Things I wish I’d known before starting a job in comms
Anyone who has had to explain PR to a friend or relative outside of the industry knows how hard it is to summarise. I’m an Account Executive at Antidote Communications but two years ago I would have been hard-pressed to describe what a role in communications actually entails. It’s only now after I’ve had some time to reflect on the start of my career that I have identified several things I certainly would have found helpful prior to my journey into the world of comms.
I wish I had known…
… that I’d become an expert across many fields
The best summary that has really stuck with me about any role in the comms industry is being your client’s “eyes and ears” — able to provide a download of what’s going on in the world that impacts their business at the drop of a hat. Staying on top of industry news can be a challenge at times, especially if your clients work in a variety of fields. In my short career, I have had to become an expert in biotechnology, energy, agriculture, AI, retail and more, so if you want an update on the latest developments in any of these fields, I’m your guy.
… just how much I would be writing
In this job, when I’m not reading, I’m writing. From press releases to bylines, and even simple emails, I’m racking up an impressive daily word count. Constantly shifting gears to adapt your writing style for the task at hand can often feel like an acrobatics routine, especially when jumping from one to another and then back again. I’ve found dedicating some time to pause when switching between tasks extremely worthwhile, as it can help to avoid confusion down the line.
… about all the different tools I would be using
Within the remits of an Account Executive, I have been a researcher, writer, consultant, translator plus many more. Each of these roles has a variety of tools that help you work more efficiently. I use Meltwater and Roxhill nearly every day for research, but the tools I find most beneficial are collaborative. Trello, Google Drive and Slack are permanently open on my laptop and without them, I’d be lost in the whirlwind of different tasks. New tools are constantly being released, so it’s good to keep a flexible work process in order to learn new skills when needed.
… the importance of the small things
A little goes a long way when it comes to comms. As an industry dominated by emails, it’s easy to forget that there is a human being that has to read your message once you hit send. It’s rare that a journalist will pick you up on your grammar (although this has happened to me — I’ll never mistake peaked and piqued again!) but if they receive a difficult to read email, littered with typos or with no clear message, chances are their mouse is already hovering over “Delete” before the end of the first sentence.
… I wouldn’t be having champagne lunches every week
Ok so this one might be my own fault, but I definitely used to believe the common misconception that PR is just meeting with clients and journalists over a fancy brunch. I’ve so far been to one event where I did strike up a conversation with a journalist over food, but only because we both wanted the last custard cream at a conference on biomedical innovations. I think afternoon tea at the Ritz is just a pipe dream, for now.
… just how critical understanding other people would be
When it comes to telling your client’s story, you have to place yourself in the shoes of the end reader. If you have been immersing yourself in industry news, you should have some pretty reliable instincts whether something is newsworthy. There’s nothing worse than having to share a pitch or press release that you can’t get behind, so make sure you raise any concerns as early as possible.
… there’s no reason not to be confident in my abilities!
We all have our own passions and styles of communicating. In any situation, you provide a completely unique perspective, which I believe is always worth sharing. I’ve seen what I thought were my half-formed, throwaway comments in a brainstorming session built into a full-blown client campaign, which wouldn’t have been included if I was too shy to speak up. It’s a bit of a cliché, but the best way to learn is to get stuck in, share your ideas and ask for feedback.
I hope you have found some of these tips helpful, no matter where you are in your comms career journey which, for obvious reasons, the future of which might not be completely clear right now. The most important thing to remember if you are feeling overwhelmed is to raise your hand and ask for clarification before you continue on. This industry is built on human-to-human communication and we all have plenty to learn from one another. I’d love to hear the top tips you wish you had known sooner!