What makes someone a good junior PR practitioner? They must be able to write well, be organised, be able to prioritise, have good attention to detail, be social media savvy and have more than a general awareness of current affairs. Those are just the basics. On every advert for a JAE or junior press officer, the same skills are listed so how do good junior PRs stand out from the rest? What makes them exceptional?
When I think back over the junior PRs I’ve trained and recruited in the last fifteen years the ones who really shone were those who had some, or all, of the following habits and traits.
1) They read a LOT. A wide variety of media, books, journals, magazines. Only reading the Metro on the tube every morning doesn’t give you the breadth of views you’ll need as a PR. Those Account Executives who do best, understand that and consume news all the time from a variety of sources. They also read industry books, blogs, magazines and journals and by doing so give themselves the edge.
2) They are curious. The best junior PRs ask questions constantly. They want to know why, and how and wonder how things can be made better, more creative, more profitable and easier for their clients and colleagues. They never stop thinking.
3) They help those behind them. Very few people enter the PR industry without help from someone else. Whether that be advice from a lecturer, reading guidance on a blog or in a book, being given an introduction to someone who helps them get their foot in the door, having a mentor, or hearing an inspirational speaker who gives them ideas on how to approach their career. Those junior PRs who then go on to help those behind them stand out against their peers as people who recognise the value of helping others. They can appreciate the assistance they received themselves and realise that the only way to encourage other great peope into the industry is to be the person who helps them.
4) They network. Go to everything – drinks at work, industry networking events, CIPR and PRCA training sessions and conferences, tweet ups and book launches. You will meet the most interesting people in your industry at those events and successful junior PRs realise this. If you don’t go, you’ll only meet the people at the company you work at which won’t do much for expanding your circle of industry contacts and will restrict your future career prospects.
5) They understand the importance of time. The most important thing to remember about time is that most of it is not yours. Being late is wasting other people’s time, not delivering to deadlines is wasting other people’s time. Both of those things are areas where successful junior PRs excel – they are always prompt and they always deliver. They set realistic expectations for timing and they make most of the time they do have. It is a myth that the best PRs work the longest hours. If anything, it shows a distinct lack of organisational skills and ability to push back when they are given too much work.
6) They take pride in what they are doing right now. When you are the most junior person in a team you are likely to be asked to do much of the admin. It might not be the most taxing of tasks. It might be dead boring. It might seem completely pointless. Do it anyway, and do it really, really well. The exceptional junior PRs I’ve worked with have taken on these tasks with gusto, without complaint and have done them with great pride. it’s only by showing that they can muck in and do a brilliant job of very boring work that they are then trusted with more interesting and challenging tasks.
7) They volunteer for the crappy jobs. If you put your hand up to do the jobs that no one else wants to do, the more senior people in the organisation will start to recognise you as a ‘can do’ person who is willing to go the extra mile for their team. This can only be a good thing.
8) They make a note of their own achievements and give credit where it’s due. In most roles, you’ll have a three month probation period which will probably end with some kind of appraisal before you’re confirmed in a permanent position and then a yearly (or sometimes six monthly) appraisals. These appraisals are a good time for self reflection but most people make the mistake of only flagging their most recent achievements, meaning that most of the rest of the year is forgotten about. Get into the habit of making a note of every time you achieve something – whether it’s a perfect press release that comes back from your manager with no corrections before it’s sent out, a great piece of coverage you got for a client or helping the latest intern learn how to use the company software. You don’t need to shout about it every day, but you do need to at least use appraisals to raise all the things you’ve done really well (and reflect on the areas where you could improve too) to give yourself the best chances of progression. You should also give credit where it’s due, so if someone else in your team comes up with a brilliant idea make sure they are recognised for it – your colleagues will love you for it and your managers will appreciate that you know how to acknowledge other people’s hard work which can make you stand out as a potential manager yourself.
9) They have a passion for something. When I say ‘something’, I mean ANYTHING. Having a passion for a subject makes them an interesting person and an expert in at least one thing. Whether that be a football team, a particular digital platform, a genre of film, fashion, a particular kind of food, a craft, a sport, music…. absolutely anything at all. The most interesting people have passions and having a passion outside of work can also make you a dedicated and passionate person in the office. Those people do well.
10) They are likeable. I have mentioned this trait before in blog posts and in my book, and I can feel you rolling your eyes but I really can’t stress how important this is. When PR firms and in-house comms teams hire the thing that rules most junior PRs in or out of a position is not how much experience they have or what skills they can demonstrate, but whether the interviewer thinks they could spend 8 hours a day sat next to that person in the office. Of course, if there are two very likeable candidates then the skills and experience carry more weight, but in general if you are likeable you can be taught the skills and given the experience, if you have the skills and experience but are not likeable it’s very difficult to teach you how to be. This article gives some really useful tips on how to be likeable.