Two years ago today I walked into Target for my first day on the job. I’d never worked in PR before – in fact, I’d only just finished my first year at university – so everything was completely new to me.
I’ve come a long way in those 24 months and seen lots of changes along the way; changes within our team, changes for our clients and changes in my role. There have also been lots of opportunities for me to develop my skillset, and my second anniversary seems like the perfect time to reflect on some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt in that time.
So here are my top seven tips for people starting out in public relations.
Keep yourself super-organised
Agency life means you’ll be managing lots of different tasks at the same time, so making sure you’re on top of everything is key. Most things can be separated into two categories: important (those which are crucial to success) and urgent (those which need to be done quickly). Learning to recognise the difference will help you to prioritise your workload and adding them to a list will help you manage it.
No matter what the task is, always complete it to the best possible standards. Even those less glamorous tasks will nudge you a little closer to your goals.
It’s all about teamwork
As they say, teamwork makes the dream work. When you’re part of an agency team, you’re all there to help each other out, so if you’re struggling, ask for a hand – and offer one in return. When you make a mistake (we all do from time to time), take responsibility, say sorry and put your efforts towards fixing it.
Maintaining good relationships with your colleagues is crucial and will help to keep productivity high, so take an interest in them and ask how their weekend was. Bringing in cake also seems to work a treat!
Every day is a learning day
Over the past two years I’ve been surrounded by people who have notched up decades of industry experience between them and I’ve been able to learn something new almost every day. But beyond your team, there’s an array of information and industry experts out there, so find time to read, take a webinar, follow conversations on social media and listen to the people around you. All of it will help you to improve your work.
Check and double check. Then check again
Proofreading is key. There’s nothing worse than issuing a press release only to realise that you’ve left a typo sitting in the first line, or anywhere for that matter.
No matter what you’ve written, always take the time to read it back. Take your eyes away from the screen by reading a printed version and always ask a teammate to take a look. Everyone does this, from account execs to the CEO – it’s surprising what a fresh pair of eyes might pick up on! Only once you’ve done that should you be happy to hit that send button.
Managing your time effectively is crucial if you’re going to stay on top of that to-do list and understanding yourself plays a big part in maintaining the right mindset. What times of the day are you most productive? What distracts you? What tasks do you enjoy doing most?
If you’ve been staring at the screen for too long, take a break. If you know you’re going to be distracted by your phone, turn it off. If you need to concentrate on a particular task, try and move to a quieter space.
I tend to work best in the mornings, so I make a point of getting in early and working on those important tasks when I’m doing my best work. A change of scenery also helps me to stay focused, so I always try to go for a walk at lunchtime or nip home for a short break.
Keep perspective and take time for yourself
Like most people, I’m guilty of checking my emails whenever I have a spare minute. In the evening, at weekends, even when I’m off for a few days – it’s not one of those jobs you can always leave at the office as soon as the clock hits 5:30.
While being alert to all those incoming messages helps you to keep on top of your workload, rarely is anything so urgent it can’t wait until the morning. So don’t be afraid to switch off your phone – it’s crucial to take some time for yourself.
Pay it forward
After a couple of years in the industry, you’ll have developed a considerable amount of skill and passion for what you do, so why not share that with others?
Whenever we’ve had work experience students join us for short periods, I – along with the team – have dedicated time to supporting them develop their understanding of PR and work on particular skills they’ve wanted to develop. I’ve also been able to spend some time mentoring students as part of Young Enterprise, helping them to develop the necessary skills to pursue their chosen careers.
While you’re no longer the newbie at two years in, that means you’re in a position to pass on your knowledge and answer any questions new starters might have. It’s strange to think that only two years ago I was asking those same questions, who knows what another two years will bring?