I’ve been itching for some professional development in my career as a public relations professional. After all, living out in rural Gates, Ore. doesn’t exactly put me in the epicenter of progress and advancement (although I love the peaceful way of life!). Having graduated from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications with a Public Relations emphasis nearly 12 years ago, I knew that my time was due for a career jump-start—one that would propel me to the next level of knowledge and increase my capacity as a PR consultant.
It all came together in this wonderful convergence of events. In December of 2012, I met with the GROW Economic Development Corporation’s Executive Director Allison McKenzie for a private business consultation. The topic of the day was my “one year business plan,” focusing on what I wanted to achieve for Word’s Out PR in 2013. Allison’s question was, “At this time next year, when you look back at what you’ve accomplished throughout the year, what would make you feel like it has been successful?” Top of the list: Obtain my APR.
Is APR an unknown term to you? We’re not talking about Annual Percentage Rate here! This is a PR site and if you’re in the public relations profession, you know that in our world, APR is an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and is the only professional designation in the industry to certify that a PR professional has a certain body of knowledge and understanding of the PR Code of Ethics. Now at this point, beyond this description, I didn’t know a whole lot about what the APR designation was, other than that I wanted it and had every intention to get it.
After having met with my favorite business coach Allison, within days I met with a long-time friend Bonnie Stephenson-Milletto to discuss a publicity campaign for her hot-off-the-press book Dedicated to the Cup: Nine Ways to Reinvent a Life. In this book, Bonnie talks about “filling your inner cup,” a term that immediately hit home for me during my first APR study group on April 6, 2013. I was ecstatic when I realized that something about this professional development experience truly fills my cup. Or, as Allison would tell me, “Do what makes you jump out of bed in the morning.” Well, as crazy as this sounds—this APR idea is making me not only jump out of bed, but bust into Gangnam Style moves on the dance floor (cousins Lauren, Leslie, Kelly and Brina can attest for my bust-a-move skills).
Inspired by my business coaching session with Allison, I soon thereafter renewed my membership in the national and local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The topic of the New Year at the Oregon Capital Chapter PRSA was creating an APR study group to prepare for the APR exam. How perfect was that?! Now this opportunity that I had dreamed of was sitting right in front of me, practically being served to me on a silver platter. As Mara Woloshin of Woloshin Communications would describe, the APR exam is nearly all refundable if you pass, and those who go through her study groups are staged for success, as her program boasts a 100% pass rate on the exam. Wa-bang! Ka-pow! This is IT!
This convergence of events resulted in my sitting in the room at the Broadway Commons (my new favorite meeting spot in Salem, Ore.!) on April 6 among several other PR professionals as we all began to make our way through this APR experience. I felt honored to be a part of this group, brought together by the industry icon herself Mara, and co-taught by the Oregon Department of Transportation Program Manager Dave Thompson.
I am excited to share my cup-filling experience with you, so please, follow me as I leap into this new adventure to advance Word’s Out PR and its clients with top-quality public relations.
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In a moment of true clarity, Madonna once exclaimed, “We are living in a material world!” A few decades later, I think it’s safe to say that we are living in a digital world. (In that vein, does that make me a digital girl?) But let’s face it: The rules have changed. We’re no longer hand writing letters to our distant friends, and I’ve heard more than one acquaintance of mine recently grumble about having to use a real-life, 44-cent stamp!
Not only has communication become faster and faster, but communication has also become more and more lax. Everything now seems to come down to acronyms and emoticons, and to hell with capitalization and punctuation!
We’re so enculturated into a digital society, that it’s easy for us to forget who our audience is.
I have the best job in the world. I get to represent awesome, independent companies, and I can totally be my goofy self with Nicole, who I’m convinced is the most patient and rad boss ever. She just laughs when I make up crazy words like “AWESOMAZING” (a superior hybrid of “awesome” and “amazing”) or send a *facepalm* her way. In that vein, I am quite certain that I have never had a boss like her before, so chances are you don’t either. Which probably also means that your boss would be less-than-thrilled if you accidentally dropped an *eyeroll* in a written memo.
So here it is: Five things you should never write in an email to your boss…unless your boss is my boss…Nicole Miller.
- Multiple exclamation marks. When I was a freshman in college, I had the most evil writing professor on the face of the earth. So much so, that I’m surprised I continued to minor in writing after that class. He was in love with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and he hated “to be” verbs. He thought that Charlotte’s Web was the greatest piece of literature ever produced. While that class was probably worse than pulling teeth, I did respect his rules on punctuation: If you were only allowed to use an exclamation mark three times in your entire life, would you really use it right now? I remember that he actually circled any exclamation marks in our essays and, at the end of the semester, if we had used the mark more than three times, we got decreased points. He had a point, though. How awesome does it really look if YOU ARE ALWAYS SUPER EXCITED IN YOUR EMAILS??!!!!111!!1!!!!? Cut it out. One is enough, if you must.
- Emoticons. I think it’s pretty standard instant-messaging practice nowadays to drop an occasional smiley face, and maybe even a winky face if you’re really trying to be ironic. Emoticons can be cute and can lighten up a message. But in an email to your boss (who is assumedly not Nicole), they can come off as incredibly informal and immature. If whatever it is that you are writing can be misconstrued without the use of an emoticon, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you rethink what you’re writing. Emoticons: cute, but not professional.
- Acronyms. They’re everywhere. Just check out the comments section of any Oh No They Didn’t! post. I can pretty much guarantee that you will need to make a few trips to Urban Dictionary just to navigate all the crazy acronyms. Such slang like LOL, OMG, WTF, IDK, and ROFL has become so ingrained into our culture that I’ve had to stop myself a few times from actually saying them out loud. My point being, this is just another example of how our language has become super-casual, and unless you work for a company like the FDA, the IRS, or the CIA, you should probably avoid the acronyms. Don’t make your boss have to work so hard to understand that you were just laughing out loud, and not licking Oscar’s labrador. Just sayin’.
- Make digital gestures. I feel like this one is almost as obvious as emoticons. But I’ll emphasize it again: If whatever it is that you’re writing needs an *eyeroll* or a *facepalm* or a *shakes head in shame* or a *shudders*, then you should probably rethink what you’re writing. Be creative. I have faith that you can find more than one way to say something. And remember—sarcasm doesn’t always translate well in an email and is sometimes better left for face-to-face interaction. Take this into account when you’re drafting emails to your boss. Your tone is as important as the message you are relaying, and you should not be overly informal by including asterisked digital gestures.
- Abbreviate. Abbreviations vary from acronyms in that an abbreviation is simply a shortening of a single word. A lot of us take shortcuts when we’re texting. How many times have you caught yourself writing “u” instead of “you,” “plz” instead of “please,” “2mrw” instead of “tomorrow,” or “thanx” instead of “thanks”? Understandably, such abbreviations save time and space when you’re working from a phone; however, how would you react if you received an email from one of your employees that was chock full of such abbreviations? Not only does it get difficult to read, but it shows your boss that you didn’t take the time or energy to type a few extra letters or use your auto spell-check.
There you have it—the five things you shouldn’t email your boss. Feel free to take it with a grain of salt. I’ve broken every rule on this list, but then again, Nicole is my boss….