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What job seekers can learn from PR pros

It's a tough job market, but savvy job seekers are making an impact on hiring managers by knowing their strengths and the intersection of those talents with the employer's need. We caught up with PR consultant and advisor Steve Koenigsberg to learn how job seekers can benefit from the use of smart PR practices.

Liz: Steve, how is getting a job like pitching a story to the media? What tips can job seekers learn from PR people?

Steve: In this job market, a job seeker has to be able to get an employer's attention and convince the employer that further conversation would be a good investment.

Liz: How is this similar to pitching a story to the media?

Steve: Those two ingredients, getting the reporter's attention and convincing him or her to review or listen to your story pitch are exactly the same.  Although some PR pros don't like to compare public relations to sales, media placement is very much like the sales function, as is getting a job.

In media pitching we create a pitch letter that is designed to pique interest.  Like any good sales letter it should ask for something.  Usually I state my case (outline the story and make it sizzle) and then ask for an interview with my client to further develop the story.  If I've done my job well, the letter and a subsequent conversation or two gets the journalist to say "Yes, I want to hear more.  Set up a call with your client."

In the job-search scenario, you are the pitcher and the client, even part of the story. The rest is quite similar.

Liz: What are some of the most important principles that job seekers can learn from PR pros like you?

Steve: Every prospect in a sales situation is interested in "what's in it for me?" Journalists are interested in getting a good story.  The fact that my client is involved is very much secondary to them (unless it's a major corporation where the company IS the story).  Journalists want to know, "Why should I do this story, and why should I do it now?" Answer that satisfactorily and you've gotten your client a story placement.  

Job seekers are in the same situation. The employer mainly wants to know how you can improve the company's bottom line. That's the story they are interested in - "XYZ Company Soars."  Your experience and past achievements are only as good as they relate to that self-interest.  If you show how you can benefit the company's agenda right now, you're in.

Liz: Where do most PR people fall down in making pitches to the media?

Steve: There are many ways to turn off a journalist and again job seekers can extrapolate these errors to their own situation.  Here are a few:

* Writing a poor pitch letter that has misspellings, or one that obscures what the story is, or one that pitches a non-story.
* Making persistent but self-centered, time-wasting phone follow ups like "Did you get my press release?"  When you get on the phone with a time-pressured reporter, you say who you are, why you called and get right to the pitch. You're thinking about their time and their story. You get about 30 seconds and you can literally hear them turn on (or turn off) to you after that.

Liz: Any other tips to share with CoBizMag.com readers?

Steve: Know what the reporter likes; know what the publication is about and their niche; know what audiences the publication reaches, and to whom it aims its stories. If a reporter says the story is not for him or her, and you still believe the story fits the publication's "profile", ask who down the hall might like it.

Imagine you are reading the publication. If you can see in your mind's eye your story in the appropriate section, then you have a great story pitch.

For job seekers, adherence to these principles means: Knowing why an employer is looking to hire someone - what problem is the employer trying to solve?; believing the employer when he or she tells you there's no fit. Feedback is a gift; and tailoring your outreach to the employer's situation.

In job search as in PR, one size does not fit all!

Reach Steve Koenigsberg at skpublicrelations@yahoo.com.

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Liz Ryan

Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 HR exec and an advisor to organizations and job-seekers. Reach her at liz@asklizryan.com or www.asklizryan.com.

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