Disclaimer: I didn’t get a degree in public relations.
I learned almost everything I know about PR from job experience, especially in my first year. In those 12 months, I helped a story get placed in the New York Times, wrote a semi-decent article on something I knew absolutely nothing about (software-defined networks as the future of industrial automation), and had a celebrity spokesperson yell at me for “completely ruining the day his first child was born.”
Needless to say, for those starting a career in PR, there’s a lot you’ll pick up at the beginning. Here are top takeaways from my first 365 days:
1. Keep writing. Writing is the crux of everything you will do. Whether it be drafting a pitch, developing a story, or writing social media posts—you need to know how to write well. We’re constantly bombarded with content. Make sure yours stands out for the right reasons.
2. Be the first to arrive (at least for awhile). Hear me out. While getting up early seems horrible, especially right out of college, it’s one of the best things you can do when starting off in your career. Arriving to the office early gives you extra time to pull daily work together and interact one-on-one with other early birds. It also demonstrates an overall positive work ethic (side note: this method works best when paired with an actual good work ethic).
3. Swallow your pride. More likely than not, you’ll have to do work you don’t want to do. And, more likely than not, this will continue throughout your career. But, when you handle trivial tasks with the same tenacity you do for the larger, more important ones, it will showcase dependability.
4. Stand your ground. All that business about ‘swallowing your pride’ being said, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Even if you’re in an entry-level PR position, it’s not your job to staple papers for the sales staff. That celebrity spokesperson I mentioned earlier? His anger was not the result of anything I did. But the calm, polite way I stood up to him resulted in applause from my colleagues and gained respect from the individual in question.
5. Do your research. No matter the occasion, conducting research is important. Setting aside time to look up the history of a specific topic or client gives you the advantage of appearing well-versed in an area you may not be familiar with (such as, writing an article on software-defined networks as the future of industrial automation). When in doubt, don’t wing it. Research, always.
6. Listen. While the hundreds of business quotes about listening can sound cliché, it doesn’t mean they’re not true. Listening is important. Vast amounts of information can be gleaned from what is said in meetings, on a phone call, or in the break room. Sometimes, this information can come when nothing is said at all. So, before offering up a comment (whether it be online or in the board room), be sure to register the climate and what has already been said. It will be one of the most valuable things you can do.
7. Have fun. At the end of the day, your job is the place where you’ll spend most of your time— you might as well enjoy it. Organize lunches out of the office, host daily trivia, or celebrate fake food-based holidays. In my first year on the job, I celebrated ‘Oreo Day,’ ‘Chip Dip Day,’ and ‘Cookie Day.’ And while Calypso isn’t my first PR gig, it’s customary for us to participate in monthly happy hours, invent office-based sports, and compete in trivia competitions.
Looking for additional wisdom as you start your first year in PR? Check the Calypso blog for posts on PR, marketing, and creative know-how.