I’ve worked in agency PR for a little more than three years and can confidently say I have the basics down pat. I can write, organize and present well. “Will do!” is part of my everyday vernacular. I can put on my happy face for the right people when needed, then switch it up, put my head down and crank out a press release – all within a few hours! Trying to keep up in the fast-paced world of agency PR is not easy, but doable. PR agency or not, I would say that the one thing that really takes time to master is the art of management.
This past year, I’ve had the privilege of becoming a direct supervisor to junior staff, and trust me; I have not taken this role lightly. I’ve have had plenty of amazing managers throughout my career – and still do – but I admit that I’ve taken that kind of supervision for granted. I’ve also had some, not-so-great managers who I’ve at times resented. But when you’re the one managing, all of a sudden it becomes difficult to translate all the things you loved about the best managers, and then you have a strange feeling of sympathy for the ones you hated in the past. You’re now responsible for someone’s growth, productivity, quality of work, time management, happiness – it’s hard and time-consuming. We get promoted because we’re good at our jobs, but rarely are we evaluated for our managerial skills. I knew I wasn’t the only one thinking about this, so I got with some of my PR gal pals to discuss (over drinks, of course) and outlined some advice we came up with for those embarking on the journey to being a first-time manager.
- Set expectations: One of the most important things to do at the very beginning is have a conversation about your direct report’s goals, strengths, weaknesses, and establish a professional relationship. You may have a report who is around the same age as you – but don’t make the mistake of treating him / her as your new work BFF. This could make it potentially awkward down the road when you’re delegating, sharing feedback or conducting performance reviews.
- Manage Your Direct Report’s Managers: I love getting ongoing feedback from my direct report’s account managers. It gives me insight into how they’re performing (good or bad). But I don’t like to get nitpicky emails about things that don’t matter in the long-run. I also don’t like to get emails with zero examples of how my report is succeeding / not succeeding. Be clear with your colleagues about how you like to receive feedback which will help in future evaluations.
- Communicate: This may seem obvious but too often I’ve heard that people rarely communicate regularly with their direct managers. Everyone’s busy, we get it, but this is important. Regular check-ins with my manager has helped me through the best of times and the worst of times. On the other hand, checking in too much can make it seem like you’re babysitting. Don’t waste time, but find a good balance.
- Be honest: As difficult as it may be (especially when someone is upset), you have to give your direct report the respect they deserve by being honest. In this case, I’m talking about sharing negative feedback and having those uncomfortable conversations, in general. If someone is consistently underperforming, people are going to notice and you have to be vocal about it.
- Celebrate Success: Praise is something that shouldn’t be handed out like candy on Halloween, but it should exist and you should celebrate wins, big and little. Especially when it comes to work improvement and positive client feedback.
- Be personable: Get to know your direct report on a personal level outside of the office. This is a different way to network, which is always a good idea.
- Fight: Sometimes, you just have to be ready to stand up for what you believe in. If there’s something going on with the person you’re supervising that doesn’t seem right or fair, you have to be ready to have those difficult conversations with leaders in your office because you’re doing your due diligence. If you’re supervising an intern and you feel strongly about getting them hired full-time, you should fight for them. More often than not, people will respect you for speaking up, even if you end up losing the battle.
No one wants to be a bad manager (even the ones that aren’t so great at it). Everyone has different work styles, but at the end of the day, the goal is to deliver well on behalf of your agency and make the client happy. And you can’t do that if bad management exists.
Jasmine Boaler is an Account Executive in the Brand Marketing practice at Ketchum’s Chicago office, where she started her career as an intern. She has a passion for event planning and execution, and is an active member of Ketchum’s Internship program. A recent transplant from New York City, Jasmine is enjoying getting reacquainted with Chicago and reuniting with her friends in the Midwest.