There’s quite a bit of useful advice on how to be a better PR person these days. But reading Reba Hull Campbell’s excellent list of 20 pieces of advice for PR professionals reminded me that there’s sometimes a gap between the skills needed to be a great PR practitioner and those required to advance in a corporate environment, particularly at an agency. It also put me in mind of some of the best employees I’ve had the privilege to manage, some of whom managed me better than I did them. Here’s my list.
Take the initiative. Back in the go-go late nineties, when we were chronically understaffed and clients were joining faster than we could manage them, an entry-level account coordinator asked me a question about his (admittedly vague) job parameters. My answer was, “When in doubt, assume it’s your job.” That advice may not be as applicable in a large corporate environment today, but I stand by it. Better to apologize for jumping in than to regret what you missed.
Be solutions-oriented. This one’s on everyone’s list. Don’t approach your manager with a problem until you’ve thought about solutions. One of the more talented staffers I ever worked with was a master of this. She’d come in with a knotty issue, then proceed to outline some fixes in a way that made it clear she’d thought about the problem. Of course, there are circumstances where no solution is obvious, but it’s well worth the effort to put some energy there.
When pushing back, choose your spots. Asserting your point of view in the face of an unreasonable decision or – more likely – a flawed or hasty client recommendation is highly valued among PR practitioners. Who wants a yes-person? But as an employee, you should ration your pushback very carefully. Too many, and you’ll get a reputation as difficult, and your opinion can be diminished when it really counts.
Learn how to write. I know, I know, it’s been said too often, but if your manager has to rewrite everything you do (as opposed to judiciously edit it), you should be doing something else. That’s all.
Be a consumer of media. A lot of what we do is being able to connect the dots. That means knowing what’s in the New York Times op/ed as well as current Internet memes. You should be informing your managers, not the other way around.
Use all resources at your disposal…and more. This advice can be controversial, but in an agency environment, it’s critical to be resourceful. One of my superstars was terrific at this. She’s squeeze an extra hour out of a shared staffer, “borrow” help for media events, and lure non-team members to brainstorms or even administrative tasks. Most importantly, she was brilliant at letting me know exactly what she needed from me and where I should engage on client issues.
Get in early. It gives you an advantage, sets a great example for junior staff, and shows motivation. Really.