The Best Advice I Ever Got About Working in PR

At this time of the year, my agency, CRT/tanaka, gets inundated with résumés from eager, young college students looking for internships or full-time positions. Listening to enthusiastic and passionate  young people during the interview process always inspires me and reminds me why I enjoy working in public relations. These interactions with college students on the threshold of their futures got me to thinking about all the things I wish I knew when I first entered the working world. So I asked a few of my colleagues, seasoned PR professionals whom I respect and admire, for the best advice they ever got about working in public relations. Here is what they had to say.

Always Wear the White Hat

Mark Raper, Chairman and CEO

I had one boss that I always tried to impress. As I hurriedly addressed each task, he would inevitably caution me by saying: “Slow down. Do you know the ‘why?’ What more could you know to make it even better?” Although it frustrated me at the time, it continues to bring new meaning to my job. That same boss also used to tell me to “always wear the white hat.”  Some pretty solid advice from a pretty great boss.

I worked within an advertising agency – providing PR services to clients. It was a little like being a red-headed step child. One older ad guy once told me: “If you present yourself as only a PR person, you will always be only a PR person. If you diagnose a problem and can explain all the tools necessary to deliver the best solution, you become a valued consultant.”

Be Thankful for the Difficulties

Patrice Tanaka, Co-Chair, Chief Creative Officer and whatcanbe Ambassador

Be thankful for difficult assignments, bosses, colleagues, clients, business partners, journalists/bloggers and others you may work with, because this is where you’ll learn the most. Don’t be afraid of challenges or regard them as annoying obstacles in your work life. The degree to which you can embrace difficulties in your job as valuable learning experiences, is the degree to which you will become highly seasoned PR counselors whose advice is sought by colleagues and clients alike.

For more pearls of wisdom from Patrice, read her book, “Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner, and Smarter CEO.”

Anticipate a Client’s Needs

Mike Mulvihill, APR, President

My very first boss would always ask me when I brought a draft to him,  “Are you really sure this is ready for me to review?” This would then prompt me to ask myself if I had done the best job I could on it. The first few months, I usually said I would give it one more review and be back. Later, I had already completed that assessment before I came to him. It was my first lesson in anticipating a client’s needs.

Take Ownership of What You Want

Brian Ellis, Executive Vice President/Crisis Consultancy 

A life tip my father gave to me, which has applied to all of my careers: Don’t let life (career) just happen. Make it happen. Don’t expect anyone to hand you everything you want. If YOU take ownership of what you want (career, life’s wishes, friendships and so forth), you usually get what you desire. You just have to be willing to work (and sacrifice) for it.

PR advice: Define your personal brand. Where do you excel? And don’t be afraid to do your own PR.

Think Like a Reporter

Debbie Myers, Executive Vice President/Health Practice Director

I came into PR after 10 years as a broadcast journalist. The best advice I ever got came from the first boss I ever had in radio. He said never stop thinking like a reporter. Always be curious, ask lots of questions and don’t get sucked into the PR talk. I have always tried to keep my reporters hat on when writing messages for clients and when advising them on how to communicate honestly and genuinely.

Be Curious

Michael Whitlow, APR, Executive Vice President/Corporate Practice Director

Be more curious than anyone you know. If your friends are always looking at you with a bemused and befuddled expression that says, “How did he know that,” you are succeeding.

Be aware of the massive importance of business-to-business sales and marketing in the economy. You can learn a lot about what motivates companies by looking into how their products come to market, and there is a lot of business to be done with companies who primarily or exclusively sell to other companies rather than to consumers.

Learn at least one new skill a year.

Happiness Lies Within

For my advice, I leave you with this quote from an unknown author: “You are responsible for your own happiness. If you expect others to make you happy, you’ll always end up disappointed. Happiness lies within your heart and soul.”

To my fellow PR practitioners, what “best advice” can you add for PR newbies?

Also, check out 15 Tips to Land That First Job in PR.

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