Rotman Commerce Marketing Association

I was recently a judge at the Rotman Commerce Marketing Association Symposium which is an annual day-long event for commerce students interested in the fine art of persuasion.  Promoted as the largest marketing event at the University of Toronto, the symposium with its lineup of industry vets enables students to learn about communications as a possible career.

The day began with the Brand Blitz competition between the top three teams presenting their marketing plans. As before, it was an impressive display by smart kids showing a lot of initiative.

In addition to watching some of these students show off their talents, I wanted to know about their interest in public relations as a possible profession. I also was curious about their understanding of PR and its role in the marketing mix. I was also interested in how they use media. Note that most are on Facebook and barely on Twitter.

In the three workshops I basically heard the same definition of PR: it helps companies react to bad news. No one was able to say how PR differs from advertising.  Not surprising. Mainstream media tends to say a company is in PR mode whenever a crisis breaks.

So I told my young, captive audience about listening, reputation management, networking, events, internal communications, pitching, sales, media relations, thought leadership, messages, seeding programs, influencers, activation, branding, writing, media training, public speaking, social media and the fine marketing balance that includes advertising.

I also told them that social media is great for researching professions and industries and that it’s superb for networking.

I think some of them now know a little more about PR and whether or not marketing in all its shapes and forms might be a career choice. Interestingly,  I spoke with one student who said some of her classmates are focusing on accounting so that if they start in marketing and don’t like it they can fall back on number-crunching. I told her to do what she’s passionate about and have fun with it.

Which reminded that these emerging stars have a ton of options, even if they’re not sure which career path to take.

Can Social Media build your career

Last week I participated on a panel at Centennial College’s Talk is Cheap Unconference. Joe Thornley, Thornley Fallis, moderated and Martin Waxman, Palette PR, joined me on the following succinctly named panel, “So, how important is social media to getting a job and building a career in PR.” The conference was well attended with a surprising amount of senior practitioners joining students and junior pros for an evening of chatter.

So is social media good for starting and growing your career? Of course it is – especially now when more young people are competing for a very limited number of jobs. SM is a remarkable way to connect with employers and to show us that you’re smart and savvy. It’s not just about tweets and blogs, it’s also about understanding how these, and other, SM assets fit into the overall PR mix. And then of course you’ll need to make sure to comment on relevant blogs and get your great blog started and use twitter to its full potential.

As you engage in social media, you’ll realize ideally that resumes shouldn’t be the first contact with employers. Resumes sent by soon-to-be and recent grads more or less look the same, especially when they flood in like spam on a busy day. These earnest attempts at getting in the door are easy to ignore or to quickly reply to with thanks but no thanks.

Of course if you post a few smart comments here or on the blogs of Mr. Waxman and Mr. Thornley, well, it’s much easier for us to pay attention. Good luck.