How does a young person get a job in advertising or PR in a recession?

Llama Llama LlamaI was one of three panelists for a talk with AAF-HIMA Houston a few weeks ago. My PPT slides are posted. Each presenter only had 10 minutes, which is a rough format, but it did force me to distill the content down. Two slides with recommendations for individuals and agencies to get through the recession are:

  1. What can I, the employee or job seeker, do?
    1. Build your personal brand
    2. Participate in social networks
    3. Stay close to billable work
    4. Be humble (arrogant people suck)
  2. What can my agency do?
    1. Relationships – build and maintain (hint – see social networks above)
    2. Recurring revenue – focus on recurring
    3. Retrain, retool and recruit (biggest weakness of the old slow agencies)
    4. Get rid of dead weight NOW
    5. Charge for creative (most hopefully already do this)

After that talk I received numerous emails from young people in the audience looking for employment. This is ok initiative, although it is noted that they all said “what do I do?” instead of “here is my plan, do you think this will work?”. The difference again being one of initiative, but I’ll leave that for another blog post. So some advice with candor.

How does a young person get a job in advertising or PR in a recession?

  1. Network – yes Dorothy when times are tough it really does matter who you know. But right now with social media and being active in arts and non-profits you have NO EXCUSE not to know the right people. So drop that excuse.
  2. Avoid obvious errors. One email I received had a typo in the subject line. See this previous post on an email I received from a brilliant job seeker once.
  3. Experience – get some. In a recession the negotiating power is to the employer and people ALWAYS learn through experience. So you almost always favor the experienced. How do you get experience?
    1. Internships – the most obvious
    2. Internships – design your own. Contact your church, present an outline of your “custom designed three week internship”. Odds are they will say no, but at least try. Get off your duff and try it.
    3. Arts and Non Profits – they always need free labor. Again, make it easy for them to say yes by doing the legwork.
    4. Charities – donate your time over the holidays, anything, just somehow focus on skills where you want employment.
  4. Seek referrals – many of our best employees come from referrals. So it doesn’t hurt to meet people who work where you want to work. Plus you might find out they are jerks and you don’t want to work there. Or it may reinforce a positive impression. But again, show some initiative.
  5. Do your homework – the fastest way out of an interview if you get one is to not have done your homework on the company you are applying with.
  6. Send your resume anyway – even with no job listings, you can submit. Ideally through a friend who works there and can vouch for you. There probably aren’t any openings, but why not try?
  7. Submit your resume to the right person – For example, at our firm I am usually NOT the right person. Find the RIGHT person and submit to them. If you know a principal at the agency do a “cc” if you want, but sending it to the right person is critical. Do your homework.
  8. Resubmit your resume – companies have to have an applicant
    tracking system or they won’t keep the resumes. (hint – few have ATS
    systems) HR lawyers tell companies not to retain unless they are
    retaining all resumes and are indeed looking at them. So most people
    will just delete the resumes after filling a position. Yes really. So
    don’t think once you are in “the database” at an agency you will be
    considered in the future. It just isn’t so.
  9. Lose the attitude – it worked in HS, maybe in your Greek, but a bit of deference is always required when working with clients. You can be humble and be a bad-ass. In fact most REAL bad-ass creatives I know are actually quite humble in person. They are SO good, they let their work speak for them. Find these people and learn from them.
  10. Don’t be too polished – it makes you look untrustworthy. If your facebook profile (you do have one right?) looks like Mr. Clean worked it over, well its pretty obvious you’re a poser, right? Just sayin’. I can watch paint dry if I am looking for excitement, so why work with you?
  11. Do NOT say “I’m not good at math” – duh, advertising definitely requires basic math. I’m not talking about diffy-q, but come on. If you can’t reconcile media buying you make yourself sound like a fool. This burns a lot of applicants IMHO.
  12. Build your personal brand – facebook? yes. Twitter? yes. Blogging, Flickr, myspace, delicious, etc definitely consider. For example at our company these are huge advantages, but maybe not at other companies. Again – do your research.
  13. You’ve got 7 Seconds to make a first impression – read it.
  14. Learn about bloggingKatie has a great “blogging for business” presentation on slideshare.
  15. Realize details, large and small, are the same – if you can’t remember to clean the coffee pot it is the same as saying “hey, I’ll fly to Tokyo and then oversleep past the big meeting”. Yes really, basic human psychology. So watch out for those simple questions because it is an experienced interviewer’s way of asking if you are careless.
  16. Know where you are going – If you don’t know where you want to be in two years, and you are a millenial, you are saying you are floating with the wind. Why on earth would you hire someone drifting, train them, only to hvae them then leave to fish off the coast of Alaska? I mean that person makes an awesome and interesting friend, but perhaps a less than ideal person to invest 20k training in. Right? Candor is good. Find out where you are going.
  17. Read books – life is too short to not learn from others who have gone before you. Be smart – read. Nuf said.
  18. Don’t look like a job hopper – I hear what Penelope says about job hopping. I also know squirrels can run on power lines. But like the Electric Company says YOU ARE NOT A SQUIRREL! On the flip side, she has some good news for young job searchers here.
  19. Buy people lunch or a beer – one of the joys of being a manager, or a ceo, is that you always get the tab. Offer to buy someone lunch and you invoke the law of reciprocation. Yes, spend the money.   (pet peeve – people you KNOW have savings who say “I don’t have any money” because we call this a “lie”. Sheesh. Say “not in my budget” instead.)

Well I rambled a bit. Many of those are clearly not recession or advertising agency specific. But that is what came to mind this afternoon on November 28th 2008. Good luck with your job search!

American Auto Industry MUST Restructure

Boblutz by eschipul
A local auto dealer has an opinion piece in the Chronicle titled "Extend bridge loan to GM or the country will suffer" in support of an auto bailout. General Motors is using Paulson scare tactics with their "GM Facts and Fiction – GM Tells It Like It Is" site. From a PR perspective they lose ALL authenticity when they state things like:

And, due to supplier bankruptcies, domestic automobile production would
most likely fall to zero, even by international producers.

Really? Toyotoa and Honda who make cars profitably in the US will shut down as well? You lose ALL credibility taking such extreme positions. The Chron also has a great counterpoint on letting the automakers fail.

One article I read recently stated "US Auto Makers don't have a problem, US Owned Auto Makers have a problem." This is true.

The elephants in the room? Leadership and Labor. Labor says they have ruled out helping with the current crisis. If they won't even help themselves, why should we?

Here is the thing. High wages, 100% paid health benefits and a pension are things that the rest of America does NOT get. To ask American's to pay for your health care and pension is effectively using our tax dollars for your socialized benefits. Great for them, but not for my kids. The stats are painful:

…the average Big Three auto worker is paid
more than $72 per hour in wages and benefits ($150,000 per year,
compared to $48 per hour, or $100,000, for a Toyota worker), and where
union-negotiated work rules such as "job banks," a cute little
euphemism for paying large numbers of employees not to work, are

The counter point from a left leaning blog states on unions and auto manufacturer woes:

Unions do not deserve the blame placed on them by the right wing. In fact, unions have repeatedly made concessions to auto executives over recent years. Contrary to Kyl’s claim, new auto employees earn $25.65 an hour.

Did you see it? The part where they say "new auto employees". Employees who have been there a long time, the majority of them, still receive the $72 an hour in wages and benefits. UAW remains in denial – your success is tied directly to the success of the company.

How do we SOLVE the problem of the US Auto Manufacturers. A common sense blueprint:

  1. Bankruptcy Reorganization – this is a necessary legal first step.
  2. Eliminate the current executive team for the companies with pragmatists.
    1. Clawback provisions for all bonuses given in any year they did not make a profit. The goal of business is to make a profit. If you don't do that you failed. So be accountable.
    2. Renegotiate all management contracts for those you want to keep.
    3. Eliminate golden parachutes – no pay for failure.
  3. Replace the UAW leadership which has is not doing the membership any favors.
  4. Restructure employee contracts to:
    1. Pay for work only. No more job banks period. You work, you get paid. That's it.
    2. Pensions – reduce valuation on current obligations. New employees on self funded pensions or 401ks with minimum matching. We all know the auto worker pensions is going to roll over to the taxpayers anyway so do it now with as much transparency as possible, but also a lower payout.
    3. Eliminate job security – you have a right to work. And you have a right to lose your job if the company fails (see 2.1 above). This will make employees hold management accountable to innovate. And coincidentally its the deal almost every other worker in America has. We work, we get paid, nothing is guaranteed. Sorry. Life's not fair.
    4. Reduce average pay for ALL employees from $72 to $40 per hour. This brings compensation into line with American workers working for Toyota or Honda in the US.
    5. Employees pay 50% of all healthcare. If an employee does not participate in the expense they have no incentive to minimize costs.
    6. Stop lobbying AGAINST energy independence and higher fuel efficiency vehicles. This position is literally Anti-American. Our bailout dollars to lobbyists arguing against the long term health of our country is completely unacceptable.

Do I want the United States to retain its strong manufacturing base? Absolutely!

I am not against financial assistance of auto manufacturers, but first they must make the hard decisions that every other business makes. The days of CEOs coming in, giving the union everything they want, dancing off with their golden parachutes leaving the next one to "solve the problem" are over. Step up, be accountable, get it done.

Do I understand that unemployed workers are bad? That real families are hurt, that the struggle to find a new job is very difficult and that bankruptcy would irrevocably change the entire landscape of Detroit? Yes. Just as 9-11 changed the world, so too does this change everything. I wish it wasn't the case. But it is. May you live in interesting times.

Solution 1: New Management. New Lower Cost Contracts. No Guarantees. Build Good Cars.

Do that.

The photo?
Bob Lutz speaking to the PRSA International Conference. To one question he stated "Bankruptcy is not an option for GM" – sorry Bob, but it is. The GM leadership team has led the company down the path of the unthinkable. And this is what it looks like.

Performance Art for HOT Funded Art Accountability

Woman in gallery
Wayne Dolcefino recently completed an expose called The Color of Money about Houston Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) dollars funding Art to increase art tourism in Houston. From his story on the ABC 13 web site:

HOUSTON (KTRK) — We've put aside millions of your dollars to get art for the city. So why is some of the money collecting dust for nearly a decade? Where's the art?

We've gotten an earful from artists about my supposed lack of culture because they are under the mistaken impression we spend tax money just to create art. In fact, we spend hotel tax money on art to bring in tourists to fill up hotel rooms.

That's why our focus is the color of money; your money.

This has been posted on the Houston Arts Alliance blog (a client) and commented on by several influential artists in the Houston Community. As well as on the ABC 13 site. How can you resist talking about a story that includes the phrase "Lesbian puppet theater"?

As best I can ascertain the themes of Wayne's report are:

  1. Some Art is inaccessible – art at a wastewater treatment plant is not attracting tourists and now it is behind locked doors in a post 9-11 world. Jonathon Glus in the interview agrees with Wayne that this art should be moved to be accessible saying: ""I think civic art monies need to be focused on very public spaces," This can and should be fixed.
  2. Everyday citizens may question if something is art, consider it bad art, or overpriced art at times. Fair enough. Yet we are limited in what we can do here. Specifically government must decide to fund art or not fund art, but it can't cross the first amendment.
    1. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires the government to spend taxpayer dollars to fund
      artistic expression. If the government chooses to fund the arts, however, it must do so
      in a manner consistent with the First Amendment
  3. It's YOUR Money. Or maybe it's not your money. The report opens with "your dollars" and day two has "You spend millions of dollars on art to bring in tourists." but later Wayne is careful to say "The millions we collect in hotel taxes are required to go to tourism, stadiums, conventions and art. " My take? During Hurricane Ike many of us stayed in hotels. So if it is HOT money at least a portion of it can be referred to as "my taxes".  I think this is semantics and not the point as far as I am concerned.
  4. Not much HOT Money has been spent on the most obvious tourist location – the Houston Museum District. And some signs have grafiti on them. And the "banners that are tattered." Hard to argue with this one. This can and should be fixed.
  5. Some people in the museum district make too much money. "$145,000 a year salary" and "compensation last year was $475,000 a year, but with bonuses it came to $888,173". Those are big numbers. But this is purely subjective and right now I am too busy being upset at AIG giving Christmas bonuses to worry about the cost of a world class curator. It's like sports – if you can earn it then good for you. That's just the American way. Dan Rather versus a local station. Sorry kiddo, life's not fair.
  6. Only one piece has been delivered.  True, but to be balanced perhaps look at the works refurbished as well? But on that note, deadlines do matter so this can improve with better oversight.

What did Wayne miss? Well, he was either kind (uncharacteristic, no?) or did not  know about ignoble past of the Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County. The mismanagement at CACHH, as I understand it, even caused a backlash within the arts community. Did ABC13 report on this at the time?

One other aspect of the "story" that I have trouble with is going from "we shouldn't spend tax dollars on art" to "why aren't you spending tax dollars on art fast enough?" but I'll chalk that up to journalistic license.

What can Wayne do better next time?

  1. Be balanced. Interview a few people who LIKE art in the city of Houston! This is just basic journalism to look at the other side. I know, I know, Fox News, but still I can dream, right? Plus he might have found an art lover who was similarly outraged at timing/location/etc which might have led to constructive dialog.
  2. Give people a chance to respond before airing a sensational piece timed to show the week the National Arts Marketing Conference and the Latin Grammy's are in Houston. This was just a PT Barnumesque stunt that hurt the city in front of two very influential groups. Very clever I'll give you. But if it's all about ratings maybe I need to listen to my own advice "life's not fair".
  3. Release the FULL interview of Glus from the story as background material. At least the transcript. Soundbites with dramatic music are just silly and taken out of context destructive.

I was wondering what exactly are the duties of a journalist? Is it art, or reporting. And if art, shouldn't it be labelled as such?

From the National Union of Journalists Code of Professional Conduct it says things like "strive to eliminate distortion, news suppression and censorship" and "ensure that the information he or she disseminates is fair and accurate". So I'd have to say that reporting is more Art than Journalism in this case. And he is quite entertaining when your community is not the target of the attack. Like watching ultimate fighting I guess.

Dan Keeney (a client) had a constructive comment on the HAA Blog:

Love him or hate him, I think Wayne Dolcefino has plopped a big
stinkin”¦.OPPORTUNITY in the lap of the Houston arts community. He
repeatedly has acknowledged that there is a direct connection between
the arts and the city’s economy, which is typically the hardest concept
for critics to grasp.

He is making that difficult argument on your
behalf “” but he is also demanding accountability.

Hard to argue with Dan's point on accountability. HAA and the arts community should work to improve transparency and accountability. And the citizens and hopefully the media should help the entire city move in that direction. Just hopefully without ripping ourselves apart or timing it to make us look like backwater fools the week of the Arts Conference Wayne. Oh please, that wasjust disingenuous.

The bottom line for me?  I am going to view the whole thing as some amazing performance art with a few grains of truth. And for that I tip my hat to Mr. Dolcefino on a ratings grabbing performance. Now this way to The Egress please.

Disclaimers: HAA, Discovery Green, Dan Keeney and numerous others (over 300) actually are clients. Those that aren't clients, many are friends. I am sure I missed an asterisk somewhere, but this is a blog and I am not pretending to be impartial.

Economic Impact of Arts in Houston

Our lady of transportation from the Houston Art Car Parade
The Houston Arts Alliance is one of our clients, and I have been doing some research on the economic impact of the arts in Houston. It's very impressive actually.

Some data from the Houston Arts Alliance Blog from Mayor Bill White's recent talk on the arts.

  1. Arts are a 626.3 Million Dollar Industry in Houston
  2. The Arts in Houston support 30,000 full time jobs
  3. The economic impact for the city is 69.5 million in local and state government revenues
  4. Total Attendance of the 10 Largest Arts Organizations in 2007 = 7,383,740
  5. Total Hotel Occupancy Tax funds directed to the Arts in2007 = 12.1M


I mention this because I have been seeing the 13 Undercover teasers on TV for a show called "The Color of Money". I haven't seen the segment yet. Investigative Reporter Wayne Dolcefino runs "The Color of Money" about Houston Arts tonight at 10:00 PM.

As a tax payer it is important to me that my taxes go to logical and necessary expenses. But I also like knowing that there is a baseball team in Houston (stadium paid for with taxes), and while I can't always afford the beer at a Texan's game (ditto), I can always afford a glass of wine in the basement of the new building at the Houston Museum of Fine Art. Art is necessary. To what extent, that can and should be legitimately debated as with anything regarding public funding.

And again, the Houston Arts Alliance is a client so I am clearly biased. And I love the arts, so add a second bias to the first.

Trying to reserve judgment until I see the piece. But knowing Dolcefino….

Here is the Mayor's Funding for the Arts set:

go vote

road to tampa
Originally uploaded by eschipul

go vote. no really, go vote. take the time, take the pto, do what it takes, go vote.

how should you vote? think. do that. then vote.