The best advice I was ever given….

Interesting question asked of one of my clients last week – what advice would you have given yourself when you were just starting out?

I’m not sure I’m quite at the stage where I’m wise enough to do that from a PR perspective yet (though ‘drink less’ would have avoided a number of embarrassing incidents when I was younger). But it did get me thinking about some of the great pieces of advice I was given early on in my career, which still stick with me. I’m not saying I do them all the time, but I definately should. Here’s my favourite five:

–          Your network is your career

Bit dramatic, I know, but it is true. Building your network doesn’t have to be an aggressive, propping up the bar every night thing, but it is something you need to start doing from your first week in PR. They’ll be the people that can provide you with a new perspective on a problem, or a shoulder to rant on when you’ve had a frustrating day. They’ll be the people who give you work and introduce you to new jobs. The strengths of my career have been defined by the people I’ve been lucky enough to know through it – so get out there and start making the most of that amazing resource.

–          If you don’t want to tell people about it, chances are it’s not news

With PRs often covering such a range of activities now, it’s easy to lose the importance of having ‘news sense’ – but it’s actually at the heart of what we do. You can have the most perfectly project managed launch with beautifully crafted content, but if no-one covers it, it’s not worked. Taking time to understand what makes news early on in your career is a vital building block.

–          In PR, there’s often not a ‘right answer’

It’s a creative industry, so there’s very rarely anything clear cut. In truth, there’s probably 100 different ways you can tackle a problem, 4 or 5 of which might be extremely successful. So differences of opinion will almost never be resolved, and you’ll end up being proved right, and proved wrong on numerous occasions. You need the courage of your convictions sometimes, but you also need to know when to let them go.

–          Never talk about your clients in the lift

Or indeed the lobby, waiting outside, or on the train to their office. Similarly, if you’re having a frustrating moment with a client, never commit it to email, even an internal one. Everyone has horror stories, so there’s no need to share them. Suffice to say, PR people are supposed to be discreet, and we can do ourselves a lot of harm when we’re not.

–          Never forget it’s just PR, and just a job

It’s good to be professional, and take your job seriously, but keep some perspective. You don’t run a nuclear power plant or intensive care ward. Making mistakes is horrible, but in most cases, the consequences will mainly be limited to you. Plus, on that front, the world won’t end if you take the day off sick, or leave on time to meet your friend for a drink, or don’t read the papers all weekend. Working in PR is brilliant, but you’ll appreciate its brilliance even more if you don’t fret about it all the time.

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