The Power of the “Ask”: finding our PR Day keynote speaker

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It’s official. PR Day’s keynote speaker is Beth Wood, the North Carolina State Auditor. If you don’t know who that is, open nearly any copy of The News & Observer — she’s in there almost once a week. The media coverage extends from the fact that she’s a powerful woman. It’s up to her to make sure our government is using our tax dollars appropriately.

This post isn’t to brag about how great it is that Ms. Wood is speaking for us in April (although it certainly is!). Instead, it’s just to illustrate how powerful the “ask” is. You know that soda commercial about a guy that keeps tacking on “And?” to the end of every sentence? He knows the power of the “ask.” Ask and ye shall receive. All you gotta do is ask. Phrase it however you’d like, but in the end, one of the quickest ways to accomplish a huge goal is to ask.

In order to score Ms. Wood as our speaker, I had to first ask my internship boss at Shelten Media for an introduction. I’m lucky enough to intern for a woman who is very connected in the Triangle. She and Ms. Wood are very good friends. It was a little unnerving to ask my boss because she could perceive that I was taking advantage of her friendship. Business is business and personal is … well, usually that’s business too, but still.

Luckily, my boss said yes, and we scheduled a time to meet with Ms. Wood herself. One piece of advice I can give you is that you have to be extremely prepared when talking to someone that high up the government food chain. The atmosphere was a little relaxed because my boss was there, but I wore dress pants. Before I went, I made sure to print out everything Ms. Wood needed to know about being a panelist.

When we arrived, it was hard not to be starstruck. Relax. Sit down. You’re prepared. Luckily, we moved our meeting over to the couch (it would have been even more intimidating if Ms. Wood had stayed behind her desk). I again employed the power of the “ask” and told Ms. Wood that I’d love it if she were to be our keynote speaker. She was overjoyed and happily accepted. The “ask” is a powerful thing.

Note that during this whole process, I never encountered any resistance from anyone. The only thing standing between me an progress was the “ask.” There are plenty of other situations in which the “ask” has benefited me as well.

  • Networking: I can’t tell you how many people I have emailed or cold called asking to hear about their jobs. About 40 percent of the time, they say no, but it’s those other 60 percent that have taught me some valuable insights about career hunting.
  • Projects: One of the reasons my boss was so willing to connect me to Ms. Wood is that I’ve consistently tried to do my best at work. Sometimes, this means asking to do tasks I’m not ordinarily assigned to do. Over the summer, I asked to write more blog posts and create case studies of our performance for our clients. Not only did I get the additional experience, I got some additional pay as well.
  • Advice: This goes along with the networking point, but I’ve learned so much through simply asking people for advice on what I can be doing. Ask professionals, professors, fellow PRSSA members, and anyone else you can think of for advice. They’re always happy to give it.

If you think you’re falling behind on the job search or at your internship, all you need to do is employ the power of the “ask.” Just think, if I, a lowly NCSU senior, could get a top-ranking government official (I mean seriously, we had to be ID’d when we walked in the door) to come to a PRSSA event by simply asking, there’s no telling what you can do.

-Joseph Havey

Click here to find out more information about Beth Wood, the North Carolina State Auditor.

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