Thursday, February 01, 2007

Psssst … I know what Information Sessions are …..

OK, which professor or HR pro extraordinaire told wannabe PR career-bound folks to call Presidents of companies and ask for an "information session/interview." Is it an information session? Is it really? You want to sit down with me and do your version of Inside the Actor’s Studio? Aren’t you really just looking for a job?

I’ll put it to you this way - how much information do you need about MAVERICK that’s not already out there? We happen to have one of the most robust and expansive websites with details on who we are, our ideology, our team, clients, scope of services and much more. You can read my blog weekly. Be resourceful and Google my name or MAVERICK PR and you'll find tons of salient, not to mention current information. But you want more!? No you don’t … you want an interview right? It’s okay, you can tell me.

Now that we have that straight, go for it. Call or email me directly and tell me what you’re looking for. The thin veneer of the information session doesn’t work with me. In fact, most people in my position see right through these requests. Rest assured, I respond to every inquiry and if I like your resume or pitch letter, you’ll get the 20 minutes you’re looking for. I guarantee it. And if you bring me a hot organic chamomile tea (bag in, no sugar or milk) you'll get half an hour.

Imagine a PR professional making the same type of call: “Hello Kraft Foods? How are you? I would like to come in and find out more about Kraft, your products, how you got into the business and how I might pursue your business in the future? Do you have time for coffee? ….. (crickets chirping on the other end) …..

I prefer honesty, directness and someone who just tells it like it is. In the end, I will have much more respect for you.

Hope this information helps.


Donna Papacosta said...

Brilliant post, Julie. You go, girl!

The "information" interview seems out of date in the age of Google and blogs, eh?

Anonymous said...

I think it is the semantics of the 'information interview' that are troubling. It's not so much (or shouldn't be) knowing facts about a company; it is supposed to be a relationship building opp. While I see your point about it being a seemingly sneaky way of asking for a job interview - sometimes it just simply a way to get a foot in the door, and some face time(and sometimes it isn't, I'm not disputing that!) And maybe students and the like should be advised to talk to less senior members of a firm for these types of 'information interviews'(if they are truly there to glean info) What would it be called if a more senior practitioner wanted to meet you? Or, a prospective client? I'd prefer to call them meet and greets. As much as I loathe the term 'networking' it is, at the end of the day, so much about who you know. Or make an effort to.
We always hear about 'doing your homework' 'knowing your audience', etc. so I'm not saying you shouldn't do your research and ask questions the answers to which can be Googled; but that doesn't always tell you everything you want to know - and is definitely missing the personal touch.

Julie Rusciolelli said...

Good points anonymous ... but I would like to see students be a little more creative to get a "foot in the door" than asking for the informational interview. And I do see senior folks quite often looking to make a change, but those requests usually come via a pedigreed introduction, so I am much more inclined to grant those meetings. All I want to see is more creativity to get through the Maverick door and a lot more directness. As for prospects, well, we always have time for those meetings! :)

David Jones said...

I've never really given the whole info interview a second thought. It is what it is. If someone calls and asks me if I've got time to meet with them about breaking into the agency business, I usually make the time. If I like them I give them a list of names to follow up with (yours is on there).

I have no problem with "info interview" as a term. It's inoffensive and meaningless enough for me. I suppose I've always considered it a job interview if I call them. If they call me, it's an info interview.

Though I have had a few people show up and ask what exactly PR is, or start by asking very lame questions that would've easily been found on the website or the blog.

How many resumes stuffed inside boxes of organic tea do you think you'll get now?

Julie Rusciolelli said...

David, you a such a wonderful person! You make time to see ALL prospective wannabe PR professionals? Wow, where do you fit that in? (get ready for the deluge of emails, just pass me the good ones). I received 12 "informational interview" requests just last month alone. And January was slow! I must be on some preferred vendor list with schools. Like I said, I'll do the "sit down" selectively but just wish students would be a bit more clever to want my time for PR insights. After all, aren't these suppose to be tomorrow's media relations gurus? Their persuasive skills need to be improved right from the beginning if all they got is "can I have an informational interview?" We're doomed ...

David Jones said...

I never said we weren't doomed.

Scott said...

I laughed when I saw this post.

I went to an IABC student event a few weeks ago. They had a panel of PR's there to basically give students a little info session on how to break into the PR industry.

They were pushing the information interview big time, saying it was a great way to meet people in PR. Perhaps you'll be seeing a sudden spike of info. interview requests from IABC students in the coming weeks....

Anyways, at the end of the session the guy I went with voiced his displeasure at the thought of having to ask for an info. interview for the same reasons that you gave in your post. He saw it as being nothing more than a blatant attempt to get hired on.

I’m not sure where I stand on these things just yet. I guess you have to get your foot in the door somehow. Although, like you said, there might be better ways to do it.

Gary Schlee said...

I confess, Julie. I'm one of those professors who touts the 'information interview'. I do it because (a) it works, and (b) it works because most of the grads won't do it, even if they recognize its potential. If a job comes out of the information interview, great, but that's the not the point of it -- or shouldn't be. The point is to tap into the experiences and wisdom of experienced professionals prepared to share what they know about working for an agency, government, a corporation, whatever. The point is also to come away with the name of another communicator, for another interview. So, I think we may be after the same things in this exercise. I know from experience that you're a PR Maven who willingly does that kind of sharing. I'll alert my students to avoid the "I.I." phrase and come armed with tea!

Elyse said...

I loved your post! I actually used it in my blog for class:

So relevant for me right now - wonderful! Your blog is one of my faves :)

Bill Smith said...

I am one of those "wannabe" PR students looking for a way into the profession. I find some firms have moved to "information sessions" or the group information interview. Truthfully, it's Kubuki theatre. Websites and blogs tell me a lot about an organization.

I prefer networking at IABC or CPRS Professional Development events. I am right now picking the brains of a senior practitioner on how to measure blogs. I am doing this by email, he is busy and so am I.

changing gears, you have a great blog, one of the few PR blogs I read and enjoy. What are you doing with social media with your clients?


Julie Rusciolelli said...

Thanks Bill, glad you like my blog. I’m always amazed when people find it interesting! I’m just honest and “call it as I see it.” As far as social media goes, my clients are not grabbing this concept in any meaningful way. They don't get it and of course, we don't push it that hard since we are consulting on a bunch of other PR initiatives, -- social media takes a back seat. I don’t think corporate Canada will ever be ready for this new one-on-one social media aspect. I had one CEO of a major Canadian company who wanted to start blogging only to be vetoed by his own internal PR and legal team. I wish I could say we have been successful in persuading our clients in this exciting direction, but perhaps we aren’t equipped either with all the information? Time will tell … thanks for asking …. JULIE

Meghan said...

I too am a PR newbie, as I will be graduating in just a couple of weeks. I actually found the informational interviews I went on during my job search to be quite helpful, but in ways that I didn't expect.

Primarily, I learned more about the culture of the agency within 5 seconds of setting foot in the door than I could learn from an hour on their Web site. All agencies tout their "work-life balance," but I had to actually go into the company and speak with the people before I could know how much working and how much living actually took place there.

I was lucky enough to get an internship with an agency where the culture felt exactly right to me. I knew it was the right fit because I had been to the competition and I had seen what they had to offer me as well.