I never dreamed of going into PR.
I aspired to become a nurse. Then, when my prerequisite college courses were complete and I was preparing to apply to nursing school, I took the trip of a lifetime. Studying abroad in Europe was an indescribable experience. It forced me to become more independent and led me to an incredible amount of personal development.
As I traveled to different countries, I became fascinated with their cultures and the ways in which people interacted. At the end of the day, communication impacts everything — from our everyday lives and beyond. When I returned home from abroad, I switched my major to journalism and PR and went all in.
Because of my winding road to PR, I’m extremely passionate about mentoring young PR professionals. It’s all about giving back to the incredible people and organizations that took a chance on me and doing what I can to support, educate and advise those just entering the field.
So for those who are just starting out, here are some things I wish I had known when I got my first PR job:
Read, read, read! One of my biggest pieces of advice is to read as much as you can — particularly the publications that are important to your clients and their industries. I can’t emphasize the importance of taking the time to do this. It’s a valuable way for you to get to know reporters, the topics they cover and key the trends that matter. So set up alerts, sign up for newsletters, and don’t hesitate to bookmark relevant pages. Develop a routine; start with 30 minutes a day.
Multitask or go home. There will be days when your first job feels more like juggling than PR. In a span of just 30 minutes, you could be tracking and sending coverage, managing logistics for a launch (where one silly mess up could be detrimental), conducting research, building a database, submitting an award and Tweeting a live webinar.
To accomplish it all, you have to learn to prioritize and juggle. Do this by asking questions so you can understand what absolutely needs to take precedence. Also, learn how to tackle your to-do list quickly yet meticulously (it will take some time, but you’ll get there).
Be accountable. When you’re part of a team, being accountable for your actions and decisions is crucial — and it definitely gets noticed. When each team member is accountable, there is more trust and ownership. This leads to a team with better performance, communication and creativity. Above all, remember that we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. When you do, the best thing you can do is hold yourself accountable, learn from the situation and move forward with the lessons you’ve learned.
Organization is key. I can easily say that organization is the number one skill you need to be successful when starting out in PR. With so many moving parts — details, deadlines, meetings, etc. — organization can be a huge challenge. Figure out as fast as you can how to be productive and tightly manage.
It might be writing everything down in a checklist, using tools like TeuxDeux or sending yourself calendar invites for key tasks. Whatever your style, figure it out fast. If you’re not organized from the moment you walk in the door, it’s going to be a tough road for you and your colleagues.
Pay attention to detail. Whether it’s a formal email to a client or a casual one-off with a team member, details are important. Nothing will drive your team crazier than emails with typos or mistakes, so proofread everything!
In addition, re-read the emails you receive to ensure that you fully understand directions — don’t ever assume that you already know what someone means. Also, fact check everything you can (Google is your friend). If you’re working on a big project or important email, walk away to clear your mind for a few minutes. If you don’t focus and pay attention to detail, your mistakes could define you.
Pick up the phone. Today, there are so many ways to communicate. Email, Slack, Skype, texts and Tweeting are just a few. However, picking up the phone works too — I promise it does. Don’t be shy to call that reporter, client, colleague or partner. Phone communication offers a human element that will help you succeed by setting the stage for a deeper connection. Make sure a day doesn’t go by where you haven’t had a truly “offline” communication.
Almost nine years since starting my PR career, there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t laughed or learned something new. If there’s anything you take away from this blog, it’s remembering to have fun and smile as you learn. It’s worth taking the time to find the right environment where you are surrounded by coworkers you admire and who motivate you. The end result is having great people to learn from and becoming a better person in the process.
I’m blessed to have found an environment that fosters this and hope you will be too!
Danielle brings energy, enthusiasm and a strong team-player mentality to her role as a director at Offleash. Her accounts include Pepperdata, Sencha, Sumo Logic and Vena Solutions. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Offleash is hiring! Check out our open positions at: http://offleashpr.com/careers