March 31, 2010
A pair of PR professionals has combined an online friendship with the power of social media to help others find new jobs across the country.
Arik Hanson, a PR professional based in Minnesota, and Valerie Simon, who works in New Jersey, connected via Twitter after participating in several PR chats. As their friendship grew, they came up with the idea to help out friends who were looking for PR-related jobs. Their discussions launched the start of Help a PR Pro Out (also known as HAPPO).
“I’ve known a lot of people who have lost their jobs,” says Hanson, principal of ACH Communications. “When that happens, people always say, ‘let me know what I can do to help.’ This time we wanted to actually do something.”
Although they’ve never met in person, the pair announced its plans to host a virtual job fair on Feb. 19 — known as HAPPO Day — and launched Facebook and Twitter accounts to serve as central repositories for information sharing.
Simon, senior vice president for BurrellesLuce Media Monitoring and Measurement, and Hanson began reaching out to PR professionals across the country to help generate localized interest in the concept. Called HAPPO Champions, the initial group of 16 local supporters quickly grew to 28. The pair also engaged PR bloggers to spread the word and provide a place for job seekers to post their bios and résumés.
Leading up to the Feb. 19 event, job candidates were encouraged to develop creative blog posts pitching themselves to prospective employers. On Feb. 19, PR pros shared these posts on Twitter using the hashtag #HAPPO between 10 a.m and 2 p.m. Employers posted positions to this tag as well, and a team of HAPPO champions located around the country coordinated people with the best matches in their area. Professionals who wanted to contribute retweeted these postings to help make connections. Many people also learned about jobs directly from hiring managers who joined the event to search for candidates.
“It really gave people a chance to connect, not just to send a résumé in,” says Simon. Hanson agrees, adding, “This helped direct people’s energy.”
Hanson says that he’s heard plenty of stories about meeting new people and energizing job searches. “It’s about the process,” he said, “and it’s gratifying to see the connections that have been made.”
Washington, D.C.-based PR professional Byron Johnson took advantage of the opportunities that HAPPO Day presented.
“HAPPO Day was great because it allowed me to connect with other PR pros from around the country. Some contacts led to potential job opportunities,” says Johnson, who also shared information with other job seekers.
According to Simon, more than 100 tweets tagged with #HAPPO are moving across Twitter each day as people continue to share job listings and career advice and offer support.
While HAPPO continues to exist as an ongoing forum for PR professionals, Hanson and Simon say that they are planning quarterly HAPPO events and the next HAPPO Day is scheduled for April 30, which will focus on student job seekers.
For further reading: More career resources for you
To help PR practitioners navigate this challenging job market, the PRSA Jobcenter has resources to help you, including:
Contact Richard Spector with any questions about the PRSA Jobcenter.