Today we're returning to our Young PR Pro program with a guest post from Brittany Stone, one of Ad Week's 30 under 30 in PR and Senior Account Executive at Moxie Communications Group. Are you working in your first PR position? Or - gulp - still interviewing for jobs and internships? Read on for Brittany's excellent advice.
6 Ways to Kick Ass at Your First Agency Job
by Brittany Stone
PR is more of an art than a science. So for a new professional, defining and understanding your expectations - and knowing how to excel beyond them - can be elusive. First and foremost, it takes inherent conviction to want to be great. The founder of my agency points out that you can’t teach someone how to care. But beyond that, there are more tactical things that budding PR pros can do to make them really stand out.
If you can take something off someone’s plate, do it.
You’ll always have at least a vague idea of your colleague’s to-do lists, whether it’s spelled out clearly in a morning list of assignments or just from paying attention to email exchanges. If there’s ever a time when you have the bandwidth and general capacity to tackle a task on someone else’s list, take it. Don’t ask, just take it.
The difference between you saying “Let me know if there’s anything I can help with,” and “I’ll go ahead and take the lead at drafting this media list today unless anyone instructs otherwise” is everything. The fact is, it’s a timesuck for managers to assess what needs to be done, then check with teammates to see who can handle, assign tasks, and answer questions. Senior staff will usually opt to just do the thing themselves in order to save time. Even though it’s unproductive and irresponsible as a mentor, it still happens nonetheless. Star employees take initiative and follow the general rule: it’s better to apologize than ask permission.
Sweat the small stuff.
Every email, tweet, Facebook post, status update, etc. should be formatted with meticulous grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Don’t mirror your bosses – they’ve earned their position to be lax over email. It’s just the rule of the game. Think of it like this: it puts everyone more at ease when a founder or CEO appears more relaxed in meetings and emails, and it puts everyone more at ease when associates are alert, ready, eager and hungry. That balanced equation is particularly crucial in meetings, so be sure to have good posture, your notebook out (not laptop), and ask smart questions.
Take notes, all the time.
In every single meeting, take notes as though you’re transcribing a court hearing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been assigned to take notes or not, approach it like you’re implicitly expected to. It’s also irrelevant if you know someone else already is, because there’s no telling how reliable their notes are. When it’s time to send a recap, just distill the bulk of your notes down to action items, then hold the other part in a folder in case you need to reference for background or context weeks down the line. When panic breaks out about forgetting the dates a client is out of town, you’ll be a hero.
Analytically dissect your media, and consider the actions.
Read the news daily, listen to podcasts weekly, and physically flip through pages of an actual magazine. Notice the difference in each medium, how your eyeballs behave and how your brain retains the information. Think about strategy to your media outreach with that in mind. Then dig in deeper. When you read a product story, profile piece, or company announcement, think of how the pitch behind it might have been crafted to the writer. Analyze the operative elements or features that are noted in the story, and try to point out where the PR-generated messaging is.
Then if an article is worth flagging internally or to a client, think of the action item that would come with it. Sometimes it’s “none,” but more often it should call for something like an intro email to the writer, adding a name to a media list, tracking a competitor, researching an analyst quote, and so on.
Flag opportunities, deadlines, and reporter moves.
There’s nothing greater than someone who’s kickass at managing up. One simple way to do this is by closely tracking deadlines of important events and new opportunities for speaking engagements, award submissions, or editorial inquiries. At the beginning of every month, make a list of 5-10 deadlines coming up in the next four weeks and circulate it internally. Your team will love you. Also keep an eye out for reporters on the move. When you catch word of a new hire or staff transition, flag it to your co-workers, then take the lead in adjusting the media lists. Follow @CongratsJourno on Twitter to make your life easier.
There is always an opportunity to refine, iterate, and become more efficient. A true star doesn’t wait for someone to tell them what to do and when, they just do it. If you see a way to make a process smoother, or to be helpful in any other way, do it. Sending monthly deadline roundups is one example, another is organizing a shared drive folder, or creating and owning a master media list for evergreen stories, and so on.