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4 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Job in PR

Ruby Stong, Account Coordinator at Warner Communications

 

Starting my first job in public relations, soon after graduating college, was an exciting but nerve-wracking experience. While nothing can fully prepare you for that first professional role, there are a few key things I wish I had known beforehand that would have helped me navigate the transition from school to the PR profession more smoothly.

 

1. Immersing yourself in current events and industry knowledge is imperative

 

If there’s one thing I wish I had fully understood from the outset, it’s the critical importance of being deeply knowledgeable and up-to-date with the industries and topics relevant to your clients. As a recent graduate entering my first public relations role, I assumed I could get by without voraciously reading the news, trade publications, and other sources specific to my accounts. However, I quickly learned that being able to engage intelligently about the latest trends, current events, and breaking news related to a client’s business is an absolute must in PR.

 

Whether writing pitches, managing issues, advising clients, or interacting with the media, you need to have an intimate understanding of what is happening in the client’s field and the wider world. This means dedicating time every single day to reading industry publications, following key journalists covering related beats, subscribing to relevant newsletters, and absorbing as much high-quality information as possible. Building this contextual knowledge base ensures you can provide strategic counsel to clients, communicate effectively with stakeholders, and understand the nuances that impact your clients’ communications campaigns. This level of immersion takes real work, but it’s one of the most crucial and fundamental skills to develop from day one as a public relations professional.

 

2. PR is a relationship-driven industry

 

If I could go back, I would tell myself as a new PR professional that this field is ultimately all about relationships. Having genuine connections with journalists, influencers, and other stakeholders is the currency that drives communications. 

 

Rather than blindly blasting out press releases and hoping for the best, thoughtfully cultivating relationships leads to key media  trusting you, responding to you, and giving your clients’ messages consideration.

 

Investing in authentic bonds with media will pay dividends for years to come in PR.

 

3. Ask for feedback – and don’t take it personally

 

Another thing I wish I had known starting out in PR is the importance of proactively soliciting feedback and not taking constructive criticism personally. At first, hearing critiques of my work often felt like a bruise to my ego. I wrongly assumed it meant I was a bad writer or I was in danger of losing my job.

 

What I’ve come to realize over time is that regularly asking for structured feedback is critically important for growth and development. My managers and colleagues wanted to see me improve—their critiques were not personal attacks. And by soliciting input early and often, I was able to course-correct quicker and produce higher quality work.

 

Whether through weekly check-ins or end-of-project reviews, inviting objective, actionable feedback needs to become second nature. It not only surfaces opportunities for improvement but also allows you to showcase that you’re open and committed to learning. And remembering that feedback reflects on the work, not you as a person, allows you to listen without becoming defensive. While still sometimes tough to hear, feedback is a precious resource that helps fast-track PR career growth.

 

4. Sweat the small stuff – detail orientation matters

 

If I could share one more key lesson, it would be this: the small stuff matters. I have quickly learned that strict attention to detail is critically important and required in PR.

 

Errors such as typos, incorrect information, formatting mistakes, sending the wrong version, or forgetting to include someone on an email may seem trivial. But errors erode trust and demonstrate lack of care for your work product and clients. In PR, details matter. Taking the extra time to double, even triple check your work is time well spent.

 

Developing an eagle-eyed orientation to spot potential mistakes has served me well. Whether writing a perfectly proofread press release, confirming calendar invites, or reviewing meeting agendas, sweating the small stuff helps you produce polished work and avoid obvious yet easy-to-make errors. The devil is in the details in PR – overlooking minor elements can have major consequences. Attention paid to the finer points will set you apart.

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