As public relations and marketing professionals, we’ve all received advice from savvy minds. Whether in school or early or late into your career, there is probably one nugget of advice that has stuck with you to this day.
The best piece of advice I received—and one that I still reference—came when I was fresh out of college and working at Edelman in Washington, D.C. The advice: “Public relations is a marathon, and not a sprint.”
That advice holds true today, but with the introduction of social media into our daily PR lives, the pace of the marathon has kicked up a notch. So maybe now we are running a 5K.
I was curious about the advice that has helped guide the careers of other PR practitioners, so I asked some of my industry peers to identify the best public relations advice they received and, if they met a new graduate who is about to do a cannonball into the PR pool, what would they tell them.
Here are 35 great pieces of advice—some I’ve heard, many I haven’t, most I’ll repeat:
1. “The best advice I ever got was from one of my college professors and I’ve carried it with me into my career: KISS: Keep it Simple Stupid.” – Elyse Petroni
2. “Unless you have a weekend event, or want to purposely bury a story, never pitch the press or send out a press release on a Friday.” – Kathleen G. Berzon
3. “Best piece of advice I ever received came from a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who told me that ‘Information is Currency.’” – Jane Evans-Ryan
4. “Always remember that I—and not my clients—run my business. I should be willing to go above and beyond to serve each client, of course. But a client with unreasonable demands is as much my fault as theirs if I don’t set reasonable boundaries and stick to them. Related to that is one other critical lesson: Sometimes, it’s OK to say ‘no.’” – Brad Phillips
5. “There isn’t one right way of achieving results (placements, mentions, social media following, etc.). You have to figure out what works for you and always be creative.” – Janice Yu
6. Never let your ego get in the way—especially if you are just out of college. It’s easy to think that a certain task is ‘beneath’ you, [but] doing these things shows that you are a team player and can take on whatever is thrown at you.” – Stephanie Yonus
7. “Media/PR world is a small world, so don’t burn any bridges.” – Daniel K. Lobring
8. “When you walk into a meeting with a client, say one smart thing and ask one smart question.” –Michele Moore
9. “During my very first PR internship, my boss emphasized the importance of being courteous toward clients and the media, especially when on the phone.” – April Harter
10. “The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was from a professor who told his students to ‘take ownership of our work.’” – Beth Parker
11. “The best piece of advice I had received from a PR trainer when I first started was: ‘We’re tellers, not sellers. As soon as a journalist smells a whiff of sales, your press release is going in the bin.’” – Vickie Chiu
12. “Don’t rely on other people tell the world how great you are. You are and will always be your own best cheerleader.” – Erica J. Sandberg
13. “Especially during these tough economic times, having the ability to help bring in new business can make you a huge asset for a company.” – Hana Bieliauskas
14. “The best PR advice I ever got was from a former manager and she often told me ‘It’s PR, not the ER.’” – Nivene Judeh
15. “The best advice I’ve received regarding PR is actually twofold: 1) tailor your message to the right audience (i.e.: don’t just blindly send out press releases to any media contact with an email address) and 2) always say thank you when something gets picked up.” – Meghan Ely
16. “Whenever something happens, the first two questions you need to ask yourself are: who do I need to tell? And who do I need to thank?” – Laura Kane
17. “The best advice I received was from my first internship and it was to ‘Write tight.’”- Rachel Esterline
18. “Always, always, always have someone proofread your work. Let me repeat this for the folks in the cheap seats, always, always, always have someone proofread your work. Do not rely on spell check because it won’t catch ‘pubic’ and ‘dead’ when you meant ‘public’ and ‘deaf.’” – Shannon Mouton
19. “Listen before you speak. And when the other person is done talking, ask if he or she has anything else to say.” – Susan Matthews
20. “The best advice I ever received was to tell ‘the story behind the story.’” – Shel Horowitz
21. “The best PR advice I received was from my Advanced Public Relations professor, “‘Tell YOUR Story and Tell it FAST!’” – Jill Morris
22. “Relationships matter above all, and that you build relationships by making yourself useful, not annoying. The PR practitioner should focus on providing helpful service to the journalist whenever possible. Help them source good story ideas, provide sources with intelligent contributions to make, thank them for their time and attention.” – Laura Fitton
23. “When you pitch your company, pitch it as if you are writing the article for the publication.” – Erik Huberman
24. “Read, read and read some more. The best way to be a strategic counselor to your clients is if you build time into your day—every day—to read about what is going on in the world. Schedule time on your calendar if you need to, but make reading a daily habit.” – Lisa Tilt
25. “Don’t get into a pissing match with someone who buys ink by the ton.” – Mark LoCastro
26. “PR is not about spin. It’s about telling the truth well.” – Mark Grimm
27. “The best advice I have ever been given is to ‘toot your own horn because no one else is going to do it.’” – Catherine Fiehn
28. “The best PR advice I ever received is also the most fundamental rule, ‘Always know who you are pitching beforehand.’” – Walter Ocner
29. “Public relations is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Before new practitioners commit to an organization or even to an industry, they need to understand what that organization/industry places under the public relations umbrella.” – Alana J. Mauger
30. “Best advice I got and give is. ‘Just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it.’” – Darlene Tenes
31. “Things are going to go wrong, and we’re probably going to be blamed. We just have to accept it, apologize for it, and turn it into a good thing later on.” – Meghan Williams
32. “The main ingredient is HUSTLE. No, seriously, it’s the ability and desire to passionately pitch your product to the media any time (it’s 6:53 p.m. on Friday and here I am) with the right angle, the right message and the right attitude.” – Adrian Salamunovic
33. “Tell the Truth Faster.” – Dave Phillipson
34. “Don’t say anything (on/off the record) you’d regret seeing in print.” – Marc Holloran
35. “‘Never let them see you sweat’ is some of the best advice I have gotten with regard to both the PR business and clients.” – Janet A. Fallon
And if you have any advice that isn’t listed, please feel free to add in the comment.
Ronnie Manning is the Principal for Mynt Public Relations, a technology and consumer electronics boutique agency in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @RManning_Mynt.
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