A version of this post originally appeared on Muck Rack.
As a young professional myself, I read and listen to a lot of advice from successful leaders on self-improvement and career success. But most of it is what we need to start doing or do more of. Very rarely do we hear what we need to stop doing. From the advice I’ve heard and things I’ve seen, I’ve put together a list of 10 things young PR professionals need to stop doing in order to get ahead.
1. Not making mistakes. Time and time again, you hear some of the most successful people talking about what they learned from making mistakes. Yet, we’re all afraid of making them. The truth is, we should make plenty of mistakes… as long as they’re not the same ones. By making many of different mistakes, we understand what works and what works better, and learn a lot.
2. Playing it safe. Most successful PR campaigns, and ideas in general, come from being bold and innovative. If you work at an agency, it’s what clients hire you for. If you’re in-house, it’s what your colleagues rely on you for. Just because you’re the most junior person on the team does not mean you shouldn’t speak up with creative ideas or a different way to tackle a challenge. It may give you, and your client or company, an advantage.
3. Not speaking up. Part of having a successful career is knowing when to listen and when to speak up. More often than not, young PR professionals don’t speak up when they have a great opportunity to. If you have a different idea or approach, want to question an idea or have valuable insight, speak up! If there is an event or project you’re interested in, take the opportunity to say you’re interested. If there is a skill you need to improve, volunteer for a project that allows you to do so. The worst someone can say is no and then keep you in mind for future opportunities. There are certainly worse things that could happen.
4. Treating media relations like transactions. A pitch does not always result in coverage. Most of the time, it ends up in the trash can. Media relations is not transactional; it’s based on relationships. Many young PR professionals don’t take a chance to build a relationship that can lead to a career-long partnership. It all starts with a cup of coffee.
5. Ignoring the numbers. I’ll admit it: one of the reasons why I started working in communications was because I thought I wasn’t a “numbers person.” A lot of young PR professionals feel the same way. But here’s the reality: you can’t do PR well if you don’t understand business or finance. You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to understand how communications improves the bottom line. It takes some time, but it’s possible and worth it (I can attest to both those things!). Public relations always needs to have a business value and if you don’t get “the numbers,” you can’t talk to its value.
6. Monitoring for stories, not trends. Almost every young PR pro starts with media monitoring and media clips. It’s really a necessary evil. But what i’ve learned is that media monitoring is really media trends monitoring. Picking up the patterns and interests of reporters, publications and blogs and identifying opportunities is one of the most valuable skills in the industry. Start this practice early and you’ll be a real pro before you know it.
7. Thinking everyone else works as fast as you do. Not every professional, partner or client works as fast as the PR pro does. At times, the same urgency does not apply to others as much as it does to us. Take this into consideration and plan in advance: build in more time for approvals and responses, and it’ll save a lot of stress in the end!
8. Being a generalist. Because there are so many facets to PR, it’s good to know how to do everything (from pitching to social media to event planning). But part of developing a personal brand is choosing one or few strengths and playing to them. Being the go-to person for knowledge, information or input is extremely valuable, so identify those strengths early on and perfect them throughout your career.
9. Accepting the existing process. There is always a better or more efficient way to do things, especially with evolving technology. Too many times, we accept the current process as is, when improvements can be made that save time or money. Young professionals bring that knowledge and an outsider’s perspective to a project, so make sure you’re always looking for ways to improve.
10. Ignoring the work/life balance. It’s very easy to work all the time when you work in PR. With the many projects and deadlines and the 24-hour news cycle, it’s easy to get caught up in work. But the more you enjoy life outside of work, the better you are at work. And remember: there will always be things to do… but we’re only young once!
Seasoned and young professionals alike, what else would you add to this list?