Group Gordon’s Kevin Maloney shares important advice for any new or aspiring PR professional to follow. 6.18.15
As college graduation season winds down, a new batch of interns, junior account executives, and associates are joining PR firms across the U.S. Like many new grads, I remember feeling both anxious and a bit uncertain when I first started out in PR. Whenever I felt lost, I remember thinking, “I wish there were some sort of PR manual I could follow.”
I can’t go back in time and advise my younger self, but I can provide a few tips for those who are just starting out in PR.
1) Become Your Team’s Backstop
The ultimate compliment you can receive from a senior team member is, “I don’t need to review it. I trust you.” To hear these magical words come out of your boss’ mouth, you need to work hard to establish yourself as a backstop for your team.
What does that entail? Every time a piece of media coverage appears about a client, you flag it immediately and first; every time a customer tweets something negative, you’re on it; and whenever a press release, presentation, or memo needs reviewing, you are there, red pen in hand, ready to edit it to perfection. Being reliable, proactive, and collected in the face of any task will earn you your boss’ gratitude and establish you as a valuable member of any PR team.
2) Dive Into Your Accounts
When assigned to your first accounts don’t wait for an informational session or prep meeting with the account lead. Take initiative to learn all you can about a client: check out their website; look at past press releases; and search for recent coverage. Get a sense of the PR strategy for a client and try to understand why that strategy was developed.
Then, go into your initial meeting with the account lead with a list of questions based on your initial research. For example, you might see in a past press release that a company appointed two new members to its board of directors and ask how your firm publicized the appointments. This demonstrates to your boss that you’ve researched the company and have a desire to understand the role your team plays in promoting the client’s news.
3) Establish Your Strategic Value
Anyone can learn to put together a media list or compile a coverage report. Although it is important to master these skills when starting out in PR, they should serve only as a foundation on which to build additional skills.
Avoid being labeled a “PR drone” who can only handle junior level work by making sure you understand the reasons behind each task you are assigned.
For example, ask why you are building a media list focused on a certain geographic market or why the team is sending out a press release over the wire instead of directly sending it to reporters. Probing to discover the purpose behind each task will help you understand how each assignment feeds into a client’s overall PR strategy, as well as how your work is helping to accomplish a larger goal.
Possessing this level of understanding will enable you to think at a higher level about the account, providing opportunities for you to add strategic value beyond the basic tasks expected of a junior member of the team.
4) Become a Media Bloodhound
One of the best ways a junior team member can demonstrate their value is by sniffing out new ways to get a client media attention. Nothing puts a smile on an account lead’s face quite like a junior member saying, “I think I found a great newshook for us to pitch the client.”
In order to identify new opportunities, junior team members need to have their finger on the pulse of their client’s industry, as well as on the business and economic forces that impact that industry. Setting up Google Alerts for industry terms, subscribing to key industry newsletters, and leveraging online calendars that keep you updated on major economic and business news events, such as the jobs report, Fed meetings and manufacturing data releases, will help you track the news cycle and develop creative ideas to fit your client into new stories.
Remember there is no magic formula for being successful in PR or substitute for hard work. However, following the tips above should help you start off your PR career on the right foot.