Archive for May, 2008

Very belated thanks to Lara at Ready.2.Spark!

ready 2 spark - ideas and inspirations for events

I’m incredibly embarrassed to realize I have yet to publicly express my gratitude to Lara over at ready.2.spark for her thoughtful and inspiring response to my question of how to break into the event planning biz. Hats off to her for taking the time to share her advice and experience for those of us still looking for opportunities to realize our career aspirations. For anyone who may have missed her comment, here it is in entirety:

Thank you so much for leaving a comment on my blog and directing me to yours! The answer to your question is an easy one for me. Although I wasn’t a student, I did join the special events industry 2 short years ago (from a totally unrelated industry). I knew no one. I knew nothing about events (other than the ones I had attended as a guest). My goal was simple – learn as much as I can and meet as many people in the shortest time possible. I set out to find an industry affiliation that could help me achieve my goals. After considering a few, my choice was ISES (International Special Events Society). ISES is a world-wide organization dedicated to 1) providing networking opportunities, 2) improving education of its members, 3) furthering the industry as a whole. It’s very easy to find a local chapter by visiting I recommend that you attend an event or two before joining. Make sure the people, the content, the opportunities are relevant to you. I’ve heard a complaint from a few students that the cost to attend an event is too high. I believe in looking at your ROI (return on investment). To me, sacrificing a week’s worth of Starbucks coffee is a small price to pay for the opportunity to make great business connections.

The goal of a recent graduate should be TO MEET PEOPLE. In order to do that, you have to get out and talk to professionals. Contact the President of your local chapter (you can usually look them up on the chapter’s website) and tell them that you’re a student looking to meet professionals. Ask them if they can arrange to introduce you to members at the event. Be prepared. Write down a few questions that are important to you and use them as opportunities to engage in communication.

Next, I’d recommend that you get involved in a committee. ISES chapters are always looking for help – help to plan events, increase membership, etc. Offer your services. This will be real-life experience that you can add to a resume. This rule should apply for any organization. NFPs (not for profits) are always looking for help with their events. You won’t get paid, but you will be rewarded with an enriching experience.

Another idea is to find a company you’d love to work with and offer your services at no cost for 2 weeks. Tell them how much you’d love to work with them and communication why they’d love to work with you. Get your foot in the door and show them why you’re great. (one tip, to ensure your services are not taken advantage of, is to ensure they’re hiring or open to hiring – this way your expectations are set. It’s up to you if you want to donate your time to someone who’s not hiring, but make sure you know this before investing your time).

Lastly, image is very important…especially in this industry. Dress for the job you want. Hold your head up. Be assertive. Be nice. Be inquisitive. Be helpful. Be honest. Act as if every encounter is an informal interview. Determine what message you want to convey and ensure it’s communicated. And, most of all, enjoy yourself!


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PR and Development: Let’s be friends

Thesis update: I just found out last week that I can’t publish any results of my thesis research on my blog if I want to be eligible for future publication in an academic journal. I was looking forward to sharing some of my insights but I guess I’ll have to hold off on that for a bit. What I can do is share some of my secondary research from my literature review and also talk about my process. This Friday I defend my thesis and find out whether or not my work is up to the Honors College standards. My fingers are crossed.


One thing I’ve drawn from my experiences writing my thesis and exploring career opportunities is the absolute inter-relatedness of public relations and development. Although scholars cite development as a function of public relations, it appears not to work out this way in many nonprofit organizations. Instead, public relations and development operations occur in separate departments. In fact, Kathleen Kelly, a highly-regarded researcher in the field, found that subordination of the public relations function by the development department occurred frequently in nonprofit organizations. In other words, development staff were controlling or influencing public relations activities, which could result in an unbalanced focus on donor relations at the expense of building relationships with other valuable stakeholder groups (i.e. clients/customers, legislators, community members, volunteer groups, etc.). Any way you look at it, public relations and development can’t exist exclusively of the other; they are bound to interact because both departments share (or should share) similar goals: building beneficial relationships with stakeholder groups through communication and behavior.

In my personal experience, my public relations education in the School of Journalism and Communication has been questioned or at least misunderstood by a few people in its applicability to development work. To me, it seems a perfect background to prepare me for development work, but others are confused: “Journalism? Don’t you want to work for a newspaper?” some people ask. But if journalism is essentially about communication, and communication is essential to successful relationship building, and relationship building is essential to successful public relations, and good public relations includes the function of development THEN it follows that a PR major is a great tool for going into development work.

Clearly, I’m starting to rant a bit but bear with.

In the end, what I mean to convey is that it’s all about relationships. Not just relationships between different operational tasks (like fund raising, donor relations, media outreach, etc.) but, perhaps more importantly, the relationships we cultivate between various communities. Successful development strategies MUST include relationship building in order to create long-term connections with people. Growing relationships between individuals – who have their own unique needs, desires, motivations, and interests – and organizations is incredibly valuable, nay, essential, to encouraging the sustainability and fruition of nonprofit (and for-profit, for that matter) organizations.

 Image courtesy of stock.xchng

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It’s almost here…

My thesis deadline and defense.

Getting a job!



Moving back to Portland (granted I can find an apartment).

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Probably nothing, because the traffic on this blog has dwindled to next to nothing so chances are nobody’s reading this. Sad. But I PROMISE I will be back (but not with a vengeance) come June. Think of all the exciting things I’ll have to share! Yes, shamelessly plugging my future posts…

(my mind is whirling with thoughts)

Anyway, what’s happening now is I’m editing the first draft of my thesis to submit to my committee on Tuesday. I’m sitting at about 70 or 80 pages – much to my own surprise. I’ve uncovered some really remarkable stuff and I wish I could sit down with each one of you event planner/pr pros/students/anyone who will listen because that’s easier than trying to write it all. Wait, I am writing it all. But, like I said, it’s 70-80 pages and nobody wants to read that. But when I have a second I will post on young professional donors, donor motivations, benefits of special events for nonprofits, relationship management and special events, and so on. Basically, it’s about kick-ass strategies to make friends with your publics/audiences/guests/donors/communities and develop mutually beneficial relationships rather than just asking for money or telling people what they should think, feel, and do. It’s better in the long-term and much more fun.

So I hope the little teaser piqued your interest. Stand by for more.

P.S. The job search is going well; I’ve got my first big interview in 2 days. Thrilling!

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