Although I’ve recently graduated from college, I’ve been in the field of public relations for some time now, having gotten valuable experience working with several businesses and non-profit organizations. Over the last several years, I’ve seen quite a bit of both good and bad. I’ve witnessed — and made — mistakes that have taught me valuable lessons for the future, and I’d like share these with anyone considering a career in PR, or as reminders to even the more seasoned industry professionals. I’ll post nine today, and nine next week.
So here are 9 nuggets of advice for aspiring PR practitioners:
1 ) Know upfront: hand-holding won’t happen. PR is a fast-paced field. Don’t expect that your colleagues will hold your hand or spoon-feed you your work in bite-sized chunks. It’s true, you’re a team, but you still need to keep up with the pack. When you get your first job in public relations, you might not get the chance to only dip your feet in; it’s quite possible that you’ll be thrown in headfirst. Anticipate this and plan from Day 1 to work hard. Be prepared and fully commit yourself.
2 ) Be outgoing. If you’re the slightest bit anti-social, this career path most likely isn’t the right choice for you. You will need to talk to people. Why? Because when it all comes down to it, you are a professional communicator. You’ll need to discuss client expectations and what steps you plan to take to meet them. You’ll need to be able to hold down a basic conversation, listen, ask questions, engage and show a little personality every once in a while.
3 ) Do yourself a favor: learn the utility and format of a press release. Please. Whether you believe it or not, knowing this information will form the backbone of everything you do going forward. Not understanding how to write a press release is like trying advanced algebra without understanding the basic concept of variables. Also, make sure you know how to write a social media press release (I promise you, there’s a difference).
4 ) Deadlines are crucial. While working in PR, you may not have to write a hard news story by a 1am deadline for the local Gazette like a journalist world, however, there will be times that you’re handed a task, with expectations of, “It needs to be done yesterday.” Even if it annoys you, remember: there’s most likely a reason that the deadline is so strict; it must be important. Be excited that you get so much responsibility, take ownership of the task and find a way to get it done with a minimal amount of whining.
Thou shalt meet deadlines. Thou shalt not whine (audibly, at least).
5 ) Plan ahead, and for the worst. Nine out of ten of your clients might be unprepared for a meeting with you, but every single one will want the work done anyway. So make it easy on yourself, and plan ahead where you can.
6 ) Excellent customer service is not just for fast-food restaurant chains; if your clients are consistently dissatisfied with the way you do business, talk to them, etc… Rest assured that you won’t have that PR job long. Go the extra mile, and make sure that every person you work with is taken care of. Even if you can’t make miracles happen, you can try. Most clients will appreciate your efforts. (Some won’t, and that’s okay too. There will be rude clients… you still need to be professional, though.)
7 ) Help others. Take a genuine interest in making sure that those you work with, and work for, have what they need to be successful. Make someone else’s job easier, and they’ll most likely do the same in return for you.
8 ) New media is here to stay, whether you like it or not. You can be tired of new media all you want… When you’re not at work. Utter the words “I’m sick of it” in the office, and you’re as good as out the door. Show me a PR company recruiter who’s not interested in getting their hands on a social media guru, and I’ll show you a recruiter who’s on his or her way out the door him/herself. The Internet and new media are shaping the field of public relations.
9 ) By the same token, know when to put down the new media. I’ve already stressed the importance of knowing how to use social media, but in the same breath, it’s also key to know when to put it down. Facebook and Twitter is not the end-all, be-all of PR; not right now, at least. Remember, social media is a tool, not crutches.
…So there you have it, nine golden nuggets of advice that have helped me to survive in the PR world this long. Hopefully you find them as useful as I have. Make sure to check back next week, when I follow-up and post nine more. Now it’s time to share your thoughts:
Agree? Disagree? What advice would you offer to young and aspiring PR pros? Weigh in and post a comment below.