Following my recent piece on what to do when starting out, here are 3 things not to do!
1) *Assume you’ll be reminded*
Throughout education you’re often reminded of impending deadlines and told what you need to do and by when. Granted, that’s not always the case - especially at uni - but at the very least you’ll likely be used to having people around that are in the same boat, and with the same assignments.
However, when you step into your first PR role, you’ll often be expected to ‘own’ specific actions. Reminders and prompts are certainly not guaranteed.
When starting out it's easy to assume that because something is not mentioned for a while, it’s no longer needed and can be dropped - do not make that assumption!
Even if you’re given something really small that hardly seems worth doing. Even if it appears like an adhoc request that you suspect has been forgotten as quickly as thought of.
Sometimes - just sometimes - a few days later, a few weeks later, even a few months later, the person that gave you that task can come back asking for an update. Explaining that you assumed it was no longer needed because it wasn’t mentioned again doesn’t tend to go down too well.
It normally only happens once or twice as people adjust (maybe a few more times in my case) but it’s best avoided altogether by checking in if you suspect it isn’t. This sort of thing is often described as ‘managing up’, which sort of means managing your management!
2) *Think you’ll remember all the details*
We’ve all been there; "there's no need to makes notes, I’ll remember this!" Yet, in PR you’re expected to be an expert in multiple fields, across multiple clients. Sometimes having the gist, just isn’t enough. It’s an appreciation for detail that separates the good from the average PR!
When you start out, you’ll often be briefed by managers in person, making extensive notes is hugely important here. The same applies when given the opportunity to sit in on client meetings.
Being able to looks back on notes at the very least allows you ask intelligent follow up questions, for example “I recall that 71% of Gen Yers (defined as between 18-35) said they’d rather visit the dentist than hear what banks have to say - can I clarify what the sample pool size on this survey was please?” is a lot better than “I remember something about young people not liking banks, what was it again?” If you can capture most of what is said the first time, you’re making lives easier (especially your own!)
3) *Put off difficult tasks*
It's often easy to put difficult things off. For example, it’s very common for those new to PR to be terrified of the telephone. That’s perfectly understandable when you think about it! Most communication these days takes place via instant messaging in our private lives and over email and the likes of Slack at work. Those new to the workplace have had very little need to speak on the phone, but client and journo calls can be regular occurrences and play a big part in forming proper relationships.
Unfortunately, there is no way around such things, sometimes you just have to smash straight through them. And that really is just a case of going for it and accepting that it's going to take a bit of practice. Believe me, most of the best people at ‘selling in’ stories to the media started off in the same position. The only way they became good was through practice and determination. You can feel foolish doing it, but senior PRs will respect the hell out of you for tackling your fear - most will remember doing it themselves and those that managed to avoid it somehow, will never have the invaluable skill you’re developing!
Likewise, pitching for new business can be daunting. Getting up in front of prospective clients and talking about a profession that is still relatively new to you, not to mention the client’s business and market, is a big ask. The first few times, you’ll likely learn from a script and fail horribly at delivering it, but don’t worry, that’s normal! In time, as you gain more experience, it will just become about standing up and talking about what you know. It’ll the simplest thing in the world.
I guess ultimately, it's about accepting that developing skills take time! That can't be helped, what can be helped is making sure you're as organised as possible and ready to embrace challenges!