Two years in media relations: What I've learned thus far

Updated: Mar 20, 2021




In 2018, after I graduated from Pepperdine University and a months long job search, I was interviewed and hired by the Keck Medicine of USC marketing department as a media relations coordinator. The learning curve was very steep, but the fast-paced work environment solidified things and taught me more in the first few months on the job than all four years of undergrad combined.


After two years, here's that I've learned:


1. WRITING MATTERS

Writing, especially for someone in public or media relations, is a survival skill. I craft emails to clients to hype your work in recaps to clients, or explanations of why my team won't write a press release upon request and it all takes an unexpectedly high level of finesse. Then there's literally everything else that comes with the job: press releases, pitch emails, media advisories, communication plans, newsletters, source alerts, blog content, etc. A writer who doesn't proofread will eventually loose credibility. You'll send an email with the reporter's name misspelled or post an article with a typo in the headline. Write, read it aloud, edit and re-read until you're sure you've fixed all errors. Then send to a colleague to double-check your work.


2. BEING YOUNG CAN BE AN ADVANTAGE

Being the youngest person in the room, which I always am, was intimidating. Having no full-time work experience made it seem like I had little to offer and everything to learn. Eventually, I realized that my fresh perspective, tailored educational background, native technology use and creative mind are worth something. They did hire me after all so I quickly began chiming in to conversations and brainstorming sessions to throw my two cents in. Believe it or not, I feel like my opinions are validated and heard, and I'm respected by colleagues despite a chasm of years of experience between us.


3. DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS

Asking questions doesn't make you look less smart or qualified. It's better to ask questions and understand the content and what you need to do in order to do a stellar job. It is possible to ask too many questions, but as long as your questions are earnest, informed and timely, you'll be fine. I've tried to make a point of not asking the same question over and over because that's a sign of disorganization and poor listening skills. I ask a question, learn the answer and write it down so I remember for future reference. Asking good questions can showcase your critical thinking skills, engagement in discussions and mastery of the organization's overall brand voice and communication goals.


4. THERE'S A TIME TO IGNORE EMAILS

Media relations is fast-paced and overlooking an email can mean missing an interview opportunity. It's expected that you stay reachable via email and phone, even after hours in case of a big interview opportunity or an emergency, but that gets overwhelming quickly. Responsiveness, like quality writing, is key. However, I've learned that committing to time off to decompress and refresh is a skill just as useful as proofreading, graphic designing or ad buying. The ability to self-detect burnout before it happens to preserve your mental health is so important. It's helped me stay motivated, balanced and focused while at work, which enables high performance.