Reblog: March 6, 2012: #AskVan! Meet Todd Van Hoosear

March 5, 2012 at 1:42 PM (Happenings) (, , , , )

This post originally appeared on RaceTalk.

Almost a year ago, we hosted our first RaceTalk tweet-sourced interview with local Twitter legend @BostonTweet. The premise was simple: we asked him a few questions, then we asked him some of yours using the hashtag #AskBostonTweet. The results were definitely interesting (and perhaps a little amusing), to say the least. Now, we’re finally bringing it back: give it up for Todd Van Hoosear (@vanhoosear)!

In addition to loving underwater basket-weaving and moonlight walks on the beach (I don’t actually know if either of those are true), Todd wears several hats: Fresh Ground Principal; Society for New Communications Research Fellow; #BUNewMedia Adjunct Professor (Terrier pride!); Social Media Club Boston Founder (@SMCBoston); Launch Camp Organizer; Publicity Club of New England VP Social Media; TEDxSomerville Planner. And no, he doesn’t sleep, as far as I know.

Given his background, if I didn’t know any better, Todd knows a thing or two about social media, so of course I’ll be asking a couple questions about that. I will also be asking him about is favorite flavor of beef jerky. I will leave the rest up to you. Between now and Tuesday, March 6, tweet questions for Todd using the hashtag #AskVan – we like to keep it simple here – and at around 8:00 p.m. that day, we’re going to ask him as many of those questions as possible in front of a live studio audience. I mean his New Media & PR class at Boston University.

Got a question for @vanhoosear? Tweet using #AskVan between now and Tuesday night!

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If This Is Your Thank You Note, Don’t Bother Sending

December 29, 2011 at 6:49 PM (work) (, , , , )

I was digging through some old work Emails and found a thank you note from an entry-level candidate I interviewed a few months back. Give it a read and tell me the exact same note (with a few strategic substitutions, I imagine) has not gone to every other person who has ever interviewed her, ever:

Hi Brittany,

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. My interest in Racepoint Group is certainly solidified, and I am came away from our meeting knowing that the company would provide a great environment for me to utilize my skill sets while gaining a tremendous amount of experience. You provided me with a much better understanding about the agency, and I enjoyed learning more about the primary responsibilities of an account coordinator position. 

Best Regards,

[Named withheld out of pity]

Memorable? No. Cliché? Oh, yes. Terms I never want to see violating my inbox include “I came away” (or “I am came away,” whatever that means), “utilize” (ugh, it just sounds so dirty), and “best regards.”

At least my name was spelled properly, as was my company’s name, and I received the note within a reasonable amount of time following the interview (I received another thank-you for an unrelated interview more than a week after the fact, and it took me a while to pair a face with the name). However, neither spell check rectifies the fact that 1.) I have no idea what we talked about that may have been of interest, 2.) there wasn’t so much as a question or call to action that might encourage me to respond, and 3.) she actually sent the exact same Email to at least two more of my colleagues (we literally compared notes) – really?

We all know how lousy the job market is. Generic materials (résumé, cover letter, thank you note, et al.) aren’t going to catch anyone’s attention, and I think in PR, being genuine and memorable in your own unique – and workplace appropriate, I suppose – fashion is crucial in getting the vote of approval from your interviewers. I may be screening you for what I think is necessary to thrive in an agency environment, but more importantly, when I’m having a conversation with you, I’m deciding if you’re someone worthy of being called “my colleague.” Are you someone I can work with every day – not only professionally, but socially? Hint: a thank you note like the one posted above did not come from that someone.

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Ages Later . . . #AskBostonTweet Lives!

April 21, 2011 at 2:36 AM (Happenings) (, , , , , , , )

Remember that post I had stickied to my blog not too long ago, asking you very nicely to tweet your questions for @BostonTweet using the hashtag #AskBostonTweet? Well, you did tweet your questions, and Tom O’Keefe/ @BostonTweet was nice enough to to answer most of them – I would have asked all of them, but Twitter ate a couple.

The official video for RaceTalk is included below, but stay tuned for the director’s cuts, which will include bloopers (mostly me laughing hysterically and losing my place) and the questions that weren’t included on the agency blog. Enjoy!

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Now’s Your Chance to #AskBostonTweet

April 4, 2011 at 7:51 AM (Happenings) (, , , , , , )

I recently started writing for my agency‘s blog, RaceTalk. Following my first post not too long ago, I eagerly sent my mother a link to show her that yes, my college degree wasn’t going to waste. She Emailed me a short while later to say that she learned a lot from my post, and oh, by the way, she found a typo.

Thanks, Mom!

I haven’t been discouraged from contributing to RaceTalk, though. Rather, I figured I’d just work around my flawed typographical skills, and switch to a new media platform: video. Onto the meat of this post.

Many of you who read my blog are active on Twitter, or are at least familiar with it. Either way, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Tom O’Keefe, or more likely his Twitter persona, @BostonTweet.

BostonTweet was created […] as a way to create awareness for local business in a down economy.Got questions for @BostonTweet? Tweet 'em to #AskBostonTweet! Tom developed BostonTweet in November 2008 when the financial markets were at a precipitous decline and his two former startups had become worthless after the crash. Fearing that Boston would become a 1929 ghost town, O’Keefe created BostonTweet to make sure everyone knew that our favorite restaurants and bars were still open and needed our business for survival. Needing a very economical platform to promote local business, Twitter was hands down the best application to talk about everything Boston.
— Gotta love “About” pages, right?

Anyhoo, over the last couple of years, @BostonTweet has developed into somewhat of a hyper-local Twitterlebrity, with almost 30,000 folks following him on Twitter for updates on Boston goings-on, including special events, Boston city-living, food and drink deals, burritos, and his whereabouts. While we have oodles of social media gurus telling us how businesses can benefit from social media, we’ve got a guy in Boston who is demonstrating it before our very eyes.

Now, if you’re at all like me, you may have a couple of questions for this guy: how was the idea of @BostonTweet conceived (why not Facebook, or a blog or forum), and what made it take off the way it did? Can a man truly live on burritos and beer alone? What’s next for social media-fueled citizen journalism? And seriously, what’s with the burritos?

I have wonderful news for you: the man, myth and legend behind BostonTweet has agreed to a video interview (see, there was a point to the beginning of this post) on Thursday evening, April 7. Between now and then, tweet your questions for BostonTweet using the hashtag #AskBostonTweet. We’ll pick out a few gems to answer on Thursday evening, then post his answers to your questions – and a couple of mine – on Friday, April 8. Start tweeting!

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The Easiest Job Interview

September 18, 2010 at 10:51 PM (Happenings, Musings) (, , , )

Okay, that may be a poor choice of words: no interview (for a job you really want, at least) is easy, I think.  But there may be a way to make it significantly less painful, and it’s advice I’ve actually been hearing since Kindergarten: be yourself.

I know, cheesiest, most cliché piece of advice, ever, right?  But – wait!  No!  Don’t you dare navigate away to Facebook before finishing my post!  It’s relevant!  I promise!  Anyhoo, advice like that wouldn’t be cliché if it didn’t work, right?  For my evidence, I would like to present to you a brief case study: me.Brittany M Falconer PR social media Boston

A little over a week ago, I went in for an interview with Racepoint Group, a “global public relations agency defining the new model of communications through our unrivalled understanding of the evolution of traditional and social media” (shamelessly ripped from their About Us page).  To be accurate, though, the story doesn’t really begin there.  Let’s rewind a few months.  Six, to be more specific.

While I was away on my European vacation, I received a Twitter DM on my phone.  It was from someone with RPG (I won’t out you on my blog unless you want me to, but you know who you are, and I am so very thankful and insist that you let me buy you an adult beverage.):

Hi Brittany — hope all is well! I checked out your blog & thought it was great. R u still looking for something in PR?

If you think the job market is bad now, I’m pretty sure it was even worse, then.  Outrageous overseas internet fees be damned!  I sprinted to the ship’s library to respond immediately.  It was something to the tune of “Name your god and I will bow to him/ her if you can get me in to Racepoint,” only a little less desperate and crazed.  One vacation, many E-mails and a networking event later (read: three months), I finally had an interview scheduled with HR.  While they didn’t have any Account Coordinator (AC) positions open at the time, it was probably for the best.

As it turned out, my RPG appointment was less than a week after my Porter Novelli internship interview took place.  You may or may not recall that I got that internship, and looking back, I am so glad that I did.  Granted, I was glad then, but not as glad as I thought I would have been about a full-time job.  However, I’ve realised now that my experiences with PN could only have helped me get to where I am now.  Speaking of which . . .

After two wonderful months with PN, I learned that while everybody was happy with Brittany, there was no opportunity for Brittany to join the team full-time.  As devastated as I was, I knew I had to bust my derrieré if I didn’t want to go back to Starbucks at the end of September.  It was time to put the job search into overdrive.  I DMed, Facebook messaged, called and smoke signaled everyone I could imagine who might be able to put me in touch with someone of a hiring authority.  Eventually, through a series of grapevines, I found out that Racepoint was looking for an AC.  And now we’re back to last week.

Racepoint Group logo pr social mediaThis was my second interview at RPG (and my 8,000th interview overall), but something was very, very different this time: I wasn’t stressed.  That’s not to say I wasn’t nervous – I was probably about five seconds from passing out throughout the entire process – but my brain space wasn’t preoccupied with trying to remember every piece of agency trivia that my interviewers might hurl at me.  Instead, I remembered something my mentor had advised me to do before every interview, but I had never seriously considered: “Just be yourself.  Let your personality show.”  Each time he said it, I thought, “Thanks, not like I could have found that at Hallmark or anything,” but the guy had a solid point.

I’ve had enough experience with agencies to know what’s expected of me as an AC and that I can deliver on those expectations.  HR wouldn’t have invited me in more than once if I was a total ignoramus during my last visit.  What was more important was probably if I gelled with the rest of the office (or at least the other two people interviewing me).  Commence Operation Yes I’m Awesome And I’m Not Afraid To Show It.

What followed was one of only a few interviews that I’ve actually enjoyed (yep, I’m going to link to yet another old blog post).  I met with a director and VP, both of whom I focused on getting to know, versus asking the “right” questions and discussing “relevant” news.  I figured if I had to try so hard to get those other things right, maybe I wasn’t in the right agency in the first place.  That said, whenever posed with a question, I like to think I did an okay job of responding coherently and perhaps even intelligently, but my mentor had it right: anyone can have the skill-set for a job, but if somebody meets with an account team and nothing clicks, then perhaps that person, in spite of all qualifying experience, isn’t the right fit.  Skills can be taught.  Personality is an entity unto itself, and is much more difficult to tweak.

Eight days ago, HR called to share RPG’s verdict: yes, please join us.  My response?  A series of “Omigod!”s and generic, ecstatic blather, being the composed professional I am.  I think she got the idea, though.  My start date is fast approaching, and I’m still on cloud nine. To think that all I had to do was listen to my Kindergarten teacher!  And more recently, my mentor (okay, and maybe have a pretty substantial résumé).

Today’s Tunes
“Let Her Cry,” Hootie & The Blowfish
“One Week,” Barenaked Ladies
“Foreplay / Long Time,” Boston
“Hold My Hand,” Hootie & The Blowfish

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Something’s Off, Here

June 13, 2010 at 9:06 PM (Happenings, Musings, work) (, )

Last week, I had a job interview.  And enjoyed it.

. . . Right?

How on earth does that work out?  Aren’t interviews supposed to cut into the depths of your soul to expose your every weakness and leave you wondering why you should be considered for any kind of employment at all?  I don’t get it.  It wasn’t even a small-scale place.  This company is global, and yet I wasn’t quaking in my Nine Wests.

Maybe it’s a sign that we’re a perfect fit.  But still, an enjoyable interview??  My mind is blown.

Today’s Tunes
Only By the Night, Kings of Leon

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And I Thought I Was Done With Exams

April 27, 2010 at 2:51 AM (Musings, work) (, , )

Here I am, approaching my one-year anniversary of being out of school, and I’m studying – nay, cramming even – and it’s for a test more nerve-wracking than any exam I ever encountered while in school.

The job interview.interrogation chair no pressure

I’ve given presentations in school. I’ve sung in public.  I’ve dealt with crises during ballroom competitions with my name attached to them.  I’ve driven with my mom in the car.  I’ve wrestled with rabid boars (okay, maybe they weren’t necessarily rabid).  Nothing has made my palms sweat as much as convincing someone with the power to provide me with a salary to add me to payroll.

It’s not that I’m not a qualified candidate – or if I’m not, it’s not that I can’t learn the skills to be that candidate quickly enough.  It’s not even so much that there may be better qualified candidates.  It’s the quite feasible possibility that the interviewer is going to ask me something I can’t even pretend to answer.

“Oh, Brittany,” you try to assure me, “how likely do you think that actually is?”

Likely enough that it’s happened to me before, that’s how likely.  And to call it a humbling experience is an understatement.

Not too terribly long ago, I applied for a crisis management position.  I thought I had a pretty solid handle of things: I was familiar with the agency, I knew someone who worked there, and I seemed to be saying the right things more often than not . . . until the Toyota question.

For those of you who are like I once was and know absolutely nothing about the Toyota crisis, the company had several vehicle malfunctions, some of which were responsible for some fatal outcomes.  Aside from having to deal with a massive recall, Toyota failed to report crucial imperfections immediately to the public, and has seemingly only offered updates grudgingly.  In addition to bad products, Toyota also lagged in customer service during the recall.  A friend of mine told me about the gauntlet she ran through when her Toyota lease was one of the models recalled.  She wrapped up her tale by swearing she’d never buy or lease from Toyota again.

Anyhoo, back to my story that has since scarred me.  I was three people into my interview when my interviewer asked me point-blank, “So what are your thoughts on the Toyota crisis?”

Insert cricket noises and the eyes of a deer caught in headlights.  I was done.  She could have held a gun to my head and asked the same question and I wouldn’t be blogging right now.  There was nothing I could do but apologise and tell her that I knew nothing of it.  It was my own fault for not studying the industry as a whole as well as the agency itself.  While I don’t think my Toyota ignorance is what cost me the position, I’m sure it didn’t save me anything.

Tomorrow I’m interviewing for a much broader position, and I know that I can’t possibly learn everything taking place in the industry at current.  However, I’m covering as much as I can and keeping my fingers crossed with my chin up.

Tonight’s Tunes
Abbey Road, The Beatles

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She Shoots, She Misses . . . Score!

March 21, 2009 at 3:23 AM (Happenings, work) (, , )

Today I interviewed with Nestlé for a sales position.  Four hours later I received a phone call: “unfortunately,” I was not selected for the second round of interviews.  I was relieved.

Nestlé, although at a glance may have looked like an opportunity for me to work for Candyland, had no interest in PR majors.  The only interest that corporate giant had was in sales representatives.

For every geographic region in the country.

That’s right, readers: our poor blogger, had Nestlé deemed her worthy of sales, would have been mercilessly uprooted from her recently developed Boston nest and dropped anywhere between Seattle and Miami.  Recognising that I may not have any other options, I still went to the interview.  After all, something better can always turn up later, right?

Two recruiters sat me down in a small room with no windows and proceeded to subject me to the third degree.  “Why Nestlé?”  “Why sales?  You’re in PR, not sales.”  “What leadership experience do you have that’s not on your résumé?”  “What makes you so special that we should bother calling you?”  And then they dropped the bomb:

“Give me two of your strengths and two of your weaknesses.”

Ladies and gentleman, I despise that question and all its variants.  Every professor at BU from whom I’ve ever had the priviledge of learning has condemned that question to its very own circle of Hell.  Why spend time worrying about my weaknesses?  Why admit my weaknesses?  I’m trying to pitch myself as the perfect candidate.  The last thing I want to do is tell you why you wouldn’t want to hire me.  But I digress.

Perhaps they read it in my face and decided to drop me from the list of possibilities right there, because it was certainly the final straw for me.  I answered politely and finished the interview as best as a PR major could when applying for a sales job (after all, an interview is an interview is an interview, and I need all the practise I can get), but I left not much caring whether I received a phone call or not.

I didn’t consider the interview a waste of my time.  I went to Nestlé’s table during yesterday’s job fair having no expectations for finding a job there that suited me, and I certainly didn’t expect to score a job interview for the sales position.  Better that I brush up on my interview skills with a job that I don’t crave, rather than to blow it on my dream job right away.  If nothing else, I’ll chalk it up to experience, and another lesson learned.  Although, I could have done without dropping $7.00 on cab fare in order to get to the interview on time.

Tonight’s Tunes
“Super Mario Bros 2,” Minibosses
“It’s Sunday,” Frank Sinatra
“Trouble,” Coldplay
“When the Wind Was Green,” Frank Sinatra
“Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” Deep Blue Something
“Something,” Across the Universe

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