What does it take to make the move from PR practitioner to PR manager? Talent, stamina, a bit of star power, and a handful of strategies and tactics that can help you hit your target.
“In agencies, a lot of the hiring decision is based on production: billable hours, getting and retaining clients, who’s a superstar,” says Rhoda Weiss, CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. Hiring for in-house PR tends to be somewhat different. “Corporations look at the person more; they’re a bit more conservative in some of their selections.”
Beyond these dynamics, there are a number of specific actions and approaches that can accelerate your move into management. Here are our favorite eight:
Get Mentors Now
And use them on a regular basis. You need allies who are themselves managers to help guide your journey into management. “Have multiple mentors,” says Weiss. “Get mentors both inside and outside your organization. You can ask them questions you might be embarrassed to ask someone else.”
Show You Know How to Serve Clients’ Every Need
You need to move beyond pleasing your boss by doing all he asks. “Potential managers have taken the time to understand their clients’ businesses,” says Roger Pynn, president of Curley & Pynn Public Relations and Marketing Communications. “So when the client calls with a problem or an opportunity, the client doesn’t have to explain why it is important.”
Your anticipation of clients’ needs will go a long way toward convincing management you can handle a promotion. “Managers worry to death about setting inexperienced people loose on clients,” says Steve Quigley, an associate professor of public relations at Boston University.
Excel in Your Command of New Media
That’s where the future of public relations will be written, heard and seen. Print and broadcast media are far from dead, but growth is nearly all on the Internet, in Web 2.0 and beyond. Spouting the names of the newest sites and communications fads isn’t enough; you’ve got to demonstrate that you know how to integrate new media into a total communications strategy.
Show You Know How to Develop and Execute a Strategic Communications Plan
If you want to rise from PR practitioner to PR manager, you need to demonstrate that you not only see the bigger picture, but you can sketch it out and fill in the details.
You’ve also got to evidence ability in the fundamentals of management, perhaps by offering to oversee a pro-bono project. “The PR manager must be able to create and manage budgets, including the management of personnel within budget,” says Tim O’Brien, president of O’Brien Communications.
All managers must lead. “In some ways, techniques and strategies can’t replace innate personal attributes like ambition and leadership,” says Quigley.
Project Yourself into a Management Role
Sean Evans, a 25-year-old group account manager in New York, tells how he did it: “I interviewed here for a publicist/account manager job and was told a higher position was open but that I was only being considered for account manager,” says Evans of Four Corners Communications. “Two months after I was hired, the group account manager position still hadn’t been filled, so I went in to my boss and made the case. They saw how well I was received by clients, the media and other team members, and I got the promotion.”
Make Everyone Around You Look Good
Even while you make a name for yourself, it is important to do this. But don’t hesitate to promote yourself. “Many times people who want to move up into management don’t even let it be known,” says Weiss.
If You Must, Leave Your Boss or Company
Then you can restart your journey to management with better preparation and in a more favorable environment. “A firm might take the attitude, ‘We don’t need to promote him because he’s a team player,’” says Quigley. “So sometimes the best way to get promoted is to leave.”