So you’re newly hired at a public relations agency. Congrats! Now the pressure is on.
Excelling during your first year in PR is all about setting yourself up for success with basic best practices, and then following through with lots of practice and experimentation. Think of year one as a massive learning process. Like any complex process, it helps to break it down into stages. In this six-part series, we’ll dive into the anatomy of the first 365 days of agency life and share methods for success for each stage of the timeline:
- Days 1-30: Learn
- Days 30-90: Structure
- Days 90-180: Do
- Intermission: Battling Burnout
- Days 180-365: Grow
- Days 365-???: Teach
As Jack Sparrow’s first nemesis, Captain Barbossa, would say, these stages are by no means rules – they’re more like guidelines. Take or leave what you will!
Days 1-30: Learn – Observe, Inquire, Research, and Communicate
Be a sponge.
Your first month is your chance to absorb as much knowledge as you can while you have comparatively fewer responsibilities. Take a look at your peers and pay close attention to the top performers (you’ll notice who they are soon). Observe how colleagues interact with clients, business prospects and each other. Emulate what works, avoid what doesn’t, and eventually mix and match to develop your own work style.
The natural next step after gathering data is to probe for more. Invite one of those top performers out for coffee and pick their brain. What tools/apps do they use to stay organized? What publications do they read? What do they know now that they wish they knew in their first year?
You’ll also run into plenty of terms and concepts that completely fly over your head as you adjust to the day-to-day. Don’t be timid about asking what a particular phrase means or how a certain team process works!
Read, read, read.
The more you read, the more data you will gather, and the more insightful questions you’ll have to ask. Read your company’s blog. Read industry pubs recommended by colleagues. Read the target media pubs your clients want to be in. It might be slow-going at first (as unfamiliar material often is), but it’s the best way to truly get up to speed with the state of the industry, what’s trending now, and ultimately make insights about what will come next.
Set up a news aggregator like Feedly to keep yourself organized and carve out an hour a day for reading, whether it’s built into your official training, on a lunch break, or during your commute.
You may be a newbie, but even in the first month you play a crucial support role on your team. Your team members rely on you for consistent and rock-solid monitoring, reporting, and research, and they need to know that you’re on it without needing your hand held. Some basic best practices for communication are:
- Respond in a timely manner to emails that require action from you even if you can’t take action right away. “Got it, I can start this research this afternoon and get you something by 10am tomorrow” is a perfectly valid response.
- Clarify deadlines. Sometimes you’ll get assigned projects with no clear due date. Ask when the team needs a draft by so you can prioritize.
- Send updates on the status of your project, even if it’s not done yet! Before you leave for the day, shoot a short note to your team with where you’re at so they can rest assured knowing that you’re on top of things.
- If you realize you can’t get something done in time, be up front about it as soon as possible and propose a new deadline. That gives your coworkers time to jump in if it absolutely needs to get done by the initial deadline. The last thing you want to do is surprise a colleague by not having work done when you said you would.
- Proactively follow up if you’re waiting on something. If you’ve completed part of a project but can’t move forward without a review or approval, be proactive about following up (after a reasonable time frame – give it a day). Just because the ball is in someone else’s court doesn’t mean the project stops being your responsibility!
Those are the basics of the basics, but like any good habit, they require some drilling before they stick.
By the end of your first month, you should be feeling pretty good about the wealth of knowledge you’ve acquired thus far and ready to take a more active role on your team. You’ve proven that you’re responsive and accountable on the projects they’ve given you, and soon they’ll entrust you with more responsibilities. And more, and more, and more.
This is where stage two, and the next part of this series, comes in: structure, organization, and prioritization. You’re going to need it to stay on top of everything!
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