On July 16th, I had the honor of speaking at the Council of PR Firm’s InternFest 2013. More than 175 NYC interns gathered for a program at the NYU Kimmel Center. With only 10 to 15 minutes for opening remarks, I wanted to offer young professionals a glimpse into the world of PR, through a looking glass of expansion and opportunity. I had three little, yet distinct “secrets” that have proved successful throughout my career, when practiced religiously. They are career actions, not just tips, and I can attribute them to my own growth and development.
So, I popped up my career timeline on the screen (although only a partial snap shot from my LinkedIn profile –courtesy of Vizualize.me – and took the interns down a quick journey to share how opportunity can be found around every PR corner. Here are my three secrets; the long-term thinking necessary for continuous for expansion:
- Get out of your comfort zone and achieve good “uncertainty.” Your level of comfort might be entirely different than someone else’s. But, it’s important to recognize when it’s time to challenge yourself more and to take that extra step. Now, that doesn’t mean creating panic or unnecessary anxiety. But it’s the difference between complacency and that rush of adrenalin that tells you to “go for it.” I offered a quick intern story of my own. I discussed being an intern back in 1987. I started out answering the telephones and typing the media labels. We had manual typewriters at the time, if you can imagine. By the end of the summer, I was the intern who was in charge of a client’s media tour, because I was able to pitch and secure his radio interviews and other print media interviews. With every new opportunity, I would raise my hand and say, “I’ll help,” or “I’d like to try.” I didn’t know how to pitch producers or journalists, and I don’t think anyone really taught me. But, I watched, listened and then pushed myself to try something new. As an intern, I had reached that feeling of good “uncertainty” and it’s been that way ever since.
- Always be a student and never stop learning. With the rapid pace of technology, changing consumer behaviors and a shifting media landscape, what communications professionals can call themselves experts? We’re all students together because we are always learning. Being a constant student may be a conscious decision to stay in the physical classroom. For example, I’m “teaching” at NYU, but, at the same time, I’m always learning from my students. Being a student can also mean taking the time to learn with your peers in a virtual environment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a LinkedIn Group discussion or you’re chatting with colleagues on Twitter, the information and knowledge is readily available and in great abundance. We should all be perpetual students at heart, with a thirst for learning throughout our entire careers.
- Support the PR Industry—Be strategic. What does it take to practice strategic communications and to secure your spot at the strategy table? It means understanding the business of communications, realizing that your programs and initiatives are tied to higher-level goals and objectives. We are not just the people who simply write and distribute the news releases or the ones who are now tweeting and posting to Facebook. Although these are the tactics we may implement as a part of our communications efforts, we must relate our communications to the “buckets” that C-Level executives think and care about the most. How is communication tied to the financial bucket, operational bucket, and customer satisfaction and reputation buckets? When you can demonstrate how your strategies relate to bigger challenges, or they are solving the communications issues that keep the executives up at night, then you are raising the profile of PR in the eyes of executives and the public. At this point, you’re helping to support the PR industry, which is poised for further growth in the years ahead. With a focus on strategy, you will show why PR creates tremendous value for the organizations you serve.
These are the three little secrets that I’ve put to good use over the course of my career. Not a day goes without thinking or practicing these actions for the long term. These are not tips. These three little secrets are a mindset that helps to propel energy and passion and good practices, which leads to expansion and opportunity.
To all of my friends in PR, what are your three little secrets and what would you have shared if you had 10 to 15 minutes to chat with the today’s interns who are tomorrow’s future PR leaders?