Vital Vocab: Taking PR Language to Heart

AON CenterI learned plenty of PR and advertising jargon in college—terms that I crammed in the eleventh hour before morning tests, often after clinking glasses the evening before. I adopted this vocabulary as graduation approached, and somehow managed to whip out industry buzzwords during networking opportunities or job interviews. While underclassmen would look at me as if I knew my stuff, in retrospect, I usually only had a foggy idea.

While I was learning the language and mannerisms from peers, professors and industry professionals, I didn’t have any tangible agency experiences tied to the words. It was as if I was trying to parle Français, wearing a beret and waving round a baguette, in America. It felt so strange.

When I finally slid my tassel to the left, tossed my cap and headed to Chicago for my first big agency internship, I quickly realized that I was in an office of 500 people who were effortlessly fluent in PR speak. I, by contrast, had basically just learned my ABCs. This vocabulary, which was once obscure and abstract, took on a whole new shape as I began my work. Here’s what I learned:

1. Transparency

Just as PR or advertising professors discussed the importance of transparency regarding crisis communications or budget use, it’s equally important that you exhibit individual transparency. This, of course, goes deeper than being honest. It takes guts to admit that you don’t understand the guidelines for a project, or are feeling buried. There’s something to be said for a young employee who owns up to his or her confusions and mistakes.

2. Client Deliverable

If you work for a mid-to-large-scale agency, chances are you won’t communicate directly with your client at first. Instead, channel your energy toward your senior-level colleagues who are client interfacing. Meet your team’s base needs, so they can meet the client’s needs.

3. Tech Startup

Not a techie? Stop it. Think of yourself as your very own tech startup. Even a Twitter-obsessed young professional will need to adopt new programs and platforms, and look out for digital trends.

Master technology, because your client(s) and some senior-level colleagues likely haven’t. (I’ve actually met with people at the vice president level to discuss Twitter best practices.) This is one way you can make yourself valuable, and fill a gap within your team.

4. Brand Recognition

Recognize your personal brand, and own it. Understand how your talents and interests offer value to your team. Enjoy shaping your personal brand, as you transition from student to young professional. Consider how blogging, volunteer work, organization involvement and even graduate school can refine your career.

5. Byline

Track and organize everything that you accomplish and publish. Keep your kudos and positive feedback; cherish all of it in a little treasure chest (or file on your desktop). Your professional portfolio closes when you retire, not when you land your first job.

6. Crisis Management

Be adaptable, crystal clear and solution-oriented. You will make mistakes, so think ahead by maintaining an organized collection of the constructive criticism you’ve received. Keep projects marked in red, and refer to them when similar opportunities arise. You, and everyone else in the office—from executive vice president to the unpaid trainee—will receive constructive feedback. Take it in stride, and accept it as an opportunity to shine, rather than as an ego hit.

7. Reach

Own your career. Communicate your dreams, and display enthusiasm. When you’re really hungry, it shows. Mentoring and relationship-building are essential to rapid professional growth.

8. Search Engine Optimization

Creep your colleagues, client and company. (You probably did this to get the position, but dig deeper.) You have a lot of catching up to do. Optimize on the search skills you learned in school to learn everything there is to know about your new job and the people within it … within reason, of course. Don’t do anything illegal or crazy—we’re using the term “creep” lightly.

9. Share of Voice

Always have an opinion. Provide next-step suggestions, engage in strategic dialogue, participate in brainstorm sessions or offer to take on a pro-bono project that is meaningful to you. Try not to allow the nervousness or intimidation of a new job or internship snuff out your shine. Allow your humor, character and passions to come through your work.

10. Agency

Have agency, be purposeful and pursue your work with goals in mind. Some tasks you will complete at first might feel insignificant, but that’s far from the truth. Approach each project with context, and ask colleagues how projects influence big-picture client goals. Your work may be “bottom of the barrel,” but it will inevitably make an impact at the client level. Find that connection and harness it. It’ll make seemingly “busy work” far more exciting.

Image Source: Kate McFadden

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