By: Sarah Child
Public Relations Assistant, Rueckert Advertising
So you’ve landed your first job in public relations. Congratulations! All of that hard work — cover letters, informational interviews, networking events, actual interviews, the occasional tear, etc. — has paid off. But the really hard work is only just beginning.
As a “PR infant” (one nickname I received in my first month at an agency) with a little less knowledge than your tenured co-workers, there are a number of things you can and should do to maximize your effectiveness in the office.
Just remember, you don’t know everything. You’re not supposed to. But don’t be complacent. Lose the “know-it-all” swag many of you just spent a year fine-tuning as a senior on campus. Take advantage of your time as the newbie and prove to your employer that you were well worth the hire.
Become acquainted with local media. A major component of public relations is pitching, and a major part of pitching is knowing who and what to target. Learn the names of local reporters. Memorize their beats. Study the special sections of dailies and weeklies and the specific segments of local television networks. You will deal with journalists on a daily basis. Cultivate those relationships. The more informed you are about local opportunities, the more ideas you can bring to the table when it comes to seeking positive coverage for your organization and/or client(s).
Get out of your comfort zone. Perhaps you work in an agency. Is the copywriter swamped? Offer to write the next radio spot. Does the videographer need an extra set of hands at an upcoming shoot? Tag along. And try to learn as much as possible. When you attend client meetings, you may not have a lot to contribute at first, but you better come back with a binder full of notes. The more experience you can obtain in the many facets of this field, the better. The ideal PR manager is no longer someone who can just write and speak well (although the importance of these fundamentals can never be diminished). In an article for PR Daily this month, Jazz Chappell held that less-obvious but critical skills PR professionals must develop to stay relevant include photography/Photoshop, knowledge of design and finance.Video, social media, SEO and analytics are other commonly noted abilities experts cite as necessary for this ever-changing and competitive profession. As PR evolves, so must you.
Engage. I know, I know — for the first few months you may be so busy learning your new role or just learning to work the copy machine (I still struggle using the office phone) to dedicate time to the aforementioned skills. At the very least, you must hone your social media proficiency. Traditional media outlets are ever-decreasing. You must link in. Tweet. Check out Pinterest (yes, guys, you can do it too). Director of digital and social media at The Big Partnership Allan Barr says, “As communications professionals, good PRs already have many of skills required to be effective when it comes to social media, but unless they invest the time in learning how to properly leverage channels such as Blogging, Twitter and Facebook they run the very real risk of becoming dinosaurs in this new digital landscape.” No one wants to be a dinosaur.
And finally, be your own PR person and create a positive personal brand. Just because you are finally employed doesn’t mean you’re “below” typical intern duties. Don’t be too proud to volunteer for the “nitty gritty” jobs like picking up coffee or stuffing envelopes. It goes a long way. Always be professional. Always be punctual. Always spell-check your e-mails (and for goodness sakes, lose the emoticons in your signature). Position yourself as a hardworking, detail-oriented, grammar-loving, truth-seeking, idea-producing, deadline-honoring individual. Because that is what you are!