The entire job market has been impacted by the pandemic, and the PR industry has felt its effects deeply. Some PR agencies have been working overtime to showcase their clients’ COVID-19 protocols and issues, while others had to furlough employees during client downturns.
Now that businesses are attempting to figure out the “new normal,” the PR industry is slowly starting to welcome back new professionals. However, the pandemic has made it critical that you enter the field with a plan for success to integrate yourself in your organization and make yourself valuable to employers and clients. Following are some suggestions on how to enter the field effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn virtual professionalism
Whether you’re meeting with your internal team or your clients, you need to be able to maintain professionalism, no matter the format. Although you’re not in the office, remember that you’re still representing your organization and clients and need to appear in a professional setting. Avoid the temptation to wear sweatpants and instead choose business dress to ensure you make a good impression, even in virtual meetings. Then, check your background. What’s showing behind you on camera? Is the room messy, or are your roommates walking around? Whatever is on your camera is a reflection on you, so choose your background wisely, and if all else fails, sit in front of a blank wall.
Additionally, now that Zoom meetings are the norm, be sure you’re comfortable speaking on camera and maintaining eye contact with coworkers and clients. Familiarize yourself with the video software and its different offerings so you understand how to use it to your advantage and maintain a mature tone.
Stay educated on industry changes
With the landscape of the pandemic and economy always changing, it’s important that you stay up to date on the most recent shifts in conversation and sentiment so you can ensure you’re providing the best PR to your clients. Read your client industries’ trade publications, follow the insights of successful PR and marketing professionals through publications like PR Week, and ask your press contacts how their organizations are shifting. Being on top of the latest news will help make you a better PR professional in these uncertain times and help you provide the most value to your customers.
Create a productivity-focused office
Studies show that your environment can have an impact on your ability to focus. As a PR professional, you’ll have a lot on your plate to balance, and with returns to the office becoming more unclear, it’s imperative that you have a space that will support your efficiency. If you find it difficult to concentrate, consider moving your desk to face the window and adding office plants near your chair. This will help you feel refreshed and energized while working. If you’ll be writing a lot, consider purchasing a sofa and colorful artwork to give yourself a soft seating option in your office that offers a more comfortable environment that spurs creativity. Lastly, if you struggle to stay organized, invest in labels and an expandable folder to categorize your paperwork and avoid interrupting your workflow. These small changes can make your home office inviting and help you stay productive as you begin your PR career.
Take online courses
Entering any new field comes with a large learning curve, but this is especially true in the PR field during the pandemic. While you’ll likely be trained by your professional mentors, manager, or team members, you should continue to seek out learning opportunities when you can to make yourself a valuable asset to your organization. And, with virtual learning sessions more widely available nowadays, you have unprecedented access to many insightful speakers and lectures. Use any downtime you have to attend meetings or become certified in different aspects of the field. Organizations like LinkedIn, Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and the Institute for Public Relations have several PR-specific learning opportunities available that can help you get up to speed quickly.
It can be easy for a newcomer to the PR field to be swept up into a crisis. While it’s important to be focused on the short-term response to the changing news around COVID-19, it’s also critical that you don’t forget the big picture of your client’s goals and needs. Take time regularly to take a bird’s eye view of your accounts and plan for post-pandemic strategies. This will help you ensure that you keep your client stay relevant and competitive when current events change.
Entering the PR field at this time is a unique opportunity to get in at the ground level of the changing landscape. Use these tips to ensure you begin your PR career successfully, despite the pandemic.
5 thoughts on “Tips for Entering the PR Field During the Pandemic”
Great tips, Ron.
What a wonderful mentor you are to young professionals!
Ron was such a great mentor to me as a young professional many years ago when I interned at Ketchum.
I love to see his passion for teaching the next generation of young professionals has not waivered.
Ron, I’ll be sharing this with my team of sales reps who work with and for members of the PR community.
Great to hear from you Helen. I’ve already receive LinkedIn connection requests from some of your impressive team members. And, of course, thank you Jim for your ongoing support and encouragement.
These are all excellent suggestions. To these I’d recommend doing a deep dive into both the industry that most attracts a young professional and the leading companies. There is much, much more to learn than one anticipates. What are the key issues and challenges? Who are the leaders? Who are the innovators? What are the business models being employed? Who are the key stakeholders? What do the financial analysts see? What do the industry analysts see? What is the industry/company doing in regard to public affairs? What are the current and former employees saying on Glassdoor and similar sites? Why are some companies falling behind or failing? What’s happening in regard to ESG, CSR, and DEI? What is the focus of the annual report? What is the make-up of the board of directors and what does that say about a company? What is the industry association saying that the companies are reluctant to speak out on? Etc., etc.
A top communications professional inside a large corporation knows all these things as well as the culture, politics, strategy, future investment plans, competitive landscape and more. She knows how everything fits together and what it implies for communications and marketing.
One way to make a good impression on an interviewer is to demonstrate that you have done your homework. This is what that homework can look like.
All great tips! As a student about to enter the workforce, I think several of them can provide positive tips that we can start taking action on. Like the industry, students have also shifted to online classes and we can take this time to practice our virtual professionalism and arrange our workspaces in a way that better enables productivity. Thanks for sharing your tips! I look forward to your next post.
-Tralene Hunston, writer/editor for Platform Magazine