I don't think that many outside of the industry realize what working in a public relations agency is like. I certainly didn’t before January 2021.
When I first started at Cognito, I was brand new to the world of PR. Every day was a day of firsts. I was in industries and topics that were entirely new to me, such as investment banking and ESG, while finding my footing in the fast-paced agency environment. I soon realized that learning on-the-go was firmly part of the job.
There is no one "right" way to succeed in a PR agency, but I can share some of what has worked for me this past year! Here are five things that have most contributed to my success during my first year on the job:
As a rule: Research
Onboarding sessions are great, but researching on your own is key to gaining a deep understanding of a client. Research helps you understand what makes your client unique and why journalists should care. It’s also a good creative tool – you can get a sense of what has already been done and come up with new outreach ideas to make your campaign stand out to the media.
Analyzing news coverage that I want to emulate for a client has regularly revealed how I could fit them into the conversation in a unique way. For instance, last spring, there was a lot of buzz around the increase in domestic migrations for tax purposes, however, I noticed that mainstream journalists hadn’t yet covered the tax implications and policies that would affect those who moved to tax havens. Going with this forward-looking pitch angle for an accounting firm client landed them a great feature in Insider!
Learn to (de)prioritize
You will likely be juggling multiple projects for multiple clients at the same time, so it’s important to get used to prioritizing your most important tasks, and deprioritizing tasks that can wait. Keeping deadlines in mind and identifying demanding tasks will help you plan your day, and allowing for flexibility will keep you grounded when these plans go awry. Whether it’s a crisis, a special event, or a newsjacking opportunity, your day could get turned upside down. It’s a matter of if, not when! Learning how to manage these changes is the key to success at a PR agency.
Your team is priceless
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your colleagues. Forming these relationships make the day-to-day more enjoyable and contribute to a friendly company culture. Open lines of communication is invaluable when asking for support and feedback. Your team is a great resource for advice. In this collaborative industry, it's important to always try to learn from others.
Here at Cognito, we have a combination of cross-team meetings and client team meetings every week. We also have our standing ‘Have I Got News For You’ meeting, where the entire team gathers to discuss interesting or entertaining news stories. Plus, our regular training sessions serve as a collaborative space to learn from one another in a fun way. Connecting and collaborating is the best way to cultivate an atmosphere of collective listening and mutual respect.
Don’t be the last to know about industry news
Anyone can capture coverage a client generates in the media. But you don’t want to stop there. Staying connected to current events in the sectors that matter most to your clients adds true value. Flagging relevant news, advising on timely opportunities, and paying attention to what's going on in the world will give you insight into how to better position your client, who they should be partnering with, and where they can get quality exposure. It also enhances your own knowledge and understanding of the media.
Speak your mind and voice your doubts
Share your insights. It can be daunting to speak as a junior employee, but your new perspective is valuable. Your team wants to hear your thoughts. All it takes is one thoughtful question to spark innovation, so don’t hesitate to make your voice heard.
Here’s one example: I recently felt disconnected from my team on responsibilities across accounts we didn’t share, so I proposed implementing a management software to keep us all more in tune with each other's workloads and deadlines. Sharing my vision and getting my team on board not only allowed us to support each other in a more efficient way, but showed me that my voice and ideas have value at Cognito.
I hope these tips help other PR newbies and give some insight into PR agency life as a whole. It’s not always easy, but with the right mindset, you can set the right tone for your career.
Ani Rodriguez is a senior account executive in New York