first year of pr blog

6 Key Learnings from My First Year Working in PR

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My first 18 months working in the communications industry has been a combination of many things, however the most obvious words to describe it are exciting and challenging.

As my first full-time gig, the experience working at P4 Group has offered me ample opportunities to grow as an emerging professional, as well as teaching me plenty of lessons along the way.

Whether you’re chasing your dream grad job or have just commenced your first PR role in an agency, hopefully my experience in the first 12 months working agency-side will help prepare you for yours!

Since my very first Introduction to Public Relations in a lecture at QUT, I knew this was an industry I wanted to be in and with the right knowledge, skills and experience, I knew I could thrive. As I moved further into my dual Bachelor degree, I was hungry for PR internships, and after perfecting my resume I began chasing these opportunities.

Fast forward a few months and I was walking through the doors to my internship at P4 Group.

From starting at P4 Group as an intern, through to joining the team full-time as anAccount Coordinator, being immersed in an integrated communications agency has taught me many lessons which university simply couldn’t, including:

Communication is everything

Since we are working in communications this may seem obvious to many, but funnily enough, there was one element of communication my university studies didn’t quite prepare me for.

Knowing how to identify opportunities for brands and companies to communicate with their key stakeholders more creatively and strategically was something I understood, but effectively communicating internally within a busy agency environment was a whole new ball game.

As emerging PR professionals, it’s our job to support various Account Managers and Directors at a time. This means we are not only required to communicate with our clients and the media  day-to-day , but also our account team. While some people prefer an email for everything, and others prefer you just pop over to their desk for a quick chat, learning the best practice internal ways of working in an agency is essential.

I quickly learnt that a great way to keep your Account Managers and Directors in the loop (without badgering them at their desk!) is by regular email check-ins. I use these emails to let my team know where my priorities  are at and discuss the client priorities.

Doing this simple task means they don’t need to a) wonder how you’re going with something, and b) chase you for an update. It also helps keep you accountable for the work you’re providing and ensures you meet deadlines.

Your to-do list will be forever changing

I am undeniably a list person. I love to have my whole day mapped out with times allocated to each task I need to achieve and an action. A plan is what helps me feel most organised and efficient – something I always thought was a qualitythat would serve me well in my career! And, while it absolutely is, an even more valuable quality that I have come to learn from my first year in PR is the ability to be flexible and adaptable.

When major news breaks in the morning, or your client/colleague suddenly asks for a task to be completed urgently, it is important to know how to manage new priorities on your to-do list. Priorities are constantly shifting within agencies and every day is a balancing act between clients, making managing conflicting deadlines an essential.

This involves a level of flexibility and often, effective internal communication and teamwork, which leads me to my next point…

Teamwork makes the dream work

dream team

Cliché, I know. But seriously, agencies are highly collaborative, integrated workplaces and no task involves just one person riding solo. From brainstorms that harness the broader team’s creativity and diverse thinking, to dividing and conquering with major time-sinking tasks, teamwork is the backbone of agencies. Knowing how to both lean on and support your team is key.

I’ve found a great way to approach collaborative tasks is to identify how you can best contribute. Not great with those ‘big ideas’ or thinking creatively on the spot, but fantastic at building out the tactics of a strategy with a high-attention to detail? Put your hand up to contribute in areas you feel you can provide the most value.

Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow

Working alongside (what I would consider) a dream team has plenty of perks, but one of them is being exposed to the experience, knowledge, skills and creativity of a team of incredible professionals who all once started out in my shoes! Not only is this inspiring, but a great opportunity to be constantly learning.

From listening to your colleagues’ pitch to media via phone and coordinate media opps or watching how they manage their client relationships, to receiving feedback on content you have drafted, an agency environment is filled with opportunities to grow your skills as an emerging professional.

Harnessing such a diverse team’s experience and knowledge is a real bonus, especially if you are truly open to constructive criticism as well as praise. No feedback should ever be viewed as a failing, but instead, an opportunity. Now you have feedback, you will be able to approach the task or experience differently in the future and continue to grow your skillset!

I would also highly recommend you be a ‘yes’ person when it comes to taking on new challenges – don’t let a potential lack of confidence stop you from trying your hand at new tasks that may put you out of your comfort zone. You never know, this may be how you find a new passion in the industry.

Identify and harness your unique strength

You have this career break because someone (or many people) saw potential in you. Despite being the most junior member of your team, you do have unique skills and perspectives to offer. Whether it be having a fresh outlook with new ways of thinking or doing things or assisting with all things digital as a tech-savvy millennial, you would be surprised by the value you can offer without having years of experience in the industry!

Personally, I’ve taken charge at P4 Group as our resident Meltwater expert, a media software we use for media monitoring, media coverage reports and media research. This is one way I identified I could provide value to the broader team on something they are less familiar with using and I had taken to naturally. Your value doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to have a positive impact.

It’s not life or death

A wise colleague once reminded me “it’s PR, not ER” – who would have known! While the pace of PR agencies can be adrenaline-inducing at times – something that attracts many of us to the profession – it’s important to remember we are not saving lives and the weight of the world is not on your shoulders.

While the revolving door of deadlines and priorities continues, and the inevitable speed bumps hit, it’s important to keep your cool and know how to manage working under pressure and, most importantly, know when to raise your hand and ask for support – one team, one dream!

For more on how to master a multi-tasking mindset while constantly working under the pump, check out my colleague Rachel’s blog here.

Have I nailed absolutely all of these learnings in the last 18 months? Not quite, but I’m working on it and growing every day. Hopefully after reading this, you can too.


Blog post by Lexy Haggard, an Account Executive at P4 Group