The Power of Mentorship

At a thinkLA sponsored event, advertising professional Lisa Tanner expressed the importance of finding a mentor in the beginning stages of your career.

Mentors not only offer a wealth of knowledge pertaining to their own career path, but can also offer feedback and perspective on projects you are currently working on. A mentor can help you reach decisions, think outside of the box, establish goals and, ultimately, develop your skills.

Before finding a mentor, you should identify your personality type, skill-set, weaknesses and long-term career goals. Once you determine these things, finding someone who is the right fit and whose goals align with yours will be easier. This may be someone who has a career path that interests you, or someone who has similar lifelong objectives.

It is also beneficial to find a mentor who has a parallel skill-set to your own. This way, you can recognize if the career you have in mind is an appropriate fit. To receive the full benefits of the mentorship, shadowing your mentor can help you identify ways to effectively communicate and prioritize, ultimately leading to more success in your current position and beyond.

When you land yourself a dream position due to your mentor’s guidance, don’t forget to share the love! Engaging in a mentorship is mutually beneficial. A mentee can help you reinvigorate your passion for your career and provide fresh takes on how to do what you have done for years.

The Importance of Continuing Professional Development

After graduating college, we assume the remainder of our education will take place in the office, which in a sense holds true. However, working in the same environment, with the same people, doing similar tasks day after day, month after month, hardly yields consistent growth. Instead, it can create a plateau in our development. When this happens, we need something to re-inspire and remind us why we chose our careers. That’s where continuing professional development comes in. It’s a vital tool to help us stay on top of trends in our field and continuously refine our skills. Whether we lose touch with proper grammar skills or need to learn up-and-coming social media marketing techniques, we must stay ahead of the curve.

You can continue your professional development in a number of ways. Whether you listen to a competitor’s webinar, attend a conference on emerging trends, or enroll in a foundational writing course, it’s important to continue learning and shaping the way you do business. It can be very simple to find a relevant course online or at a local college. However, finding the right conference or webinar may take some work. If you find an organization that hosts several events a year, such as thinkLA, you can join an email list for alerts on opportunities that may be a good fit for your needs.

It’s understood that we are all busy, all the time. However, carving out a few hours a week or even a month for development is essential to your career growth. Aside from the personal benefits that regular professional development can offer you—like expanding your network and broadening your skills—your employer will likely see this as a commitment to the company’s success, potentially leading to a promotion or raise.

Professional development, when paying out of your own pocket, can be expensive and may not seem like it’s worth the cost; however, you might be surprised by what your employer is willing to contribute to your personal success. Many organizations also offer scholarships. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Ultimately, our career can be like a hamster wheel: we continue to rotate, only focusing on what is directly before us. It’s easy to fall into a routine and forget that there are always fresher, more innovative ways of doing things. Being open to these new processes and tools is essential for improving our performance. Taking a step out of our career comfort zone can make all the difference.

Understanding the “New” Newswire

Garnering the attention of media has only become more difficult with the advent of social media and other platforms where journalists are increasingly getting their news. Getting a news outlet to see your press release has become significantly harder, due in large part to newswires.

Newswires, such as PR Newswire and Business Wire are still valuable distribution vehicles for press releases, but the way journalists interact with wires has changed significantly. According to a recent survey of 80 U.K. journalists, they responded with the following:

What do you use newswires for? 78% said they use newswires for news stories, 56% use it for article and feature ideas and 56% use it for monitoring industry trends.
Which newswires do you find most valuable? 54% cited PR Newswire, followed by Press Association (38%), SourceWire (37%) and lastly, Business Wire (34%).
How often do you use newswires? 37% said daily, 30% said occasionally, 21% said never.

Some survey respondents had a negative view on the mass distribution systems saying that they benefit from exclusivity and the wire poses a problem because everyone is getting the same source, or the same press release. They also said that most of the wires are not comprehensive enough and don’t provide accurate targeting, so they end up with a bunch of material they have no use for.

In the end, the journalists say the best way to target them is to not only follow them on social media, but to understand what they cover and to align your content or press release with their beat.

Gender Quotas: The Affirmative Action of the Corporate World?

Women make up more than 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, earn nearly 60 percent of undergraduate and master’s degrees and hold 52 percent of all professional-level jobs. However, in 2014, the percentage of women holding leadership positions was shockingly low. Only 4.6 percent served as a Fortune 500 CEO, 14.6 percent held an executive officer position and 8.1 percent could be classified as a “top earner.” It’s no secret that gender inequality and bias in the corporate world has been a long-standing issue, not only in the U.S., but internationally as well. European countries have set “targets” within a certain time frame that large companies must meet regarding the number of women in leadership positions. Other countries, such as Norway, Spain, France, Iceland, Italy and most recently Germany, have required companies to fill a gender “quota” or face consequences.

Will either of these tactics work, or make their way to the U.S.?

Gender quotas have received their share of opposition. Some women argue that they want to be appointed to an executive role based on merit alone. Additionally, women believe they might not be viewed as a legitimate equal to their business peers.

One thing to bear in mind is our perception of the working world, which typically includes a surplus of men, primarily Caucasian, sitting around the boardroom, with all the power in their diverse-less hands. Perhaps initiating a gender quota or even a gender “target” will change the way we look at women in the corporate sector and, ultimately, alter the dynamic of boardrooms nationwide. Some might even argue that these quotas will encourage women to unleash their aspirations and ambition, knowing that there is a fair chance of promotion.

Either way, gender inequality is becoming more recognizable and there is hope that we will see an increase in women taking on leadership roles. Speaking as a member of an all-women organization, I can vouch for the effectiveness of women leaders and can only hope that as a society we recognize the strength of diversity in the boardroom.

Cameras in the Courtroom: The Big Debate Addressed by David Lat

I attended “An Evening with David Lat”, an event that addressed Mr. Lat’s newly released novel, Supreme Ambitions, a fictional tale based on the rise of a California clerk who dreams of working for the U.S. Supreme Court. David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law, an award-winning legal blog that attracts more than 1 million unique visitors each month. During the event, Mr. Lat spoke in-depth about Supreme Ambitions. It made for very interesting discussion; however, the Q & A session at the end of the evening was the most stimulating.

One question that caught my attention was the controversial debate regarding the use of cameras in the courtroom. Mr. Lat’s response: Go for it!

Though the federal court system is largely against filming in courtrooms, all 50 states have permitted the use of cameras and recording equipment. It can be argued that a courtroom is no place for cameras and media because it destroys the sanctity of a long-lasting tradition, but Mr. Lat disagrees. He believes that having access to all trials would create greater transparency in the judicial system, which would serve as a means for educating the public on how trials actually work. Instead of relying on shows with largely fabricated versions of courtroom proceedings, like “How to Get Away with Murder”, we could tune in to a real-life trial.

On the other hand, there are many who worry about the protection of witnesses and juries during sensitive cases. Luckily, there are already solutions set in motion for this problem. Ted Poe, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, presided as a federal judge over many cases, many of which were highly sensitive. He established rules with the media beforehand regarding confidentiality and requested that no children, jury members or sensitive witnesses be filmed. Mr. Poe has received favorable remarks regarding camera use from the beginning, and has successfully aired an entire capital murder trial on Court TV.

Others might claim that individuals or groups with a secret agenda could disrupt the court with personal advancements. Mr. Lat believes this could be easily resolved with the use of greater security in courtrooms during high profile cases.

Whether we will soon be viewing federal court trials with the same ease we view “Law and Order” is unclear. However, the benefits seem to outweigh the disadvantages, and I would be surprised if federal courts did not budge on the matter. Stay tuned…

Getting Through the Gatekeeper: Tips for Garnering Attention for Your News Story

Every day news producers, general assignment managers and reporters drown in hundreds of emails as they actively seek the hottest stories to cover. To manage all these incoming stories, media outlets use a process known as editorial gatekeeping, where one person (known as a gatekeeper) is in charge of deeming a story worthy of news coverage. Getting past the dreaded gatekeeper of any media outlet can be difficult considering your news story is one of hundreds – or even thousands – that a news producer or editor will see.

At a breakfast panel hosted by the Public Relations Society of America – Los Angeles, top news producers, planning editors and writers from Los Angeles’ top broadcast and print outlets gathered to offer insight on how to win over editorial gatekeepers.

How do you ensure your story can shine amidst a sea of catchy subject lines? Below are a few tips to getting your news story seen in order to garner media coverage.

  • Keep it short. Most gatekeepers have the attention span of a gnat, which means your release or email will get about 3-5 seconds to sparkle.
  • Avoid attachments. You spent hours drafting a press release; don’t eliminate every chance of it being read by attaching it to your email. Paste the copy directly into the body and make the gatekeeper happy by saving his or her time.
  • Subject lines. Though we all think our story is pressing and must be seen, don’t put “Urgent” in the subject line unless it is, in fact, urgent. Doing so will only annoy the gatekeeper. Get straight to the point and be specific.
  • Tailor your message. By tailoring your story to the needs of the publication or station’s audience, you will save the gatekeeper from wondering why on earth the story was sent in the first place. Rather, show them how valuable it will be to their audience and ratings.
  • General assignment address. The panelists unanimously agreed that submitting your story via email is the best way to be seen. For broadcast stations you can nearly guarantee your email will be read if sent to the general assignment address, found on most online contact pages.
  • Follow up? The key to following up is to do so gently. Though a call is suitable for reporters at newspapers, a call is likely unnecessary for broadcast stations. Most gatekeepers will get back to you if interested, so remember to always include your name, email and phone number in the body of your email.

Follow these steps and, above all, keep in mind what you would want to see if you were a gatekeeper.

How to Keep Millennials Engaged in the Workplace

It should come as no surprise that the millennial generation – anyone born between 1980 and 2000 – is taking over the workforce. This being said, many companies are noticing the rapid turnover rate among this generation. You might ask: how can we prevent our younger employees from fleeing to the next and seemingly “better” opportunity? Fortunately, there are ways to keep your own millennials engaged and loyal.

  1. Prevent Boredom. Millennials have fast minds and are likely to lose interest in mundane tasks. Ensure that your millennials are consistently being challenged, and find creative ways to include them in company-wide responsibilities. For example, putting the fresh college graduate in charge of a volunteer project will create a sense of worth to the team and allow the individual to embrace the common millennial ideal that working for the greater good is what really counts. You might also find it beneficial to place your younger employees in charge of social media accounts, brand newsletters or other specialized avenues of your business.
  2. Show Appreciation. Studies have supported the idea that millennials need to hear praise even more frequently than those of previous generations. A great way to retain your younger staff is to express gratitude, as this will ensure that they are feeling valued. Not all employees need to frequently hear compliments; regardless, it’s important to acknowledge your team when you can and demonstrate that you are there for them. Use your creativity to come up with company-wide events or after-work activities to show your appreciation for their contributions.
  3. Stay Competitive in Your Field. It is no secret that paying a competitive salary will help retain employees from all age groups. Employees will seek out alternative positions if they feel they are underpaid. However, many millennials are also seeking freedom and flexibility in scheduling, device use and managerial interference. Straying from the typical 9-to-5, permitting cell phone use in the office and allowing your fresh minds to independently complete tasks through their own methods could increase employee satisfaction and retention.

Ultimately, by altering your workplace environment to accommodate the needs of your millennials, you will have a greater chance of retaining valued employees. This may be a difficult adjustment for some companies, but many would benefit from making a few small changes in order to stay up-to-date with the fastest growing generation in the workforce.

Remember: Follow Up

With everyone’s busy schedule, it is easy to forget about the small steps that really count when it comes to client relationships. One crucial mistake professionals sometimes make is forgetting to send follow-up emails to prospective clients, employers or even past clients.

Following up demonstrates that you truly care about the relationship and shows how tenacious you are willing to be for them. By simply sending a quick note to past or present clients in order to touch base, you are putting yourself in a position to receive more business and to secure mutually beneficial relationships that might not be possible without a follow up.

The follow-up can be as easy as a brief email or as complex as a personalized newsletter. No matter what way you choose, it is imperative that you stay organized to ensure proper follow-up interaction.

One tool that will help you remain current on follow-ups is enlisting the service of online programs like FollowUpThen.com or FollowUp.cc. These web tools allow you to add a follow-up reminder in the BCC section of an email that will automatically alert you the day of your next planned follow-up. For example, if you would like to follow up in three days, you would put 3days@followup.cc in the BCC section of your email or you can be as specific as 24july215pm@followupthen.com.

As far as follow-up content goes, here are a few tips on what to include in your email:

Personalized information on the recipient – tailor it to them
Research on the company the recipient works for
Insight into how the relationship could be mutually beneficial

By demonstrating how much you care about the potential client, employee, business partner or employer, you highlight one of your many fine qualities — tenacity.

Challenge yourself to send follow-ups and take notice of the outcome. You might be surprised by the pleasant response you receive from some of these contacts.

5 LinkedIn Tips for Lawyers and Law Firms

Most professionals view LinkedIn as a platform for connecting with people they’ve met or with whom they’ve done business. Imagine LinkedIn’s potential if used to the same degree and with the same regularity as other social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

For lawyers, the possibilities could be endless.

Instead of shying away from adding unfamiliar connections to your profile, consider expanding your network in new, creative ways. By engaging in expansion, you can increase your visibility among those who don’t already know you or your law firm. This also increases the likelihood of an individual endorsing your key strengths or recommending you or your law firm.

Below are some tips to maintain a strong presence on LinkedIn:

  • Embrace the opportunity to update your profile regularly. Make sure your headline is descriptive and compelling, explaining what kind of lawyer you are and your area of expertise.
  • Avoid unprofessional profile photos of you lounging on the beach. Save those for your personal Facebook account, where you can control the privacy levels of uploaded images. For consistency and branding purposes, it helps to use the same professional profile picture on all public social media accounts. It will be easier for others to recognize and remember you.
  • Use your profile to brand yourself and your firm. LinkedIn is a great marketing tool for law firms. It would be wise to select a high-resolution, color image of your firm’s logo or a professional shot of your firm’s team.
  • Do not forget to update any expertise your firm may possess. Be sure that current contact information is displayed clearly on your profile. This will allow any interested parties to reach you with ease.

Another LinkedIn tip lawyers may find exceptionally helpful is publishing content directly to your profile, similar to the way you would update a Facebook status or create a new tweet. Rather than linking new content to your page, publishing directly in your update box allows you to create a record of everything you’ve written. Make sure you share updates with everyone, not just your current connections. If your published content reaches enough connections in your network, LinkedIn Pulse will feature your legal update or law advice and extend it to other professionals using LinkedIn.

Lawyers, like most LinkedIn users, fail to use the networking site to its utmost potential. By captivating the 300 million professionals currently in the network, your law firm can harness LinkedIn’s potential by tapping into a larger audience and generating new inquiries, business and in-person meetings.

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