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12 Months, 12 Lessons

I can’t believe I’ve already been at TVP Communications for a whole year! Queuing up a lovely cliché for you, time has truly flown! BUT I have learned a thing or two, despite the fact that I still feel like a newbie a lot of the time.
Here are some of the nuggets I’ve gleaned in my first year at TVP Comms:

  • There are a lot of ways to support students beyond direct service. When I decided to come work for TVP Comms, this was perhaps one of my biggest points of hesitation. I had been working directly with students to support educational success for the entirety of my professional life, and this job was a drastic change for me. Helping to spread the word on what colleges and programs are doing to improve graduation rates, student success, and educational equity is a great way for me to still feel connected to that world.
  • Creating media lists is tough. Like really tough. Like maybe the most difficult thing that I do, despite the fact that I’ve been doing it regularly almost since day one (and I still don’t feel like I’ve even come close to mastering it). There are a lot of factors working against you, including time and resources (I’m looking at you, Cision). Plus, reporters regularly change beats and outlets, so even when you think you’ve crafted a perfect base list, you STILL have to double check and do additional research every time you want to use it.
  • Sometimes, you need to learn to let go. I’m sure everyone who has ever written a pitch knows how painful this is. I have found myself several times over the last year lamenting the inactivity surrounding a beautifully written pitch with perfect timing and a honed media list. HOW COULD PEOPLE NOT WANT TO USE MY PITCH? It happens. And, I also learned that sometimes, a reporter does in fact see AND use the pitch you sent in July in a piece that debuts in January. So there’s always hope.
  • Watching pros at work is a great learning tool. It’s truly thrilling to see (or listen to) my co-workers in their elements, kicking some serious butt. I’ve learned a lot just from staying quiet and observing phone, email, and in-person interactions my colleagues have with clients. I’m picking up what they’re throwing down.
  • NETWORKING MATTERS. Yes, it’s extremely painful and awkward (especially if you are naturally introverted and socially awkward like yours truly), but it is so necessary to do your job well. I think that goes for any job. You have to build strong, reciprocal relationships to be successful. So slap on that nametag somewhere visible, load up on business cards, and grimace through it. Perhaps you’ll even be lucky enough to be at an event with a coworker who knows everyone or who isn’t afraid to schmooze.
  • It’s okay to voice that you’re not familiar with someone/something. I’ve always felt this is a mark of a good employee (and I’m bias because I’m the kid who asks questions and speaks up). It’s been challenging for me to keep up with the associations, reporters, and major higher ed players because there are SO many of them. My colleagues have been gracious enough to not point and laugh when I don’t know someone or something that is PR 101, and I truly appreciate when they provide background info for me, often without even asking.
  • Social media can and SHOULD be used for work. I was a Twitter skeptic before coming to TVP Communications. In fact, I didn’t even have an account before I started working here. Now, I’m on it daily and I have no idea where I was getting my news from before. Additionally, Slack has revolutionized the way I communicate with the team (and helped keep emails down, see #11). I mean, they still need to add some crucial emojis, but I appreciate the tool very much.
  • Loyalty points are a no brainer. Seriously, why wouldn’t you take advantage of free internet, free room upgrades, $10 to the minibar, and free wine hour? And I’m just about at that time where I can get a free flight, so a bonus vacation may be coming my way.
  • Subscribe without discretion, and then hone. When I first started, I was eager to get as much info as I possibly could. Then I found out which dailies were not to be missed, those that I enjoyed reading, and those that I rarely gave a glance to. I unsubscribed from newsletters that I didn’t read and didn’t help me, kept ones that could be helpful, and thoroughly enjoy the must-reads.
  • Maximize your tech accessories. And by this, I specifically mean find what makes your job possible and use the crap out of it. For me, it’s my phone and my mouse. My phone has been clutch (and this is coming from someone who a year ago was loathe to give up her phone with buttons and no apps). It’s gotten me through faulty internet, it’s given me apps to make travel easier, AND it lets me do most of my job from almost anywhere. The mouse was perhaps the best ask I made early on the job. Scrolling through Twitter feeds and Cision lists can be very taxing on your wrist (I’m totally serious. My doctor has lectured me about my need to better care for my wrists), and the mouse literally takes the pain away. Next up on my wish list: a keypad cover. It’s time—I spill food on my computer constantly (I think I went a full week before I got guacamole on it), even when I’m being very careful. Can’t take me anywhere.
  • Don’t fall behind on emails (unless you’re on vacation, then by all means). Full disclosure, I’m one who panics when my inbox isn’t at 0 for most of my workday. BUT, in this field, I find it especially important to stay on top of emails because of the 24-hour news cycle and quick turnaround required of PR professionals.
  • Dress for success. And by that I mean put on your “dress sweats” and get stuff done. Working from home is such an incredible opportunity, and I’m grateful for it every day. I love having unlimited access to my own bathroom and my fridge. Surprisingly, I think I eat better working from home than I did when I was in an office because I can actually make myself something good; sure, second breakfast is usually ice cream and I don’t get as much walking in without making an effort to go for a walk, but I’ll take it. And not having to worry about driving through a blizzard to get to work is wonderful.