Cover Letter Writing: Do's and Don'ts

Francheska Pondevida, VP of Public Relations

C+C ("all about the good"), a social marketing and public relations agency in Seattle, joined our students last April 12 to explain one of the most common problem in job applications: cover letter writing and content.



What makes for a good cover letter is not a simple question. A straight-up answer would be: it depends. When you're working for a tech company versus a marketing or public relations agency, there can be distinct differences between how your cover letter should look like and what it should include. Many may assume that a cover letter may not necessarily include humor and this is not entirely true. Some cover letters are great and creative story pieces that allows some applicants to stand out more than others.

There are many strategies to write cover letters, guidelines that reputable people offer, but the truth is: there is no single way, but there can be tons of effective ways.

C+C shared with us 4 powerful tips on how to write an effective cover letter. Not everything is applicable in every scenario for everyone, but this is generally helpful:

1. Follow Directions -- brainstorm, plan, organize ideas, and when you have written down your content, revise for any technical errors. Nobody would like to read a cover letter that is structurally difficult to follow and with sentences that are hard to understand.


2. Match tone -- this is just one of the many ways you can use this step to your advantage: a hint of creativity may be helpful for some jobs that require some social media skills, public relations, and sales/marketing. You can give yourself an edge if you know about the character of the company and their products and possibly look into their philosophy, messages, their audiences, and communities. In turn, challenge yourself to tell what you can bring to them through incorporating creative techniques such as humor, storytelling, learning from an experience, etc. It is important to show HOW and not just WHAT processes you employed in the life circumstances that you share.


3. Study up -- in relation to step 2, a major mistake that people don't do is that they don't research their company and this can actually be bad for the applicant. Be prepared not just in interviews but also find a way to vocalize through your cover letter what they can add to the company by hiring you. Think, what can they possibly miss out on if they don't hire you? Get them excited to have you as a potential employee! Show specificity in passion. The reason companies provide job description is for you to already figure out that they know the position you are applying for, now what do you know about them and what can you offer that others may not?


4. Make a connection -- a cover letter is not a reinstatement of your resume and if you have your skills already in your resume, why bother to include them in your cover letter? With the many applications human resources go through each day, it can be a waste of time to read 2 versions of a resume.  Your cover letter or in lay man's term "a motivation letter" is what will set you apart from other candidates. It is an opportunity to shine and showcase your character.  An idea would be providing strong examples regarding your work ethic and how you can add ideas their projects.


These tips are not set on stone and can vary depending on fields of interest. However, writing a cover letter requires rigorous discipline and patience. If you apply to a lot of jobs and overlook the important processes that will make for a successful cover letter, like researching your company's projects, you might miss out on an opportunity. Instead of writing general cover letters, take your time to sit down, plan, and focus one company at a time. It will increase  your chances, save you energy, and who knows, you will not be discouraged by low response turnout, when you know you had their best interests in mind written thoroughly.





2018 Hiring in Public Relations: getting an A-game trick in a changing landscape

Francheska Pondevida, VP of Public Relations

Last April 5, 2018 the UW PRSSA launched their spring quarter with Clare Sayas, a persuasive, young, and successful public relations professional from Revere, an agency for technology at Edelman. (Edelman is a global communication and ranked public relations marketing firm in the world)

 Photo by Rawpixel/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Rawpixel/iStock / Getty Images

For a lot of juniors and seniors who attended the event, the main question was: "How do we get hired?" It can be a lot of 'no's' for young professionals who are  trying to find relevant internships and experiences that will bring out the best of their PR skills. According to the article, "What lies ahead for public relations in 2018" by Donald Wright, a PRSA Fellow, artificial intelligence is a revolutionary innovation of the current generation. With technology companies, both competing and collaborating for the manufacture of robots in a world where thousands of content swift past our consciousness at a single point in time, many of our future industries are in need of competent PR professionals that can handle data and digital creation.

For those without inclination in data engineering, advanced mathematics, or  content creation, should we fret? The obvious answer is no, but a full answer is along the lines of prepare, relax, and find time. Clare Sayas stressed the important notion of  diversity in experience and using even our part-time job experiences to show how we do problem-solving skills and prove our competency in public relations -- this is something that a lot of people may take for granted. Despite the rigidity that a PR changing landscape demands today, success is highly dependent on how we tell our stories and experiences. Even if you're worst in web creation but have lobbied for a policy change and got results from it, or worked at a small business in your hometown or at restaurant, the key that people tend to overlook: character.

You can eventually learn other PR skills that you have less competency on. Clare have shared, "I do not like the financial side of my job, but I do it." She also talked about having to play with data and in being smart in learning the technology of her company.

The trick: it's not always a matter of 'what you can do' but also 'who you are', and that tells a lot about a person's ability to succeed in the PR business.

PR in today’s industries: B2B, Sales, Technology, Creative and Marketing Agencies


As we were wrapping up Fall 2017,  we welcomed new students to become part of the UW PRSSA, brought in professional speakers who shared their personal stories, and proved how they have successfully traversed the nitty-gritty of their public relations experience. We are learning to recognize the belief that PR is definitely a growing industry today, not just in itself, but  for other industries as well.

For the past 2 months, the UW PRSSA had the following speakers: Ty Rogers, Director of Communication at Amazon, Mark Howley, CEO of Pacific Bag Inc., Chelsey Nelson, a UW alumni who is now working at Yesler, a B2B Marketing Agency, and upcoming is our very own Delaney Berreth, PR and Marketing Coordinator at the Pacific Science Center. Every year opportunities to re-discover and amplify our public relations knowledge are made possible through charismatic professionals, offering not only their expertise in PR, but also shared advice on what young professionals should look out for and how to become better prepared in the job market. In any career choice, the integration of PR is a determinant of success.

Public relations is what we can call the ‘bargain between individuals and industries’ — with an exponentially attractive and demanding consumer market in Seattle and elsewhere, PR will drive the growth of every industry and success reflects back to the PR individual as well. Whether in science or business, in which PR metrics is involved, in restaurant and retail where social and digital marketing is a must, and even to industries such as packaging and tourism, where PR affects consumer loyalty, a great PR background proves to be very useful. (Delaney Berreth, a UW alumni, will share how she landed her current job as a marketing coordinator at Pacific Science Center, just by being part of UW PRSSA on November 9, 2017)

The industries today that attract young professionals are so diverse and demanding, that every company will be highly selective in the future and look for a PR person that can use the wide range of PR skills -- content creation, to digital marketing, to data-driven tasks. As we are embracing new industries today,  the PR  business is growing amidst criticisms and doubts about it. 

It's good to note that PR is this multi-dimensional field that is involved in every decision or step of a company. A good PR campaign will inevitably have benefits that will always outweigh the costs. Make sure that you have the right information, explore your opportunities and not miss out on them, and closely observe which industries you want to work for while in college. Build your skill set and if you feel lost, don't fret. Even PR professionals ask for help and their success depends on other resources as well.

In the light of a transforming landscape in Seattle and the world, UW PRSSA has the resources UW students need to engage in PR with Seattle-based, self-made, and goal-driven PR professionals. We also hold company tours that are fun, informational, and also opens opportunities to those looking to work for companies such as Microsoft, Starbucks, and many more. PR success in this competitive and growing market for the millennial generation starts with having the information you need and using it to your advantage.

3 Tips for Writing a Killer Job Application

By Audrey Klackner

Last month almost 1,000 students from around the country gathered in Indianapolis eager to learn about the public relations industry. As a senior getting closer and closer to graduation every day, one session that I knew I couldn’t miss was “How to Write a Killer Job Application,” by Danny Rubin. This was hands down one of the most helpful sessions I went to, so I’m going to share what I learned. Here are the three ways to make your job application stand out:

1.     Quantify, Quantify, Quantify:

Employers are looking for numbers in your resume and your cover letter. With only one page to show off your skills and experience it’s crucial to make each bullet point count. To do this ask your self: how much, how many, and how often. For example, how many campaigns did you plan, how often did you complete a certain task, or how much did you increase XYZ? This will make your application as competitive as possible.

2.   Do your research:

This is obvious, but dig deeper and get more specific when you’re doing your research. You should know a lot about the company and have specific examples that show why you are interested in them. Make sure you are able to tell them why these examples relate to you and your experiences. This is a great way to get an employers attention when you initially reach out to them via email or LinkedIn. 

3.    Tell your story: 

Many of us have been taught to start our cover letters with “Hi my name is XYZ and I’m applying for the position of XYZ,” and then go on to list why we are a good fit. It’s time to stop writing like everybody else. Everyone has their own story to tell. Your story is much more interesting for recruiters to read and more likely to land you and interview.

To tell your story think of a challenging task or obstacle you have had to overcome within your professional career. It can be a daunting task, a huge project, or a time something went wrong and you had to made it work. Just think of that moment and use that to tell a story in your cover letter. Start the cover letter with your story and build off that experience to show why you are a great candidate for the job.  

With these tips you should be set to rock your next job/ internship application. Do you have any other great tips that have worked for you? Tweet them to us at @UWPRSSA! 


Andie Long Gives the Lowdown About PR at a Non-Profit

Member Spotlight | Author: Katie Smith

March 2, 2015 - This Wednesday UW PRSSA was fortunate enough to host a meeting with guest speaker Andie Long. For 5 years she worked as the Senior Communications Officer for Mercy Corps, a non-profit organization that helps people in the world’s toughest places survive the crises they confront and turn them into opportunities to thrive. She presented our members with her personal experiences at this organization and offered up some advice about what it takes to do PR at a non-profit.

Long started off her presentation by explaining that working for a non-profit is really rewarding and provides exposure to some pretty amazing experiences. The majority of the employees are extremely driven and passionate about the cause of the company. However, in this field there is a large turnover in employees, making the work environment a fast one where you need to be ready to take on new projects and wear many different hats in order to effectively pursue the mission of the company. Large turnover rates, smaller working staffs, and limited funding also result in some long work days at low pay; for instance, she worked for 5 hours on her own wedding day. Now that is some dedication to the cause.

Aside from Andie Long’s overview of non-profit work, she broke down her overall experiences in non-profit PR into the following four main points of wisdom:

1.  There are no random acts of media

The great thing about working at a non-profit organization is that there are so many great stories to tell because of the heroic work they do. On the other hand, you must always keep in mind why you are telling a story. Every piece of content you produce should be targeting a specific gain from one of what she calls the 3 P’s:

· Profile: telling stories that let people know your non-profit is an entity of substance that people want to work with.

· Policy: writing stories that bring awareness to legislature that will impact the work of your non-profit either negatively or positively.

· Partners: showcasing the work your organization accomplishes with it’s partners in order to garner the interest of new sponsors while maintaining lasting relationships with current partners.

2. Find the real storytellers

Some of the best stories that can be told won’t necessarily be created by those in PR at a non-profit. It’s important to keep your eyes out for those who live the stories that you want to tell, and find ways for them to tell how your organization has helped them. Long gave an example of a time she went to the Philippines six months after a typhoon hit the area. She was searching for stories to tell about the work Mercy Corps had been doing there. While conversing with a young Pilipino woman from the area, Anna Yap, she found herself being drawn to her story about the devastation the area felt after the typhoon and the rejuvenation and help they received form Mercy Corps. Below is a short video Long recorded of Anna Yap giving thanks to Mercy Corps for their work:

3. Have a bias for action

When you work for a large organization, it can be a very slow process to get things done. However, when working PR, things are always moving at a quick pace and it’s important to produce timely content. She is a firm believer in listening to your instincts which can sometimes lead you to act now and apologize later. Nevertheless, it is also just as important to be aware of boundaries that cannot be crossed. She also advises to build strong relationships with the field staff of the organization, this will allow you better access to some of the most inspiring and interesting stories that need to be told.

4. Expect the unexpected

After graduating from Carleton College in 2001 with a degree in political science, Long wasn’t interested in going to law school nor was she wanting to work on political campaigns like many of her classmates. After receiving a suggestion from a friend to pursue public relations, she sought out an informational interview with an alumni member from her school and networked her way into a PR internship for Waggener Edstrom. This led to a 9-year long career with the company. She then explained that if she had one bit of advice for college students, it would be to not try too hard to predict where you are going to end up. You never know what life is going to throw at you and there might be something even better out there for you than you could even imagine. 



2015 & 2016 Recap

In review of fall quarter, UW PRSSA recruited 75 students and raised $350, compared to 39 students and $0 last year.

Throughout this quarter UW PRSSA held meetings with estimable PR firms, such as Weber Shandwick, Edelman, and Porter Novelli, which helped increase membership engagement.

“In order to [expand the PRSSA brand,] one of the key tasks was having a strategic and elaborate programming schedule that students would be interested in attending, said Chapter President Thomas Nguyen.

The Oktoberfest kickoff meeting on Oct. 14 had intensive preparation to promote the event, from designing flyers and posters to creating incentives like root beer floats and salted pretzels. The outcome was favorable with 74 students who attended the meeting, of which 50 of them registered to become members.

On Oct. 21, Nguyen partnered with the American Marketing Association to host a joint meeting with General Motor’s Communication Group Manager, Dave Barthmuss, which consolidated a total of 128 members.

“With having 15-30 people show up last year, my goal this year was to build a stronger presence on campus, specifically in the Communications Department. This is why I extended our leadership team to cover more marketing, creative, and digital content in an effort to expand the PRSSA brand.”

For the first time ever, UW PRSSA was sponsored by Lyft and Talking Rain, which helped PRSSA’s brand exposure, fund raising and cutting costs. With skilled graphic designers, the Chapter was able to spread eye-catching posters both in campus and on social media to attract new members. By ensuring members are always informed, officers made reminders of the next meeting on several social media platforms and recaps of previous events with blogs and videos.

UW PRSSA will continue to improve with new plans that are underway for winter quarter. 

Write Like a PR Pro

Member Spotlight | Author: Andrew Hill

As communications majors we can all agree on one thing: most of us don’t/didn’t know where to start. We’re aware that internships are great resume builders and necessary for finding a job, but the market is saturated with interns; this can be frustrating for PR novices because they fall in the bottom of the list compared to the more experienced applicants. Even an intern must be presentable or at least differentiate him/herself from others to be a desirable candidate, but how can you leave any positive impression with an empty portfolio?

If you can relate to this, don’t worry- there’s a way out of this cycle.

In the School of Visual Concepts, a class called Writing for PR is being offered. The instructor, Scott Janzen, is a PR master with over 30+ years working in PR, marketing, and many other fields. In his class, students are given the opportunity to develop a portfolio under his guidance. In addition to the portfolio, you can improve your overall writing as well.  Students in SVC study and practice AP format, which is imperative to PR, but often exclusively taught in journalism school. Students also explore various writing styles, such as press releases, blogs, ghost writing, media pitches, etc., which are carefully critiqued by Mr. Janzen.

Another great advantage students have is networking. Mr. Janzen is an estimable and well known practitioner in the PR world, so he is a strong reference to have. Mr. Janzen also invites guest speakers to his classes, who share valuable advices in becoming a professional. Remember it’s not only about what you know, but also who you know. Even students who attend his classes are often journalists or PR professionals, which is a great environment to be in to meet other aspirants like you. 

If you’re a busy student, keep in mind the class is only held once a week in a nine-week period. I highly recommend anyone to take this class because now I have a richer resume, a fatter portfolio, and a longer contact list. If you’re in need of professional guidance, do yourself a favor and enroll in this class.  

PRSSA Members can now enroll in the class for a discounted price! Keep an eye on your email for an exclusive code to use at registration. 

For more information visit

National Conference 2015

Member Spotlight | Author: Audrey Klackner

16 December 2015 Last month five University of Washington students flew to Atlanta for the largest gathering of public relations students in the country, aiming to bridge the gap between the classroom and the professional world.

Communication and public relations students from all over the country gathered in Atlanta for a four-day conference that was held November 6-10. The Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) National Conference consisted of 32 sessions, 57 speakers and almost 1,200 students.

The conference is meant to build relationships, skills and help students learn about the industry from professionals in the field.

The students from the University of Washington’s PRSSA chapter, Thomas Nguyen Lorina Crain, Jonathan Cruz, Joyce Kian and Andrew Hill got the opportunity to go to Atlanta to network with professionals and bring back key takeaways for their campus chapter.

UW PRSSA chapter president, Thomas Nguyen, explained why these kinds of experiences are crucial to a student’s college experience.

 “I find conferences more valuable than any class I could take because you are meeting and learning from people who currently or have worked in the jobs/positions you want. These people have experience and are able to give relevant advice to help you along the way.”

When they arrived in Atlanta on Friday, the conference kicked off with an opening ceremony that was prom themed. Students joined in on dancing, dinner and mingling.

The next day began with keynote speaker, Scott Williamson, from Coca-Cola North America. Williamson was one of Nguyen’s favorite speakers.

“It was interesting to get insight on what it’s like to work for a powerhouse company such as Coca Cola and learning of the tips and tricks he has learned throughout the years. His stories and advice was inspiring and taught us lessons of how resilience and hard work pays off,” Nguyen said.

The rest of the national conference was packed with sessions where students got to chose what speakers they wanted to go to based on their interests. The five students from UW divided and conquered, attending different sessions to take notes and gather key points from each speaker. 

Overall one key takeaway Nguyen has learned from the two PRSSA conferences he has attended is not necessarily what he learned from the speakers, but what he’s learned from the connections he has made.

“PRSSA conferences have taught me how to connect with my peers, young professionals and those involved in the PRSA/PRSSA organization,” said Nguyen.

National conferences are not the only way students can make connections and network; UW’s PRSSA chapter serves as a tool for students on campus.

 “Students should take every opportunity they can to participate in conferences like this. If you go into it with an open mind, you learn a lot about what interests you,” said Lorina Crain, UW PRSSA webmaster.

PRSSA gives students an environment to learn about the communications and public relations field. Members get to network with each other and professionals.

“PRSSA is one of the few sources that allows me to learn more about public relations at the University of Washington. I am able to meet people who are also interested in the PR/marketing field,” said UW PRSSA director of marketing and advertising, Joyce Kian.

Members of the PRSSA chapter meet every other Wednesday for professional-development workshops. This quarter they have had Dave Barthmuss from General Motors; a young professional’s panel from Edelman, Weber Shandwick Seattle and Porter Novelli Seattle; Weber and Shandwick on the New World of PR; and an elevator pitch workshop.

“I recommend joining to anyone with an interest in writing, event planning, creativity, or who has a passion they aren’t sure how to incorporate into a career path yet. PRSSA will give you an opportunity to find a career that has the same values you value in yourself,” Crain said.

So This One Time in an Elevator...

Dec. 2, 2015- For our final meeting of the quarter, UWPRSSA was fortunate to host the Elevator Pitch Workshop with Elodie Fichet, UW grad and current doctorate student. Secondly, PRSSA officers discussed important details regarding national and regional conferences, new opening for an officer position, and blog submissions. And finally the meeting concluded with a committee activity.

As a communication major, it is vital to master the art of first impression. According to Fichet, a social technique known as the “elevator pitch” allows people to provide a “short summary (10-60 seconds) to quickly and simply introduce yourself,” which is especially useful when approaching someone of your interest, such as an employer. However, it is imperative to not confuse a summarized resume with an elevator pitch. Some of the most common mistakes people make are speaking for too long, talking in a scripted, unnatural fashion, and, of course, focusing on personal achievements- that’s what Linkden is for. Though it’s important to be professional, what you say must be congruent with the context.

In contrast of a bad pitch, Fichet deconstructed what a good example entails, which would be speaking about personal motivations, future goals, and making a more human connection with your audience. Simplicity is beauty, which is why the two C’s- clear and concise- are the values we should adhere to when giving a pitch. Instead of throwing jargons at your listener, try telling him/her your story. Yes, it works miraculously because it’s infinitely more interesting than rephrasing your resume. Create a conversation of why you’re passionate about what you do, make eye contacts, and make sure you follow up with an information interview.

Finally, the last advice Fichet gave us was the power pose. According to Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk, putting your hands on your own hips for a couple of minutes can bolster confidence. Here’s a link to her video regarding body posture and confidence:

Near the end of the meeting, officers grouped members into four committees: editorial, fundraising & community outreach, recruitment & event planning, and advertising & marketing. During this time, members were able to understand the functions of the chapter, as well as ask questions and learn how they could become more involved. One way students could contribute to PRSSA is by submitting articles to recapping our activities. This will be a great opportunity for members to build a portfolio as well as gain experience in PR writing.

On March 11-12, chapter members are invited to join the Next Generation of PR Regional Conference held at the California State University, Fullerton. On March 3-6, a repetitive from this chapter will be given the opportunity to attend the national assembly in Austin, which PRSSA will pay for hotel and registration costs. Finally regarding UWPRSSA, there will be an officer election for a secretary position for winter quarter. Contact to make a registration or apply as secretary. 

Nordstrom Corporate Visit

In our meeting at the Nordstrom Corporate offices, our students learned firsthand from professionals in the fashion PR, business PR, and crisis communications fields and how they shape, maintain and the enrich Nordstrom's relationship with their numerous key audiences. Thanks for having us!

And So the Story Goes...

21 October 2015 - This Wednesday approximately 125 attendees from UWPRSSA and AMA gathered in the Boeing Auditorium to hear Dave Barthmuss, the director of communications of General Motors, speak about public relations and crisis management.

In 2006, a documentary titled “Who Killed the Electric Car” criticized GM for intentionally discontinuing the EV1 based on the accusation that the company preferred gas consuming cars. Further investigation proved that the real reason why EV1 was killed off was because there was virtually no demand for the car. The business decision to scrap the product turned into a severe case of crisis communications.

In the conference, Barthmuss discussed how GM recovered its reputation with a strategy he used called “Advotocracy,” essentially turning your detractors into advocates. He accomplished this by following three steps: Identifying the issue, opening up and being transparent, and finally shaping public perception. Barthmuss explained how PR techniques, such as understanding the problem, being confident in your brand, and having an open dialogue with consumers could significantly restore a company’s position from public criticism. With car promotions, such as giving free rides to college students in Chevys to throwing parties in an event like Coachella with your favorite celebrities, GM slowly reshaped its image as a youthful, fun brand, earning trust and preference from the younger audience.

GM has given us an informative and valuable lesson that all students could apply to their career that involves reputational management. For more professional advice and opportunities, come to our next meeting on Nov. 4 to hear representatives from Weber Shandwick talk about their mentorship program. 

Oktoberfest 2015

15 October 2015 - 75 students flocked to UW PRSSA’s Oktoberfest kick-off meeting! Pretzels were salted and the root beer floats were flowing for all who walked in the door.

To get the night started, attendees used Twitter and the hashtag #UWPRSSA to break the ice and introduce themselves and their neighbors.

We had the opportunity to announce was the exciting schedule we have for this quarter. Starting Oct. 21, we have General Motor’s Communication Group Manager, Dave Barthmuss joining us to speak about content creation and client-customer relationships. Another major event to mention is Twitter’s Representative Alex Diaz’s speech on personal branding, digital representation, and networking through social media, which will be on Dec. 2. We will also be introducing other guest speakers during November. For more information regarding the schedule, visit

Our presentation also covered beneficial information for our members majoring in communication, ranging from networking, professional development, and experience with content creation.

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know,” said the Chapter President Thomas Nguyen,  “That’s why networking is vital to all of our careers.” Students focusing in communication are recommended to attend our biweekly conferences, office visits, young professional events, and informational interviews to truly benefit from meeting professionals, employers, and other students in the same field.

Though networking is important, it’s only scratching the surface of professional development. Our organization offers internships, leadership experiences, and workshops. To better the odds of being hired in the future, our organization highly suggests that members take full advantage of our services.

If you are interested in joining UW PRSSA, visit our About page for the application and more information!

Our Brand is Crisis TweetUp

20 October 2015 You can’t have PR without crisis communications. Put your skills to the test this Wednesday during our 24 TweetUp. Take on the role of a communications expert in 140 characters or less for the chance to win VIP screening passes to the new movie “Crisis is Our Brand” and other great give-aways!

Scenario will be released on Wednesday, October 21 at 6:30 PM. Tweet us with the hashtag #protectyourpack within the following 24 hours for a chance to win! Winners will be announced the following Friday at 7:00 PM.

Find the trailer here!

Memoirs of a President

26 February, 2014 - We were thrilled to have Allison Hooker, former President of UW PRSSA, give us some amazing insight on her experiences after Husky life!  Allison currently works as the Marketing & Communications coordinator at Seafair, and her boss, Melissa Jurcan, was also gracious enough to provide us with some invaluable advice and knowledge about making it in the industry.  It was so great to learn about the endless possibilities of the PR industry from extremely experienced PR professional, and we LOVED getting advice from someone who was in our shoes not too long ago!

If you want to follow Melissa on Twitter, click here.