Tips from the Trenches: One-on-One with Jonah Disend, Founder and CEO of Redscout

“Now more than ever, employers are looking for uniqueness over degrees and pedigree. If you don’t offer something different than everyone else, you won’t get noticed.” – Jonah Disend 

In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we share tips and advice from friends, colleagues and key experts in PR and beyond. One person who has great wisdom on how to brand yourself is Jonah Disend, the founder and CEO of Redscout, a brand development shop that has helped companies realize their potential in every category from fashion to fast food.

We caught up with him recently to get his insights about standing out in a good way at work including the importance of finding a mentor to help guide your career.

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News We Can Use: Poll Shows Importance of Networking for “No Regrets”

According a survey released this week, a vast majority (71 percent) of recent college graduates would have done something differently while in college to better prepare for the job market. Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed wish they had done more networking prior to graduation; about a quarter said they should have started their job search earlier and about the same wished they had applied to more gigs.

But, whether you’re about to don a cap and gown or you’re just thinking about graduating to your next opportunity, this is absolutely news you can use to better your own career:
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We Couldn’t Have Asked for a Better Party

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. ~ Mark Twain

Monday night, we celebrated the launch of Be Your Own Best Publicist with about 75 of our closest friends, colleagues and contributors at the lovely private wine bar, Rouge, located in NYC’s wonderfully charming Paris Commune restaurant.

To be surrounded by people who are so proud of our accomplishment in writing this book and seeing it come to fruition was extremely rewarding and touching. Thank you to everyone who came and everyone who wanted to but couldn’t make it due to work, prior commitments, distance and other valid reasons. There were a number of folks who helped make our book bash possible and, for that, we must give a special shout out to the following:

Hugo, Jamie and their awesome staff at Paris Commune: You were so easy to work with and so genuinely happy to host the party at your space that we felt like we had it in our own living room (if we had a living room as fab as your wine bar!).

Everyone at Double Cross Vodka (especially Jason and Andreina), Veuve Clicquot (Christine in particular, who also shares her wisdom in our book), Ecco Domani and Sam Adams: Thank you for generously donating your product so we could offer our guests an amazing bar selection. We loved our signature Double Cross cocktail, “The Publicist,” by the way!

Matthew Carasella, our fantastic photographer: You not only take great photos but are always a true professional and one of the nicest guys around.  Please visit Matt’s site, www.socialshutterbug.com, to see more photos from the party.

Eftihia Thomopoulos, Jessica’s superstar intern: You were so kind to offer to help us sell books at the event and you must have good sales skills because we sold a lot of copies!

Hunter Fine at BBDO: Thank you for designing our invitation so quickly, particularly when we know how busy you are.

We decided not to make remarks during the party because we didn’t want to interrupt everyone’s good time. So here’s what we would have said:

We hope you have as much fun reading the book as we did writing it. We feel incredibly grateful to have the love and support of so many people in our lives, and we appreciate you all spreading the word and being our best publicists!

Please enjoy this selection of party photos from the night — it will be an evening we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Rouge Wine Bar

With Seventeen Editor in Chief Ann Shoket

Jessica with Matthew Hiltzik, one of our contributors

Meryl with her closest pals (L to R) Carolina, Amy, Amy and Hadley

Jess with Bazaar's Laura Brown & Kristina O'Neill, O Mag's Adam Glassman

With Christine Kaculis and Shant Petrossian

How Not to Burn Your Bridges in the Workplace

We once had a boss who, when an employee quit, was known to respond by saying, “I didn’t like you anyway” or by kicking the person out of the office. When it came time for us to turn in our resignation, we were petrified. So we made a case for why it would be better in the long run for us to get experience elsewhere so perhaps we could come back to the company in the future and be an even better asset. Guess what–it worked–and we’re still in touch with our former employer years later.

There are, of course, circumstances in which maintaining a friendly relationship with a former boss or employee is challenging (e.g. when a staffer stole business from the company; when a boss fired you without cause; when someone was verbally abusive or backstabbing when you worked together or was unethical in the workplace). However, in most cases, you can–and should–try to stay on good terms whether you’re the one leaving or being left. Why? Because it’s a small world and you never know when professional paths will cross again.  [Read more…]

What’s with the Attitude? Everything!

At this time of year, it’s easy to get frustrated with long store lines, incessant Christmas music and having to get frisked at the airport during your no-longer-cheerful holiday travel routine. But don’t let it turn you into a Grinch. Having a sunny attitude helps in any situation but it’s particularly important when you’re up for a job opening, promotion, plum assignment, or new business.

Showing poise, enthusiasm and willingness to work hard often goes further than just being the most qualified person for the gig. There’s nothing worse than a bad attitude from an employee, coworker, or vendor. It’s like going to a great restaurant, but having an obnoxious waiter: the food and setting may be of high quality, but if the service stinks, you’re unlikely to return or recommend it to others. In this day and age, when companies are paying closer attention to their bottom line and making fewer hires and promotions, having a positive outlook and a team-player mentality will win you extra points in the workplace.

Here is some advice that will help you steer clear of an attitude-generated misstep:

Never say “That’s not my job.” With smaller staffs and more to do, companies are asking employees to take on bigger roles, sometimes with assignments that fall outside of their exact job description. If you want to move up and be valuable, take on the extra assignment, even if it’s not in your wheelhouse. You may learn something new. The worst reaction when a boss or client asks you to go above and beyond the norm is to complain that it’s not your job to do such-and-such. If you’re a math-challenged writer and you’re being asked to do the company’s accounting, then it’s okay to say, “I’m more than willing to take on extra work, but I’m afraid that accounting is not my strong suit, and I don’t want to let you down. Is there another assignment you need help with that’s more appropriate to my skill set?” That way, you’re turning down the request because you lack the knowledge to handle it properly, not because it’s technically not your job.

Watch your expressions. We’ve all seen it: people rolling their eyes or making faces behind their boss’ back when they hear something they don’t like. Though you may think no one notices, it’s just bad form. Keep your negative thoughts inside and, to take a cue from Lady Gaga, learn to have a poker face (or even better, a happy face!) in front of others.

Quit your complaining. We all have moments at work where we’re annoyed at our boss, colleague, or client, and are tempted to whine about the situation to coworkers or office friends. Here’s the thing: complaining in the workplace is not only unprofessional, but it’s also dangerous—not to mention negative PR for yourself. You may think you can trust that cubicle mate with whom you eat lunch every day, but she very well could be angling for an assignment or promotion that you’re up for and now you’ve armed her with the knowledge that you’re unhappy about something at work. If you’re truly upset about a situation, set up a meeting with your boss, client, or colleague to address it in a professional, clear way instead of griping about it behind their backs. When you’ve had a bad day or someone has rubbed you the wrong way one time too many, save your rants for later when you can safely air your grievances to your best friend, mom, or spouse.

Don’t stew in your own juices. People aren’t mindreaders, so just say what you mean. Instead of sighing and muttering to your boss, “I guess I’ll just stay late again” because you have so much work to do, sit down with her and say, “I appreciate the additional responsibility you’ve given me, but I’m trying to figure out how to get everything done within normal working hours. Though I don’t mind staying late on occasion, it would help me to hear from you what projects take priority so I can tackle those first.” That way, you can get clear direction from your supervisor instead of toiling away every night until you get bitter or burned out. Had Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater, whose meltdown made headlines in August 2010, communicated his frustration about how customers were treating him instead of letting it boil over, he might have avoided his “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore” moment, saving his job and keeping him out of trouble.

When has a negative or positive attitude hurt or helped you in your career?  Share your thoughts with us at Facebook or Twitter (@bestpublicist).

THE CAUTIONARY TALE CALLED KANYE

Kanye should thank his lucky stars for Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Their engagement shifted the spotlight from his most recent media meltdown to better tidings for sure.   But since we all can’t count on a royal betrothal to move the white-hot spotlight off of any mistakes we make in interviews or simple conversation, here are few things that we can all learn from Kanye’s toe-to-toe on the Today Show (not to mention his crazy stage-crashing at the VMAs last year — that could be an entirely different post!):

Don’t be defensive.
Kanye’s interview took a turn for the worse once he imagined that Matt Lauer (and the rest of the Today Show team) had plotted against him. Let’s clarify something right off the bat: News shows often run tape while guests are speaking in studio. Watch the morning shows; you’ll see many, many examples. This is not done as a “gotcha” or to elicit emotion. It’s done to refresh the audience’s memory and to tell the full story. In any case, Kanye went on the defensive and thus derailed what could have been a positive media moment for him.

Be authentic.
Being authentic is the best way to rehabilitate a reputation, sway opinion and change perception. Kanye wanted to do all those things by appearing on the Today Show to apologize to former President Bush for ill-thought-out statements made about Hurricane Katrina. Instead, his interview (and subsequent Twitter rants) reveal his actual need to be right vs. his stated desire to make amends.

Be clear and concise.
Being crystal clear about your goals for the conversation, interview or what-have-you will help you avoid going South like West. Even if the interviewer tries to lead you astray (or, in Kanye’s case runs “unexpected” video while you’re speaking), focusing on your key messages will help you communicate what you want in the most effective way.

Listen to the counsel of others.
As many public figures do, Kanye had hired a highly seasoned, well-respected media trainer to prepare him for this important interview. Instead of following the trainer’s advice, Kanye lost focus, forgot what she taught him and subsequently did significant damage to his already hurting image. His crash-and-burn scenario doesn’t need to be yours. Above all, when it comes to negotiating challenging situations, it’s always good to ask for — and listen to — counsel from those who have been there, done that.

Now we like Kanye’s music as much as the next person but his behavior in the media has actually made us wish we didn’t know the man behind the beats.  Who else do you think could use a trainer to help his/her image?   Tell us so at Twitter (@bestpublicist) or Facebook.

SAVING FACE(BOOK): WHEN SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTS CREATE PROBLEMS AT WORK

We all have bad days, and it’s just so easy to post “My boss sucks” or “I’m so sick of my job” on Facebook, Twitter or your personal blog.  But is it grounds for termination?

Within the past month, several workers across the country have been fired for airing their dirty workplace laundry on Facebook, from Dawnmarie Souza, an EMT in Connecticut who complained about her supervisor, to a woman named Jessica in Michigan who was let go for calling a coworker a liar, to Leila Goodman in North Carolina who vented about her CEO.

Interestingly, the National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against Souza’s employer, noting that firing her was unfair because she made the disparaging remarks on her personal computer outside of work hours and the company’s policy on social media was too vague.  Whether or not she was within her legal rights to post negative comments about her boss or company on Facebook, the point is that it’s just not a smart thing to do.

In our upcoming book, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Hired, Noticed & Rewarded at Work, we dedicate an entire chapter to social media and how to use it (and not use it) when you’re trying to get noticed in a positive way in the workplace.  In public relations, we consider everything on the record, even if it’s whispered to someone at a cocktail party or posted innocently on your blog or Facebook page.  Everything you say online becomes a matter of public record and lives forever on the Web so we would encourage you to keep your gripes to yourself — or share them with your spouse, best friend or mom instead of with your Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

According to an August 2009 study conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.com, 45 percent of employers surveyed are using social networks to screen job candidates — more than double from a year earlier, when a similar survey found that just 22 percent of supervisors were researching potential hires on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn.  The study, in which 2,667 managers and human resource workers participated, found that 35 percent of employers decided not to offer a job to a candidate based on the content uncovered on a social networking site.

So why would anyone want to give potential employers a reason not to hire them or current employers a reason to fire them?  What do you think?  Should companies be permitted to scold or terminate someone for criticizing them online?  Are employers overreacting?  Are people within their first amendment rights to air their work grievances in a public forum?  Tell us your thoughts.