By: Kelly Munzenberger
Maybe you’ve seen him on Fox 47 in the morning as a host of “The Morning Blend,” or around Wharton Center promoting shows? Or perhaps you’ve even attended one of his popular ePIFany Now events? Bob Hoffman is one of the busiest, most well-liked men in the Lansing area, and somehow I lucked out in landing him as a supervisor at my internship. A little over three years ago, I was hired as a Public Relations Intern at Wharton Center for Performing Arts. On top of being a freshman who was still trying to learn her way around campus, I was a first-year marketing student, and could not have told you the first thing about PR. Bob took me under his wing, and has honestly taught me everything that I know about PR as well as ignited my interest in the field. I would certainly consider him my own personal PR role model.
Despite the fact that Wharton Center presents upwards of 50 completely different shows in an average season, the Public Relations department is quite modest. In fact, the department consists of Bob, myself and one other intern. Regardless of this, Bob takes all of the work in stride, achieving success in terms of a lot of great media coverage and high ticket sales (with the help of Wharton’s great marketing department as well!) for almost all of the shows. I’ve learned a lot from working with Bob over the years, and I believe that much of his insight can be applied in a broader sense than just Wharton Center. Here are a few tips that have really stuck out to me:
Stick to the point and be brief! I often write press releases, and when I’m done, I usually bring them into Bob’s office to review with him before we send them out. When we go through the release, almost every time we get to at least one part where he says, “Can we make this shorter and more straightforward?” A lot of us (well, me at least) tend towards fluffy language and long elaborate sentences when we’re writing. What I’ve learned from Bob is that the media does not have time for this- so when you’re sending them a press release, or even just an email, say what you want to say in as few words as possible. They are bombarded with many potential stories to cover every single day, and the way to make a good impression is not to send pages and pages of intricate details, it’s to keep things short and easy to comprehend.
Don’t underestimate the power of personal connections. Another important thing for any PR professional to remember is that connections truly are everything, and this goes all the way down to the social level. Whether it’s calling a reporter to wish them a happy birthday (it’s impossible to miss birthdays these days with Facebook!), inviting a member of the media to lunch to catch up, or just being active in the community and attending other people’s events, personal connections will not only keep your social calendar full (as Bob’s definitely is!), they will help you be in the front of other’s minds when it comes to press opportunities.
Treat everyone equally. One of the best things about having Bob for a boss is that he doesn’t look at his interns as just students who can run errands or make copies. He treats us as professionals and as capable of completing any task that needs to be done. He does the same with other students and young people in the media. It’s often frustrating as a student to deal with people who refuse to even pay attention to you or take you seriously just because you are young and still learning. During a workshop that he led about working with the media, Bob told everyone to give the same amount of attention to a brand new intern conducting an interview as you would to the veteran anchor on the evening news. Everyone has to start out somewhere, and in a few years, that intern may have moved up to quite a different position! A connection is a connection, no matter how small it may seem, and it is vital to make everyone that you work with feel important, because they will certainly remember if you do not.
Fake it ‘til you make it. A story that Bob often tells is about one of his first jobs after college. He really wanted to work for a news channel, and was willing to do whatever it took to get himself there. He somehow persuaded the people at a station to give him a position, promising to work hard and come in at very early hours. Bob said he really knew nothing about how to be successful in this new position upon taking the job, but he seized the opportunity that was presented to him and planned on learning along the way. I’d be willing to bet that determination, a strong work ethic and passion can get you just as far in the real world as formal expertise, if not further. It can be scary, but when presented with a new opportunity, I think it’s better to “jump off the bridge and learn to build wings on the way down,” as the saying goes. If we wait until we truly feel ready for something, we’ll probably be waiting forever. This hits especially close to home for me as I prepare to graduate this spring, and look for full-time jobs. It’s daunting, and who knows if I’m actually ready, but the only way to know is to put myself out there and give it my all in any situation that arises. So in conclusion, if you ever get the chance to talk to or work with Bob Hoffman, please do! I absolutely could not ask for a better PR role model or just overall great person to have in my life.