Time-machine tips for starting out in PR

If I knew back then what I know now, says senior account manager, Emma Jane Edwards, I'd share these five tips with my university self.

I started working in public relations in 2010, and while my university days prepared me somewhat for the days to come, it’s ultimately been a bit of trial and error, as it will be for every single person starting out.Emma Jane Edwards - weber shandwick - cropped

The thing to remember is that, even out in the real world, every day’s a school day – we’re always learning.

Nobody is expected to walk into their first job knowing their clients’ business intimately, the intricacies of a media crisis, or even whether your colleague David has soy milk or skim in his flat white. These are the things we learn along the way.

However, there are a few things I would have liked to know coming into the communications workplace, so here’s a few things I’d tell my university graduating self, if I had a time-machine.

Trial and error is okay

One of my favourite quotes of all time, by Albert Einstein fits this particularly well – “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

With so many different practice areas in public relations, it may not be immediately obvious where your skill set, or passion, lies. Take some time to find a balance of not only where you excel and are able to serve clients to the best of your ability, but also what you enjoy.

Organise yourself from day one

Whereas getting that piece of coverage secured or creating an immaculate briefing document may consume your day, don’t overlook your personal admin and getting organised. Getting into a routine is imperative, ensuring that you work effectively and have control over your day. It also means you can serve your clients and wider team to the best of your ability.

Granada, Andalusia, Spain

Whether it’s as simple as jotting down your daily priorities on a Post-It note so you don’t lose sight of deadlines, keeping your diary updated to manage your relentless meetings or keeping your emails filed, find what admin hacks work for you.

Work not only as a PR, but also as your own PA.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk

Whilst you might get caught up in work, work, work, work – get up from your desk, walk over to your colleague that you were just about to email and ask them in person. As public relations practitioners, we can often be so absorbed with managing external communications that we can forget how to communicate in person with our colleagues.

Not only are you building stronger relationships with your wider team, which you’ll depend on when the going gets tough, you’re saving yourself and that person that extra email nestled amongst the hundreds of others.

It also nurtures a happier working environment. Go on, go and say hello. If you don’t know that person very well, introduce yourself. What’s the worst thing that can happen?laptop-email-illo-ThinkstockPhotos

Meet your new lecturers

You’ve stepped away from teachers for the first time in your life, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Most organisations will offer training and access to mentorships but don’t feel that it has to stop there – on the job learning is where it’s at!

It may be as informal as taking a few minutes listening to someone on your team pitch in a difficult story and absorbing how he or she deals with any media push back, or asking your boss for their perspective on an issue you’ve encountered.

If there is a successful account or project that you’re not assigned to that’s caught your eye, ask a member of that team to have a coffee and talk you through the campaign. Typically, those working in public relations are sociable, approachable and happy to help.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Walking out of that graduation ceremony, it can sometimes feel that an imaginary starter gun has been fired. As your peers all set off on their different career paths, just be mindful that progression will vary between agencies and companies, and also for each graduate.

Don’t beat yourself up that someone in your class may secure their graduate job ahead of you or that they seem to be climbing up the comms ladder at lightning speed; focus on your own experience and set yourself personal goals with your manager that are realistic enough to be a achievable, yet enough of a stretch to be challenging.

It may seem obvious, but everyone’s experiences will be different; if you start out with a positive attitude and are eager to learn, it’s likely that you will enjoy a long a prosperous career within this colourful industry.

Emma Jane Edwards is a senior account manager at Weber Shandwick


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