Getting your first PR job, or any job for that matter can be both thrilling and terrifying. Not only are you excited to start your career, but you’re anxious to make a good impression. While college and extracurricular activities will provide you with some skills needed to navigate the workplace, there are a number of new challenges every entry-level PR pro will face, especially in the agency world. To help get you on track, I’ve highlighted three common challenges as well as tips to overcome them.
Managing your time
As a new PR professional, you will likely be surprised at the amount of work on your plate. From compiling briefing documents, media lists and agendas, to researching speaking and award opportunities, your average day is typically booked solid, all while learning new responsibilities and fielding inbound client requests. I have to be honest, there are some times (especially at the beginning of your career) when your workday will seem pretty chaotic. In order to mitigate this, it’s imperative that people just getting into the industry develop strong time management skills early on.
I’ve listed out a few tips below that will ensure you’re making the most of your time and ultimately help improve your time management skills:
- Develop a daily task list with the activities you’re responsible for. Also, include how much time you estimate each task will take so you can plan out your day accordingly. If you’ve compiled your task list and allocated nine hours of work for the day, talk to your manager and see which task(s) can be pushed back. By creating a tentative plan first thing in the morning, and keeping the line of communication open with your team, you’re one step closer to managing your time effectively. You can take this one step further by compiling your task list for the following day before heading home the night before. This will help you keep track of the tasks you were unable to complete day-of and ensure they’re top-of-mind the following morning.
- Schedule your day in an online calendar, such as Outlook. In PR, your day is consistently changing – meetings pop up or get pushed back, last-minute research requests come in, deadlines are moved up, etc. By assigning each task to a particular time of the day, and readjusting as needed, you’re continuously referencing your to-do list. Additionally, by setting alerts on your calendar, you’ll be reminded when it’s time to start a new task.
- Go over weekly priorities every Monday as a team. This will give you an opportunity to discuss timelines and opens the door for communication with your managers.
Something that goes hand-in-hand with developing time management skills is being cognizant of deadlines. While using the “dog ate my paper” excuse might have worked in college, it’s unlikely that it will work with your client (although I’d be curious to hear if it has!). In order to keep your clients happy and your PR initiatives moving forward, it’s vital that you’re always conscious of deadlines.
There are a couple ways to do this:
- First and foremost, ask your client or team if and when there is a deadline. This gives you the ability to plan out the rest of your day or week and collaborate with colleagues as needed.
- If you develop a daily task list, highlight the initiatives you have to get done today or tomorrow. This will make those particular tasks stand out when you reference your priorities throughout the day.
- Create a calendar appointment on the day and time a task is due. This will remind you when the deadline is, so it doesn’t fall off your plate.
Using social media professionally.
Another challenge for anyone starting an entry-level career is learning how to use social media professionally. While these channels are a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, there’s a good chance you’ll start using it to connect with colleagues and clients as well. Because the way you portray yourself online can affect how people in the workplace view you, it’s important that you take the necessary steps to make a good impression when using social media.
Here are a few tips to help you use social media professionally:
- Only post content you’d feel comfortable with your client or boss reading. If you wouldn’t say it when they’re around, you probably shouldn’t post it online.
- Don’t post negative comments about work. Chances are, your colleagues, boss or client will see those comments and that’s an uncomfortable conversation you don’t want to have.
- Post photos that you wouldn’t be embarrassed about. When you list which company, you work for on your page, and start to connect with colleagues via social media, you will start to show up as a suggested friend to people you have those similarities with. If your profile picture is inappropriate, then it could make things awkward at work. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” really is true.
- For additional advice on keeping it professional on social, check out this previous SHIFT post.
For those of you just starting in PR, the above three challenges will probably hit close to home. Understanding the importance of time management, deadlines and how to use social media professionally lay the foundation for your career and as a result, can have a significant impact on your future success. By keeping these challenges and tips in mind, you’ll be one step closer to a great career in PR.
Originally published August 23, 2015, updated August 24, 2018