By: Matthew Kaiserman, Account Executive
As I wrap up my first year working full-time in a public relations agency, I sit back and reflect. In one year’s time so much has changed; from the clients I work with, to the state of the PR industry itself and even my job title. Working in this industry teaches you many things; about yourself, your career and can even translate to everyday life. As my perspective shifts, I think back on a few lessons I have learned thus far in my PR journey.
Education is Still Needed
Often times, PR professionals get so caught up in their day-to-day activities they forget about the world outside of the industry. Many clients and key stakeholders are not going to be as well-versed in the realm of public relations, from the lingo to even the end goal and scope of a campaign. Where a bylined article or media list may seem like a typical concept to a PR pro, it can be a foreign concept for other professions. We preach to avoid overusing jargon to our clients, but it is something that those in the PR industry need much practice themselves.
Further, before any campaign is started, you must be sure all parties are aware of the end goal and scope of the project. Many potential clients may not know what public relations actually means and may have differing opinions of what you will accomplish. For every client looking for brand awareness and establishing thought leadership in their industry, you will likely have one only seeking lead generation. There is a level of education needed to ensure everyone is on the same page upfront, so expectations are met throughout a campaign.
When in Doubt, Pivot
No, I am not referring to the famous Friends quote, but rather to the fact that like in life, in PR, not everything will go according to plan. Your pitch may not get picked up, a client’s news announcement could get delayed or a trusted media contact could change jobs. You must anticipate the unexpected and always be prepared to adapt to your environment. We build out strategies to guide our media relations efforts, but these are not set in stone. It is great to have a plan, but the media landscape and your client’s operations are always changing.
PR professionals need to be able to navigate these changes and achieve results despite their shifting environment. If a pitch isn’t working, find a new angle and source different media contacts. If there is some gridlock on a client’s major news announcement, you must be able to find other content or stories to share with the media. While you can’t control what is going on behind the scenes, you are in control of your own actions and being proactive to meet the goals of your clients.
Honesty is the Best Policy
In the PR industry, there is no room for sugar-coating or pleasantries. You are being paid to offer your counsel on what will appeal best to the media, and represent your client in the best light publicly. That means you cannot hold back if your client asks for your opinion on a certain item, whether it’s a press release or even a major branding decision. While you should never be rude, you must be confident in giving your advice; even if what you are about to say could interfere with your client’s plans. Often, clients look to you as the expert and will take your two cents sincerely. Internal stakeholders may be too close to a topic and become subject to groupthink.
Honesty will save a lot of heartache down the road and further establish your credibility for leading your client down the right path.
Never Stop Learning
Lastly, anyone who works in PR has to have a continuous learning mindset. Our industry is constantly changing, so you can never rest on your laurels. From the integration of marketing and PR to the changing structure of our media channels, there is always a new skill set or perspective to be learned. As well, working in an agency environment you are constantly being exposed to new clients and new industries. Regardless if it may be your first time working in the healthcare or banking industry, you have to quickly pick up on the trends and be able to clearly communicate your client’s positioning in the market. Learning never stops as there is always something you can improve upon or read more about.
In my short amount of time in the industry, I have already learned many tactics and strategies and have been fortunate to develop alongside a great team. In a year’s time from now, I will likely have many more lessons as I continue on my career. But like I’ve said before, the industry is changing and each day can bring in something completely new. For PR professionals, being adaptable and open-minded is essential to success.