I wish I had a dollar for every time I was told to gain experience at a public relations agency early on in my professional career. I’ve been given this piece of advice by numerous professionals, alumni, advisers and professors since beginning my public relations education … Needless to say, I would have a lot of dollars.
So, four months ago I decided to act on this advice and immersed myself into the frightening world of agency life at a boutique integrated marketing communications firm in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was the greatest decision I ever made in regards to advancing myself professionally. The growth, maturity and innumerable skills I’ve gained during my short time as a public relations associate have taught me lifelong pieces of information that will never go out of style.
Here are the things I’ve learned most from working at an agency:
1. You thought you had time management skills? Think again.
Working at an agency entails working with numerous clients simultaneously. This statement sounds like a no-brainer, but in reality, it’s more complex than you may think. Knowing the status of each client, managing each client’s to-do list and dedicating even amounts of time to each client can become overwhelming.
My advice to improving your time management skills is to plan out your workday first thing in the morning. Also, take advantage of Google Reminders, Google Calendar and organizational apps such as Awesome Note, Timeful and Evernote.
2. No two workdays are the same.
Having multiple clients means juggling many different tasks. Therefore, no two workdays will be the same. If consistency is your “thing,” this may be a challenge for you if you choose to work at an agency.
3. No matter where you are in your professional career, there is a continuous need for growth.
The public relations industry is continuously evolving. As a public relations professional, it’s your job to be aware of the evolving industry in order to stay relevant as a professional and provide these relevant skills to your clients. To position your agency as a dominant force, it’s essential to be one step ahead of your competitors. Agency life is competitive and relevancy is key.
4. Communication, communication, communication.
Communication is a vital component in any sector of the public relations industry but it’s paramount in an agency setting. You are the voice of your client at an agency, and client approval is often needed before posting, sending or creating almost anything.
5. You’re going to have bad days, and that is OK.
There are going to be bad days in any job, but you cannot let this get you down. Agency life is too fast-paced to let one mishap keep you down for days on end. Clients depend on you to meet deadlines and your professionalism relies on supplying timely results. Acknowledge your mistakes, internalize what you should do differently next time and keep your head up.
Emma Thibault is a senior public relations major, digital marketing and integrated marketing techniques minor at Ferris State University, in Big Rapids, Michigan. She is the immediate past president of the Ferris State Chapter of PRSSA. She is a public relations associate at 834 Design and Marketing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can connect with Emma on Twitter @EmsThibault.