In my first few months working at Spark Communications, I wrote a blog offering my initial advice to those starting their career in PR. Over a year on, I wanted to share what I’ve learnt.
1) Don’t be scared to ask
When I first joined the company, I was reticent to ask questions because I didn’t want to appear incapable. Now, having learnt the hard way, if you don’t understand something it’s always better to ask questions and ensure you know how to tackle the task at hand. At Spark, my colleagues are always happy to go through a pitch or piece of work, which helps me to save time in the long run and avoid making unnecessary mistakes.
2) Follow up on your follow ups
As PRs, the ultimate aim is to get coverage for our clients. With this in mind, it is not usually enough to just call or email a journalist once and leave it at that. I had a tendency to not want to ‘bother’ journalists too much when I first joined the world of PR, but I now know how important it is to keep on top of a current sell-in, and ensure that I get a solid answer from every contact. While just phoning over and over again and asking ‘did you see my press release’ will be annoying for a journalist, I’ve now learnt the tricks of the trade that will ensure that the journalist finds my call useful (rather than infuriating) in helping complete their article. Or worst-case scenario they tell me why they aren’t going to cover the story. I have perfected the art of avoiding a fob off!
3) Relationship building
While phoning journalist ‘strangers’ can be really daunting, once you have called a contact a couple of times it’s easier to build up a rapport and feel more comfortable pitching a story. At Spark we always make an effort to meet with a range of journalists that we deal with on a regular basis, whether at events or over a drink after work – nurturing your contacts is key to this industry and puts a face to the voice on the end of the phone.
4) Organisation is the key
Over the course of my time at Spark, I’ve been forced to become more organised in order to advance in my career. In PR we are paid to deliver value to each client and it is important to ensure that every client gets what we’ve promised. If I don’t keep on top of the process such as ensuring that coverage reports are up to date and features lists are updated then I won’t get the results that will impress. If we have the right angle, pitching a feature is the easy part, it’s getting the timing right that is the challenge – too early and the journalist will be distracted with his or her current workload – too late and he or she will have heard it all before from the hundreds of other vendors pitching for inclusion. This is a prime example that was worth the detective work. One top tip – make friends with your email folders and desktop shortcuts!
According to reports, PR came out as one of the most stressful jobs this year. While it can be easy to let the pressure get to you, it’s also important to laugh and look on the bright side of life. Letting the stress pile on is not conducive to a good job – so trying to stay positive actually does help to produce the best work you are capable of!