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.
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
- Days 30-90: Structure
- Days 90-180: Do
- Intermission: Battling Burnout
- Days 180-365: Grow
- Days 365-???: Teach
Days 30-90: Structure – Solidify Your Infrastructure for Success
You spent your first 30 days soaking up everything you could – so now what? The work is going to start piling up, that’s what. Being a naturally bright and driven individual (that’s what got you here, right?), you’re already in a good spot. While you could get away with coasting through month one by relying on your innate talent for getting things done, even the most naturally organized person needs structure to have any chance at handling a full workload at an agency.
My favorite Vulcan once said, “I object to intellect without discipline; I object to power without constructive purpose.” That’s what the next stage of your PR journey is about: building a rock-solid organizational infrastructure (with both discipline and constructive purpose) so that you can reach your true productive potential.
Set goals (and don’t forget them!)
It doesn’t matter if you’re training for a marathon, developing a marketing campaign, or planning your personal budget. Every plan needs goals, both to provide motivation and enforce accountability. If your manager hasn’t sat down with you already to map out long-term goals for your professional development at the agency, be proactive about setting up that meeting. Having clear long-term goals (each with a plan of attack) will bring direction and meaning to your day-to-day work, and striving to stick to them will help keep you on track and moving forward.
Get aggressive about organization
When success is contingent upon your ability to juggle fifteen different client deadlines, deliver daily news monitoring reports, maintain multiple databases, update weekly agendas, all while being ready to drop everything if something time-sensitive comes up…yes, you are going to need to be very, very organized if you want to stay sane.
A good starting point is to simply look around you, find the “productivity powerhouses” (you’ll notice them soon enough), and ask them for their advice. What organization hacks and tools do they use? How do they structure their day and their to-do lists? What are their favorite sources for productivity tips and tricks?
You’ll eventually carve out your own personal organization style as you test out the various methods recommended to you and begin to research your own. Don’t be discouraged when something doesn’t work; it takes some time to figure out your style!
Seek out the “why,” not just the “how”
Is there anything less fulfilling than putting a ton of work into something when you don’t understand why you’re doing it or how it’s important? During your first several months at an agency, you’re going to get a lot of what feels like grunt-work. Your team will show you how to do many tasks. But understanding why something is valuable can transform “meaningless busy-work” into an “honorable duty.” Understanding the value of your work to your team imbues each task with a sense of purpose – which will drive you to higher-quality, more thoughtful work.
This is what makes, for example, building a media list far more than just assembling a database of names and emails – you’re not a mere grunt, you’re the blacksmith who crafts precision tools without which your team can’t function.
We could even say that the three pointers we outlined here form the basic elements of any grand quest:
- Something tangible to strive toward and achieve (your goals)
- A method to the madness (organization/productivity)
- A sense of meaning or connection to a cause (the “why”)
A career in PR is an epic journey, so I think it’s fitting. As you near day 90, stage three draws nigh – when you get to take everything you studied in stage one and built in stage two, and really rock out with it.
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