Post Event Report: Nov 17th, 2010: “Staying Relevant as a Communicator”

November 17, 2010…IABC-LA presented Susan San Martin’s “Staying Relevant as a Communicator.” This event was graciously hosted by Ernst & Young in downtown Los Angeles, and coordinated by our talented chapter member T.J. Stevko. “Who is hiring?” “What skills are in demand?” “How can a communicator showcase his or her special experience?” These questions and much more were addressed by San Martin, Principal, Plan B Communications, a results-driven executive search and consulting firm.

“It’s always dangerous for me to draft a presentation a few days early before the event.” said San Martin. San Martin shared with us her decision to scrap her well-prepared presentation in order to re-tool the entire thing…brainstorming on her dining room table with large sheets of rolled paper connecting boxes and brainstorming notes. And San Martin does get results. Feedback came in from 18 reliable lifelong communications contacts. This global outreach fostered an even more substantive cross-section of answers and suggestions from communications leaders all over the U.S. and the world…including India.

Is the hiring market improving for communicators?

• In absolute numbers, hiring is quiet in the U.S., yet we’re seeing a lot of hiring where business is growing in Asia and Latin America.
• There’s an increase in internal and employee communications communicators
• Re: social media expert hirings: Hire a 20-year employee. They know how to write and how to work through the system of a company.
• Bi-lingual and tri-lingual employees are in demand regarding social media with their ability to switch between cultural environments

What role does social media play in your communications strategies?
• Just knowing how to use FaceBook and LinkedIn does not define you as knowing social media.
• A really strong social media strategy pairs an employee 2-3 years out of school who knows how to connect with bloggers and dig out resources with a more traditional communicator of 20+ years who truly understands how to edit content.
• (One of our favorites!) Question: Do you have a social media strategy? Answer: Do you have a telephone strategy backing up your social media? (Nice!) Too many social media strategies rely on digital relationships without any personal touch.
• For communicators intimidated by social media…social media is a new tool, but not a new skill. Relax…you can do this because you already know how to communicate.
• Audiences do care about the written word, it’s just not accessed the same way.

What career missteps do you see?
• Communicators can be too choosy and too fearful. Get outside of your comfort level. If you’re a specialist, take on communications challenges so you become a generalist.
• Google, Ford, Intel all produce exceptional communications employees. Why? Because the employee does a stint in many different departments, becoming a business person first, a communicator second. Become a business person.
• Don’t forget how to write…grammar, SpellCheck. Print, emails, blogs all count.
• You must tie communications to business results.
• Don’t ramble in interviews. Practice sound bytes.
• STOP TMI!!!! Too much information on an interview or exchange.
• Not enough follow-through. Excitement on a social media project does not replace follow-through.

What smart moves are communicators making?
• Companies look for intangible qualities; sometimes the softer piece of information on a resume can make you stand out…rather than “blaring” it out loud.
• Go above and beyond. It’s about attitude…unexpected opportunities are your friend.
• Use a pay-it-forward mentality. Have a relationship-building focus.
• On an interview, do say “I’ve got initiative” as opposed to “I’m a fast learner”…be prepared to back it up.
• Research the company culture in your job search and understand it first, be honest with yourself if it’s the right culture for you, regardless of the company.
• It’s okay to make a resume 3-4 pages, as long as the information helps you to stand out.
• Look for successful communications organizations who reward good work and punish bad work consistently the same. They talk the talk and walk the walk.
• Develop relationships with subject matter experts.

Overall, Susan encouraged all communicators to get out of our comfort zones, and reassured those with 20 years experience that traditional skills still work in our rapidly changing landscape. Re-aligning relevant talent and skills is challenging…yet very rewarding.

Susan San Martin was a Vice President and Executive Recruiter with The Repovich-Reynolds Group where she conducted mid to senior-level communications and marketing searches. She has partnered with clients such as: SC Johnson, DaVita Inc., Dell Inc., Western Union, The Blackstone Group and many others. Over the last two years, she stepped out on her own to create Plan B Communications, using her 20+ years of diversified communications and marketing experience to become a highly-regarded executive search professional.

We welcomed Susan to join us for the “After Dark” portion of the evening at “The Library Bar” to learn more about Susan’s passion for talent acquisition and her love of cooking!

Thanks to T.J., Ernst & Young and Susan San Martin for a very powerful evening of professional development.

Nov. 12 Event Summary: “Hiring Practices: What Communications Professionals Should Know”

IABC-LA’s Paula Cassin and Cheryl Farell, Panelist Moderator, with Jay Berger, Pamela Jones and Lilli CloudOn November 12, 2009, Cheryl Farrell, IABC-LA Board Member and Chair, Regional Events, served as Panel Moderator for three distinguished panelists who not only engaged 30 member participants, but also helped attendees recalibrate search efforts in this distinctively tough job market.  While you may be “analytical,” “strategic,” and “organized” according to your resume, those attributes are simply not enough to obtain an interview…yet gaining clarity on what works and what doesn’t will help place you on the top of the interview pile.

Cheryl and attendees welcomed:  Jay Berger, PhD, Manager Partner, Morris & Berger (www.morrisberger.com), whose boutique executive search firm finds senior level execs for non-profit clients; Pamela Jones, Senior Recruiter, The Walt Disney Company, who is responsible for full life-cycle recruitment in Production, Marketing, Studio Operations, and more; and Lilli Cloud, Founder & Principal, Blue Feet Communications, who helps entrepreneurs and job seekers develop their personal brand (www.yourBlueFeet.com).

The combination of prepared and audience questions and expert panelists’ answers covered what’s-on-our-minds topics ranging from the top three elements found in successful placements to overcoming an applicant’s impediments to becoming a job-seeker entrepreneur.

Here are some strong suggestions from Jay, Pamela, and Lilli regarding key topics:

Resumes, Cover Letters and Personal Branding:
• Jay: chronological and 2-4 pages ideal (1-page resumes can be frustrating for a senior level recruiter!). No gimmicks, no photos. No generic cover letters.
• Pamela: Keep it simple. “Interests” not necessary. Pay attention to the job description and have searchable terms that you can back up in an interview.
• Lilli: Become a job-seeker entrepreneur. Consulting is replacing many jobs, so do both job search and consulting.  Hang your personal branded website shingle. A professional head shot is crucial to be taken seriously. Raise your visability through social networking yet get out of your house physically and to make those in-person contacts.

Secrets to Successful Placements:
• Jay: On-line applying is here to stay. Send cover and resume as an attachment.  Word-of-mouth snowball approach works.
• Pamela: Understand and speak to the job you are applying for vs. “I always loved Disney as a child”!  Be prepared with job-specific examples as opposed to canned responses. Do research on the company prior to interview…take the old school approach.
• Lilli: Be prepared to answer the toughest questions that you may normally want to avoid in an interview regarding your experience (e.g. not finishing school, gap in employment)

And More…
• Personal branding means presenting “the you on your very best day.”
• Plan to stay with a company at least for 2-3 years
• Employers can see where you have been applying; so keep your search focused
• Non-profits will consolidate marketing and communications professionals into one role: “Institutional Relations”…excellent opportunities for good writers; grant writers.
• Give as much as you get from a networking contact (ex. Share an interesting article or something of value to them.)
• Volunteer at non-profits…towards a full-time position.

And finally…”Be Encouraged. Network. Demonstrate (Show Don’t Tell).”

The early morning breakfast event simply would not have been possible without the Calabasas headquarters location of The ALS Association generously provided by fellow IABC members, Jeff Snyder and Greg Cash. This event was also attended by Career Transitions Now members, led by Douglas Whitaker.

Due to the vibrant success of “Hiring Practices,” for those IABC-LA members who missed this opportunity, the event is being coordinated for a January presentation at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. So start networking!

Lilli Cloud of Blue Feet Communications discusses personal branding towards getting work

Participants learned hiring practices’ secrets to being a successful job seeker

November 12: Pre-Event Summary: “Hiring Practices”

IABC-LA Regional Meeting, Calabasas Hills
 “Hiring Practices: What Communications Professionals Should Know”
Thursday, November 12, 2009
8AM – 10AM
Three Distinguished Panelists/Cheryl Farrell, Moderator

Posted by: Cheryl Farrell
Email: la-woodlandhills@iabc.com
If you had the chance to ask a tenured hiring practices expert any question, what would it be? What if you had the opportunity to sit across the table from a managing director of a major recruitment firm that specializes in non-profit executive placements? Or, how about chatting with a senior recruiter of a major entertainment conglomerate? Finally, what-if you can ask a personal branding expert about the essentials of a compelling branding statement?

All this will be available to you at the November 12 IABC-LA professional development meeting. Thanks to the generosity of fellow IABC members, Jeff Snyder and Greg Cash of The ALS Association, the event will be held at the association’s Calabasas Hills headquarters.

As moderator for the event, I have the privilege of preparing questions for our distinguished panel. Here is a sample, and I welcome your questions.

1. Please describe the top two or three themes you find in your successful placements. [E.g., résumé quality, word-of-mouth referrals, use of social networking]

2. On the matter of hiring practices from earlier times, what is your opinion about online applications versus hard-copy submissions? What about following the rules in the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” instruction?

3. Please describe the top two or three impediments you find in your applicant base and how can applicants overcome them.

4. For new entrants in the hiring marketplace, what is the best strategy to distinguish oneself from others with similar credentials? 

5. What does it mean to be a job seeker-entrepreneur? How important are job seekers’ communications skills to increase the chances of being hired?

Register for the event that is sure to provide valuable information on current hiring practices and employment options.

To register, go to http://la.iabc.com to “Upcoming Events.” Click on November 12th event then click registration link.

The ALS Association
27001 Agoura Road, Suite 250
Calabasas Hills, CA 91301
Thursday, November 12, 2009
8AM – 10AM
Members: $30
Non-Members: $40

Price includes light breakfast. Door prizes courtesy of the IABC Knowledge Centre. Free parking. Limited seating.

Panelists
Jay Berger, PhD, Managing Partner, Morris & Berger
Twenty-two years experience as principal with Morris & Berger, a boutique executive search firm working on senior level searches, exclusively for nonprofit clients.

Pamela Jones, Senior Recruiter, The Walt Disney Company
More than a decade of corporate recruiter experience, responsible for full life-cycle recruitment in the areas of Production, Marketing, Studio Operations, Home Entertainment, Distribution and Music.

Lilli Cloud, Founder & Principal, Blue Feet Communications
Communications veteran of 20+ years, Lilli helps entrepreneurs and job seekers develop their personal brand and articulate that both verbally and in writing, in a clear, compelling way that makes them stand out from the crowd. Visit www.yourbluefeet.com.

Panel Moderator: Cheryl Farrell, IABC Board Member and Chair, Regional Events
An award-winning communicator with a career that spans broadcast media to corporate banking. As a volunteer, she writes and speaks on behalf of advocacy organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The ALS Association Hosts
Jeff Snyder, Vice President, Communications
Greg Cash, Director, Communications