Lucky 7: My Favorite Tools of 2014

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert of any sort, nor is this a sponsored post. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move forward with the point of this post. With a contractor/marketing intern-ish position that started off the year and an epic tech PR internship to end the year, 2014 led me to discover new tools and apps that I figured might be useful to others too.

While some of these tools are newbies, some are oldies, but goodies. This is in no particular order.

1. Slack

It comes as no surprise that Slack has made the cut. Listed as no. 1 by Mashable in its 10 Startups to Watch in 2015 list, I definitely agree that it is one of the most useful communication tools. As someone who has used a variety of internal communication platforms including Lotus Notes messenger and Outlook messenger, Slack brings a bright and entertaining method to communicate. From its Giphy extension that allows me to pull up puppy gifs to share with the rest of the office to its breakdown of channels for each account to communicate internally x2 (communication inception), this is a tool that every SMB should consider. Did I also mention it has a really sleek-looking iOS app?

2. Cision

Cision is a PR classic that reigns over the indusry. When I’m building a media list, Cision is the tool I venture to first before hunting down a reporter’s information directly. For the most part, the contact information and beat of each reporter/analyst is up-to-date. While there is still a lot of room for growth, I believe that Cision’s recent acquision of UK-based Gorkana and Visible Technologies and merger with Vocus, the PR software world can only get better.

3. Box

I was a Dropbox girl –  was. The first sharing platform I ever used was Dropbox – both for my freelance PR projects and internships. However, this year, I’m convinced that Box is my new love. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m on a business account or if I just like the overall design better, but I just prefer Box now. Whenever there’s a project that requires a deck or a plansbook, I save a copy to my personal Box account for easy access anywhere. And of course, my professors also love holding office hours during times when I should be interning, which causes me to send the immediate Slack message of “WFH today.” Thanks to Box, I can access all necessary files from my personal computer and not be labeled as the flakey intern – whew!

4. Sprout Social

I’ve always been a HootSuite girl by default because it’s the only platform that’s been used at previous internships. However, Sprout Social is on par, if not better at times. Like HootSuite, it allows you to schedule Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and recently, LinkedIn posts for all clients. One of the best features, in my opinion, is the queue option, which chooses the best time to post for that account, based on previous post engagements/impressions. I’m also a huge fan of the analytics portion.

5. Feedly 

I’m constantly looking for new platforms to read news. The best part about Feedly is the ability to break up news into categories. I currently have a personal Feedly with groups for tech, PR/marketing, business and top tier publications for general news.

6. theSkimm

I started using theSkimm during spring of my sophomore year and I’m so glad they’re finally taking advantage of college campuses. My entire newsfeed has at least a handful of student ambassadors who are promoting the easy-to-read email newsletter that breaks down the latest news in jargon-free language. When I’m riding the West Campus bus from my apartment to a class, I’ll open up my email and skim through the newsletter.

7. Canva

Have you ever wanted to make a quick graphic, but you don’t have time to sit there and layer images on Photoshop or mess with the vectors on Illustrator? Canva is here to save the day! I sound like an informercial because it’s that easy. For those of us who only know the basics of the Creative Suite or don’t know it at all, Canva is a quick and easy tool to develop graphics for simple flyers, Facebook banners, Twitter cover photos, and much more. The best part? They have already sized the image for you and most of the graphics to drag and drop are free. The ones that aren’t free are generally only $1. Woo!

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Intersections: Why I chose a full-time consulting job.

I am a public relations major. I have never held a consulting internship. How does a public relations major end up accepting a full-time offer with a huge consulting firm?

You can ask anyone around me and they’ll tell you that being around me made them more nervous about the job hunt than they probably needed to be. Even while I was finishing up my internship with Amazon this summer, I was already reaching out to potential companies I could see myself working for. I started writing down what I wanted in a company culture, what benefits I needed, a salary range that was livable for the areas I wanted to move to, and the skills I could bring to the table.

I set up coffee meetings, drove to Silicon Valley and San Francisco tech companies to meet recruiters for coffee – I just wanted to know what I was getting myself into. I knew I wanted to pursue the tech industry, but I didn’t know when to apply or how to throw myself in for consideration. Never once did consulting actually cross my mind. I kept looking for “marketing specialist” or “public relations associate” positions.

Then, the school year started and job postings started to roll in the on the college career services website. I applied to anything I could get my hands on. I saw a posting for a full-time management consultant. I figured it couldn’t hurt to look. I read through the description and realized I had the skills listed. While it didn’t have the marketing/PR title I thought I wanted, it had what I wanted as far as development.

After long rounds of interviews, meet and greets, and “researching” my interviewers on LinkedIn – I got an offer. So now what?

I would be blantantly lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – I’m incredibly nervous, scared out of my mind actually. There’s a part of me that still wonders if this is the right decision. Am I giving up the dream of eventually becoming a product marketing manager of an enterprise software company? Not entirely. Because my goal from the moment I started college was always to work with tech companies to some capacity and apply the skills I had as a non-technical within the technical word.

From the age of 18, I knew I wanted to play the role of being the intersection between technology and communication.

Upon utter panic of making the wrong decision, I spoke to my recruiter and found myself placed in the heart of technology – San Francisco, exactly where I wanted to be. Additionally, I discussed options on the types of projects. While there is no guarantee that I’ll be placed with my dream project, there’s a higher chance of communication, media and technology projects – woo!

The lesson of the story? Don’t confine yourself to what the title of a job. It sounds beyond cliche, but what I’ve learned from the job hunt is that the skills learned in one area can easily be applied to another.

To answer the question I’ll be asked throughout the holidays by my relatives: yes, I’m excited and terrified all at the same time, but I can’t wait for this new adventure.

Get Involved: PRSSA

As I sit here at my gate at the Austin-Bergstrom airport, waiting for my flight to my final PRSSA National Conference, I can’t help but look get a little sentimental. This will be my last national event with the organization that has impacted so much of my college career.

When I first stepped foot on the Forty Acres of The University of Texas at Austin, I had no idea what the hell public relations was. All I knew was that 1) I really liked to write, but concise writing 2) McCombs rejected me as a marketing major, so by default I was accepted into PR 3) I was determined to figure out what PR was.

So I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America – it sounded fancy enough, right?

Four years later, I’m President of the organization that gave so much to me when I was a deer-caught-in-headlights freshman. I’ve traveled to four different cities for conferences because of this organization. I know a smart PR/communication pre-professional from almost every state. Now, I can point on a cool city I want to visit and I can say, “I can crash on ____’s couch.”

I know this blog post might come across as nothing short of a shameless plug, but I’m so glad I’ve joined this organization. If you have the opportunity on your campus to join, please do. This year, UT PRSSA is restructuring our chapter to provide more resources, so members actually get their money’s worth. National writing opportunities, diverse types of PR/advertising agency tours, a strong mentorship program and as always, free food at as many events as possible.

While my next career move isn’t directly related to PR, I believe the skills I’ve learned through my classes, PRSSA and internships are still relevant.

The Other Minority: Asian Americans in Public Relations

photo: PRSSA

photo: PRSSA

Everyone in my family has either pursued engineering or the medical field to some capacity. And then there’s me: the public relations major, who “thank goodness chose to pursue the tech industry.”

As I entered my first lower-division public relations course, I couldn’t help but look around and notice that there were very few that looked like me. Yes, the classroom was about 95 percent female, but I couldn’t help but notice the low number of Asian Americans. I know that we should be color blind, but I couldn’t help it.

It’s almost a double standard. I have my purely Asian family asking, “what the hell is PR and why aren’t you pursuing engineering or medicine?” While the other half of the population says, “you’re Asian, you’ll be fine.”

But it’s not just my classrooms. As someone who has interned since her senior year of high school, there have been so many times where I have been the only Asian employee in the department or one of maybe five Asian American employees at most.

In 2013, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) established an initiative to increase diversity of in the field of public relations. However, I couldn’t help but notice the initiative targeted historically Black colleges and Hispanic Association of Colleges. As an advocate of the PRSA, I applaud them on their initiative, but I must acknowledge the red flag: where are the Asians?

At only 7.3 percent, Asian Americans are the lowest percentage of minorities in the field of public relations. So why hasn’t anything been done about this? As an Asian American in the field of public relations, I’m distraught that we still have not hit the double digits.

Nearly 15 million Asian Americans account for a segment of the U.S. population, representing about 5 percent of all Americans. That figure is expected to increase to nine percent by 2050. It’s estimated that by 2017, Asian Americans will have a purchasing power of $1.1 trillion, due to having higher incomes than other racial minority groups. So why, with so much potential, do we not motivate those who understand the Asian American market the best, to pursue the industry? In my personal opinion, it starts at a very young age with awareness of the existence of the field.

When I applied to college, I can honestly say I had no idea what public relations was or what the career path even entailed. No one told me about PR. Hell, even some job applications that have a list of majors don’t list PR as an option. If we want to see numbers grow, we need to start at a young age. In recent years, the promotion of STEM at a young age has increased significantly. I propose that a similar framework be used when promoting the field of public relations.

I’m not saying STEM is bad. STEM works in conjunction with my career objectives, so of course I support it. But for those who are strong writers and communicators, expose them to public relations as an option. This might not immediately increase the percentage, but it’s a start.

And then there’s the American Dream Factor. To the best of my understanding, one of the main components of achieving the Dream is financial stability. Let’s admit it, entry-level PR salary isn’t high at all. Actually, it’s quite low considering it’s basically a 24/7 job. So when I expressed the starting salary to my family, there was a slight look of concern. I’m entering an industry where you better love what you do because the pay isn’t why you’re doing it.

But to me, the American Dream should be focused on giving back to my parents, who sacrificed so much so I could have the life I currently live. I might not be able to buy them a house upon graduation, help pay for my brother’s college degree or anything that has a large price tag immediately. I can, however, try to give them the moon and back later down the line.

The number of Asian American public relations practitioners is low, but there is great potential in the coming years for it to increase, but there needs to be an understanding from the Asian American community that PR is a legitimate field to pursue and the American Dream isn’t lost if it is pursued.

The Omnicom & Publicis Merger and PR

Image: AdAge

Over the weekend, Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe, two advertising giants, announced a “merger of equals” to become a $23 billion organization, making it the largest advertising holding company in the world. To some, this is just news to skim through, but for my advertising/PR-crazed friends and me, it was news worth reading in depth. Although it affects more advertising agencies, a few PR firms were also swept into the merger. Some of which I fondly, including FleishmanHillard and Porter Novelli – both have Austin offices.

After reading my fair share of articles, tweets and shares, I’ve come to the conclusion that this merger is overall a positive for the industry. Two giants with a variety of clients coming under one roof to become a powerhouse was a smart move that could potentially empower growth and new techniques across agencies.

Unfortunately, not all are too content with the merger. The newly combined holding company  will result in corporate brands Pepsi and Coca-Cola to be under the same roof. However, smaller companies within the organization will be able to have a wider reach and claim more clients.

From a PR stand-point, PR agencies are not affected as much as advertising agencies. However, the lines are already so blurred between advertising and PR, the course of action for the merger will result in an increase of combining of both paid and earned media.

Whether you’re a fan of the merger or not, you have to admit that this is a landmark event for the advertising and PR industry. An event that not only dethrones WPP’s dominance in the industry, but also creates the potential for continued expansion of diversity and reach.

Dear Out-of-Town Interns

Dear Out-of-Town Interns,

I don’t think you understand just how much of a positive impact you have made on my summer. Whether we worked at the same company or met through during the Austin Area Picnic, I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to have met you. You are amazing, yes, you.

The 40+ hours I spent working this summer didn’t seem so bad because the lunch breaks laughing with you made them worth coming to the office. The weekends spent exploring the great city of Austin with you made me realize once again why I love this city so much. The road trips, long car rides, endless amounts of food consumed – I wouldn’t have enjoyed each moment if it weren’t for you.

When you all leave, one by one, within the next few weeks or even next week, just know that I won’t forget. Thanks to the modern source of social media, I can actually follow your lives – in a not creepy way of course. Let’s keep in touch. Let me crash on your couch when I finally save up enough to travel around the country or better yet, the world, consistently. You’ll always have a place to stay when you’re visiting Austin – as long as you give me a heads up.

Out-of-town interns, thank you for making my summer memorable.

With greatest regards,

Vi

The source of my obsession.

At some point in every internship, every mentor, manager and colleague always sits me down for coffee and asks, “what made you choose technology over every industry?” That’s the part where I cue the shortened version of my very cheesy story.

When I was applying to colleges, I didn’t fully understand what I wanted to major in; all I knew was that science wasn’t my forte and that I liked communicating with people. Come senior year, I enrolled in a professional internship program course and found myself listening to a variety of speakers across several industries. One in particular stood out to me. He was a systems engineer for Cisco who had immigrated to America and achieved what many would classify as “the American dream.” After he spoke, I emailed him and thanked him for the opportunity to listen to him and then he offered me something that would define my career goals: a tour of the Cisco campus.

When I ventured to Cisco, I knew the fellow interns who toured with me were all engineering or computer science – I was be sole marketing kid. I looked around at all the products, became mesmerized by the equipment and admired the engineers who spoke technical terms in such an eloquent manner. In that moment, I knew what realm of PR and marketing I wanted to pursue.

As I’ve said a million times before and I’ll say it again, I’m perfectly happy with my decision to enter the technology and engineering industry. I don’t know if the systems engineer knew how much of an impact that one tour had on my career goals, but he did and for that, I am forever grateful.

Instagram’s Video Feature Could Be Its Advertising Downfall

Image: ABC News

Recently, Facebook announced that one of its new improvements for Instagram would be the addition of a video function. The video update would allow users to film a 15 second video with what I would like to call a “hipster filter.” Yesterday, the mobile app update became available on both iPhone and Android devices. Naturally, I downloaded it.

I have yet to film using this new feature, but my Instagram feed immediately began filling up with random videos. I like to think Facebook mainly did this to compete against Twitter’s Vine. A while ago, Twitter announced that Vine would become available for Android users via the Goolge Playstore. Within the first few days, Vine received more downloads than Instagram. My theory is that most Android users already had the Instagram app and were curious to try out the newly added Vine app, not necessarily because it’s a better app – they’re both good for different reasons.

I’m sure Facebook has had the video function in the works long before the addition of the Vine Android app, but its release date might prove to be a factor for downfall. The Vine app allows brands to showcase their company in a creative gif-like manner within the span of six seconds. Instagram video, on the other hand, allows a 15 second video. Now, when I initially saw this time frame, I thought it would be incredibly difficult for brands to think of a creative way to use it. Brands have been transitioning towards a more concise, outside of the box advertising, how could they possibly fill a whole 15 seconds?

After having coffee with a social media coordinator this morning, we both realized that 15 seconds is about the same duration as your average television ad. So, my question is, how will Instagram regulate the free ad time corporate Instagrams will begin to use? Will Instagram begin charging for video advertisements? How would they even regulate ads?

What initially seemed like a cool update for regular users will surely cause some advertising punches to Instagram corporate. Brands, on the other hand, will most likely rejoice for the free advertising outlet they can explore. But this also means that brands have to start generating their creative juices again because users are Instgram are not going to appreciate watching the same 15 second TV ad while they browse through the sea of food porn and outfits of the day.

Confinement Isn’t An Option.

I’m closing in on the one month mark of my summer internship and the initial skepticism has blossomed into pure excitement. I have reached a point where I understand 99 percent of the projects I’m doing, the products the company designs and am comfortable with the people and culture. This summer just might have the potential to go down into the books as one of the best summers I’ve had.

I honestly think that part of my happiness from this job not only has to do with the supervisors I’m working with, but also because of the interns I have met. Like I mentioned in a previous post, there are 225 interns from 60 different universities. This huge number seemed intimidating at first glance, but now that I have actually gotten to know a fair number of them, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the best part about  being a marketing and communications intern in the sea of engineering interns is the massive amount of information I’m learning. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I want to work with engineers after I graduate and what better way to prepare for the future than immersing myself in a sea of future engineering professionals?

After two weeks of lunching with engineering interns because none of the marketing and communications interns were at the office, I reached a point where I was learning about each department of the company through the hands-on work the technical interns were doing. By the time I finally started the simplified version of product training, I already knew the majority of the information presented and I wasn’t lost during the course. Shout out to all the hardware/software interns that talked to me about their projects because I believe everything you’re doing is fantastic.

What I have learned within the past few weeks is that confining myself in my comfort bubble would have restricted me from the potential of this internship. I’m meeting people who process information different that come from different parts of the state, country, and globe. The melting pot of views will be the main source of why I enjoy this internship as much as I do. I may be receiving the lowest hourly wage I’ve ever had at an internship aside from the unpaid ones I did in high school, but the experience is definitely making up for it.

So, to all the marketing, business, and communications interns out there who are interning in-house this summer, go mingle with the other departments – you won’t regret it.

Marketing Princess + Reality Engineer

As I am sifting through my emails from companies and reading all my usual publications, I can’t help but notice that there is a constant push for more STEM programs and an emphasis on increasing the number of candidates for degrees in engineering/science programs. As much as I support this push and lord knows our society needs it, I can’t help but wonder if my focus in the technology industry has gone unnoticed. I am not majoring in engineering or any science, unless you count that computer science minor of mine, but that’s another story.

As you know by now, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in public relations. While the majority of my peers tend to steer towards the path of the “glamorous” side of PR, I chose a different route. I am a strong advocate of engineers and the technologies they create. My mind wasn’t built to create the same technologies, but my goodness I want to be a part of it. Which brings me to my main point: students in marketing, communications, PR and any other similar major should consider the technology industry.

At times, I have felt that my classes have focused solely on acquiring a position in large PR/advertising agencies to a degree that the in-house opportunities go unnoticed. Or better yet, sometimes classes focus more on the “cool” industries such as fashion and entertainment. Can I be a marketing princess and a nerd too? I geek out so much when it comes to the latest products and software innovations. The technology industry is quickly growing and so is the world of public relations, so why not pursue both?

I like to think that the electrical engineers design the software, but I’m the reaility engineer that promotes it to the consumers, so that the market knows just how amazing it is and why it is a relevant part of daily life.