When I started working at Stanton Communications as an Account Coordinator, my first job in PR, I had a general sense of what I would do on a day-to-day basis. However, like all new professionals, I was unclear as to what my main responsibilities would be. Now that I’ve been with the company for about six months, I have a more definitive sense of the expectations for my position, and I think it’s also taken about that long to be confident in what I do.
I could have used some guidance when I first started working in PR, so I’ve put together a few helpful hints for those of you who may be just starting their positions. Granted, I still have a lot to learn, but I think these will be valuable tips to take with you on your first day on the job – no matter what communications position you’re in.
Take Some Time, Give Some Time
It’s important to give yourself ample time (about six months) to fully grasp the approach, culture and strategic direction of your firm, and to be completely comfortable with your day-to-day responsibilities. Give yourself time to soak in the atmosphere and daily expectations. On the flip side, give a little extra time to refine your skills and get settled in your new position. If this means doing some extra reading or staying a late to finish a project, do it. It’s worth it.
No one expects you to know what you’re doing the first day – week – or month on the job. Starting a new career is a learning curve, and every day will bring new experiences and challenges. It’s much better to ask before you get started on a project for a client, than to complete a task and be completely off base.
Don’t Take Criticism Personally
When you’re given comments on your work, do not take it personally because it’s not personal. Especially if you’re new to the field, you most likely won’t receive the feedback that you want to hear the first time around. Suggestions and edits on your work are only intended to make you better at what you do. You’ll be able to take the constructive criticism from previous projects, and apply it to your future endeavors.
Remember That Journalists are People, Too
Media relations is a big part of many PR jobs and often appears to be the most intimidating. But remember that reporters, producers, and other media professionals are people just like everyone else. And it’s our job to help them do theirs. People like to be spoken to, not lectured at or sold something. It’s so obvious, but it can be easily forgotten if you’re scared or unsure of yourself. It’s important to take the time to step back and read each pitch – make sure it’s conversational, relevant and useful to the reporter you’re contacting – before sending it out. This makes a world of difference in how a pitch is received.
Be Smart About Social Media
This means more than checking your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. Follow and connect with influencers not only in the PR industry, but in industries relevant to your clients. I have picked up so many helpful hints from reading articles that have been posted by other public relations practitioners, and have been able to track the trends in various industries as they’re happening in real-time. And don’t forget about LinkedIn. It’s a great way to see what’s going on in the industry and what other leaders and influencers are doing.
Attend events (and Dress the Part)
I’ve learned that networking is key in public relations. PR pros, reporters, TV producers, and people with whom you interact on social media sites like to put a face to name. Go to “TweetUps” and professional networking events, have your business cards, and be sure to dress the part. This means work-appropriate, business casual clothing, even if the event is at a pub at the end of the work day. You never know who you’ll run into. It’s better to be remembered as polished and put together, than too casual in jeans and a tee shirt. This is especially true for events and meetings with clients. Always err on the side of professionalism and put on a suit – it will leave a great impression. New business will not always blossom from these networking events, but meeting people in the industry is a start, and can be a strong foundation to begin building relationships.
If you’re a new PR pro (or even if you’re not-so-new) what other advice do you have?