So you’ve landed your first gig at a PR agency. Congrats!

…Now what?

Whether you’re fresh out of college or rerouting your existing career journey, there’s no prior experience that can fully prepare you for what you’ll face in a first-time communications role. Having navigated the PR industry for one year, I find myself reeling at the difference between what I know now, versus what I thought I knew then.

To my fellow rookies: here are seven tactics to surviving your first year in PR (and taking each day in stride):

Stick to a well-balanced media diet.

For growing PR professionals, adopting a daily news consumption pattern is key (and no, I’m not just talking about The Skimm). In your new role, it is your duty to maintain a steady pulse on current issues and events, from what’s trending on Twitter to who’s been hired at the local newspaper. After all, the more you know, the more you can contribute, especially when it comes to offering journalists newsworthy insight. Since you can’t read everything all the time, figure out which sections, outlets and journalists are most pertinent to the clients that you represent and review them daily. For me, the sports section goes straight to the trash, but I follow the travel sections religiously.

Know your audience.

According to the American Press Institute, the majority of Americans use an average of four devices to consume news each week. So what is your audience reading? How are they reading it? Where are they engaging the most? Who are they following?

Just like picking out a gift for an old friend, crafting a message that resonates with your audience is much easier when you take the time to get to know them first. Newcomers, beware: this initial courting phase may require a hefty amount of research, especially when you find yourself navigating industries you’ve never heard of. While you may not be particularly interested in perusing an optic cable periodical on a Friday afternoon, researching your client’s field now, knowing who the top writers are and staying up-to-date on trends is vitally important to future coverage.

Immerse yourself in unfamiliar industries.

If you’re lucky, you’ll land a role at an agency where you can harness the creative freedom that comes with an eclectic client portfolio. That’s the beauty of working at Lou Hammond Group; we are challenged every day to create customized brand experiences to resonate with consumers across a range of markets. In fact, we pride ourselves in pairing up seemingly unlikely clients with another to form dynamic synergies.

Oh—and we like to enjoy a few laughs while we’re at it.

Expect the unexpected.

Looking for a predictable nine-to-five job? You may want to reconsider your career path. As anyone who’s worked in the PR industry knows: no two days are ever the same. Every now and then, you’ll have days when things run smoothly and the phone only rings twice. Other days, you may waltz into the office determined to conquer your to-do list and have to drop everything when an unexpected e-mail comes in. On the flip-side, there will be pleasant surprises, like a phone call from that editor you’ve been reaching out to for weeks requesting a client interview that same afternoon. Sometimes, you might even find yourself sidetracked by a sudden agency obligation to attend a rooftop happy hour (score!). In a field where unforeseen circumstances are bound to occur, it’s crucial to figure out early on what keeps you organized so that no balls are dropped.

Change is inevitable. It’s how you react (and adapt) that counts.

Once upon a time, a public relations firm could dictate its schedule around an eight-hour news cycle dominated solely by traditional print and broadcast outlets. Today, the industry has undergone a drastic transformation to keep up with the relentless demands of a 24/7 “new” news cycle. As professional communicators, we must face it: traditional PR is out and disruptive media is in. We operate in a moment when “content” goes far beyond the written word and social media influencers have the upper hand.

Millennials may get a bad rap for being entitled and rude, but what we do have is an uncanny ability to adopt and adapt. In the workplace as in the classroom, extra credit is available to those who go the extra mile. So don’t sit still. As the new kid on the block, you have a valuable opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to the table. I encourage any newcomers and veterans in the field to harness the power of the multiple media channels available to us today and utilize them to tell your clients’ stories.

Skip the small talk.

On average, a tier-one journalist receives around 300-500 emails per day, of which more than two-thirds end up in the trash. It’s up to you to make your pitch the exception. Of course, offering an exclusive is a surefire way to get noticed, but what about the rest? Here are some tips to making your pitches stand out:

  • Make it skimmable.
    • One of the most valuable tools you can add to your PR arsenal is the ability to be brief. Chances are, the person you’re writing to doesn’t have the time (or desire) to sift through unnecessary details, so skip the small talk and say only what’s needed. The lengthier your pitch, the more likely it’ll be deleted.
  • Avoid mass distribution lists.
    • Sending a mass email is never a good look, so make a point to personalize your approach. This could simply mean addressing your recipient by name, citing a recent article, or even following him or her on Twitter. It’s the little things that count in PR and adding personal value to a pitch can pay off.
  • Don’t be discouraged when your efforts go unanswered.
    • Radio silence is a reality of the industry, especially when you’re just starting out, so don’t waste time dwelling on rejection. Instead, leverage each failure to finetune your next approach.
  • Never underestimate the power of a catchy subject line.
    • There’s not much use fishing without bait. The same is true for sending a pitch with a mediocre subject line. Securing valuable media coverage for your clients often starts with a compelling decoy.

At the end of the day, you represent both your clients and your agency, so take a cue from our fearless leader, Lou Hammond. Your reputation is all you have in this world, so remember to conduct yourself in a manner that reflects who you are, as well as the agency. And finally….caffeinate. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that at the core of every thriving PR operation is a dust-free coffee machine.