A year ago, I was a nervous newcomer to the PR industry. Back then who could’ve predicted the extraordinary events of the past 12 months. In this blog, I share some insights into what it’s been like starting a comms career in such unusual times, how this has fast-tracked my progress and what has helped me along the way.
Your team really does make an impact on your happiness and productivity
Starting in a new company is daunting, especially at the start of your career and although I knew from my interview and welcome letters, I was set for a supportive and positive onboarding experience, I half expected this to naturally fade away over time as the stresses of work take over. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised and feel incredibly lucky to have joined a team where this is just how the team is all the time, even if we’re ridiculously busy.
What do I mean by this? Well for starters, we all work in an open office environment, where we have a culture of open communication and mutual respect for one another, from MD level to account execs. We don’t just chat about work, we care about getting to know one another and checking how everyone is because we all appreciate life doesn’t revolve around work, which has been even more important than ever with the stresses and worries the past year has brought with it. The team understands that certain things happen which mean we benefit from having a flexible working approach. For example, when I first started, I had a hefty commute so was looking for a new home nearer to work, my MD Sara knew this and let me pop off for my breaks a bit earlier to view properties if I needed to. If for some reason I would benefit from working from home at times, I know I can ask for this without feeling a sense of guilt, in fact, it’s even encouraged at times as our MD knows a change of scenery can help rejuvenate and boost creativity in our work.
Another prime example; it’s easy to feel uncomfortable asking for help from your MD or colleagues but here, that’s never been an issue and we thrive off working together to get things done and sharing our knowledge and skills to help each other develop.
I know that this culture within our team has 100% made a positive impact on how quickly I’ve been able to settle in, learn the ropes and become confident in my work. The saying teamwork makes the dreamwork… definitely true. 😎
A challenging, whirlwind of a year has kick-started my career
From politics to the pandemic there’s been a whole host of challenges for businesses. It’s seemed like over the last year one thing after another has happened in the UK and the world. When starting my career I was maybe a little naive as to how much such changes would impact my work and how quickly as professional communicators, we have to adapt, react and advise clients, not only in how they communicate with their customers but their wider audiences and internal teams.
The news cycle has been crazy and, I’m not going to lie, at times downright depressing. I’ve wanted to delete social media and not check the news on more than one occasion. One thing that I’ve learnt through this maelstrom is even in such hard times, people and businesses are doing great things and there are positive stories to tell which can bring hope to people and their industries, and bring much-needed relief from the doom and gloom.
Another positive is that all this constant change has built my confidence in my abilities, made me more adaptable and has developed better relationships with my team and clients. From being involved with advising clients on how to respond to changes outside of their control, to acting fast to get the information we need to create a winning pitch to send to a journalist, I’ve often been first-port of call for clients I wasn’t previously involved with while my director was ill with Coronavirus herself.
The past year has led to many changes at InFusion, from an exciting office move to adapting to new ways of working during lockdown, to a phased return back to the office. We went into lockdown just as I was starting to take on more account management responsibility; however, this has built an even stronger bond between my team, and helped me become confident in my ability as an account manager.
Why I love what I do
Although, yes, my job can be stressful, overall I love what I do. I enjoy getting to know my clients and their businesses and helping them achieve their goals. I love the buzz when I secure coverage. It’s great to see how your efforts over time lead to a drastic increase in clients website visitors or social media followers and engagement. I love how varied my job is, and how I get to be creative, whether that’s through thinking up new strategies, developing my writing skills or even going back to an old hobby of creating graphics. Every single day is different, and generally, the days fly by.
Although we’re not the type of agency you often hear about with beanbags and pool tables, I work with a great team. We have a really positive, open and understanding culture where we all get to be ourselves. We have a laugh, we respect and care about each other and have some great socials (when we feel like it!).
My top 3 moments at InFusion so far:
1. The first time I secured coverage in a national newspaper (although it’s just as exciting every time)
2. Going axe throwing with the team – even if I was terrible at it, it’s certainly good fun
3. Developing and managing my first campaign, which included developing a video series, blog series, a social campaign and assisting in developing and designing an ebook.
Top tips for people new to the PR industry
Adding on to some points from a blog I wrote last year “Is it possible to move into PR from a non-PR and journalism background?” I’ve learnt more things along the way that make life as an account manager a little easier, here are my top 3.
Communication is key – sounds silly coming from a professional communicator but I am, admittedly, a slight introvert from the smartphone era where we all have an irrational dislike of phone calls. But even if your meeting or phone call could have been an email, it doesn’t mean it should have been. Speaking to people directly usually means much clearer communication. And having a conversation often leads to more new ideas or a deeper understanding of the topics – it also really helps build better relationships with everyone from clients to suppliers.
Journalists are busy people, research who you’re talking to and don’t take things to heart – if you follow PR professionals or journalists on Twitter, you’re likely aware of the tension between the two camps. One piece of valuable advice given to me is don’t send a press release or feature pitches to just any journalist, fully research who you’re talking to and tailor your pitches. Also, don’t take things to heart if your pitch is rejected, you don’t get a response or receive a somewhat blunt response – they’re usually under massive amounts of pressure with hundreds, sometimes thousands of emails to get through.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice – you’re going to be faced with topics, companies, products and services you don’t understand, don’t try to guess or spend hours researching. Your colleagues and clients want your work to be great, just as much as you want it to be and in my experience, they’re more than happy to share their knowledge with you, check your work or share ideas – remember they’re passionate about the subject too!
One year on I’ve realised there are parts of my role that have been unexpected, such as how much time and effort goes into pitching to journalists. I also took for granted just how demanding and fast-paced being an account manager can be at times and how your role evolves with changing circumstances. However, I now know I made the right decision moving into this career as I love the variety my role entails and how no day is the same. I by no means have learnt it all, I think almost everyone in the PR industry will agree, there is always something new to learn and avenues to pursue, which is what keeps my role fresh and exciting.