What I Didn’t Learn in College

By Brittany Kaelin, Account Coordinator 

Fresh out of school and into this fast-paced place they call the “real world,” I have faced a learning curve for which I was unprepared. Back in my “glory days,” I worried about making it to class and acing the exams that would determine my grade.

 

With a degree from Purdue University (Boiler up!) in public relations and strategic communications, I thought I would be golden to enter agency life and rock the young PR professional lifestyle. As I quickly found out, my education gave me a good foundation, but there was still so much more I needed to learn.

 

After four months at an agency, I have identified five facts of life that were not mentioned during those weekly power-hour lectures. No offense to my beloved alma mater, but this is what I wish my professors would have covered in COM 100.

 

  1. Agency life is fast-paced.

When you work at an agency, you find out how fast your feet can move. There will be times when you will be bouncing around not only the whole office but throughout the whole city. Whether it’s organizing a big event or shooting a commercial, you learn very quickly how important it is to deliver a quality product on a short deadline.

 

  1. The way you were taught to write a press release is not a universal template.

Headline, lead, quote, pyramid style and boilerplate. There’s not much to a press release, but there are about 20 different ways to write one. Like I said, college gives you a good foundation. But at an agency,  always make sure to find an old press release and copy its writing style and format before you send your first draft to your manager.

 

  1. No question is a dumb one.

When you are thrown into the exciting world of advertising and PR, you have to be willing to take in as much knowledge as you can. Everything is a learning opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask to sit in on a client meeting or for more details on a project. It’s better to do it right the first time than to keep making revisions.

 

  1. You won’t be writing eight-page papers.

For some reason, professors believe you’ll be writing eight-page research papers once you exit college. They have one thing right: Writing is very important in this industry. However, “short and sweet” is usually the key when you write. There will be times when you will write longer documents, but they will be about projects you are invested in. The best thing is there are no works to be cited at the end of a document!

 

  1. Be willing and able to work long days.

 Long days go along with the fast-paced lifestyle. There will be days when you have to be up with your game face on by 8 a.m. and you won’t plop down on your bed until after 9 p.m. Even though that may seem like a long time, those days fly by and are usually the most rewarding. It always feels good to see your hard work in the final package.

 

The main takeaway I can offer as I adjust to life as a rock star young professional is to be proactive and take ownership of your work. No one will hold your hand, but they will usually take time to answer your questions. Put your best foot forward and always take a stab at working on something you’ve never done before. You may surprise yourself. Every challenge is an opportunity to improve your wealth of knowledge.

 

Bottom line: It’s like you never graduated. Every day you’re still learning, and sometimes you’ll have homework.  However, there won’t be any pop quizzes!

Your Editor, Your Friend

By Madelyn Morgan, Senior Editor & Writer

We editors get a bad rap. Often seen as shrews or egotists who delight in the mistakes of others, we are reviled as small-minded perfectionists who can’t see the forest for the trees (or the beauty of your prose through your typos).

But really, we are your allies. Our purpose, like yours, is communication. And your non sequiturs and misplaced punctuation cause stutter steps for your readers, which carries the risk that they might not bother to read further.

We can’t risk that in our business.

Back in the day

I started in newspapers. When I enrolled in college (go Buckeyes), I thought I would become a reporter. I liked gathering facts and arranging them in readable form. I thought I had some writing flair and a good vocabulary. But my first internship was as a copy editor at The Detroit News, and I loved it.

Back in the glory days, even small newspapers had a staff of copy editors (generally five to 10) who were arrayed around a rim of desks. Each would edit a reporter’s story and write a headline for it, then move on to the next one. The stories went to a slot person, generally the best copy editor, who sat in the center of the rim. He or she would do a final read, tweak and send the stories to the composing room to be set on the page. Then we would proof the pages. This process hardly varied when we went from hard type to computers.

Now, of course, newspapers are struggling, and copy desks were the first to go. There was always a bit of a rivalry, or at least a little tension, between copy editors and reporters, some of whom resented any fiddling with their copy (for many of the reasons cited above). Today, reporters are often in charge of editing their own stories, and anyone who thinks that’s a solution should take a look at their news sites and see the typos and lazy headlines.

Set adrift

As an editor, working as a team is ideal – nothing gets through that net! But most of us work singly now, and we carry the anxiety of knowing that we are the last filter – if an error gets past us, it’s out in the world for someone else to catch. And people who like to point out your mistakes are generally not at all collegial.

I am a writer as well as an editor. I love someone to read my stuff, correct mistakes (yes, I make them too) and offer suggestions. There’s a fellow I turn to here when he’s not too busy. If he can’t, I run it by my husband, who ­– as a former newspaper editor – has a keen eye. And he never blinks.

I’m not asking you to hug your editor. Just realize that he or she is really working on your behalf. I’ve got a good crew here who always say “thank you.” One even calls me her work mom, which I take as a compliment – because just like a mother, I want you to look your best.

 

Yep, It’s Still All About Whom You Know

By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern

In just six short months I will be graduating alongside, give or take, 1.6 million undergraduate students attending colleges and universities across the United States. That’s an overall 9 percent increase since 2005 and an incredibly terrifying number of Millennial 20-somethings… but The Institution of Education Sciences says that having some form of a degree in higher education does show a higher percentage of employment than those without. Well, that’s fantastic! The question is: Are all 1.6 million of us going to find one of those jobs? To answer that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that those with a college degree only have an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent. That’s 10 points lower than those without a degree. OK, I’m starting to like the odds a little better now.

“So I am about to graduate with a degree. Still, with all of these other college grads, how the heck am I supposed to separate myself with a simple resume and cover letter?” Thanks for asking. While I am merely a college senior, I have to tell you, a big piece to this puzzle is networking.

First, we have to be honest with ourselves and ask a few questions. Have you been going to the career fairs at your school? Have you contacted your school about alumni in the field you’re interested in? Have you had any internships? All of these are opportunities to meet more professionals to expand your network and networking are an absolute game changer in terms of finding a job after graduation.

Let’s talk about what networking is not. Networking is not adding more friends or followers on your personal social media. Kudos to you if you get 300 plus likes on an Instagram photo, but that isn’t really helping your cause in finding a job.

Networking is not just handing out your resume or business card and hoping to hear back. You can do the same thing online and will probably have the same negative outcome.

Networking is not only meeting professionals so they can give you a job. Entrepreneur magazine says that networking is how you as an individual can add more value to more people in a shorter amount of time. If you’re trying to network for any other reason, you’re missing the point.

Networking is about building positive and influential relationships. Opportunities arise from these; that’s the real trick. The more impactful professional relationships you have, the more likely your name may come up for a job opportunity. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re looking for.

So, get out there. Join the national society or organization of the industry you’re interested in, attend a career fair, find an internship, or just grab coffee with someone. Do everything you can to meet more professionals for the right reason. Show them that the relationship is a two-way street and you’re not just poaching them for a potential job. It may take some time, but the right opportunity will come your way.

 

Intern Spotlight: Ethan Thomas

INTERN SPOTLIGHT

Name: Ethan Thomas
Internship title: Communications Management Assistant

Why did you choose Hirons & Company for an internship?

My original intention of choosing Hirons lies in the Business Program at Butler University, where I am currently a senior studying Marketing and Strategic Communications. Go Dawgs! Butler’s College of Business requires each student to complete two internships during their junior or senior years to graduate. While an internship is required, I wanted to participate in one that would reflect an environment I would like to enter after I graduate, cater toward what I was studying and would push me to produce my best work. After doing a little research on Indianapolis companies that had a strong presence in advertising and public relations, it was a no-brainer that Hirons was the place I wanted to be.

What do you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I have several goals for my time at Hirons. First, I want to learn as much as I possibly can about advertising and public relations. At Hirons, you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent and influential members of both fields, and I want to take every opportunity I can get to learn more. Next, I want to walk away with tangible projects that I have had a direct impact on. This is something most internships don’t offer, and Hirons separates itself from its peers by offering this to its interns. Finally, I want to embody Hirons culture to be bold, and always outthink, outwork and outperform with everything I do.

What kind of work-related experience do you bring to us?

I have been lucky enough to have previously work at three different internships throughout my college career. From these opportunities, I have gained valuable knowledge, experience and exposure to marketing research, marketing analytics, event planning, digital marketing, organizational behavior and management, and strategic planning through execution based on client needs.

What kind of life experience do you bring to us?

College is not always about class. I am proud of the organizations I am a part of and I believe they help me bring something different to the table at Hirons. As a sophomore, I was the president of the Men’s Volleyball Club sports team. My junior year, I held the Social Chairman position for my fraternity and as a senior, I currently sit on the executive committee for my fraternity. These roles have all impacted me in ways that have helped me grow to become a better leader and follower.

What are your first impressions of Hirons?

Through the hiring process and after my first few days in the office, I have to say Hirons is one fantastic place. After spending a good amount of time in a cubicle, the open concept layout of the office is very refreshing. Everyone is also extremely friendly and willing to explain exactly what they’re working on. As a new intern, I strongly appreciate it. Hirons has that perfect balance of working hard and having a lot of fun. That’s a rare thing to find and I’m very happy and thankful to be a part of it.

Fun facts about yourself:

Standing at roughly 6’5”, many assume I was or am a basketball or football player. There have been a few strange instances where I have been downtown during the NFL Combine and was mistaken for a rookie. In reality, I was actually a volleyball player back at my high school in Oak Park, IL (Fun fact, it’s the same town Ernest Hemingway grew up in.) I almost decided to play volleyball in college. The biggest issue was that academics were not at the forefront of any of the schools I would have attended. Also, there isn’t the glitz and glamour of a potential professional career playing the sport in the states. Thankfully for the better judgment of my family and friends, I stuck to the student route and am much happier just talking about my volleyball glory days.

Take Your Dog to Work (Every) Day

By Marissa Jansen, Communications Management Assistant

Tell me: what’s better than walking through your front door after a bad day at work only to be greeted by the one and only companion who makes a bad day better? No, I’m not talking about your child, roommate or spouse, I’m talking about your beloved canine friend.

Dogs are quite possibly the happiest and most consistent companions in our lives. Without question, they will always be glad to see you regardless of your gloomy mood after a long day at the office. Imagine if they were with you throughout the day, constantly wagging their tail, cuddling at your feet and awarding you the title of “Most Popular Employee of the Week.”

This past Friday, June 26th, marked the 17th annual event, Take Your Dog to Work Day. This day was created by Pet Sitters International (PSI) to celebrate these wonderful companions while also promoting their adoptions. Though “Dog” is implemented in the title of this special day, PSI doesn’t discriminate against other animals—the week prior was Take Your Pet to Work Week. From birds to bunnies and cats to clown fish, an estimated 10,000 companies nation-wide have participated—you can bet Hirons was one of them!

It’s no secret that there are many positive aspects to having pets around the office. If not for the many studies conducted testing the benefits of their presence, than the increasing number of offices creating a “pet friendly” workspace should give it away. There are even pet therapy organizations that volunteer their pups to improve the moods of people all over the country by taking them to nursing homes, hospitals, schools and more.

According to PetMD, reduced levels of stress, encouragement of longer work hours, and increased camaraderie are simply a few of the benefits we receive from having man’s best friend hanging around at work.

Although June 26th was celebrated as national Take Your Dog to Work day, here at Hirons, every day is take your dog to work day. Our office is very pet friendly—in fact, most days you can expect to see at least one adorable dog running around (shout-out to our regulars Hank, Maddie, Charlie and Matt Damon).

We find that whenever you hear the lively sound of dog tags jingling throughout the office, morale is higher, people are friendlier and overall, everyone’s in a better mood! So even though Take Your Dog to Work day only comes once a year, Hirons recommends you try to make it a regular occurrence because let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy seeing the furry faces of our fabulous canine friends?

 

Bike to Work Day

Are you tired of driving your car to work? Always getting caught at those pesky, red lights? Fed up with driving by yourself and having to listen to music alone? Well has Indy got a solution for you! This Friday, May 15 is Alternative Transportation Day, also known as “Bike to Work Day 2015,” hosted by INDYCOG! If one doesn’t have a bike though, Hirons also supports any of the following:

• Walking
• Carpooling
• Bus-ing
• Hover Boarding
• Hang Gliding
• Scooting
• Segway-ing
• Roller Skating
• Pogo Sticking
• Leap Frogging
• Canoeing
• Horseback riding
And anything else you can use as transportation.

Get from Point A to Point B the fun, green way! Visit indycog.org to find more information as well as bike routes near you.

Also, after working so darn hard all day, be sure to stop by the Tomlinson Tap Room for a happy hour fundraiser for INDYCOG.

Have a happy Friday and don’t forget to transport alternatively tomorrow!

Sustainability Matters at Hirons

By Luke Woody-Fehribach, Associate Art Director

Today marks the one-week anniversary of the 45th Earth Day. This time last week, people were being very conscious about what they drank, how they got to work, what they threw away and what they recycled. SnapChat had an Earth Day story, Google had a quiz and #EarthDay2015 was trending everywhere else. People were consciously caring for the earth.

But what about today? Yeah, people are still caring for the earth, but how many? The earth is precious to us but so often we get caught up in what we’re doing, using and buying and we don’t seem to bat an eye when we toss away a single sticky note into the trashcan. Small actions can make a big difference. One sticky note per person in offices all around the world adds up. I’m no mathematician, but I can figure that one out. It equals a lot. Like a lot, a lot. And here’s the kicker, that’s just a fraction of a fraction of the real problem. If one sticky note per person adds up, imagine what everything else we throw away adds up to. Not enough people are paying attention to what they can recycle and do for the earth.

At Hirons, we are actively doing our part to fight those gluttonous trashcans. Every desk and common area has a recycle bin. In every common area specifically, there are posters reminding employees to figure out if what they are about to throw away is actually recyclable or not. We have a white roof, which reflects the sun and reduces our energy costs. We have a green team, which creates office initiatives to make the office greener. We have a ToxDrop Recycling pick up every quarter, allowing employees to bring in their burnt out light bulbs, empty copier toners, dead batteries, and other miscellaneous electronic equipment that can no longer be used. A couple years back, we switched out 166 of our light bulbs with LED energy efficient light fixtures, some of which being motion sensor. Every month we promote and acknowledge our coworkers for being green. We’ve decreased our garbage by 10 cubic yards and added those 10 cubic yards to our recycling each month. And that’s all just the tip of the melting iceberg. Hirons is also on the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce Green Business Initiative.

Sustainability matters at Hirons and we don’t like to restrict tree hugging to one day out of the year. Every day is Earth Day!

Intern Spotlight: Kenyatta White

INTERN SPOTLIGHT Kenyatta-Photo

Name: Kenyatta White
School: Grantham University
Graduation Year: 2016
Major: Master of Business Administration
Internship title: New Business Assistant
Hobbies: Cooking, DIY projects and event planning

Duties at Hirons:
As a New Business Assistant, I provide account support for prospective clients, supporting the New Business Department in the day-to-day management of prospective accounts. Some of my responsibilities include drafting proposals and scopes of work, providing daily updates on new business and federal opportunities, and conducting secondary research.

Favorite part about interning at Hirons:
I love the staff interaction. We find any reason to celebrate one another, from birthdays to promotions and everything in between. Oh, and there’s always delicious food and snacks laying out the office and who doesn’t like food?

What have you learned during your time at Hirons? How does this opportunity relate to your career goals?
At Hirons, I’ve learned so much about strategic planning and execution in regards to the client’s needs. It’s awesome to see a scope of work first presented by the New Business Department turn into a full body of creative work. This internship opportunity is just what I needed to jump start my career in public relations. I think that my military discipline, along with the hands on experience I’m receiving here at Hirons, will be a great asset in pursuing my PR goals.

Most difficult aspect of the job:
There isn’t really anything at Hirons I find too difficult. However, as an U.S Army Veteran, I think that a change in work culture can be challenging in general. Transitioning from a military environment to pursue a career in a corporate one can sometimes take some getting used to.

Fun facts about yourself:
• I’m a self-proclaimed foodie.
• I’m a hair product junkie (the first step is admitting that you have a problem).
• I also really don’t like camping – the Army ruined that for me. Oh yeah, I’m a U.S. Army Veteran.

Why Agency Life is the Best Life

By Blair Mulzer, Account Coordinator

As my one-year anniversary at Hirons draws near, I have begun to think back on the past year and all its significances. It’s been a period of many firsts for me – my first year out of college, married, living on my own and in a new town and working in my chosen career.

One of the most noteworthy realization’s I’ve come to is how much more I have learned about public relations in the past 10 months at Hirons than in my four years at college. Looking back, I know I made the right decision to start my PR career working at a PR agency versus in-house.

I’ve heard it said that the experience and knowledge gained from working three years at an agency is equivalent to working several years at a company. In view of this past year, this rings true. While at Hirons, I have been exposed to a wide variety of clients, brands, strategies and people and I believe there is a tremendous breadth and depth of experiences to be gained working at an agency. Let me share with you some of the reasons why I believe agency life is the best life.

1. When starting out in your career, it is ESSENTIAL to have career mentors. I have friends who are the sole marketing, PR or communications person at their company – that’s great, if you know it all, but if you are just starting out how will you learn best practices?

The senior account managers here at Hirons are awesome. They have been a great resource for helping me think through the best strategies for different projects and campaigns, how to work and talk with clients, how to better write for various mediums like video and radio scripts, speeches, new business proposals, specialized pitches, PR and communication plans, etc. and more. If I ever have feel an inkling of doubt or have a question, I am positive that someone here has the answer for me…

2. And not just an answer, but the BEST answer. Another great aspect of working with an agency is that you’re working with a team. I have some bad ideas and I have some great ideas, but on my own I am quite limited. However, when working with a team the possibilities are endless. Every account has a manager, a coordinator or two, and a creative designer. We joke that teamwork makes the dream work, but in all seriousness it takes a team to carry out all the details of a successful campaign.

3. Want experience planning and executing a press conference? How about staging a photo shoot or video shoot? Maybe take part in a branding workshop or facilitate a focus group? Participating in these opportunities and others are always made available to staff who want to gain new experiences. It’s great because my clients’ current projects and campaigns don’t limit me from gaining new experiences. We are always welcome to lend a hand on other projects.

4. It never gets old. I love that every week, month and year looks different for me. With having a variety of clients, I get to think and work in many different ways. One day I’m focusing on B2B messaging and strategy for a company in the UK and the next I’m working on public outreach for youth in Indianapolis. My exposure isn’t constrained to one industry or location, I get pulled in many different directions, making me a more well-rounded person, and eventually, ace of the trade.

5. Lastly, you know way more than you think. Because I am often moving at a hundred miles an hour, I often forget how much I’ve really accomplished and learned in such a short amount of time. I cannot tell you how many press release I’ve written, media phone call’s I’ve made, press events I’ve put on, hits I’ve obtained, or projects and campaigns I’ve initiated and completed in the past year. It’s crazy to think back on all that I have done just 10 months out of college – Oh, and with the help of an incredible team, won my first PRSA Pinnacle Award.

An in all, agency life is exhilarating, addicting, and incredibly rewarding. If you’re graduating soon or thinking about making a career change, I advise you to heavily consider working at an agency – especially Hirons.

From the Big Apple to Indy, How PR differs in the Markets

By Elizabeth Friendland

Throughout my decade of experience in advertising and public relations, I’ve worked in both New York (literally on Madison Avenue, a la Don Draper) and Indianapolis. The former always seems to impress clients and bosses, and is usually followed by a wide-eyes stare and a “So what’s it like?

Honestly? Working in the media capital of the world is a lot like working in good ‘ol Indy.

Clients are demanding. Deadlines are tight. The workday creeps into the nights and weekends. Account management and creative continue to disagree. Budgets run over. RFPs are both full of dread and excitement.

That’s not say there weren’t a few differences – but they might not all be what you’d expect.

1. Media relations didn’t get any easier.

Often, clients (and sometimes bosses) assume that by virtue of living in New York City, a PR professional is better equipped to know the right journalists (and therefore produce great placements). I’ve landed clients in the biggest outlets you can name, from The New York Times to Vogue to the Today Show — and it wasn’t because I had a 212 area code.

Rather, I got these placements through traditional research; I zeroed in on a contact (producer, reporter, booker) that I thought would be receptive, I contacted them with a super-targeted and personalized pitch regarding a truly compelling story, and I followed up.  Sure, occasionally I’d grab drinks or lunch with a writer, but that usually happened long after we solidified a working relationship through phone and email contact. I can assure you no one checked my zip code when deciding whether to run a story or not.

2. The industry environment was actually less competitive.

I’ve found that smaller markets, such as Indy, are actually much more competitive and cutthroat than larger markets like New York. In Indianapolis and other similarly sized cities, there are a limited number of clients that can afford the services of agencies; therefore, we’re all trying that much harder to vie for a smallish pool of business. For professionals, finding a job can be extremely tough – there are very few positions to go around, so agencies can be hyper-selective.

In New York, it seems nearly everyone works in or around the advertising industry, and jobs are plentiful. While it’s easier to get a foot in the door and obtain a job offer, the stakes are higher; there’s a seemingly endless supply of New York transplants waiting behind you to take the job you won’t (or can’t) do. While agencies in New York do have egos, it doesn’t feel as cutthroat as a small town; there’s plenty of business to pass around.

3. Clients took more risks.

Yes, it’s a cliché that Midwestern owned or based businesses are more conservative, but I’ve experienced this to be true. While few clients, regardless of geography, are flexible enough to totally run with any crazy idea an agency pitches its way, my New York clients seemed to have a larger capacity for risk. Perhaps this reflected a more liberal culture, or perhaps it was solely a business decision – to compete in a larger market, you sometimes have to be over-the-top to attract attention.

4. Salaries were inflated (but it didn’t help).

I remember sitting in the president’s office when she gave me graduate for my first big girl job offer. She asked what I wanted to be paid, and I told her a number nearly ten thousand more than I was making in Indianapolis as a receptionist/PR assistant. As I steadied myself for her shock and horror, she laughed and exclaimed, “Oh, we can do much better than that!” and then threw out a number more than double what I had been making. I had visions of myself living in a penthouse apartment, rolling around in a bathtub filled with dollar bills. I was rich!

That didn’t last long. The reality of New York City rent, utilities and elevated prices on everything from food to toilet paper set in, and within a month I was phoning home for cash infusions. While my salary would have placed me solidly in the upper middle class in Indianapolis, I was struggling to cover the very basics in New York.

5. The pace was unrelenting.

There’s a reason Sinatra sang, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” New York doesn’t hold your hand. I found myself in the office before 6 a.m. and heading home close to midnight. I’m not sure I took an actual lunch hour the entire time I worked there (but man, do I miss deli deliveries!). While my bosses and supervisors were all lovely people and supportive in their own way, there was not the kind of mothering or hand-holding that is truer to the Midwestern spirit. “Figure it out!” was the refrain I heard time and time again.