From the Mouth of the Media is a series of best ideas and practices gathered from our Behind the Headlines interview segments with influencers. See their interviews in our influencer Q&A section.
As the editor of Behind the Headlines, I have been given an invaluable opportunity to touch base with and get wonderful advice from a variety of media influencers, the big names in the business, and some of the most experienced communication and PR professionals. I’ve sorted through all of the information and put together some pieces that highlight the best practices of the industry — so you can learn right alongside me! First up: how to break into the communication/ PR industry in the first place.
Manage Your Expectations
The communication industry isn’t for everyone — so before you jump in with both feet, do your research. Get as many experiences as you can, learn the industry, the tools and potential clients. Realize that getting your foot in the door is imperative, and leverage any opportunity you are given to show off your work ethic, passion and ability to learn from those around you. Study the industry as a whole, and make sure that it will be the right fit for you.
Adjust Your Attitude
The communications industry is hard. In order to thrive, you must love it, be willing to work hard and stay humble. Everyone will make mistakes, but how you handle them says a lot about you — and can follow you throughout your career. Own your mistakes and fix them. Be a solution oriented employee — pointing out issues isn’t always helpful, but if you can provide a potential answer to the problem you become immediately more valuable. Always tell the truth, communicate clearly and concisely, and work on staying adaptable. More often than not, things won’t go according to your plan — but the more easily you are able to roll with the punches and communicate those changes effectively, the more success you’ll find.
Network Smarter, Not Harder.
It’s no secret that it’s important to have, and build, a network. You must be willing to be outgoing and invest in both building and nurturing relationships in the industry. However, the most successful PR professionals I’ve spoken with make it clear — there’s no point in networking just to network. Rather, strategically connect with successful people in the industry who you respect and want to get to know. Those relationships will be the most fruitful, and it will make it far easier to genuinely invest in them.
More than one successful professional pointed out the importance of finding a mentor to navigate your way through the industry. It’s a complicated, nuanced work world — and you’ll be so much better off if you aren’t attempting to reinvent the wheel. Once you’ve studied the industry and decided it’s the place for you, find someone you look up to and work with them to mentor your career path. And once you’re the highly successful one on the other side — pay it forward! There’s always someone hoping to glean some knowledge and expertise.
Pay attention to your personal brand.
Personal branding is the ongoing process of molding your own image and career in the minds of others. Want to work in the communication industry? Branding is at the heart of it all — so there’s no better way to prove you know what you’re doing than to craft a strong brand for yourself. And there’s no better way to do this than through your everyday interactions — countless professionals reiterated that you want to be seen as someone capable and willing to help. Understand, maintain, and truly believe the attitude that you can always improve, learn and grow. Be the person who is willing to step up and take on challenging projects, position yourself as valuable, and don’t be afraid to stand in your own spotlight.
Feedback, Feedback, Feedback!
The only way to continue growing is to ask for feedback, as well as being willing to give it right back. Ask your mentors and colleagues alike for feedback on your skill sets, your strengths, and your weaknesses and use that feedback productively. Get training, take classes, and follow up on the areas where you are told you can improve. Communicate feedback early and often — and keep the lines of communication open. Once you transition out of the entry-level positions, remember that giving and receiving feedback remains imperative! As a leader you want to remain accessible, transparent and encouraging.
Default to Action
Finally, decide what you want and go for it. Nothing will be handed to you — so work hard, be honest, treat those around you with respect and make it happen.
From the mouth of the some of the most successful people in the industry, this is the way to break in and establish habits that will continue to foster success. Good luck!