Recruiter (middle aged business man) checking the candidate, an attractive younger woman, during job interview with lively office in the background seen through glass window

What Do You Do?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the question, “What Do You Do?” many times. Surprisingly, it seems to be quite hard to answer. The question itself is fairly straight forward, but the answer, well, not so much.

When I’m asked that question, I pause and think about who’s asking the question: Potential client? Colleague in the Information World? Someone at a general networking event?

Then I gauge my answer according to what level of information I think they really want. Are they just asking to be nice, or do they really want to know? Maybe I analyze the question a bit too much, but hey, that’s what I do – analyze information, looking for trends. This information just happens to be coming from a person and not a computer screen.

Help You Make Smarter Decisions

I tell people that I work in the business field, finding information for businesses to make smarter decisions. Usually that doesn’t do it, so I explain with a story:

You know when someone is going after new business and they’ve read the RFP and then they start to think, “How can I figure out what the last company has done in the past?” Or maybe they are wondering what did the last company do or not do that they are now reaching out to find someone new?

So, in the case of a public relations firm going after a new client, they would ask me to see what placements are out there that the last firm put out there for a particular product. How did they promote products X, Y and Z? The trends emerge as to what has been done in the past for a product or service and then it makes it easier to see how to improve on what’s been done and how to structure the pitch for the RFP.

I also provide background about the company or the product and any competitors that the product might have just to make sure my client is totally prepared for their pitch. Most times they already know the competitors, and will ask for an overview of the media coverage for that particular market instead. It’s all about helping them do the best they can on their pitch.

Track Media Coverage

If that story doesn’t resonate with them, I might tell them that I track the media coverage of press to see what kind of traction it gets. If a company puts out a press release, they need to track who saw it and how many potential impressions they had from their press. I can track that coverage in the media and social media and send them a report detailing what websites posted their news and how many impressions there were overall for their news. Social media monitoring helps clients stay on top of what’s being said about their product or company.

It’s always interesting to see what kind of news is being published and what’s being said about that news. I’ve also done projects where the client needs to know if the news from reporters shows their product in a negative tone. As a public relations firm, you want to see how bad the negativity is and then get right on correcting it, if it’s not factual or spinning it back around if there is a way to do that.

Organize Your Data

I also work for clients who just have a mess of data that needs organized. Those are the jobs that are the most frustrating and the most rewarding when they are done. Taking a mess and making it organized can be really rewarding.

Even after explaining what I do and giving a short story, I can still get the blank stare. That’s when I turn the conversation back to them and see what they do. This way, it gives me ideas on how to explain further what I do. Every profession uses information these days. Once I find out what they do, I can tailor a story to their experience and then they get it. I love to see when the light bulb goes on and people really get what I do. It seems that we information professionals still have some work to do – letting people know that research doesn’t have to be done inside a library.

So, do you have a project similar to the ones I mention? Even if you just want to chat about your research needs, get in touch with me.

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