It’s daunting starting a new job, let alone a new career, let alone during a global pandemic on the other side of the world. But this is where I found myself in March 2020, having just landed a job with the eCommerce-focused agency, Novos. It’s been a year full of personal and professional growth so I wanted to share some insights for those just starting out.
1) Links, links, links
Pre-March 2020, I knew what a link is (I mean, I am a millennial!) but my knowledge really didn’t go beyond ‘a backlink connects you from one webpage to another’. In Digital PR, links are one of the most crucial parts of our job so it pays to get a grasp on three types of links: do-follow, no-follow and affiliate links. The web is filled with many great free guides including from Moz and Ahfres. You can undertake your own research or, if your place of employment offers paid training, take them up on that offer! Trust me, it will make your life so much easier!
2) Get to know the media landscape
Working in an agency that specialises in eCommerce, our clients are varied – from luxury fashion brands to a ballet fitness company to a men’s performance brand. With such a wide variety of clients, the journalists, bloggers and writers we pitch to are also varied. It pays to know who the big players are and who are the more niche writers. Because in Digital PR, if you’re not pitching to the right people, chances are, no matter how good your campaign is, it won’t be picked up. Get into the habit of reading the news online and following key journalists on Twitter. If you’re not sure where to find writers, a Google search will bring up the people who are ranking well and who you want to target.
3) A diary is your new best friend
When I invested in a diary a few months into the job, I really didn’t know how I had survived without one. When you’re pitching to hundreds of writers a day, keeping tabs on key occasions throughout the year, staying on top of clients communications while following a digital PR strategy; it can be a lot to keep on top of. Having a diary allows you to make a note of key dates, remind you when it is time to follow up with a journalist, remind you to give your client a weekly update – even down to scheduling a lunch break in. Writing out what you need to do can help you manage your time better and studies have shown, if you write down what you need to do, chances are you will follow through with it. My suggestion is to invest in a diary where one page correlates with one day as opposed to a monthly overview.
4) It’s okay to say ‘no’
Saying no is uncomfortable, even for the most seasoned professionals. But you need to remember – YOU are the expert. Sometimes clients will come to you with an idea that they think is great but you know deep down that the public, and therefore the media, just won’t be that interested. It’s okay to express this to your client because at the end of the day, they are paying you to get results. Moving ahead with an idea just for the client’s sake will not only waste your time but also your clients. This also applies within the agency – if you’re not coping and your co-workers are coming to you asking if you can add another task to your to-do list, let them know that you have a lot on and don’t think it will be possible to fit another project in. This will not only save you from being overly stressed but also help your co-workers find a solution sooner rather than later!
5) Communication is key
Ah, this brings me to my next point and probably one of the most important. Communication is key in every aspect of the job. Starting out, you’re not going to be an expert at everything. If you’re on a client call and you don’t know the answer, let them know you’ll check back with the PR team to find the best way forward. Follow-up with an email later on in the week – don’t just wait for your next client call. If your campaign or mailer PR piece isn’t being picked up, let the client know it isn’t going to plan and the steps you are taking to pivot the strategy. Ultimately, clients just want to be kept up-to-date rather than hearing radio silence from you and wondering how their money is being spent. Communicate with your team if you don’t know the answer or how to go about a task. Sometimes talking it through with someone will give you all the clarity you need.
6) A good team is everything (and more!)
You may love link building but I can guarantee if you don’t love (or at least like) your team, you won’t feel motivated to come to work. At Novos, I have been very lucky to land myself in a team full of knowledgeable and supportive co-workers. Ask questions, learn all that you can off those more experienced. Even pick a mentor and let them know you look up to them! During the job interview, ask questions about the team dynamic to make sure it is the right fit for you. Equally, it’s important to get constructive feedback from your Manager. If you’re not getting much feedback, don’t be afraid to send your boss an email to find a time to book in a one-to-one chat.
7) If it doesn’t interest you, chances are it won’t interest other people
When brainstorming or finding the best angle to pull from your data, it’s important to be interested in what you are working on. How can this information help you? Do you feel anything when reading this press release? Do people actually care about what you are writing? These are all questions you need to ask yourself because if you’re coming at it with fresh eyes, like a journalist, there needs to be a relatable or interesting hook otherwise it won’t get covered. Start to think critically about the ideas you are putting forward.
8) Reflect and refine
Agency life can get busy, really busy. When planning ahead (this is why a diary is handy) make sure you allocate some time to reflect on what you have achieved so far. At Novos, we do this quarterly. What worked? What didn’t work? What can you do better next time? What are you proud of? Recognised your achievements and everything you have accomplished. And if a campaign didn’t get the pick up you had hoped, drill down to find out why that may be. It will help you in the future to get the results you are looking for.
9) Work-life balance may take some time to figure out
Balancing work life with your personal life is likely to be an area most people have struggled with. Personally, I think it’s exacerbated for newcomers because you want to impress and you feel like there is so much to learn and so much you could be doing. If you need to work late one night – that’s fine. Sometimes I know I can’t relax if I have a big deadline hanging over my head. But this is also a slippery slope and it’s important to not fall into a habit of working late and on the weekends. As they say, work smarter, not harder. Ask your boss if they are opened to flexible working – do you work better in the mornings or late at night? Find what works for you and make sure you are taking holidays, a daily self-care ritual and switching off on the weekends.
10) Don’t be too hard on yourself
Easier said than done, I know. But look at what you have already achieved! Remember you are learning and success isn’t only measured in links. I can guarantee that the skills you learn in Digital PR, you will take with you through the rest of your life and remember: never stop learning.
And talking about learning, here some really good articles written by colleagues in the Digital PR team that can be super helpful: