A colleague’s advice for new PR graduates
It’s no question that college graduation comes with a mixed bag of
The scramble of finding a job combined with the sadness of leaving friends
can be overwhelming, but life doesn’t end when the dean of your school
hands you a diploma. The real fun is just getting started.
A year into my full-time job as a PR account coordinator, I empathize with
the thousands of aspiring PR gurus graduating in a few short weeks. Here
are a few key lessons I have learned that may help you take the next step:
1. It’s PR, not the ER.
As I was completing my final college internship (which fortunately became
my first job), I went to lunch with one of the account directors at my
firm. I asked him what his best piece of advice for me was, and it was the
simple—yet meaningful —“It’s PR, not the ER.”
Crisis communications situations do come up often—which makes for exciting
days in the office—but there are very few life or death scenarios. If
everyone on a team is running around like chickens with their heads cut
off, there is no chance the client is receiving the best work.
If you find yourself in a pickle, simply take a breath, envision the best
outcome and work backwards from there to your desired result. As a bonus,
managers appreciate employees that can keep calm and make clear decisions
2. Don’t let your time manage you.
This tip is two-fold: A to-do list will be your best friend in the PR
world, but it will never be fully completed. That’s OK.
Just as in college, time management is key to having a successful PR
career. Experiment with different ways to keep yourself accountable.
While it’s of the utmost importance to keep yourself organized, you should
also keep in mind that your agenda is not set in stone. The “real world”
doesn’t have a syllabus, so you can’t always look months ahead and plan
accordingly. In PR, especially in an agency setting, you have to be ready
to switch gears at the drop of a hat. You might go into the office on a
Wednesday with five things on your to-do list when suddenly a client is
tangled up in a piece of news that will take most of (if not all) the
entire workday. As long as those five things aren’t on deadline that day,
it’s necessary to shift your priorities and let less pertinent items slide.
Self-care and a strong work/life balance is important, so unless an action
is critical to your client, don’t let it force you into an all-nighter. As
a professional, it is important to come in to the office well rested and
ready to conquer the day and proper time management habits help you prepare
for the unexpected.
3. Personal branding leads to personal success.
Drafting strong social media content for your future clients is a large
element of PR, but don’t forget your own personal brand.
Bolstering your online presence is one of the first (and easiest) things
you should do when you begin your career. Start with LinkedIn. You may not
have even logged into the website since you applied for internships, but
now is the time to update your profile with honors, awards, internships
and, hopefully, your first “real” job. Don’t forget to engage, especially
with reporters and clients whom you cross paths. Reach out to people who
can endorse skills that will easily transfer to PR.
Next, focus on Twitter. While it is important to add personality to your
profile, it may be time to delete a few ill-considered tweets. Post about
events in your city, your industry and your personal hobbies to demonstrate
what you’re interested in. As someone who did not frequently use Twitter
until recently, I have found that it is a great way to gain exposure for
the projects I’ve worked on and get connected with my interest areas after
a year of working with my clients.
A job in PR is not limited to promoting your clients and the work they’re
doing; you should promote yourself as well.
Amanda Cristi is a public relations Account Coordinator at Sage
Communications. A recent graduate of The Catholic University of
America, she provides support to a number of Sage’s technology, public
affairs and nonprofit clients.