The Job Interview Isn’t Over Yet

A journalist by training and for a good part of my career, I always enjoy interviewing job candidates. But it’s a completely different story when it comes to job candidates following up with a thank you note, post-interview. Currently we’re interviewing for a position for a sister brand of PR News. About half of these candidates have followed up with an email or letter (a letter in the mail!!) thanking us for taking the time and expressing interest in joining our team. The other half? No word, except some have called in to see when we might be hiring them.

Follow-up: Is this an outdated notion? Has its time come and gone? Isn’t this Communications 101? Or Personal Branding 201? Maybe I should check my Twitter account to see if these thank-you notes are hiding there, within 140 characters.

It could be that these candidates just don’t want the job. But why burn bridges? Could be that they missed the etiquette class on writing thank you’s? Could be that they are taking good old-fashioned manners for granted?

For us, the job interview is not over until we see a thank-you note.

What are your experiences with interviewees and other colleagues following up after a meeting?

Thank you very much for listening and I look forward to hearing from you.

- Diane Schwartz

Walk the Line of Idiocy: A Sorry State in Media Relations

Last week, the multiple Oscar-nominated actor (now turned rapper????) Joaquin Phoenix made an appearance on The David Letterman Show that should go down in broadcast infamy as one of the worst (or best—depending on your point of view) interviews ever captured on television. The very hirsute and nearly unrecognizable Phoenix was presumably on the late-night gabfest to plug his just-opened film, Two Lovers, co-starring Oscar winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow and directed by James Gray (who had directed Phoenix in two other films, among them, We Own the Night).

Looking sullen and stoned, his eyes obscured by shades and his voice (when he deigned to offer Letterman more than monosyllabic replies) an inaudible croak, Phoenix made a sorry spectacle of himself; he also let down the members of the Two Lovers team that worked so hard on the film. (And yes, I’ll make a confession: I do know someone who worked on this project closely with the director so I have an extra-added emotional annoyance here).

Rumors/stories are afoot that Phoenix’s bff and brother-in-law Casey Affleck is currently filming a “mockumentary” documenting Phoenix’s dubious career trajectory from film actor to inept rap singer and that everything Phoenix is doing, including his stint on Letterman, is a put-up job, reminiscent of the shtick the late comedian Andy Kaufman used to do a generation ago.  But that’s irrelevant because he had a film to promote and judging by his appearance on the late night talk show, he didn’t do that.

Watching the Phoenix debacle unfold on TV made me wonder the following: Who is his publicist? How can he or she allow Phoenix in his current mental and physical condition (whether it’s concocted or not) to get on national TV looking and behaving like that? Seriously, if your client was Phoenix, would you allow him to get on a major broadcast outlet looking like the Unabomber? Are some entertainment/celebrity publicists so blinded by fame they forget their responsibilities and act like fawning sycophants, yessing these obviously troubled personalities to death, even if that entails the ruination of a career or a film? Honestly, I’m baffled as to HOW any true publicist could have allowed Phoenix to get on the Letterman show when he or she knew his prior state and how he would most likely behave. What do you think?

By Iris Dorbian

Is Bad News for Advertising Good News for PR?

This week, the heads of big advertising conglomerates like Omnicom and WPP confirmed what most of us already suspected: The ad outlook for the near future is incredibly grim. As the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, Omnicom President and CEO John Wren said, “We think the first nine months of this year are going to be difficult.”

Difficult might be an understatement, with expectations for the group’s revenue to fall more than 7% this year. The FT article also noted that the Publicis Groupe expects revenues to decline, and WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrel expects 2009 revenues to be flat.

But what does this mean for the PR agencies that fall under these behemoths’ umbrellas? Omnicom is the parent company of Fleishman-Hillard, WPP of Burson-Marsteller, Ogilvy and Hill & Knowlton, and Publicis of MS&L. In talking to many communications executives, I’ve heard that the dismal advertising outlook might mean good things for PR, especially as organizations shift dollars from marketing to efforts that do more to protect brands and bottom lines.  Agree or disagree? Why?

By Courtney Barnes

Awareness vs Branding

I recently interviewed Gil Bashe of Makovsky + Company on the pr news site and he said something that has stuck with me long after the interview (and that doesn’t always happen in journalism).  Asked to define branding, he noted: “Often people mistake branding with awareness. Awareness is fleeting. Like a fireplace – there’s fire as long as you’re feeding it logs. Branding is the ability to leave the family room and still feel the glow of the fire within.”

Think about that. Each of us is well aware (repeat: aware) of hundreds if not thousands of brands every day.  The relationship you have with those brands, however, is another issue completely.

For me, there are brands that evoke an emotional or intellectual tie related to making me happy or motivated, making me think or take action, and making me money (less so these days). They include (but are not limited to) Nordstrom, Apple, Real Simple magazine, American Diabetes Association, Diet Coke, Travelocity, the New York Times, the hospital in Baltimore that saved my mother’s life, the Montgomery County Animal Shelter back in my native Maryland. These and other brands stick with me long after my last experience/encounter with them and I will endorse them to friends and colleagues.

Most business magazines have their list of “top brands.” The metrics for these lists vary and are usually accurate in their own right.  What does it really mean, though, if people don’t have a connection to what you are selling or espousing?

Does your brand impact one of what Gil Bashe calls the four tenets of branding: intellectual, intuitive, emotional, value-based? If it doesn’t, start listening more closely to your customers and other stakeholders. If you have a strong brand, tell us about it here — and in particular how PR contributes to your branding efforts.

Or tell us about one brand other than yours that sticks with you every day.  Please, have a Diet Coke while you’re at it.

- Diane Schwartz

Rescue Me.

I was rescued today on the Metro North train line.  Rescued, at least, according to the train conductor.  Because the engine went kaput on my train, we were awaiting a new engine to be delivered and were assured that we’d be “rescued shortly” and I was thanked for my patience (along with hundreds of others). All of 9 minutes went by before the rescue came and we got off the train in Harlem to catch another train.  In the meantime, a half dozen of the passengers were making phone calls alerting their loved ones and bosses to the “rescue situation.”  Profanities were uttered and every minute or so the conductor would remind us of the rescue coming our way. There are some serious rescue situations going on in this world (ie the economy, for one, or the recently downed US Airways plane).

Must we use this word “rescue” (and others) so lightly and cause unnecessary fear and consternation? As communicators framing events and stories every day, let’s be sure to use the right words when explaining a situation or crisis, and to use our words sparingly and smartly.  (Of course, the conductor is not in PR — that’s not her job.)

So: are there certain words that get your goat — that are unnecessarily panic-driven when others words would have sufficed? Please share.

- Diane Schwartz

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