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.

Jan. 25th Event Summary: “Foot-in-the-Door Job Seeking Practices” Co-hosted by IABC-LA & IABC-USC Chapters

IABC-USC Executive Board (From L-R)Lauren Schultz, Xiaochu Hu, Moqi Liu, Ashley Michaud. Carolyn Ray, Daniela Arellano, IABC-LA Board Members: Cheryl Farrell and T.J. Stevko

(L-R:) IABC-USC Executive Board: Lauren Schultz, Xiaochu Hu, Moqi Liu, Ashley Michaud, Carolyn Ray, Daniela Arellano; IABC-LA Board Members: Cheryl Farrell and T.J. Stevko

Lilli Cloud, Blue Feet, and Susan San Martin, Plan B Communications at USC. 

Lilli Cloud of Blue Feet, and Susan San Martin, Plan B Communications guide IABC-USC students towards successful job-seeking strategies.   

Written by: Cheryl Farrell

In a fine example of partnership to inform IABC members, two local chapters co-hosted a hiring practices seminar for early entrants into the communications marketplace. IABC-LA and IABC-USC (University of Southern California) joined to garner student-focused advice from two experts in the field of recruitment and personal communications branding.

Gathered at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism’s Cowan Auditorium, approximately 35 communications students, recent graduates, IABC-LA members, and Annenberg staff heard insightful responses to questions previously submitted to the speakers. Lively in their presentations, Lilli Cloud, Founder and Principal, Blue Feet and Susan San Martin, Principal, Plan B Communications shared their wisdom from a combined 40 years of experience helping hundreds of clients. Some surprising “do’s and don’ts” drew gasps from the audience.

Social Media and Online Resources
• “Cleanse your Facebook”—be aware that social media tools are actively used by hiring managers to obtain information that does not appear on a prospective hire’s application.

• Do not shy away from using social media pages because, as a communications expert, you are expected to know how to best use it in your respective professions.

• Research prospective employers—visit company websites for mission and values statements, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports, as well as private blogs about corporate culture. 

• LinkedIn and are highly recommended online resources for finding jobs.

Lilli Cloud, Founder and Principal, Blue Feet (left) and Susan San Martin, Principal, Plan B Communications  Networking Resources
• A highly recommended book about networking, “paying it forward,” and being generous with your time is “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time,” by Keith Ferrazzi. [ISBN-10:0385512058] Offer to help others as you ask them to help you find employment.

• Volunteering, internships, and alumni associations are excellent sources of contacts. Approximately 80% of interns find fulltime employment at the companies where they volunteer.

• The Los Angeles Business Journal is another good resource.

• For international students, local consulates are helpful with contacts and other resources.

Resume and Interview Do’s and Don’ts
• Do not use “Objectives” on résumés. It is an outdated and self-focused statement. Instead, use a well crafted three-sentence summary of skills focused on how you can help a prospective employer meet its goals.

• Remember presentation—lots of white space and bullet points are best. There are so many applicants for every job that employers will not use time to wade through dense copy.

  • For new job entrants, the summary should be “aspirational” as opposed to inspirational. Send the message about what you would like to do for a company versus the practice of more seasoned professionals who inspire the reader with what they’ve done and can bring to an organization.

• Prepare to answer “softball” questions as well as dreaded questions in an interview. Be in control of your branding by preparing for the easy and tough questions.

• Integrity and honesty—while certain verbs can enhance the level of participation on a project, do not lie! A colorful example was cited that demonstrates how years of strong work experience can be eclipsed by blatant misstatement of facts.

The event co-moderator and co-chair was the talented and resourceful IABC-USC president, Carolyn Ray (M.A., 2010). Assisting her was an enthusiastic student board of directors. Inspired by an IABC-LA hiring practices event in November 2009, two IABC-LA board members co-chaired with Carolyn Ray in planning today’s event:  T.J. Stevko, Communications Specialist, Mercer (also co-moderator) and Cheryl Farrell, independent communications professional.

IABC-LA members, Chris Cabrera, Corporate Communications Project Manager, Southern California Edison and Ariela Iringan, Manager, Deloitte Consulting joined students for networking after the event.

Today’s hiring practices was well-received and similar co-hosting opportunities are being considered to help the Los Angeles and USC chapter meet membership objectives.

(L-R) Lilli Cloud, Susan San Martin, Cheryl Farrell and T.J. Stevko
“It was inspiring to attend the event at USC, and I was very impressed with the students. You could see some trends, based on the questions they asked. For example, many of them asked about corporate social responsibility, and I was able to share the good things my company is doing to help protect the environment, develop alternative forms of power, reach out to the community and help customers conserve energy. These students are the leaders of the (near) future, and it’s great to see where they want to focus their careers. And speaking of energy, they have lots of it.”

Chris Cabrera
Communications Project Manager
Past-President, IABC-LA