What I’ve learnt in a year of agency life

I joined purplefish a year ago, moving into communications from the murky world of journalism.

As I admitted in my interview, “I’ve not worked in this industry before so I am aware I’ll have a lot to learn, but I’m hardworking and a fast learner… Etc etc etc.”

I can only hope that, a year on, my colleagues would still agree with this statement! I certainly feel I’ve learnt a lot in the last 12 months so I thought I’d share a few of these valuable lessons:

1)      Communication is key

When you’re working really hard for a client and getting great results for them, it is easy to assume they should simply know this. But, with the greatest respect to clients, they are not telepathic. As far as they are aware, unless you pick up the phone to them and update them on all your progress and send them coverage and other positive outcomes, you may be sitting twiddling your thumbs, or enjoying a pint in the pub. So keep the channels of communication open, all the time. If a week passes and you have not spoken to a client, get on that phone. And that’s PHONE not email by the way.

2)      You need to PR your own PR

I used to think that if you got your head down and simply did a good job, that should be enough. And of course doing your job well and getting clients fantastic coverage is vital. But you also need to cast off any English embarrassment over celebrating your successes and be willing to shout from the rooftops about it – not literally of course, that would be a little odd, and could get you arrested. You must keep clients informed and update them on all the great results you are getting otherwise, how will they know? Brag freely, but only with good reason, constructively and honestly.

3)      Skin as thick as a rhinoceros hide is really helpful

I’ve worked as a news reporter so this is one I didn’t need much training in but PR is yet another profession where an ability to take knocks on the chin is key. People will hang up on you, people will rudely tell you to ‘go away’, people will politely tell you to go away, people will condescendingly explain they are not interested in what you have to say, people will tell you they are interested in what you have to say, then listen to absolutely nothing you have to say. And by people, I mean journalists. But having worked as a journalist I cannot blame them, I did exactly the same, though was never rude. When you come between a journalist and a tight deadline you don’t stand a chance of getting their attention, don’t take it personally, just try again at a more convenient time, or try someone else.

4)      Perseverance gets results

Again, not a concept I am new to. As a news reporter you sometimes feel akin to a bloodhound chasing down some unfortunate quarry to the bitter end, or headline. PR, another results driven business, is very similar. It can often take several phone calls and numerous emails before you finally succeed in getting that feature or story published. Don’t take no for an answer. Where something isn’t working, ask for feedback, apply that feedback and keep trying. As with everything in life, perseverance really does pay off and often the things that have been the greatest struggle bring the greatest rewards.

5)      Being nice to people is really important

I would like to premise this with the fact I have never been nasty to anyone in a workplace although plenty of people have been nasty to me. In newsrooms many people are too busy for idle chit chat, while others, who will remain nameless, appear to take active delight in being unpleasant. Journalists don’t work in team environments; they are lone rangers competing for the best stories. And while they have editors to answer to, they do not have paying clients. Working in PR is very different in this respect. An agency is a team and you are all there to support each other and help each other out. Equally clients are your lifeblood and your relationships with them are key to the future success of the business. So you need to get on with everyone and being nice to people really helps!