Seven tips for PR newbies…

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Time flies and it’s hard to believe that I’ve now been working in PR for over four years. It’s an interesting, fun and unique career, to say the least, and it’s funny looking back and thinking that when I started I had absolutely NO IDEA about what PR actually was. There are a lot of people interested in PR and most of the people / interns I talk to seem to have no idea what’s actually involved. As a result, I thought I would share some of my musings / tips for people interested in taking up a career in PR. 1. Dispel the myth – PR is not events management “So you must go to a lot of parties / events?” – This is quite possibly the most frequent question I’m asked about my job (as well as “What is PR?”) Despite the image put across by Hollywood publicists and the typical stereotype of the drink-swiveling PR girl, I have to say that PR is, in fact, quite different from event management. While we can definitely organise events, our core strength is communication and you do tend to spend most of your time in an office. Having said that, every PR agency is different, but from my experience, events management tends to be a very separate activity. 2. Don’t underestimate the importance of writing One of the single-most important skills required of a good PR professional is the ability to write and tell stories. It’s about knowing how to craft a key message, develop a story idea and deliver a news story that will captivate journalists. Whether it’s writing a press release or even learning to communicate clearly via email, to be successful in PR you must also learn to be a wordsmith. 3. Client relationship management will become your life They didn’t tell me this at uni. I learnt about two-way symmetrical communication models, gendered communication and how to develop a crisis communications plan, but I certainly was never told that (working in an agency) I would need to manage relationships with my clients, and that this could be the single most challenging part of the job. Sounds simple enough, but it can be a very challenging task. Before embarking on a career in PR, you must understand how different personality types work and then adjust yourself to suit each client individually. I guess this is more of a learned than taught skill but it’s something you should definitely be aware of. 4. Get everything in writing Setting up a media interview, getting a client to approve a cost, providing a product for a media review… these are all things that can get you in trouble if you’re not careful. Always be sure to clarify the finer details in writing (i.e. in an email). After speaking on the phone always be sure to send an email clarifying the points you covered or write minutes after meetings. That way, if your client / journo comes back to you and has a problem you can quickly and easily find your correspondence and cover yourself. 5. Despite what you may think, you don’t know everything… As with any career, working your way up through the food chain can be a frustrating experience. It’s not unusual to think that you know better than you’re more experienced counterparts, but believe me, you don’t. Make sure you draw on the experience of your co-workers, ask questions and come with an open mind. But in saying that, never be afraid to share your ideas – often, ideas from fresh minds also bring fresh ideas. 6. You will (eventually) get a grasp of the Australian media landscape If you’re freaked out that you can’t tell the difference between News Limited and Fairfax, fear not. It does take some time, but once you’ve begun executing some media relations campaigns you will find that the names of the different publications, editors and sections editors will start to become familiar. An interest in the media landscape is definitely beneficial when starting out in PR, but don’t worry it doesn’t take long to become an expert. 7. You can say ‘no’ Finally, my last point of advice. When I started out in PR it seems as though the word ‘no’ wasn’t in my vocabulary. By this I mean bending to every request from my clients and agreeing with their ideas (which weren’t necessarily strategic or relevant). Obviously you won’t be managing new clients on your first day on the job, but as you work your way up, you inevitably will work more closely with them and that often means sharing ideas about how to achieve their goals. Never be afraid to disagree with an idea if you don’t think it would work – but don’t be too negative. Try to think of an alternative, or (if you’re really put on the spot), what I often find myself saying is “Well that sounds like an interesting concept, leave it with me to discuss with the team and we’ll get back to you.” This reinforces that you (not your client), are in fact the expert in your field and it also demonstrates honesty. Ok kids, so there are some of my thoughts. There are probably a lot of areas that I’ve forgotten so if any other PR pros are out there and would like to add to this post feel free to comment. Signing off, Catherine (@CGuyder) & the WordStorm team

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