First of all, if you’re just starting out in your PR career, congratulations! While things may not be going according to your original plan thanks to the global pandemic (e.g. having to work remote vs. being face-to-face in an office with your new peers), there are many ways you can still feel connected and successfully launch yourself into the PR industry.
Below are some words of wisdom for any PR newcomers looking to set themselves up for success in the years ahead.
Advocate for yourself and don’t lose sight of your strengths
What is it that drew you to PR in the first place? You may have wrapped up a degree in journalism, communications or marketing, or perhaps you jumped ship from a completely unrelated field and decided to try your hand at something new?
As you begin your first official role as a publicist, it’s important to not lose sight of what was most interesting to you about PR. Make sure whatever this is, is clearly communicated to your new manager and team members. You are your own best advocate. While those lower on the agency’s totem pole are often tasked with more tedious tasks, don’t be afraid to ask to help with projects that align with your own interests, strengths and professional goals.
Do you love journaling and consider yourself a decent writer? Offer to take the first pass at writing a contributed article or company blog post. Are you always keeping up with the latest social media trends? Help draft social media posts and brainstorm new content ideas for your client accounts. Just because you are assigned specific projects doesn’t mean you can’t proactively take on others that play into your passions and strengths.
Build your community and tap into those connections
It’s surprising how small the world of PR can feel once you’re in it. People tend to move around a lot and typically don’t stay at the same agency for more than a few years. For that reason alone, it’s important to establish great relationships from the start and to avoid burning any bridges. With the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and LinkedIn’s 2nd and 3rd degree mutual connections, it’s becoming more likely that someone at one agency has a common thread to a person at another agency of similar size.
These connections can lead to potential job referrals, if the prior working experience was a positive one, or quite the opposite if it was a negative one. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot early on by tarnishing your name and personal brand. As a publicist, it’s your job to help clients build and maintain a positive brand reputation, so why not do the same for yourself? Be your own publicist and make sure your choices and work ethic reflect you in a positive light.
Connections are also important when it comes to working with the media. Pitching reporters will likely be a large part of how you spend your time, and these relationships take time to cultivate. Really dig into what matters to key reporters in your clients’ industries and see how you can effectively map that back to what your clients’ offer, in a way that’s not off-base. Reporters will know if you haven’t done your research and will disregard pitches that have nothing to do with what they write about, so do your due diligence.
Also, don’t burn any bridges with reporters by spamming them with story ideas that are not within their wheelhouse. Do this enough and your name will be blacklisted by the reporter or even by the publication they represent. And just like your professional connections that you establish throughout your PR career, connections to reporters are ones you will carry with you. Be sure to keep in touch with those journalists that you consider close contacts over the course of your career, and make an effort to congratulate them on any personal or professional milestones that they achieve (i.e. new beat, new title, new spouse, new kid, etc.).
For more tips and information on what to do when you’re first starting out in PR, check out The PR Wine Down podcast! Each week, hosts April Margulies and Laura Schooler deliver pro tips for those new to PR.