Consider this post my love letter to public relations and strategic communications.
Continuous professional development
One of the first things that I came to appreciate about the public relations industry, and the professionals within it, was a constant dedication to professional development. This field ever-changing, and so should we be, as people who seek to successfully navigate it every day. Professional development takes many forms in this field, from major conferences to day-to-day conversations.
There are a vast number of events happening at the local, regional, national and international levels annually that seek to bring together PR pros. Events, when done right, can be particularly helpful in creating connections and learning from others in the field. If you take the time to get to know fellow attendees and really be intentional about absorbing all the great information, they can be very helpful. They can also provide opportunities to travel. Who doesn’t love an excuse to get out of the house?
That being said, conferences can also be expensive or intimidating for younger professionals. However, there are typically a number of locally based and less expensive events available to help get your feet wet. Our local PRSA Hoosier Chapter is just one example. Some employers will also agree to cover the cost of their employees’ membership to associations like PRSA or other professional development organizations.
In addition to formally organized conferences and events, I’ve found that individuals within the industry are generally very excited to “pay it forward” and meet with younger PR professionals. You’d be surprised at the people who are willing to take an hour out of their day to share their insights with you. I had a number of these little coffee chats last year with senior professionals when I was looking to make my next career move, and I make a point to be on the look out for additional connections whenever I go to work-related events.
One tip which I’ve learned during my time at Hirons is to try and get a hold of any meeting or event’s attendee list ahead of time. For example, if you’re going to a networking lunch, see if you can check who else plans to attend. Reach out to these folks ahead of time via LinkedIn with a personalized note. Nine times out of 10, people will be excited that you were proactive about reaching out and will accept your invitation to connect. If you don’t get a chance to meet them at the upcoming event in person, you now have an excuse to follow up and get a coffee chat scheduled.
Seeing content that you’ve created go live
This one is a bit more obvious for those people who are in communications – it’s a given, if you do your job well. That doesn’t mean it gets any less exciting whenever it happens! There’s nothing quite like the pay off of seeing content that you helped create get attention. As the project manager for Hirons’ social media accounts and the company blog, I help make sure content is written in the proper tone and gets distributed when it is supposed to. This includes everything from day-to-day tweets to major company announcements, like our recent expansion in the Chicago market.
When content is particularly successful, it’s like an extra pat on the back that certifies your time was worth it. Even if a post doesn’t do as well, you should still take satisfaction in knowing that you put something out there. That in itself isn’t alway easy to get done, especially when you’ve got a million other projects happening at any given time. Just be sure to take note of what does well and what doesn’t so that you can continue to learn what type of content performs the best (see, there’s more of that professional development!).
Team work is the dream work
In every role I’ve had thus far in this industry, I’ve worked closely with a team. At some organizations, the entire communications team can consist of just a few people. At other places, your team may change entirely depending on the type of project you’re working on or the client you’re working for. This constant team-based setting took a while for me to get used to. As someone who was accustomed to taking on a leadership role in group projects while I was in school, I had less experience in collaborating with peers in a classroom setting. The work place definitely forced that to change, and I’m glad that it has.
Once I did get used to working in teams, I realized how grateful I was for constantly being surrounded with other professionals who shared my passions for thinking strategically, communicating effectively and working creatively. I’ve also noticed that PR people, like myself, generally want to help make the world a better place (contrary to the popular belief that we’re all just masters of “spinning” a story). These commonalities have helped me develop great friendships in my colleagues and former supervisors.
Note: Make sure you stay in contact with your old team members – you’ll never know who you might need to bounce ideas off of one day!
Of course, working in a team is not only great for camaraderie, it can also help produce better results. When multiple people are working towards a common goal and each are contributing their strengths to a project, you’re much more likely to hit your target(s). I’ve seen this firsthand within small nonprofits, like Indiana INTERNnet, and in an agency setting, like Hirons. Although the mission and organizational structures of those two entities are very different, the importance of teamwork proves true across the board.
Overall, the field of public relations is fascinating to me because it’s always changing and growing, which forces me to do the same. I love that my fellow PR geeks are passionate about what they do and about helping others improve their skillset.