5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Career in PR

A high GPA, a fancy degree and lots of titles listed next to your name are the pieces needed to help you land you your dream job—or so was the now-outdated formula our parents’ generation was taught to follow. Struggling to land a job, millennials have learned the hard way that there is no better way to climb the corporate ladder than by having experience.

If what I needed was experience to move ahead with a career in communications, then experience is what I would get. Climbing my way into the “real world”, I found myself an internship and started learning the ins and outs of the PR world, beginning with the basics.

The five tips that I outlined below came as a result of paying my dues, starting out at the bottom and working my way up. These lessons weren’t part of my degree (and won’t be part of yours) and won’t be included in school textbooks.

  1. Your co-workers are your greatest resource, use them: Connect with your co-workers. You will learn more from these people than from anything else. Working as part of a team offers endless opportunities to learn from one another. It could be someone has a great article idea, a neat way of organizing their excel sheets, a great strategy for sifting through news or an eye for proofreading. The best secrets and shortcuts are hidden in those who you share an office with. Unlock them by connecting to those who you work with and ask them for help. Send a coworker a pitch to read over, perhaps a fresh set of eyes will view it in a completely different angle. Share an upcoming release, perhaps they know a journalist in that industry that would be interested as well. Don’t be shy or overly confident – your co-workers need you just as much as you need them. You have access to the best advice at the seat right next to you – make sure you use it!
  1. Relationships with journalists are key: Getting to know a journalist and the type of news or pitches he or she is interested in can take time to learn. Although many of your pitch emails will be ignored, there are tactics that can help you target your next pitch. Start by looking at topics and stories a journalist has recently covered. This will give you an idea of what type of a pitch will interest this journalist. Building a relationship with a journalist is a two-way street and can be the key to your success. You can start by checking in with a journalist and offering them assistance with any stories they are currently working on. Once they know that you are a resource for them and can offer them something that others cannot, not only will you go to them when you need a story, but they’ll start to come to you.
  1. Staying on top of the news is part of your job: You must be up-to-date on the news, specifically news that affects your clients. It is part of your job to follow any industry news that can impact your client. Whether the news has an announcement from one of your client’s competitors or will offer your client an opportunity to comment on a current event, it is up to you to ensure that your client is updated on anything that is relevant. Even when you’re not at work, the expectation is for you to keep your eyes and ears out for any relevant news throughout the day and night.
  1. Your job doesn’t end when you go home: PR is definitely not a 9-5 job that you leave at your desk in the office. There are times, take for example, right before a release is going out, where you can expect to have a few later nights. Although you don’t need to be glued to your phone, there will be instances where a call may be scheduled after work hours or an email must be dealt with immediately and not left until the following day. Many coverage opportunities are time sensitive – miss the rapidly changing news cycle and its too late to add your client’s voice to the story. As time goes on, you will learn what is urgent and what can wait until you are next in the office. What is most important is to let your clients know that you are handling it. Your client must know they can depend on you – and yes, that means showing them that you don’t leave your work at work.
  1. Public Relations is a multifaceted industry. Public Relations has various components – some of which are relevant for certain clients and some of which are not. The most common component is ensuring your client media coverage through garnering interest from local or international press, about anything from a funding round to a new partnership. Another component is positioning your client as an industry thought leader so that others view them as an expert in their field. Social media offers many platforms for your clients to engage with relevant users and audiences. One of the biggest challenges is aligning expectations with each client as those who have never worked with a PR firm may not be completely familiar with the strategies that can be offered.

PR is more than scheduling an analyst briefing with one of your clients or ensuring their press release gets coverage. We are telling a story. We are helping our clients find their voice and sharing something with the world that otherwise may not be as known. As with many industries, the key to finding success is hard work and increasing your knowledge, skill-set and experience. There are so many different parts of this job that I enjoy (that’s for another blogpost), and two years into my PR career, I can confidently say that while I have learned a tremendous amount, I still have a waaays to go. Come and join me on the journey!