I’ve had plenty of candidates tell me they’ve pulled a sickie, and I respect their honesty (at least with me if not their employer), but they really really have to shine in every other respect to make up for this. But saying you’ve taken a holiday when you’ve pulled a sickie would be a lie, and professional interviewers are adept at spotting the tell-tale signs of lying.
The best plan of action then, that also leaves you relaxed and guilt-free to focus on an important interview, is to take a holiday or arrange the interview outside of work hours. As easy as that.
“Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about yourself?”
A good interviewer will return to this question to make sure they have the best understanding of your character, achievements and personality.
Questions you should ask
You should already know the basic answers to “When?”, “What?” and “How much?”. That’s part of your pre-qualification process. And everyone knows the last one is rather important indeed, so that also means it needn’t take priority in your list of questions. In fact, as the interviewer will want you to focus on the opportunities the role offers and the future success of the company and your career, it’s advisable to leave confirmation of the package towards the end of the interview. But do confirm if you’re uncertain.
Here’s some questions we would love to be asked.
“What makes you different? What sets you apart from the competition?”
A PR consultancy should know its own positioning and USPs!
“What are the company’s mission, vision and values? Where are you taking this company?”
A clear, concise response will indicate sound company direction and management.
“Can I see the full job description / role specification?”
I’d hope the answer is affirmative.
“How will I be able to work with my line manager to plan my personal development?”
This is essential. Look for detail and proof. A vague response belies a vague future emphasis on your development, and that is not acceptable.
“Can you tell me about your training, learning and development programme?”
Dig down into the detail. What’s the depth and breadth of the training resources? Is training conducted internally or externally? How many training courses can you expect to go on in your first year?
“Are you growing? At what rate?”
Obviously, the answer should be yes, and the rate will then vary from 1% upwards. Growth in excess of 10-20% pa indicates a company that’s getting things right, the odd global recession aside. Anything north of 40% and you could be in for a ride!
“Can you tell me what the last person you recruited like me has been up to? Can I meet him / her?”
The interviewer may not be able to answer this themselves, but they should know someone who can, so persist. At the end of the day, your personal determination will prove an asset as an employee, so being determined in an interview situation should be interpreted warmly. And your meeting more people in the business should not be viewed as a hassle at all.
“Do you have any major plans for the company I should know about?”
The company will not be able to disclose things like upcoming mergers and acquisitions, but they could discuss the impending creation of a new youth marketing group for example, or an office relocation.
“What are you most proud / excited about yourself?”
If the interviewer isn’t excited about working there, should you be?
“What can you tell me about the second interview? Any tips for how I can prepare? Anything you’d like me to bring with me should I be invited back?”
Beware job offers after first interview. Congratulations on receiving the offer, but you can’t determine after a 45 minute interview if this is the company in which you’d like to invest 2+ years of your life, and if they’re professionals how can they really be sure they want to work with you for that length of time off the back of one interview? If anything, you should thank them for the offer, but then insist on a second interview anyway… which of course will then largely consist of you interviewing the company. That’s a good thing.
Normally, the second interview may involve a different or multiple interviewers. It will be lengthier, say two hours, and drill down in more detail to determine your fit to the role criteria. It will (or should) offer you more time to quiz the company. It may include a writing test. It will be (or should be) well structured and organised.
Check out www.racepointgroup.com/careers if you’d like to find out about working at Racepoint. For our London office, you can call me (+44 20 8752 3202) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I’m also happy to put you in touch with our US offices (Boston, San Francisco, Washington) too of course. Look forward to hearing from you.
Imagine competing in a biking event at the Olympics and trying to train for a specific course while living on the other side of the world. While some of your competitors living in or around China have the ability to train on the exact hills and roads that they’ll be racing on, you have no such luxury, putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage.
Armstrong and her coach traveled to Beijing to check out the 15-mile race, and decided to bring a GPS unit with them to get an elevation profile of the course. After returning home to the U.S., she was able to export the GPS data to several different formats, and using Google Earth, was able to trace the entire course and find a similar route to train on while at home.
Armstrong says that this technology provided her with an advantage that was invaluable in her preparation for the race, in which she took home the gold medal.
It seems like bikers and marathon runners could really benefit from this type of technology. The ability to see a get a feel for a course before you compete gives some people a major edge. Whether it’s a physical or mental edge can depend on the person, but as technology has advanced, sports have always found useful ways of taking advantage. From watching tape of your opponent before a game, using instant replay to reverse a call, and now simulating a racing course, it seems many athletes are benefitted by our always-developing technology.
Want to cut down your gas costs? Do you enjoy carpooling? Are you concerned about the environment?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, then you’re going to love PickupPal, a global social network that is connecting drivers and passengers online, to save money and the environment.
The site allows passengers and drivers and drives to select where they are located and where they are going, and matches up people that are going the same direction. Following these matches, drivers are informed of potential pickups, and they can make an ‘offer’ to a passenger, which includes the cost of the ride. The passengers then weigh their offers and make a selection.
Both parties are also able to take into consideration the feedback that each passenger and driver has received from other users (which really seems like the most important and crucial part of this site). While this can offer a less expensive way to travel, and cut down on some carbon emissions, it will be interesting to see how many people completely trust this method of transportation.
Amazingly, this site is having some legal problems in Ontario (which TechCrunch translates into Canada hating the environment), where it’s against the law to carpool unless you meet all of the following criteria, according to PickupPal’s blog:
You must travel from home to work only (no rides to schools, hospitals, food banks, etc.)
You cannot cross municipal boundaries (no driving to adjacent municipality to GO Station, TTC Subway, City Centers, Airports, etc.)
You must ride with the same driver each day (no exceptions sorry).
You must pay the driver weekly only (bring your calculator).
The blog includes some more information on this law, and what PickupPal’s trying to do to overcome it:
Some examples of illegal ridesharing according to Ontario Government’s current Law: If you arrange with your wife to pickup your uncle at the airport – you have broken the law. If you travel with a friend and give her $5 for gas money – you have broken the law.
Bottom line: Reasonable rideshare or carpooling with someone in Ontario is illegal. Ontario is currently the only jurisdiction in the World aiming to shut down PickupPal’s 100% free global service. We appear before the Ontario Highway Traffic Board on October 16th and are fighting for our members and all Ontario residents and we need your support right NOW! Click HERE to sign our petition and then tell your friends to do the same.
If you listened to Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey Tech Edit focus on the AP a few weeks back (newsletter should be coming out soon), you heard Sam and I talk about the lack of an AP presence in the Twittosphere. Following-up that conversation Sam posted a revised list of those reporters that are on Twitter and what their usage patterns look like. The most interesting take away from this updated list were the twitterers that have seen a drastic jump in their followers:
“With rare exception, everyone’s following spiked, some dramatically. Among the turbocharged Twitterers: Leo Laporte (3,045 to 53,185), John C. Dvorak (6,357 to 28,456), Natali del Conte (130 to 3,671) and Peter Shankman (1,115 to 5,449). New York Times reporter John Markoff no longer privatizes his Twitter feed, and grew his following from 16 followers to 505 since Apr. 21. NYT colleague Brad Stone recently launched an unprotected feed, which has 207 followers. Walt Mossberg Tweeted 25 times since we last looked; his following grew from 51 to 654.”
Will be interesting to see Sam follow these stats throughout the year.
One is wondering if we will soon see the reporters at the WSJ in Twitter land. Of course in this context, I’m not talking about the daily Journal, but rather Down Jones’ new lifestyle magazine. The magazine will debut as an insert in the Saturday Journalon September 6 and will be distributed quarterly. Early reports on the magazine have it centering its coverage on “modern wealth.” So far, according to MediaWeek, the first launch for the Rupert led Dow Jones corp. is going well. They apparently have 51 advertisers in their first issue, with 19 of those being high-luxury advertisers that have not called the pages of the Journal home before.
This is certainly another vehicle which Murdoch can use to assault the Times as he goes after the title of “The Nation’s paper of record.” In fact as “Moe” at Gawker notes, the New York Times has monopolized high-luxury advertisers in the land of major dailies (10 percent of their ad revenue). However, Moe also notes that the buzz in the newsroom between folks that have contributed to the inaugural issue, and those who haven’t, makes the debut sound like a giant fluff piece.
Here’s hoping the “fluff” on what executives are doing with “modern wealth” sold some advertising and the new WSJ will find its true calling quickly to engage readers. As Moe also notes on Gawker:
“Stories that rely not only on the Journal‘s matchless access to captains of industry, but a long-waning commitment to nuance and humor and the seemingly superfluous but telling detail (and um, length) — would get better play in a lifestyle magazine format.”
So you monitor Twitter feeds, Google feeds, what’s going on Digg and in the blogoshere – all to stay current on what people are saying about your brand and to make sure you kill any fire drills before they become bigger in scope. But how do you turn something that could be really bad into something that could be really good?
Or as Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins says “Live the Chinese cliche of turning danger into opportunity.” Well you have to be creative, and apparently those folks over at EA have their creative juices flowing.
Last August a YouTube user named Levinator25 posted a video online of a glitch in Tiger Woods 2008. The apparent glitch allowed the virtual Tiger to take a shot in the middle of a water hazard as effortlessly as he would on land.
Well those creative folks over at EA monitor YouTube. They apparently heard the chatter around the glitch with serious gamers and it wasn’t lost on them. So nearly a year later as EA made Tiger Woods 2009 demos available online in advance of the game hitting the shelves, they cleverly tied the glitch into their marketing campaign.
In the YouTube video posted on Tuesday and specifically addressed to Levinator25, EA notes:
“Levinator25, you seem to think your Jesus Shot Video was a glitch in the Game. It’s not a Glitch. He’s just that good.”
The ratings for the Beijing Olympics are way up over Athens. The Los Angeles Times reports that NBC’s 12-day average prime-time viewership is 29.3 million for Beijing, up from 26.1 million in Athens. With so many people watching the likes of beach volleyball champs Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, Gymnastics studs Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, and the dominating swimming performance by Michael Phelps, it’s no wonder why the Olympics are so popular.
John Skipper, ESPN’s executive vice president for content says that “[ESPN’s] DNA is different than theirs [NBC]. We serve sports fans. It’s hard in our culture to fathom tape-delaying in the same way they have. I’m not suggesting it wasn’t the smart thing for them to do, but it’s not our culture…We would never put an event on tape delay. When we put ‘live’ on the screen, we mean ‘live right now.’ We don’t mean live three hours ago.”
While I was watching the Olympics last night, I noticed that the men’s 200 meter run was not shown live, but an interview with Shawn Johnson (about her Gold medal high beam performance) was. I understand how popular Johnson is in these Olympics games, but the 200m was a really exciting race and the U.S. finished in 2nd and 3rd. Bolt also broke Michael Johnson’s world record time, and the athletes that originally placed 2nd and 3rd in the race (one from the U.S.) ended up being disqualified for stepping on the line. How was this not live?
NBC has made big news with extended online video, including 2,200 hours of live coverage, thanks to Microsoft’s Silverlight. However, the reality is that ESPN has a valid point – we want to watch these sports live, not hear about the results online then watch the event afterwards, already knowing the results. That’s part of the beauty of sports – the excitement that no one knows what will happen next.
Some types of reporting can be a lot of fun. There are thousands of reporters covering the Olympics, who are lucky enough to attend the events and watch some of the competition close-up. Other reporters have access to events and speeches that most of us can only want on TV or read about via the internet. But, other reporters put themselves in harm’s way to deliver a story.
On August 14, a reporter was shot in the arm while reporting on the Georgia/Russia conflict. The reporter (for some reason) continued to report her story while she was being bandaged up by her co-workers. Unfortunately, there have been more then a few cases of reporters being hurt while covering these types of conflicts:
A few weeks ago the blogswere alive with chatter about a call between Steve Jobs and New York Times columnist Joe Nocera. If you didn’t catch the run-in, I can paraphrase by saying, Nocera picked up the phone and heard this from Mr. Jobs:
“You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.”
At the time, I was trying to track down Nocera for a Q&A session and I didn’t get to include his recollection of the call for my post. I finally tracked down Nocera – back from drinking rosé under a walnut tree - and he kindly agreed to answer my questions on his run-in with Jobs, the media industry and his blog.
RaceTalk: So Joe, I guess I have to ask you first if the call from Steve Jobs caught you completely off-guard?
Joe Nocera: It most certainly did catch me off guard. This is the fifth column I’ve written about Apple since starting my column three and a half years ago, and it is the first time Jobs has called me–and the first words out of his mouth also took me by surprise, to say the least. It’s not every day a CEO of a major corporation calls you a slime bucket!
RaceTalk: Some are blaming you for letting him talk off the record and spin another story – in the form of an ambush call. In my mind it seems to be a flawed PR strategy and one that is going to alienate every reporter they view as neutral or friendly. It also doesn’t read well when played back in a column like yours. As for his opening remark to you, when was the last time the two of you spoke? During your Fortune days? In reading your stories earlier this year and late last year on the iPhone and backdating scandal it doesn’t appear like you chatted?
JN: I don’t know what an “ambush call” really means. Certainly, if he was trying to talk me out of writing the column, it didn’t work. If he was trying to keep me from saying he had another bout with cancer, well, I wasn’t going to say that anyway: my own reporting suggested that that hadn’t happen. I think he was trying to turn a potential adversary into a potential ally–by whispering in my ear, he would somehow be co-opting me, and in-so-doing, turn the argument I was going to make in my column in his favor. But I strongly disagree with his central belief–that he and only he has a right to know about his health. So while I listened respectfully–and made several attempts after the call to get part of it on the record–he didn’t sway my views. I’ve answered some of this already, but to be clear: I never spoke to Jobs either while at Fortune or at the New York Times (until a few weeks ago). At Fortune, I edited several stories about him, but it was always the reporter–and sometimes John Huey–who spoke to him. I did write a story about him in 1986, for Esquire, which is reprinting in my new book, Good Guys and Bad Guys. I spend a week with him as he was starting up NeXT, and he was incredibly accessible, even though he wasn’t selling anything. It was an amazing experience, but one that I’ll never have again–and I doubt any other journalist will either. Jobs now only makes himself available when he has a new product to peddle.
RaceTalk: You recently launched your new blog on the New York Times Website, which you have named “Executive Suite.” Can you talk about what your hope is for the new blog and how it will assist in keeping the dialogue going with your readers?
JN: The blog does several things: it allows me to write shorter pieces in which I can throw out ideas or comments without having to fully develop them as I have to do with the column. It allows me to comment much more than once a week, too, which is nice because there are often points I want to make about something in the news, but have no forum to make them. Now I do. And I think it does wonders for my dialogue with readers. Before the blog, readers had to send email comments to me directly–and I would wind up having 100 conversations a week that were two-way only. Now they can comment on the blog, and readers can interact with each other. It makes for a much better debate and discussion, and I’m enjoying reading all the comments–even the ones that aren’t very nice to me!
RaceTalk: What is your overall thought on the changing media landscape? Do you fear that someday “America’s paper of record” will only be available online?
JN: Someday, some newspaper will go online only, but it won’t be the New York Times–not for a very long time. There is still a lot of loyalty to the paper version of the Times, and it still generates a lot more advertising than the online paper, despite the shrinking ads in all newspapers. What’s really happening here is that there is a melding of the Website and the newspaper, as the Times becomes increasingly “platform agnostic”. The point is to get the best stories in print as quickly as possible–and that matters a lot more than whether they appear online or in the newspaper.
RaceTalk: A few weeks ago I was at Fortune Brainstorm: TECH, with some of your former colleagues, and one of the big general themes was a change in corporate thinking around utilizing customers to shape where the business is going. Michael Dell spoke about what they are doing with Dell’s IdeaStorm and the “My Starbucks Idea” example was tossed around. What’s your thought on corporate willingness to exchange in this new type of discussion and what have you heard from CEO’s on this potential change?
JN: I haven’t really heard much from other CEO’s about this kind of discussion–then again, I haven’t really asked. I’ll start looking into it. Thanks for the blog tip!
You hold an event to gather key stakeholders together, say a couple of dozen, and you want to maximise the positive networking such an event should catalyse. You’re also aware of a few potential personality clashes. But how many one-to-one relationships are you actually trying to manage here?
It turns out, your relationship with each of them included, that there’s 300 relationships in that room! Wow, and compared to the big ‘World Wide Web’, or the even bigger ‘World’ come to that, this is a relatively insignificant number of people.
Let’s go a step further. Say that there’s just five critical issues facing your industry, each of which has just three positions, say “for”, “against” and “no position”, then each stakeholder can have one of 243 combinations of points of view.
To complete this picture, imagine now communicating the dynamic of this group in a report back to your boss say. How do you represent 300 relationships and 243 combinations of positions? Moreover, how do you portray the network evolving year-to-year, month-to-month, hour-by-hour?
Welcome to the world of data visualisation.
Information technology has made the collation and manipulation of masses of data relatively mundane. When you’re looking to manipulate data in a specific way, the machine can chunk through it pretty quickly and answer your defined and closed questions:
What were the sales in week 39?
How much did we invest in PR last year?
In our last market research, how did our perceived value for money rate versus the competition?
But what if you don’t know what you’re looking for? How do you decipher the mass of data? How do you see what’s going on so you can learn and respond appropriately? How can you answer undefined and open questions such as:
What’s the buzz amongst our customers?
Who or what is exerting most influence?
What trends should we know about?
Who’s most likely to have started this rumour?
Who should we add to our list of key contacts / influencers?
The next biggest challenge to spotting patterns and trends is simply that the data has more dimensions than we can cope with. Take your computer screen… two dimensional. Add some nifty mathematics and you can represent three dimensions. Change it over (compressed) time, and you can “see” four dimensions… but that’s about the best we can achieve.
So now we have two new battles on our hands.
The first is presenting data brilliantly in the three or four dimensions we can deal with. And the second is building in some intelligence so that we’re more than likely looking at the right combination of three or four dimensions amongst the dozens or hundreds represented in the data set.
One of the fascinating outcomes of this new branch of public relations is the value non-geeks can literally “see” in it. There’s a reason someone coined the term “a picture paints a thousand words”. Perhaps “a data visualisation renders a million influences” will trip off the tongue in the future?! How cool is it to ‘see’ a meme?
And it’s not coincidental that some visualisations are beautiful; not that I’m about to author a treatise on beauty, but heuristically it makes sense that we’re more likely to find the interpretation of something that looks good easier than something that looks a mess.
I’ll leave you with some visualisations, with hyperlinks to the source should you, like me, become entranced by visualisation.