Six Tips For A PR Agency Newbie

AnxiousAfter a couple of months in my new job and with some work under my belt I’m still a newbie, but I’m starting to find my feet in the agency business.

I posted my thoughts on the differences between corporate and agency communications on my first day at Thornley Fallis. Since then, I’ve also learned a lot of lessons. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m also a long way from where I was a few short months ago.

Since I started at Thornley Fallis, our agency has done a fair bit of hiring and we have another new person starting today(welcome, Kerri!).  I figure now is as good a time as any to share the little advice I have for someone following in my footsteps and starting life agency-side.

Be a sponge

This one applies to any new job you might have: When you first start, spend most of your time listening. Regardless of what level you start at, there are nuances about your agency, your work environment, your colleagues and your clients that you don’t know. Learn about them, learn how things work and learn how you fit in.

I’m not the most withdrawn person ever (as the unfortunate Terry Fallis, who has to sit next to me, will tell you). Regardless, I made a point of going to lunch with as many people as I could, where I just listened. I didn’t talk; I sat back and learned from the people I work with. It was time well spent.

Be humble

When you first start, you’ll likely have a few days where you’re not too busy. Take that time to help your new colleagues. I’ve always figured you should do this on an ongoing basis anyway (as a good coworker), but you’re more likely to have the time to do it initially. It doesn’t have to be billable work and it doesn’t matter who you do it for; chances are someone in your office would really appreciate the help right now. Do whatever you can to help the people you work with. Pay it forward.

Watch the clock

If you’ve come from the corporate side, you’re used to working to deadlines. However, you’re probably not used to client budgets. In your last job you could work as many late nights as you needed to; in this one you have a limited number of hours to get the job done. Quality and client satisfaction are paramount, but efficiency and value-for-money are also critical.

Make sure you stay on top of how long each job takes you or you’ll run the risk of going over budget on the project.

Don’t watch the clock

In some organizations (particularly large ones), you can find yourself slotted into a position with neatly-defined roles and responsibilities. That’s not the case in a small agency (is it the case in a large agency either?).

You have a chance to define your role and yourself, and it helps if you’re a self-starter. Sure, leave on time if things are quiet (no-one ever died wishing they’d worked a few more late nights) but if you have a chance to take your job in an exciting new direction and it requires extra work, my advice is to knuckle down and do it.

Track the clock

Timesheets can be a big challenge when you first start agency life. One of the best bits of advice I received when I started was to stay on top of them. It doesn’t even work to log your time once a day — you need to do it more often than that.

I write down whenever I start a new task — if someone walks into my office to talk, I note when they came in and when they leave. If the phone rings, I note when. By tracking your time throughout the day and not waiting until the end, your life will be immeasurably easier.

Think new business

Agencies depend on new business. Unfortunately there’s no science to getting those new clients. Don’t be ‘that guy’ who only talks to people in the hope they may offer up some work; be genuine and be yourself. If you’re not, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time alone. However, if someone express concern over something your agency’s can help with, keep that in mind.

Those are my six initial tips for an agency newbie. I’m by no means a “best practice” example, but hopefully these tips will help to set you off on the right foot.

What tips would you give to a new employee at your agency?

(Image credit: DawnAllynn)

  • Thanks for the post Dave! I’m getting lots of awesome tidbits of advice lately. I love that everyone in this community is so supportive and helpful.

    See you soon!

    -Kerri

  • Good advice Dave, particularly the “Think new business” tip…

  • From one newbie to another, thanks for the helpful list—most notably the “Track The Clock” section!

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  • Here’s a bit of advice I was given by a senior US broadcasting executive.

    When he hires a new person he asks them to keep a notebook and record questions. “Everytime they wonder why we do something the way we do, I they are to make a note. After three months the newbie brings all their questions to me. 80 % of the questions dissappear because it become evident why we do things the way we do. The other 20% of the questions lead to a discussion and examination of why we are doing those things.

  • Guy — that’s a fantastic idea! Everyone should do that. I’m going to suggest it to my colleagues.

  • I know I should enter my time on a daily or even hourly basis, but for some reason it doesn’t always work that way. I am sure you feel me. Thanks for the advice. I am awesome at being a sponge. I also don’t feel like I am ready to start a blog yet because a. how many millions of blogs are out there (?!) and b. I think my time is best spent listening right now. Any tips or thoughts?

  • that’s a fantastic idea! Everyone should do that. I’m going to suggest it to my colleagues.