How To Kill It As A PR Assistant

Guest post by PR Assistant, Chanel Roopchand

As a first-time PR Assistant at a B2B technology PR firm, I knew I had to take in a lot of information, learn new jargon and acronyms, and adjust to real-life work experience within a short time. There was also the shift to working from home. This was a huge and important adjustment because my prior jobs have been in-person. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but I approached things with an open mind and was eager to learn. 

After just a few months, I can confidently say that with the help of my team members, it has been a great experience. My role here is teaching me new things every day, and they’re useful rules for success. Here are the main factors that have helped me support the Crenshaw PR team and kill it as a PR Assistant.

Stick to a routine

At a PR firm, you can work with different teams and for different clients, so there’s a lot of variety. For me, following a routine is a great way to feel productive and comfortable working from home. Waking up on time and making sure to eat breakfast and get ready for the day (even if it means putting on a different pair of sweats) gives me energy and prepares me for the day ahead. Making a to-do list and organizing my calendar for the day is my first task, and at the day’s end, I go through the list and make sure everything is checked off. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

No question is a dumb question. It’s the only way to learn, and my questions not only help me with daily tasks, but offer insight into the PR world. During my first week as a PR Assistant, I was taking in a lot of new information which led to many questions. At first, I was nervous to ask because I was a bit intimidated. I quickly realized my teammates are open and willing to help. I use Slack to reach out to my teammates quickly and effectively. 

Asking a colleague to review an email before I send it or to make sure I’m on the right track when writing a pitch is a huge help. It gives me confidence and comfort with my daily tasks. Since this is my first PR job, there are many things I didn’t know – from how to use Cision to how to prep for a client meeting. Instead of trying to muddle through, I asked for help and the team took the time to show me step by step how to use new tools or understand different elements of our work. 

Stay organized

Staying organized is one of the most important things I’ve learned while being a PR Assistant. Having a priority tracker to share with my team leads lets me prioritize my time and keep track of everything. Using Google Drive is a huge help in staying organized because there is no need to dig through documents. Everything is filed and easy to find. Setting reminders is another way to ensure that I’m getting things done in a timely manner. 

Keep an open mind 

There’s something to gain every day from my team. Being receptive to new ideas and suggestions and being able to apply them is a rewarding feeling. I learned that there isn’t just one way to do things. There are many, and being open to my team members’ different ideas and suggestions has been helpful. I’ve learned a few different tips and tricks while taking action items during client calls. When I first started, I would try to get everything written down and grammatically correct in my first attempt. My team members advised me to have a “rough draft” of notes, then go back after the call and edit them. This way I’m getting all the information and organizing it later instead of rushing to get it into final mode. 

Being introduced to new tools can be overwhelming. To do a mail-merge, for example, there are several steps, and one wrong move can throw everything off. At first, I tried to avoid using mail merge tools, but I eventually realized how convenient it is if used wisely for certain announcements. Staying open has helped me to better accomplish common PR tasks.

Note everything – maybe the analog way!

My notebook is my most useful tool. Whether it’s a thought that comes to mind or action items from a team meeting, note-taking is how I make sure I retain everything. At first I used my laptop, but I soon realized that physically writing was more useful for remembering information and eliminating the confusion of too many open tabs. Yes, I was the type of person to write notes in class rather than using a laptop. According to an article written by Suzy Frisch, “writing by hand tends to boost your ability to retain information, comprehend new ideas, and be more productive — with the added bonus of eliminating the distractions of your device”. I agree, because not only are handwritten notes fast and accurate, they allow me to better process information. Instead of typing on my computer and missing crucial information due to being distracted by emails popping up, I can focus all my attention on taking effective, useful notes that I can share with my team.

Better Internal Comms Tips For PR Teams

As PR professionals, we are meant to be experts in communication. We focus on choosing the right words, where to substitute more meaningful or original turns of phrase, and how to deliver messages that make an impact. Sometimes, especially within public relations teams, we strive to make our external communications to journalists and executives look nearly perfect, while we use shorthand internally. Messages can be lost or misunderstood. 

Internal communication should be as important as external comms. If PR team members are feeling a disconnect, consider the following tips for better internal comms.

Use tech tools for meetings

Admit it – we have all zoned out on Zoom calls! Two useful tools to liven things up are Loom, a video recording service, and Huddles on Slack. Loom allows teams to share their screen to review a document and record a video offering feedback. Users can view this video as many times as necessary, ensuring they don’t miss any direction from team leads. In addition, we at Crenshaw have been enjoying Huddles on Slack. Simply connect with your colleagues on your team channel for a quick voice call. No phone numbers are needed as long as you have a Slack account; it will automatically connect you to your team. It’s a great way to debrief after a client meeting or to handle questions with a smaller group after a larger session. 

Define roles

Often among PR teams, you will hear the phrase “titles don’t really matter here.” While this may be true for many (including ours), the roles should still be defined. If you have junior staff doing tasks that more senior team members could be doing on one project and a completely different situation on another front, there will be a disconnect. While PR people do like to give junior team members occasional high-level tasks to challenge them, it helps to create an internal document outlining roles and tasks, such as “Kate is the day-to-day contact on the launch project, while Ben oversees all media activity and Eva records all activities for reports.” Keep it updated, share within your team and have it handy when new team members join so the transition will be smooth.

Create a (virtual) open-door policy

As someone who is very social, even 18 months later I am struggling by not being in an office space 100% of the work week. It was so easy for team members to pop in and out of conference rooms to sit down and talk through announcements that needed more media attention, new business brainstorms, and everything in between. Having team members scattered throughout the country can make that a bit trickier. Team leads should set aside time either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to let junior staff members connect with them one-on-one to discuss any issues both professionally and personally. Sometimes in WFH there is a thin line between work and home life. Create a space for candid and informal conversations – sometimes they can be better than formal meetings. 

Cut down on emails

According to a recent study of email inboxes, the breakdown of important vs. unimportant incoming email was 42% to 58%, meaning today’s typical inbox has shifted toward more noise than before. This number may be higher for PR teams who are essentially glued to their emails. Inboxes can get messy with unnecessary emails,  which affect time management and organization. Take a few minutes out of your team’s day just start mass deleting any emails you don’t need. If you haven’t opened that newsletter in weeks, maybe it is time to unsubscribe from it. Encourage people to use collaboration tools, like Google Docs or Slack to track progress on  projects. Leave inboxes as clean as possible so messages from executives or media are never missed. 

What are some tips and tricks your PR team uses for better collaboration and communication? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr

10 Productivity Apps for Every PR Professional

If you’re a PR agency professional, you know efficiency and organization are crucial to everyday life. However, it can be challenging when you have several clients to manage, meetings to attend, multiple pitches under way, and new business to pursue – and a personal life! Thankfully, it’s 2015 and we can embrace technology that makes our limited hours a little more productive so you can accomplish more. Here are 10 apps we recommend for streamlining your daily tasks: Create and manage to-do lists and set reminders with this calendar alternative. There’s an option to share lists with coworkers for team productivity. You can even create separate lists for work, personal and family tasks to organize all aspects of your life in one spot. Free on iOS and Android.

Feedly. Suplement your Twitter feed to keep a pulse on the latest news and trends with this RSS news tracker you can customize. It syncs with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Evernote, OneNote and Pinterest for easy sharing. Free on iOS, Android and Amazon.

Pocket. When you’re busy multitasking or running to a meeting, Pocket saves articles and videos to view later. It even works offline so it’s perfect for those dull subway rides! Free on iOS, Android and Amazon.

CamScanner. With CamScanner, your phone or tablet is your scanner. Take photos of documents and edit, store and sync them on-the-go. Free on iOS, Android,Windows and Amazon.

1Password. How many times have you created a password, only to forget it seconds later? Do you reuse passwords for different accounts? 1Password can create, remember and encrypt strong, unique passwords – all you need to remember is your password for the app. Free on iOS, Android, Windows and Amazon.

Dropbox. We deal with large files on a daily basis, so Dropbox allows you to store and share photos, documents and videos with your teams or for clients. Free on iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry.

Eventbrite. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Find cool (often free!) events to attend after work either for leisure, networking or both (because PR pros know how to multitask). Or use this app to set up an easy ticket and check-in system for your clients’ events. Free on iOS and Android.

LinkedIn. In PR you’re constantly meeting new people – reporters and prospective clients to name a few. Staying connected is important, and the mobile version of this popular social platform will help you look up individuals and reach out anytime. Free on iOS, Android, Windows, Amazon and Blackberry.

GoToMeeting. Often you or your colleagues are away from the office. Instead of rescheduling calls, GoToMeeting allows you to dial in to voice or HD video conference meetings, share decks and more – all from your mobile device wherever you are. Free download on iOS, Android, Windows and Amazon; organizer accounts cost $39/month (up to 25 participants) or $56/month (up to 100 participants).

TripIt. Sometimes working in PR means being a jetsetter of sorts. By forwarding your confirmation emails for hotels, flights, restaurants, etc., TripIt consolidates all your travel info into one itinerary. It even looks up directions, maps, weather and other useful information so last-minute trips need not be stressful. Free on iOS, Android, Windows, Amazon and Blackberry.

Time Management and the "Laborious" Life

It’s Labor Day weekend, and I certainly hope most people will celebrate by not doing labor. I mean, we’re all so busy, especially in PR!  But are we being honest about how we spend our time?
Start from the premise that we all have 168 hours per week, which sounds like a lot. And out of those hours, many would say we work about 45-50 hours a week and try to sleep 7-8 hours a night. Many have a one-hour commute each day. We have now used up about 100 hours, what are you doing with the other 68?

Perhaps you’d like to be:
• Exercising at least three times a week
• Eating (preparing and enjoying your meals, a bit more on weekends)
• Binge-watching your favorite shows
• Family time/entertainment
• Catching up on your reading

If your current time allotment is just not working for you, here are some ways to improve your laborious life:

Keep a time log. Track time to keep you from spending it mindlessly and to keep yourself honest. Write down what you’re doing as often as you remember for at least a week. Add up the totals. Checking social media five times a day at six minutes a pop adds up to two-and-a-half hours in a workweek — curiously, the exact amount of time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we exercise.

Be honest. While humble-bragging Americans claim to sleep only five hours per night, time logs show many of us do actually get the prescribed eight or more. One study tracking people’s estimated and actual workweeks found that those claiming to work 70, 80, or more hours were logging less than 60.

Set goals. Ask yourself what you’d like to do with your time; perhaps adding more exercise by swapping out a couple hours of purposeless web trawling. See where in your 168 hours you could make that happen.

Change your language. Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” which is often a perfectly adequate explanation. “I have time to clean out my closet, but it’s not a priority.” Other things are harder. “I keep cancelling the dentist because my health is not a priority.” Changing up our terminology reminds us that time is a choice – some of it anyway – and we have to balance how we spend our precious time!

Managing Your Managers In An Agency Environment

by guest blogger Lauren Silverman

In PR, it’s not uncommon to wear a few hats over the course of the day; one minute you’re a writer, the next an event organizer, and you’re always a juggler. Balancing work for multiple clients and managers requires not only the right organizational skills, but good communication with higher-ups. Here are a few tips to stay on top of your tasks and “manage up.”

Read your relationships
Take responsibility for the relationships at your PR agency. Get to know what works best with each member of your team. Does your direct report prefer written detailed progress memos or just email updates throughout the day? Do your peers like to meet to divvy up tasks within the team? Find the methods that work best up and down the chain of command to keep work flowing, clients happy and the office humming along.

One of the most challenging (and exciting!) things about PR is how often tasks spring up on a moment’s notice. A day that seemed slated for press release writing and a meeting or two can be derailed when a client announces they need a major task done by end of day. Throw in clients from different time zones, and before you know it, your day just got hectic! Take a deep breath, you CAN manage this by making sure to confirm deadlines and priorities with your higher-ups. When in doubt, ask your manager to rank priorities, and in the case of competing tasks from different managers, be proactive by asking them to make the call, — before the 11th hour.

Be clear on deadlines
Always ask for specific deadlines; then, strive to exceed them. For a multi-day project, keep your managers in the loop as other things come up. “I’m still planning to deliver the draft report by Friday, but I’ll need to spend this afternoon on Sharon’s research,” is a subtle reminder to your managers that you’re multitasking as much as they are, and that you’re responsive even in a dynamic environment.

Anticipate tasks before they happen
At a busy PR agency, not all assignments are going to be spelled out in advance. It’s helpful to anticipate and complete some tasks you’ve already become comfortable with. Does your management team have to assemble a report at the same time every month? Make sure all useful files are up-to-date and easy to find. Offer to assemble contacts, or update a media list before a big media relations campaign. Not only does this alleviate your manager’s stress in the moment, but will help make your tasks more seamless in the future.

When you’ve completed a task or assignment, let your manager know before you move on to the next project. Don’t assume she realizes something’s put to bed. If you hit a roadblock that might delay a deliverable, make sure to communicate that also, but be solutions oriented where possible. (“We may be short-staffed for the event; shall I ask Tom to be on standby?”)

Are there other techniques you have found to be effective when juggling your tasks?