Advice for the PR Newbie

September 05, 2017

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Ah, the good ole PRSA definition you memorized backwards and forwards in college!

Now, how does this apply to your role at your company? We’ve compiled a relatable “listicle” to help you get through the confusion.

 

You might feel lost at first

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You’ve gotten your first entry-level role, congrats! But what do you do next? It’s OK to feel lost during the first few weeks. You need to take a step back and take the time to learn your clients, your company’s procedures and get familiar with their lingo (for example, some bosses prefer you say “hello” versus “hi”). Every company’s onboarding process is different so take the extra step to ensure you’re fully prepared. Don’t wait around and expect your team to do all the training for you. In PR, you move quickly so you need to get used to handling projects independently and efficiently, if needed. Take notes, keep your ears out and ask questions — you have a team for a reason!

 

So, you need to get organized…

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Whether you are working in-house or at an agency, you always need to stay organized. At an agency, you may have 11 clients or more to keep track of. Invest in labels, notebooks, folders and stickie notes. Keep each client separate, both on the computer and in your paper files. Subfolders will soon be your best friend! Organize your inbox with subfolders for each client (if possible, assign each client a color so you know which client is filling up your inbox) and within each client create subfolders that relate to your projects. Your inbox will fill up quickly, so archive your inbox on the first day of each month. A typical client inbox folder should be monthly and should have:

Client Name:

  1. Internal Communications (team members)
  2. Client Communications (any communication with you or your team has with your client)
  3. Agendas (If your client has weekly status calls)
    1. Recaps (if client requests recaps of weekly meetings)
  4. Placements (coverage of your client—digital, broadcast, print. Set up your Google Alerts!)
    1. Month (so you can have all of your monthly placements in one place. Archive the folder when the month ends)
    2. Weekly (some clients may require daily or weekly reports. This will speed up your reporting process instead of digging through your monthly emails. Move to monthly once you are finished)
  5. Media Outreach (keep track of all your correspondents with the media!)
    1. Credit Requests (should an editor request information to be included in an upcoming article)
    2. Sample Requests (should an editor request a sample of your product, you’ll easily be able to track if it’s not returned in a timely manner. This is also helpful if the client asks for a last-minute loans report.)
    3. Missed Opportunities (if you receive a pitch from an editor where the client isn’t a great fit or the timing is too short, keep note of it so you can tell the client what editors are looking for and what they can do to improve the product/timing so they can be included next time.)
    4. Bounce backs (editors move around all the time, make note of your bounce backs so you can update your media lists)
  6. Pitches
    1. Create subfolders for each pitch you send out. You’ll want to see what editors respond to so you can improve your future pitches!
  7. Events/Campaigns
    1. Create subfolders for each event or campaign coming up. This is different from your day to day responsibilities so you don’t want your emails to get mixed up!
    2. Campaigns will need subfolders! Wait until you get the scope of work to determine how to organize the folder.
  8. Reference
    1. This folder might be your most important. This is your FYI folder. For any notes, templates, or advice you receive, keep this on hand so you can easily look back. Your bosses will hate to see you making the same mistakes over again, so save every feedback or edit as a reference for future projects. You need to grow, not repeat old habits!

 

You must always be available— even at your darkest hours…

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Public relations isn’t a 9-5 job. If you’re the person that has FOMO (fear of missing out) and needs to be at every happy hour, then this field isn’t for you. You need to always be available for your clients, and for your audience. You’re creating a relationship between the public and your brand—the public may need you at any time! To play devil’s advocate, you also need to learn a work-life balance. Clients don’t want you to be a walking zombie, so you need to have something to keep you level-headed. You can exercise, be with friends or binge-watch Netflix. Do what makes you happy so you’re always up for whatever task comes your way later.

 

Don’t be afraid to put yourself in front of the media…

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You’re building a “mutually beneficial relationship” between your brand and the public. How are you going to get the public to listen to you, or even recognize your brand? The media. Take advantage of every media contact you have. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an editor, producer or reporter. You’re on the same team! Your job is to get coverage for your brand while being relatable for the brands’ demographic and their job is produce content their audience is interested in. The road goes both ways so check-in with editors weekly and make sure they are reciprocating by letting you know what they are working on so you don’t have to continually pitch blindly.

 

You need to remain calm under pressure…

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This is PR. There will always be a crisis that you didn’t foresee. A customer could see a t-shirt in your brand’s store that offends them. You don’t have time to call your BFF or significant other and cry about what’s going on. You need to stop the news from picking it up—and quick. Take a deep breath, drink a glass of water and move forward. Your job right now is to fix your “mutually beneficial” relationship between the brand and audience. As you grow in the field, it will get easier to remain calm. You’ll get used to the crises that arise. Most importantly, your client doesn’t need to worry any more than they already are. They hired your company because they trusted that you’re great at your job. Don’t let them down and show them you’re worried. You’ve got this!

 

Research will be your best friend…

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Everyone makes mistakes, but don’t let it be because you didn’t do your research. You need to know everything about your client, project, etc. better than you know your favorite actor or actress. If you’re assigned a project or task and come back to your boss saying, “I couldn’t find anything” be prepared for your boss to ask if you tried X, Y and Z. Get ahead of the game and research in various ways so if you do have to come back to your boss with “I couldn’t find anything,” you can alternatively say, “I couldn’t find anything on that specifically, but I did find X, Y and Z.”

 

Start thinking of attention-grabbers…

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Editors receive thousands of emails a day from PR professionals exactly like you. Make sure to stand out and cater to your editor. Always pitch to them even if the story isn’t a perfect fit. Show the editor that you’re making an effort! Give your email a 3-minute rule. Editors don’t have time to read your lengthy email so keep it direct and include imagery for them to reference. Use an eye-grabbing subject and don’t worry about the body as much. They just need to get through the email and will reach out should they be interested. Besides emails, send press kit boxes or plan an event for editors where they can see the product but also have fun.

 

Learn to be honest with your clients…

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As they always say, honesty is the best policy. While you should always put your clients wants and needs first, you should also provide honest feedback and recommendations on how to tweak their requests, should their goals be unattainable. Being honest also creates trust and respect between you and your client. Additionally, your client will reciprocate the honesty and feel comfortable providing sincere feedback on your efforts. PR can be a tough working environment; however, honesty can help to create a more positive one.

 

Start to take initiative…

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PR professionals have a go-getter attitude. Make yourself standout amongst other entry level employees by taking initiative. Offer to take the lead on a project or help develop a media strategy. If your team has a steady routine, get ahead of the curve and start on the projects you know your manager will assign you soon. Show them that you’re already on it! Publicists think quickly on their feet and take initiative as soon as they see fit.

 

SO….

This job is going to get frustrating at times–

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Which is why you need a great support system!

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Soon you’ll be confident in your job-

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Then it will all be worth it-

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