8 interviewing tips for writers

To craft the perfect press release, newsletter article or blog post, PR pros must know how to effectively interview insiders. The following eight tips will help you get the most out of your sources, from business executives to eccentric chefs.


1. Don’t limit your notes to a Q&A format.

It may seem logical to write down all of your must-ask questions with three or four lines in between for responses, but this format can limit the flow of conversation. It’s easy to forget about follow-up questions if you’re focused on making your way down a list.

Instead try writing your most important questions at the top of the page for reference. As you interview, note which questions you still need to ask, and work them in when the conversation slows.

2. Be personable.

It can be very awkward if an interviewer asks question after question and never looks their source in the eye. Ask follow-up questions, show interest and if you’re meeting face-to-face, remember to look up often.

3. Establish purpose.

Make sure your source understands the purpose of the piece you are writing. If you hope to capture the personality of a business owner for a feature story, don’t let your source talk finance for 20 minutes.

4. Limit initial research.

PR pros sometimes serve as translators between industry experts and the public. It’s important to have a basic understanding of the topic before an interview, but don’t do too much research.

It will be much easier to decide what information is important and what information needs to be simplified if you come to the interview knowing just enough to formulate effective questions.

5. Hunt down direct quotes.

Direct quotes establish credibility, express personality and add color to written work. Being mindful of possible quotes during an interview will save you a lot of time in the writing process.

When your source says something particularly helpful, interesting or entertaining, glance at your recorder and jot down the time elapsed. This way it’ll be easy to replay that part of the conversation and get a strong, accurate quote for your piece.

6. Get personal-ity.

When writing a piece in which a person is the subject, remember to capture the individual’s personality.

Ask personal questions, get your source’s opinion and, when possible, observe your source’s nonverbal behavior. What are they wearing? Do they have an interesting smile, laugh or habit? Some of the best feature story leads are drawn from personality.

7. Ask for help eliminating jargon.

Save a lot of time translating terms by asking your source to explain industry jargon in common language. Don’t worry about sounding uninformed, and ask a few questions that focus on the general public’s understanding.

8. Observe your subject in action.

When time allows, witness your subject at work. Whether you’re in the kitchen with a local chef or exploring the features of a new tech item, it’s easier to report on what you’ve seen firsthand.

Keep in mind that as you interview, your sources are observing you in action. Consider these tips to improve your interview conduct and impress the people who supply you with interesting content.

By Jessica Barber, Account Executive

Moving to the city comes with a cost

With the continuous growth and opportunity surrounding the tech PR industry, many grads find themselves relocating to the Bay Area after college. Landing your dream job, meeting new people and exploring all that San Francisco has to offer sure sounds appealing, but there is one dreadful factor that can’t be overlooked—finding a place to live.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.21.17 AMPhotos by: Kayla Wilkinson

I am one of those soon-to-be grads seeking out a career in the Bay Area. If job hunting wasn’t already enough of a stressor, try adding in finding a place to live that costs less than $3,000 per month. Let’s just say, it’s not easy. With graduation quickly approaching I’ve already started my search for finding a place to live.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • According to Kiplinger.com, San Francisco comes in third for the most expensive place to live in the U.S., right behind Honolulu and New York. Yikes.
  • As a rule of thumb, I found that only 30 percent of your salary should be spent on rent. Well, let’s do the math to see how much we should spend on rent:

A base salary of a public relations assistant account executive or account executive in San Francisco averages to about $35,000-45,000 a year according to hoojobs.com. Let’s just say a job offers you $40,000. That means that 30 percent of your salary would come to $12,000 leaving only $1,000 per month dedicated to rent. With the price of rent for a one bedroom averaging at $2,920.50 per month, there is no way this is financially affordable.

So here’s some things you can do:

  1. Find roommates! The easiest way to lower the cost of rent is to find roommates to split it with.
  2. Utilize social media. Tools such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck make it easy to search for keywords like “rent in San Francisco” or “Bay Area housing” so that you can stay on top of new listings. You can also post status updates that let your friends and family know you are looking to relocate. It’s all about networking.
  3. Check Craigslist. You never know when someone is in desperate need to find a roommate and is offering a great price for a room.
  4. Use Livelovely.com to refine your search and set alerts. This site makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. If nothing is currently available, you’ll be alerted when something comes up.

For all of you in the same boat as me, I wish you luck on finding a place to live. As much as it is a hassle to find housing in the city, I have no doubt that it will be worth it. Let me know if you have any other tips for finding a place to live!

By Kayla Wilkinson, General Manager

Finding the balance between personal and professional social media:

Today, as college kids, we put our entire lives on our social media; we feel the need to share every thought, feeling and activity. But when the time comes for us to join the job hunt, our future employers will, without a doubt, search through that social media to get an idea of who we are.

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Ranting on social media is never okay, especially if you have professional followers.

Often people advise to have two separate accounts, one personal and one professional, for each social media outlet. But I disagree, partially because I barely have enough time to master one of each channel, let alone two of each.

While I prepare myself for the career world, I’m taking a deep look into my accounts, and deleting what doesn’t need to be seen by my future employers. However where do we draw the line to avoid deleting our whole personalities?

With a little help from College Express, I’ve crafted a short list of the major do’s and don’ts of social media for college students on the job hunt:


  • Show your personality: A page that’s strictly professional is boring. Employers want to see who you really are, as your personality is what makes you different from every other applicant.
  • Play with the background and/or cover photo of your page: An original background photo can offer an opportunity to make your profile stand out and show what interests you.
  • Be active: Social media is designed to be social! An employer wants to see that you are active on your social media channels and engage with followers.
  • Research about how successful people manage their social channels: Start with USA Today’s article and conduct your own research. Knowledge is power.


  • Post photos containing alcohol consumption of any kind: While you might think the innocent photo of you and your friends wine tasting is classy, it’s best to just leave out drinking altogether.
  • Express your opinions on controversial topics: Your political and religious beliefs can be a huge part of your personality, but unless they relate to your job field, it’s better to stay neutral during the job hunt process.
  • Get emotional: Everyone has bad days, but be careful not to get caught up in the moment and share too much. Always keep in mind that even if you delete a post, it still existed, and who knows how many people saw it.

By Gwendolyn Corner, PR Director 

Using Social Media Professionally

Blog ImageTechnology is constantly evolving and it seems almost impossible to keep up with all of the changes. Social media is one major component that has continued to grow with the changes in technology. Aside from being used for just social communication, social media has proven to be an effective way for companies and professionals to market and expand their networks. 

When using social media for a company, it is smart to create a page that consumers can easily “like” or “follow”. According to Forbes, some of the benefits of social media marketing are:

  • Strengthened brand recognition: Increased visibility through social media is vital to help the company grow. Customers can then easily recognize the brand and the content it promotes. 
  • Improved customer loyalty: With business social media profiles, customers are more likely to remain loyal to that company because they have the ability to directly connect and engage.
  • Show a higher level of customer service: Social media allows businesses to gain that extra step in customer service. Direct engagement allows for customers to easily voice their opinions and for the company to take action immediately. By responding quickly and truthfully, companies can maintain a transparent and trustworthy image with their consumers.

 Social media can also be utilized by individuals from a professional standpoint. LinkedIn is a social media channel that is specifically geared toward professionals. Users can easily connect with other businesses and individuals in order to promote themselves on LinkedIn. One advantage is that users can join groups that are directly related to specific companies and interests. Here are some ways using groups can be beneficial according to the LinkedIn Official Blog:

  • Join groups that relate to your industry: Topics can range from broad to more general, so it is easy for users to find a group that interests them. By joining and participating in groups, users can more effectively network and connect with other professionals. 
  • Become a top influencer: By joining a group and regularly posting relevant content, a user can become a top influencer of the group, meaning that other group users view them as an asset to the group.
  • Start a discussion: Creating a discussion within a group can get other members involved and can help promote a specific topic. Users can also share discussions on other social media sites in order to gain additional publicity and engagement.

In order to improve a professional image, individuals and companies can utilize social media to help network and engage with consumers and professionals.

-By Rachael DiCicco, Social Media Director


They say admission is the first step in the road to recovery, so here I go: My name is Corey, and I’m a serial procrastinator. I’m easily distracted and even more so easily entertained — two characteristics that make a deadly procrastination combination.

My motto in life has always been, ‘Why do today what you what you can put off until tomorrow?’ I’ve lived by this mantra whole-heartedly, although my mom has always accused me of having a procrastination problem — To which I reply, ‘I don’t have a problem. I can stop whenever I want!’

I try to justify my foolish behavior by claiming that I work better under pressure, but that’s far from true. I crack like an iPhone screen under pressure. The closer that impending deadline gets, I begin to feel overwhelmed, complain to my roommates about all the stuff that I have to do, pity myself and then crawl into bed to take a nap because I just don’t have the time to take care of all my responsibilities. Woe is me.

While I always miraculously get my work done after days of procrastinating, I pay for it with my mental stability. Doing everything last minute will eventually wear you down. As a soon-to-be college graduate, I’ve finally decided to stop being the root of my own stress. I’ve found a few ways to help me manage my time more effectively and stay productive.

  1. Get a planner and write in it religiously

It’s likely that if you don’t write your tasks down, you’ll remember them at a painfully inconvenient time — like when you’re in the shower and you have a quiz due online in 30 minutes.

Organizing all your priorities into a list is not only a good way to remind yourself that it needs to be done, but it also shows you just how many things you have to do. Extra-long lists will make you panic for a minute, but they also force you to realize that you need to get started on your work before it completely consumes you.

  1. Find what motivates you and give yourself incentives

There are tons of reasons to get your work done in a timely matter. For me, it’s being free to always say yes when a friend calls me to go on a spontaneous adventure — something I can’t do if I’m working with a tight deadline. If I’m feeling particularly unmotivated, I tell myself that I can’t go out with my friends until my finish my paper that’s due next week. Stay strict with yourself and reward yourself when you deserve it!

  1. Get rid of the distractions

Two words: cat videos. This guilty pleasure is my No. 1 Internet weakness. They lure me in with their enticing titles and inescapable cuteness. And before I know it it’s two hours later, and I still haven’t started my research paper.

Don’t let the Web suck you in! If you’re like me and can’t be trusted, you can download programs to help you, such as StayFocusd, an extension of Google Chrome that restricts the amount of time you spend on certain websites. Once you’ve used up your allotted time, the sites you choose to block will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.


And finally, my most useful piece of advice:

  1. Suck it up and get it done

I think this one speaks for itself.



– By Corey Bruecker, assistant account executive


Behind the Scenes: Sacramento Kings PR

It’s basketball season! I sat down with the Sacramento Kings Senior Director of Communications Laura Braden to talk about working in the real world and the post-grad job hunt.


A Day in the Office

A typical day in PR doesn’t exist, Braden said. As a PR professional you are always plugged-in and on-call in case of a client emergency.

“I always tell people if you are looking for a personal life, public relations is not for you,” Braden said.

The media isn’t a 24-hour news cycle anymore thanks to Twitter and other social media, she said.  People want second to second updates now.

Her day starts at home checking emails and news feeds to catch up on the Kings and the PR world. After responding to emails received throughout the night, she heads to the Sleep Train Arena office.

Braden said she wakes up daily with a to-do list and a plan that could be thrown-out at a moments notice, if a crisis arises.

“You’re putting out fires or this amazing interview opportunity comes up, and you can’t say no, and they want to do it at 2 o’clock, and it’s 1:30, so you’re scrambling to make it work,” Braden said.

The rest of her day is filled with meetings and more emails. The stress and the pace is a constant to her daily routine, she said.

“But every day is different and that’s what keeps it fun and challenging,” said Braden.

The New Arena

The Kings current project is the construction of the arena in downtown Sacramento, the Sacramento ESC. The project promotes the progress of the demolition and construction of the new arena, but also highlights the downtown Sacramento community.


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“Our strategy is to create this kind of strong community,” said Braden “We want to be a good neighbor and partner to the groups and people that work around us.”

She directs the business PR that focuses on the NBA 3.0, Vivek Ranadivé’s philosophy based on globalization, community and technology, Braden said. She is part of nearly all external communication, from news conferences to big announcement-events.

But her work day is just getting started after the meetings and emails. After hours she is extremely active in the Sacramento community. After all, engaging in the community is incredibly important to her job, she said.

“It’s good to be out in the community and receiving feedback and hearing about what’s going on,” Braden said. “When you work for the Kings people want to know what the Kings are up to, and they also have lots of feedback for you.”

Tips for the Job Hunt

Graduation is quickly approaching meaning the post-grad job hunt is right around the corner. Saying good-bye to the comforts of college and hello to the realities of the real world begins to set in.

“The hardest job you will ever get is your first one,” Braden said.


Five Pieces of Advice

  1. The more real life experiences you can get the better.
  2. Figure out what makes you unique and own it and sell it.
  3. What really matters is: what is on your resume, who you know and what you know.
  4. Your resume isn’t an archive of all the things you’ve done, it is a reflection of what you think you can bring to a particular job.
  5. Keep whatever is making you money on there because that shows you’re able to juggle multiple hats, and you can handle full-time employment.


– Sarah Winning, social media director

My Terrible Twenty-Twos

Twenty years ago in my terrible twos, I was throwing obnoxious tantrums and escaping to my parents’ backyard to rummage through recycling bins.

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My parents said I’d drink the last sip from Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bottles, a longtime family favorite, mistakenly believing that all things in bottles were for babies.

I now unmistakingly sip full bottles of refrigerated Sierra Nevadas, gather with fellow soon-to-be Chico State grads and have mini-frenzies regarding our impending release from college.

Usually our conversation drifts from reminiscing memories to laughing nervously about our angst of post-grad possibilities.

It seems we’re each suffering from a case of the terrible twenty-twos, an exciting yet uncomfortable phase 80-days or less from college graduation marked by frequent tantrums stemming from fear of increased responsibility and ongoing battles for independence.

Listen to the wise words of Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen” while reading remedies for the terrible twenty-twos:

  • Do it once. Do it right.

     Be thoughtful and thorough about the genuine quality of your academics, relationships and leisure activities.

    • Get to know classmates and professors, you’ll soon miss seeing them daily.
    • Stop half-assing assignments, friendships, relationships, job hunting.
    • Do everything to the best of your ability and always see it through.
  • Learn to be alone

    You’re not always going to have roommates to come home to. And “FOMO,” the signature Millennial fear of missing out, will be a short-lived justification to be overly social in the real world.Alone time is valuable. It’s a time to reflect, read, write, focus and disconnect.
    And in the words of David McCullough Jr. read to think for yourself, as a matter of self-respect, as a nourishing staple of life.

  • Appropriately handle the word “settle”

    As a person in my terrible twenty-twos, “settle” is my least favorite word (yeah, I said least favorite). In a whiny voice say aloud: No, I do not want to settle down, settle in, settle for, settle with, settle on. No settling for me, period.
    An admittedly horrible symptom of the terrible twenty-twos is the “I don’t wanna’s.”

    Settling is a formidable source of angst for terrible twenty-two-ers. Millennials are repeatedly hounded to never settle and to live fiercely and independently—  to travel, move far away, don’t be in a relationship as it only limits your potential, make extraordinary and relatively immediate career-leaps, take bold and risky chances.

    Yes, it’s good to have gumption and audacity. But realize what Mark Manson, a author, thinker and unconventional life-advice giver said: “in our instant gratification culture, it’s easy to forget that most personal change does not occur as a single static event in time, but rather as a long, gradual evolution where we’re hardly aware of it as it’s happening. We rarely wake up one day and suddenly notice wild, life-altering changes in ourselves.”Traveling, moving across the country or a new job isn’t going to instantly transform and free you of “settling.” Change your definition of “settle” to be happily satisfied.

  • Wherever you go, there you are
    We’re constantly bombarded with photos and stories of globe-gallivanting young adults creating irreplaceable experiences reaped only from worldly travels. It’s true that travel is a unique fosterer of a heightened state of awareness and perspective.

    But recognize that an authentic, meaningful, impactful, life-altering journey is not dependent upon actual motion. Whether acknowledged or not, we are constantly bound to a perpetual voyage.

    “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” John Lennon.

  • Learn to make hard choices

    Ruth Chang said hard choices, “are hard because here is no best option. In the space of hard choices we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive people that we are.”


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I’ll leave you with a snippet from David McCullough Jr.

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

– Kelsey Anderson, editorial director

The Dos and Don’ts of Office Wear

Untitled-1We’ve all been there. You’ve tried on 20 different outfits and nothing looks just right. It’s either too scandalous with that plunging neckline or flat-out too frumpy.

In today’s age, there are too many interpretations of what it means to be business formal and business casual that it could
make your head spin.

But after conducting some thorough research—thank you Rachel Zoe—I have found several tips that help with those rough mornings when you have nothing to wear while staying stylish.


  1. Make a friend before entering the workplace

Hasn’t everyone on LinkedIn stalked at one point or another? So put that stalking to use and message someone you’d like to
be friends with from your new office! Ask them what the typical attire is for employees, that way you aren’t too over or underdressed.

  1. Leave the minis at home

If you have to ask yourself “Is this too short?” the answer is almost always yes. Avoid it and save it for your weekend endeavors. Bottoms (skirts or shorts) should be at or below the knee, any further up might make you appear a little promiscuous. You don’t want to be that girl at the office. The same goes low-cut shirts. Ladies, cleavage is a 100 percent no for any office environment, whether it be casual or formal. Don’t do it.

  1. Wear a fun lipstick

If you’re a makeup lover, try a fun bright pink or red. But keep in mind if you decide to go with a statement lipstick, the rest of your face needs to look clean and polished. Try Ruby Woo from MAC. It’s a beautiful deep, matte red. The same goes for eyes. If you are doing a light (keyword light) smoky eye, keep your lips more natural. NOTE: Don’t be the clown of the office. Keep everything moderate and classy.

  1. Add a statement necklace

A fun necklace can make any outfit go from drab to fab. You also don’t need to spend a fortune to find a perfect office necklace. Try this necklace from Forever 21. The chain detail is a big trend and looks great with a cute blouse!

  1. Avoid “sexy” shoes

The general rule is nothing more than 3-inches tall belongs in the office. Regardless of the rule if you are dressing casual or formal, there are so many options for shoes. Your shoes don’t have to be a basic heel, especially with the cold coming! Try these booties from Nordstrom. On almost all websites you can sort by the style and height of the heel you are looking for. Utilize all your resources!


Above all else, use your best judgment. Just think, “Would I want my boss seeing me in this?” If the answer is maybe or no, don’t risk it. Keep it classy, but stay true to yourself.

– By Kylie Ramos, account executive

How to be Successful After Graduation

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The 2014 academic year has finally ended and so has life in college. Feelings of panic and excitement are common for recent graduates and the fear of the unknown can be overwhelming.

The terrifying realization of an unset path transitioning out of college can be stressful and nerve-racking. But making your way into the “real” world and landing that entry-level job is achievable. If you’re looking for what to do, follow these tips and your dream job can be yours.


  1. Define Tangible Goals:

Before you even think about beginning your job hunt, take a moment to write down your short-term and long-term goals.  Writing down what you want to achieve puts your objective into perspective and helps you visualize what the step should be.


  1. Network:

Networking is not just a fashionable term. It is one of the most important tools for individuals looking for a job. The job hunting process is all about who you know and the connections you have within the industry you strive to work in.

Keeping in touch with previous friends, professors, colleagues distant family members can give you an edge on your competition.

Networking via social media platforms can be extremely beneficial. Using social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin as research tools can help you target potential networking contacts and make connections with the people you wish to connect with from the people you’re currently networked with. But your presence on social-networking is only useful when it results in face-to-face communication. Use it as a starting ground to get to in-person interaction.


  1. Brand Yourself

You just graduated, and you feel on top of the world. But then reality smacks you in the face when you realize there are thousands of other graduates competing for the same job as you.

Employers are looking for individuals with skill sets and personality traits that aren’t cookie- cutter. Building a personal brand that sets you apart from your competition can be the deciding factor on whether or not you get the job.


  1. Be Proactive

Your dream job is not going to coming falling out of the clear-blue sky and drop right into your lap. Looking for a job after graduation can be time consuming and energy-sapping, as potential employers are not on the manhunt for potential employees.

Researching a company and field you are passionate about can set you apart. Think about things you do well and enjoy doing. And then find a company that fits that criteria and become a master of that company.

Don’t be lazy and wait for your dreams to happen. Go out and start making those dreams a reality.


Graduation is a time of celebration with friends and family. It should be a time to celebrate the hard work and dedication you put into the past four years. Don’t stress about what to do after graduation.

Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to the future you always imagined for yourself.