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20 Questions You Should Ask A Potential Employer in a Job Interview

November 1, 2012

I typically have a lot of questions for potential employees during an interview, and the answers I get to those questions are pretty important in helping me determine that final hiring decision. But a lot of job seekers might be surprised to learn that the questions they come prepared with can help to elevate them above other applicants as well. Coming to an interview armed with questions shows an interest in the position and role, as well as an understanding of the needs.  At the end of an interview when I ask interviewees if they have any questions for me and they don’t, it really makes me feel like they are unprepared and just desperate for a job.  I mean, come on guys, this is where you’ll be spending a significant portion of your lives for the foreseeable future – don’t you want to know what it’s like before you take the plunge? I’ve listed some potential questions here so that you can arm yourself and be prepared for your next interview. These are just ideas, particularly for public relations professionals, and I welcome other suggestions or examples in the comments below.

  • What does a day in the life look like for the person who takes this position?
  • What qualities are you looking for?
  • What could this person do that would really knock your socks off?
  • How did you get started in PR (or any industry) and what do you love about it?
  • Tell me about the culture here. What are the team members like?
  • How would you describe yourself as a supervisor?
  • I noticed you work with XX client. Can you tell me about your program for them and how well it has worked?
  • I like to challenge myself.  Do you support outside education opportunities or conferences?
  • While I know this is an entry level position, would I have the chance to participate in client strategy or new business?  Those are areas I’m really excited about.
  • I’ve been watching X, Y, Z in the news. As a seasoned professional, I’d love to get your take on how the situation was handled.
  • What’s your process for measuring your programs?
  • I’m anxious to get active in the local PR community. Is this something that you encourage?
  • What’s your stance on employee involvement in social media?  Is it discouraged?
  • How are your teams structured?
  • Will I have exposure to clients?  If so, how much?
  • What do you think sets your company apart from your competitors?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement for this position and how to do encourage employees to achieve growth?
  • Why are you looking to fill this position?
  • What specific tactics are employed in your client programs?  Would I be responsible for doing all of those things, or would I specialize in a particular area?
  • Can you tell me about the person I would be directly reporting to?

Is There a Cat Fight Between Social Media and Public Relations?

September 6, 2012

I got defensive over my industry yesterday, It’s something I’m prone to do when PR, always a ripe target for bullies, gets picked on. A prominent and respected social media consultant, in a valiant effort to compliment one PR person, tweeted that PR people don’t “talk about driving leads.”

I wasn’t the only one who voiced my annoyance – a few other public relations practitioners joined in.  While PR has never been considered a direct response medium, I, like many other good PR pros, can very clearly illustrate where our efforts had a measureable impact on sales.  While he argued that as a former PR pro he had a right to point fingers, I hardly think that entitles him to make blanket statements on the skill of an industry.

I also realize I’m guilty of the same overarching statements – having declared before how I want to bang my head into a wall every time I hear a social media strategist say conversation is the only thing that matters and you can’t measure engagement and blah blah blah. I’ve even blogged about it.

I’m not the only one having these arguments as likeminded sentiments erupted on my Facebook page when I ranted on the topic.  So why the tension between social media practitioners and PR people? Is this a cat fight over who’s doing the best job of measuring efforts?  Is it a tug-of-war over who owns social?  Is it a struggle on both ends to legitimize our efforts and our roles in building marketing strategy? Since we’re all focused on the end result, should we spend less time arguing and more time solving our clients and companies problems? Technically, we’re all on the same team, right? I’d love your thoughts in the comments below.

Join Us – Financing Your Consumer Product Company!

May 23, 2012

We are very excited to be sponsoring a one day boot camp created to help consumer products entrepreneurs learn the in and outs of raising capital for their companies. The powerhouse seminar will help demystify capital-raising terms and provides insights to improve odds for successfully obtaining financing. Guest speakers will include institutional investors, strategic investors, entrepreneurs who have successfully raised capital and more! The seminar takes place in Chicago on June 28 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The best part? Friends of RKPR get a 10 percent discount.

Being a part of this event is a huge thrill for us, not only because many of our clients are emerging and established consumer brands, but also because seminar hosts Bob Burke and Michael Burgmaier are some of the most gifted experts in the industry. Former VP of sales and corporate development for Stonyfield Farm, Burke is an author and consultant who has worked with way too many companies to name, playing pivotal roles in growth and exit strategies. He currently serves on the board of directors of Foodstate,Inc., EcoFish, Nutrabella, and American Halal. Burgmaier is an investment banker with Silverwood Partners where he leads M & A and private placement transactions in the food & beverage/consumer products sectors. He has raised capital for numerous companies and clients, written business plans, prepared fundraising materials, facilitated exits and served on boards of venture-backed companies.

This informative event boasts an incredible line-up of speakers, including:

Andrew Whitman: Managing Partner, 2X Consumer Product Growth Partners (funded Beanitos, gDiapers, Orabrush, Tasty Bite and more)
Gregg Bagni, Director, White Road Investments (Clif Bar) – investors in Guayaki, Wild Planet, Big Tree Farms, Honest Kitchen, Manitoba Harvest and Public Bikes
Neil Kimberley: Director of Global Innovation Strategy, The Hershey Company; former strategy roles with Cadbury Schweppes and Dr. Pepper Snapple
Amol Dixit: Manager, General Mills Ventures, the company’s new corporate venture capital fund
Keith Kohler: President, The K2 Group, LLC (debt financing options)
Ryan Caldbeck: Founder and CEO of CircleUp, a crowdfunding platform for consumer companies; previously with Encore Consumer Capital and TSG Consumer Partners.

And entrepreneurs who have successfully raised capital:
Scott Mandell: CEO and Founder, Enjoy Life Food
Julia Stamberger: CEO and Founder, GoPicnic

If you reference RKPR when you register, you’ll get a 10 percent discount. We hope to see you there!  Click here for all the details!

Engagement Is Worthless if it’s Just About Conversation

April 23, 2012

Like most PR agencies, we send monthly activity reports to our clients that detail all the tasks we’ve performed during that time period.  Part of those recaps include conversations and leads we’ve generated in the effort to garner media coverage.  They’ll read those leads with interest, and hope we can make them come to fruition, but what they really care about are the results.  Did we talk to a reporter at Shape magazine, or was their product featured?  Yes, we did send samples to Good Morning America, but were they included in the segment?  We’d never file conversations under the “results” section.  Our clients wouldn’t buy that.

Over the past three months I’ve had about 20 to 30 new business calls.  I’ve created so many PR proposals my PowerPoint is about ready to charge me a usage fee.  But, for my business, most of the conversations that don’t turn into new business won’t mean much.  Unless those conversations turn into clients or referrals, they didn’t do much to drive my business, did they?  Those conversations I had were not results.

So what am I getting at? Jason Falls wrote a great post on engagement as a result, as opposed to a goal. He said in part:

If the marketers were focused on the definition, not the word, they would actually engage. By having conversations with their customers. By asking about them, not tooting their own horn.

I’m in agreement with Jason that a lot of the dialogue brands have with consumers via social media isn’t doing much to encourage interaction, but  I believe that engagement, if you define it as conversation, is not a result.  I know Jason isn’t afraid to talk about how social media should drive business, and he also said in his comments that he didn’t intend to define engagement as conversation (I interpreted that from his comment above).   I obviously took some liberties in what I took from the post, and I hope he goes a little further in a future post to define “engagement,” if he truly believes it should be a result. But I think it’s critical to note that I also don’t have any clients who’d be satisfied with dialogue as our campaign metric.  They want to see subscriptions, referrals, reviews, sales etc…  You know, engagement.

We recently created a campaign for a client that, in addition to increasing the community by six fold and driving a significant number of shares, votes and entries, we were able to see an increase in website traffic by 39 percent and an increase in online orders by 14 percent in just one week.  Those are compelling results, and hopefully we’ll be able to demonstrate long-term impact.

I see a lot of marketers; including PR people, talk about conversation as the end all.  I’m not disputing its importance in building brand loyalty, awareness and ambassadorship.  But I’d caution against calling it a result, or calling it the only form of engagement. What do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

photo credit: prawnpie

Ingredients for Facebook Advertising Success

January 23, 2012

For most consumer brands, Facebook serves as a virtual hub for a good portion of a company’s marketing and communications initiatives. And if it doesn’t, well you may want to join the party. Not only can brands talk directly to consumers through Facebook, but they can also host an online store, provide exclusive offers, gather valuable consumer data, execute massive contests – the list goes on and on. Fact is, most anything you could ever want to convey to consumers can be done through Facebook with the right strategy, and of course, budget.

Natalie Terashima-LaShell, Account Supervisor, RKPR

But being impactful and building an engaged community doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg to do it. According to social marketing and analytics firm Webtrends, the average cost for a Facebook fan is $1.07 – pretty steep if you’re aiming to build your community up to 25,000+ fans. However we’ve executed several campaigns for clients delivering a fan conversion cost for as little as $0.26, which illustrates how important it is to understand your targeting and create effective messaging. Facebook advertising, backed by a sound marketing and communication strategy, can be one of the most effective tools for building a community of fans that will participate and advocate for your brand. Whether you have a budget of $500 or $50,000, Facebook advertising can help boost awareness for your brand, generate new consumer trial and even propel sales.

As a PR pro I never anticipated becoming a specialist in building and executing social media advertising strategies. But here I am – and I have to tell you, as a communications expert it’s a wonderful playground in which to reach our clients’ target audiences! We’ve seen fans quadruple overnight, creating communities reflecting the core consumers of the brands.  We all know it’s quality not quantity, so for me the best part is: these fans are interested and engaged. They participate in conversations regularly and share our content with their networks.  But developing an engagement strategy to keep them interested is the next step!

Here are a few nuggets of advice to help your next Facebook ad campaign skyrocket:

Be creative – Facebook is about being social and having fun, so chose ad copy and imagery to reflect that. Images are often more compelling than text, so select those that grab users’ attention right away and motivate them to click that “like” button.

Experiment, analyze and adjust – As communicators we are already dialed-in to what we feel target audiences will respond to, however the best way to be 100 percent certain is to put your ads to the test. We always recommend testing a several different images and messages for each audience to see what resonates with fans most. Pay attention to trends and refresh your creative and content based on what performs best.

Understand the analytics – Adding a huge number of targeted fans to your page is many brands’ ultimate goal, and some may be intrigued by impressions or clicks. However, ads that are highly social offer the greatest return on investment. Plus, the fans being generated by these ads also have a tendency to be more highly engaged, which of course we love.

Know your target – This seems like a no brainer, but knowing your target is about more than what they eat or wear. Facebook allows advertisers to target users by a variety of demographics, including geography, age, education, interests, and need states – even your competitors’ fans. The ways in which to target potential new fans are endless. Consumers are complex, so you’re ad targeting shouldn’t be one-dimensional.

Keep it fresh – Many Facebook advertisers will say that ads should be refreshed every couple of weeks. But, why wait that long? Depending on your budget and targeting, many ads start having diminishing returns after the first week or so. People get tired of seeing the same ads, thus the ad deteriorates. Be ready with fresh creative and messaging so you can curb this cycle before it starts.

Incentivize – Providing exclusive fan offers and promotions are great ways to motivate and mobilize new fans. There are thousands of brands competing for fans, so give users a unique reason to be part of your community.

Practice restraint – We’ve all see Facebook ads. They are tiny. Keep your message short, and to the point while offering a solid reason for new fans to click that “like” button.

Be prepared for the wave – Once your campaign starts your page (should) be inundated with new, curious fans. Capture this peak in consumer curiosity by having a dynamic Facebook strategy in place and making your page a place they want to visit every day – something that provides a benefit to them for being part of it. Whether it is a contest or giveaway, helpful lifestyle information, an entertaining poll, or an interactive game, don’t let your fans lose interest in your brand once you’ve made them part of your circle.

What role does Facebook advertising play in your communication strategy? Have a tip to add to the list? Share it with us below!

Natalie Terashima-LaShell, Account Supervisor, Rachel Kay Public Relations (RKPR)

Please Step Forward and State Your Name

December 19, 2011

It was probably a lot easier to be a writer 20 years ago.  A questionable or controversial take on a topic might, at best, elicit a few angry letters to the editor that appeared several days after the original piece appeared.  By then readers were on to something new and the writer got to have, for the most part, the last word.

Today, thanks to social media, you can react to a story almost immediately and wow, can tempers flare online.  For blogs that aren’t moderated (like mine), comments from readers can range from insightful conversation, to nasty and offensive trolling.  Because of that, many blogs and news sites have decided to ban anonymous comments, or those written by people who won’t share their full names.

Differing viewpoints are rampant.  The San Diego Union Tribune reported in September that they would begin to require that commenters use their real names.  Recently, Randy Lovely of the Arizona Republic announced they too would require names to be used on comments, because they felt the incivility had become unconstructive.  Farhad Manjoo of Slate blogged about the topic (he passionately believes in the end of anonymity).

I absolutely agree with the thinking from each of them.  I sometimes get sick to my stomach when tragedy strikes and I check out the local news online and see unnecessary vile language with no productive purpose except to cause hurt.  I roll my eyes when I read, well, just about anything that has zero to do about politics turn into an opportunity for a no-name to go on a racist, hate-filled rant about something completely unrelated.

But for the most part, I disagree that we should eliminate anonymous comments.  While the ability to spew online vitriol is a huge draw for anonymous commenters, there are reasons why some people would like to share an opinion, albeit without a name attached.  For example, many of the commenters at Gawker are anonymous, yet the site boasts some of the liveliest, most intriguing discussion on the Web – my guess is those participating would simply prefer an employer not know they are spending the work day screwing around on a gossip blog.   Or a person’s viewpoint may differ from a client or employer, but they are passionate about a discussion, so by staying anonymous, no one gets hurt.   Or, for the sake of privacy issues, maybe safety is a factor.

When I asked the question on Twitter, I had several differing opinions.  Michael Brito, SVP, social business planning for Edelman Digital, said anonymous comments should be allowed as long as they add value.  Olivier Blanchard, social media author, speaker and blogger said he thinks that anonymity invites a broader range of opinions, as long as the blog’s terms of service are clear.  However, Jeff Swystun, chief communications officer at DDB Worldwide said anonymity should never be allowed, equating it to demonstrators who wear masks and stated that people should reveal who they are. Nathan Hughes,  VP/Sales Manager with Bandazian & Holden, said it depends on the audience and the purpose of the blog, but he leans towards no (shouldn’t be allowed).  Some incredibly savvy people with some different views.

What do you think – is anonymity constructive to the conversation or an open door to inappropriateness?  Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Photo credit: hagerstenguy


The Pitch that Wouldn’t Die

August 25, 2011

For almost a year, I’ve been inundated with pitches from one PR “pro” in particular, about the exact same topic. I’ve included the correspondence below for your enjoyment. I’ve not included the young man’s name nor his agency because I’m a true believer in karma, and I don’t make it a habit of outing fellow PR people no matter how much they need a swift kick. But, hopefully this will help drive home the point that people don’t want to be spammed. Targeted pitching produces better results. Lucky for him I don’t write for the Wall Street Journal.

After receiving at least four emails about Internet gaming, I sent the following email:

October 8, 2010

Me: You’ve sent me so many pitches about this gaming company. I don’t cover games at all. Please stop sending these.

PR Pro says he will remove me

November 10, 2010 – Another pitch

Me: I specifically asked you to take me off of this list because I do not cover gaming. You told me you would. What happened?

PR Pro: Hi Rachel, I am so sorry. I used my wrong list. It will not happen again.

October 24, 2011 – Another pitch

I have told you twice to take me off of your list because I don’t cover gaming. Twice you’ve told me you would. Now I’m getting this once again.
I’m a PR person as well so normally I’m sympathetic, but this is getting ridiculous. Your pitch is untargeted spam. One of these days someone is going to get upset with you and call your client.
Rachel Kay

PR Pro:

I’m truly sorry as I used an old list.
If you would like, I can send an email to IT to personally block you from getting any emails from XXX.
Please let me know what is best for you.
Again, I’m sorry about this.

Me: I would like you to stop sending me emails about games. Do not ask me how I would prefer you do that. That is your problem.

July 20, 2011 – Another pitch

Me: I ignored this when it came in yesterday but here you are again. You should look through your in-box and remind yourself how many times I’ve requested to be taken off this list. This is ridiculous.

PR Pro: No response

August 25, 2011 – Another pitch

Me: Why can’t you take me off of your list? Why is this such a challenge? I’ve asked you more than five times?

PR Pro: No response

Readers, please discuss

Photo credit: AJC1