I have worked at a number of prestigious agencies in New York City and have learned a thing or two about what to do, what not to do and what you can expect. As a twenty-three year old professional, I definitely do not have all the answers but I have collected some key take-aways that will make you think twice about nose diving into this crazy industry. If you are seriously considering entering the world of Public Relations whether that be fashion, beauty, lifestyle, travel etc. here are a few things to keep in mind.
I think it’s a well known fact we all put “proficient in excel” on our resumes but when push comes to shove, how do excel formulas even work? I was in the same boat. Efficient, but didn’t know the first thing about creating spreadsheets. I am here to tell you that I use excel every single day. Let me emphasize; every. single. day. Do yourself a favor and watch a few youtube tutorials on the basics of excel. It will make you look like less of a liar on your resume and those skills will make your job significantly easier.
Writing needs to be your strong suit but if it’s not (yet) that’s okay. I think you have to enjoy crafting articulated sentences and know how to get your point across in as little words as possible to be a truly great writer. This takes time. I am not the world’s greatest writer but the more releases you write, the more emails you send, the better you become. My advice is to research releases online. Pick your favorite company and search for their most recent press releases. You can see the verbiage they choose and start recognizing differences in tone. Ultimately, writing is hard but with practice this can become your strongest skill set.
Asking questions is a very important skill. But asking questions you know the answer to, is the number one cause of passive aggressive emails and lack of trust. Take a step back and think about what it is you are trying to accomplish. Make a list of possible solutions. If none of those solutions work, you may then ask questions based on your attempts to solve it on your own. This shows everyone you are willing to take on a managerial role as well as can think critically.
Double Dog DARE yourself to DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING. Attention to detail is so so important. The subject line of an email to a client cannot show it has been forwarded. Your emails have to be spell checked. If someone asks you about inventory, you better check twice before saying you don’t have the item. Re-read your work and even go a step further and have someone else check it if it’s something super important. Small details are what make the biggest differences.
PR isn’t always ground breaking work, especially not at the beginning. It’s a lot of stuffing gift bags, sending mail, making lists, and researching people/events/locations. It’s easy to get discouraged by busy work but if you love this field, you need to understand the funnel. All work is important from the CEO down to the interns. Every job has a purpose and plays a role in the bigger picture. Keep your head high, appreciate and understand why it is these small tasks will become the building blocks and foundation of your career.
This industry allows us to work in a creative space among other outgoing and outspoken individuals. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and lose your sense of professionalism. Make sure you maintain a level head even when speaking casually with a friendly co-worker. You never know who is watching and who hears you. Things can very easily be taken out of context and explaining yourself down the road never pans out in quite the right way. Events especially, are a space where you have to watch yourself. There is often alcohol flowing and mini apps circulating setting a casual mood. Even though you are around fun people having a great time, remember you are there for work not pleasure. Key take away here is to keep your surroundings in mind and act accordingly.
Not all clients are created equal. You will work with brands that have awesome products and are progressive and eager to work with you on a partnership level. But there will also be clients who are rude and difficult to work with. They will be tired and stuck in their old ways. This type of client is challenging but it is your job to show passion and enthusiasm for the brand while maintaining a positive and respectful relationship that leads to great success. As a great publicist, you need to be able to make the client trust in you and have faith your efforts will result in great press.
9-5 isn’t a thing. Sorry to burst your bubble. If you are looking for a job where you can clock in and clock out, you’re in the wrong field. This is a 24/7 job. Even when you’re not at your desk, you’re in bed checking social media, you’re thinking about the work that needs to be done when you get back to the office. It’s a fast-moving and stressful environment. It becomes your life and if you’re not ready to have your job be a part of your life, then you’re not meant to work in public relations. I love seeing something on social media and thinking about how I can apply that with my brands. I love learning new skills and applications that can help me better myself as a PR professional. My surroundings become my job because I allow it to. Give yourself up to your job because you want to, not because you have to. This is when you really need to take a step back and assess if this is what is right for you.
Handling stress 101. If you don’t handle stress well, you won’t survive in this industry. It is a fast moving, super chaotic and deadline ridden industry full of people looking to get ahead of one another. You better believe there will be grey hairs on that pretty little head of yours after a few years but it’s how you manage your time that separates you from those who can handle stress and those who cannot. Evaluate what is important and what can hang out on the back burner for the time being. Knowing how to prioritize and most importantly, how to not let stress affect your relationships within your work and personal life is extremely vital. I personally work better under pressure which is why I am good at my job. You can be successful too, if you find a way to manage stress that works for you.
A boss of mine once told me that us millennials are snow flakes. We are afraid to step out of our comfort zone and are perfectly fine staying in the sanctuary of our bubbles. This type of attitude, this “snowflake” mentality will get you nowhere. If you never take risks and can’t accept a challenge, you won’t grow as an individual and you will never climb the corporate ladder. Standing still is just about as bad as taking steps backwards. Hitting a plateau means two things; you are comfortable and you are unmotivated. Find something that scares you and challenge yourself to overcome that fear. Falling flat on your face trying something new shows initiative and teaches you perseverance. Take it upon yourself to push through difficult tasks and prove to yourself you can accomplish anything if you try. Remember, the world owes you nothing. You are the only one who can make things happen.
PR is ever evolving. It’s no longer getting clients into national magazines. Those days are gone. National pubs are folding every day and media has transitioned into digital content. Now it’s the Allure.com’s and the Byrdie’s and Popsugar’s that are driving sales. PR has transitioned into orchestrating organic relationships with influencers and editors who have large social followings of their own. Youtube has become a go-to platform for ambassadors and persuaders. And while some aspects of traditional pr remain, marketing and advertising are slowly creeping into a singular category morphing into a one stop-shop. We are becoming creative agencies rather than PR or advertising or marketing. We are now creating the tactical strategies, developing the business plans, laying out the social roadmaps and intertwining them with creativity.
Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or want advice about a career in public relations. I am happy to chat and let you in on some other insider details I may not have mentioned here.