I have always known my writer’s voice. Slightly casual in tone, growing up I was scolded by some teachers for not coming across as “formal” enough in essays, while others embraced and encouraged my personal sound.
But when I moved to PR, I had no idea what my voice would be. As LinkedIn shows in its career moves tool, journalists are extremely likely to move into public relations or marketing- and who can blame them, when PR professionals outnumbered journalists almost 5:1 and bring in more money to boot.
Yet for many of those journalists, including myself, there is no “PR 101” school to study at for a few months to help you find your place in this new world.
1. Understand it takes time to figure it all out. Public relations is a unique animal, different from any other field. For me personally, coming from more of a journalistic background where I was more often left to my own devices, it took me a long time to truly get my feet under me in a team setting and start to walk on my own.
No matter where you start, whether you’re 18 and at your first internship or 40 and changing fields, understand that it can take a year for you to even begin to fully understand what “public relations” entails. This time is necessary, both to learn the world of PR and to understand your role within it.
2. Find great mentors. I have been extremely fortunate to find a plethora of wonderful individuals willing to take me under their wings over the years. Watching and learning from each has taught me something special about the world of PR. Yet, no matter how vastly different each of these mentors are from each other, I’ve found that it’s the similarities between them all that has taught me the most. They are all strong and confident, with a deep understanding of themselves and their skills, which is something I aspire to. Finding the right people to learn from will show you a lot about what qualities you admire and gives you specific areas -- outside of simply “being better at your job” -- to work on over time.
But once you find a mentor- don’t just let them go! Keeping in touch with those you connect with over the years can lead to amazing opportunities, both in your career and in life, and allows you to keep learning no matter how “experienced” you may become.
3. Learn to trust your instincts. After spending all this time watching others, you have to learn to trust your own instincts again. My writer’s voice came naturally to me, but my PR voice took time. Initially, I felt a great deal of trepidation, unsure if my disagreement with a teammate’s opinion was simply my own naivete or a valid perspective. However, the more confidence I began to feel in my knowledge of the way PR works and the skills I’d picked up, the more I trusted my own thoughts and feelings on everything from language choice to storylines to working with journalists.
4. Know your strengths- and share them. There are some things (geometry among them) that I will never be great at. There are, however, areas of PR in which I excel. After spending enough time learning each of the pieces that make up a public relations position today, it will eventually become apparent to you which areas you enjoy the most, and where you shine the brightest. Not only do you need to know these skills, but it’s also important to share them with your teams and team leaders. Who knows, you may end up becoming an expert in your particular part of the field, within your company or even on a broader level. If you don’t speak up, though, you may never be given the opportunities needed to truly succeed in a major way.
The moral of the story is, finding your voice in PR takes time (let’s face it, you should really never stop learning and growing) and knowledge, both of the job and of yourself. But when you do start to find that special little niche in this field that is just perfect for you, there’s no telling what you might achieve!
Photo: Retro microphone via Shutterstock