16 Tips for PR Agency Newbies


Arthur Solomon

You’ve read all the textbooks, got good grades in all your courses, did a few internships and have just landed a job at a PR agency. But there are some aspects of the PR world that were probably never covered during your six-figure university education or during your internships. 

So below are 16 tips that novice PR people should keep in mind as they navigate the agency world:

  1. No matter how close you think you are to a client, remember that a client is not a friend who will go to the wall for you.

  2. A client does not always mean it when saying, “I’m going places in my company and I’m taking you with me.” (The same applies to your agency supervisors.)

  3. Don’t believe that “Whatever you tell me at the bar will never be held against you.”

  4. Never assume you are closer to a client than a person on his/her staff.

  5. Never assume that a client is impressed by the size of your agency.

  6. Just because a client complains to you about his/her situation, never take it as an opportunity to complain about how you are being unappreciated by your agency.

  7. Never ask clients if they are satisfied with your work. (You might not like the answer.)

  8. Don’t tell a client that a major story will be used on a specific day and to be on the lookout for it.

  9. Don’t start a pitch with, “Have I got a great story for you.” Being overly enthusiastic when making a pitch doesn’t get you any points with the media. Coming up with new angles or real news does.

  10. Take it with a grain of salt when you are told, “With your talent, you’ll always have a job here.”

  11. Politeness counts. When speaking to or writing to a media contact, unless they are your friends, use Mr. or Ms. and always make certain that in written pitches the name is spelled correctly.

  12. When promoted to a supervisory position, always treat your underlings with kindness and respect. Despite what you might have been told, the PR business is small. Someday you may need the help of a person that was subordinate to you. 

  13. Even though you have no intention of leaving your agency, if contacted by a headhunter or someone at another agency, check it out. (It’s the only way you’ll know what’s out there.)

  14. Don’t fall into the tunnel vision trap so prevalent at many agencies. Think out of the box.

  15. Don’t take credit for someone else’s work. Doing so can lower staff morale.

    But...

  16. Importantly, find a way to take credit for your work or someone else will.


There are many reasons why promises made in good faith are not kept. Among them are:

  • Agency account losses, resulting in staff cutbacks.

  • Supervisory changes: What one supervisor expects of an a.e. may not be what another does. 

  • Client changes: A new client contact might want to start fresh with a new account team despite your sterling work.

  • New ownership: A change in ownership is usually often followed by a change in existing management and staff.

  • And, yes, office politics.


It’s always good to remember that most of the time words are cheap and promises, even when written, are often worthless.

Perhaps Robert Burns said it best in his poem “To a Mouse,” when referring to the future. And if you don’t know what he wrote, you should have taken more English literature courses.

So my best advice to young PR pros is to learn from those with more experience, do your best regardless of how boring an assignment may be, but keep your options open. Remember, your first responsibility is to your family and yourself.

Arthur Solomon was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations and sports business publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr@juno.com.




5 Comments

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  • Jenna

    Mr. Solomon,

    Thank you for this article. It’s so refreshing to see this kind of thing laid out for newcomers.

    I wonder about #8. I understand never to tell a client to look out for an article because you never know what might happen (maybe the editor will decide there’s not enough space for that story after all!) but what do you think about letting the client know after it’s already been published? (to keep clients excited)

    I’m not actually in the PR industry. I’m in Search Marketing but I also write a lot of press releases in my position.

    Thanks!

  • David Meeker

    Relating to Item #7, there can be real value in a good client survey intended to find ways to improve work on an account.

  • anon

    Always let a client know that an article has been published.

  • anon

    In my opinion, the time to discuss if a client is satisfied should be
    in semi-annual account meetings with the client. If the client is not satisfied before these planned reviews, they are not ashamed to let you know and you can take corrective measures.

  • Patrick

    Thanks Mr. Solomon,

    As a recent grad who has been in the PR business for just under 3 months, any and all advice like this is really helpful.

    The tips on pitching are great as I can already see that it is much more an art than a science.

    Thanks again.