How Senior Leaders Can Engage Junior PR Staff

A young PR pro shares why only having your entry-level team members update your media list is missing a bigger opportunity.

Mike Bradley
Junior Account Executive

First published in PR Daily, a news site that delivers news, advice, and opinions on the public relations, marketing, social media, and media worlds. Reprinted here with permission.

At Method Communications, I’ve learned that being a good junior employee is about identifying and seizing opportunities, whether they’re provided to you, or you found them yourself. Passion and eagerness to learn are table stakes.

However, there are subtle things that can cause the hungry, ambitious, young PR pros out there to disengage.

How can senior leadership support junior team members in reaching their goals? I’ve been on a lot of teams that are great at motivating me—and some that haven’t done me any favors. Is some of that my fault? Sure, there’s still so many areas for growth at my level, no matter how talented you are. But, for senior leaders who want to put junior staff in a position to succeed, here are some opportunities to make a difference:

 

Working on announcements

Don’t box us in. For any announcement in the agency world, there are usually a few key elements: the press release, the pitch, the media list, the briefing document(s) and the coverage report. Most of the time, junior staffers are assigned to help with the last three, which require less strategic thinking and writing and—especially if you have a client with the same types of announcements—can start to feel repetitive.

These feelings only grow stronger as roles become more defined and junior members become, for example, the “media list guy/gal.” Don’t get me wrong: Someone has to do these, and we’re happy to help. Just remember that we’re hoping to learn to do so much more, and consider how can help us grow.

Do spread the love and ask for our opinion. Keep in mind that entry-level employees are tracking media coverage and industry trends on a daily basis, taking rigorous notes during meetings and generally developing a deep understanding of the client. So, why not invite our input on the pitch or the press release?

While I don’t suggest putting somebody on the spot in the middle of a meeting, or simply opening the floor to everyone in your “let’s-make-sure-everyone-knows-there-is-an-announcement-tomorrow-and-what-to-do” email to the team, you might find a revelation that flips the announcement’s messaging on its head. Or, maybe you won’t. But does it hurt to ask?

To encourage and engage junior staff, make sure you’re delegating assignments in a way that creates an inclusive environment for creative thinking from all levels.

 

Long-form writing opportunities

Don’t be afraid to tell us, “No.” We’ve all been there when a junior staff member asks to do something way out of their comfort zone, like draft a pitch or longer-form writing assignment. That means we’ve all been there when a team lead has to say, “No, not this time because X, Y, Z.”

It’s a little awkward for a couple seconds. For an intern fighting for a full-time job, it can feel like an opportunity just passed you by and the stress of getting your chance to show off your writing skills just slipped away.

But unless the team lead has time to provide proper feedback and the account is in a safe place to experiment with a junior staff member’s writing, then it was probably the right choice. In any other situation, you could be setting yourself and the junior staff member up for unnecessary failure.

Do keep us in mind and thoughtfully use reassurance. Whether we’re just starting out with a new client or there’s high tension and pressure to be successful on a long-tenured account, the client probably wants (and should) hear from senior leadership the most. And, when there’s not a lot of writing opportunities, it might feel like it’ll never be the right time for a junior employee to get their chance.

That’s OK. We understand there’s a time and a place for us to get opportunities, and we probably have other accounts that are more generous in these situations. But to keep us engaged, reassurance is everything.

By keeping your eyes open for writing opportunities that do make sense for us (and making sure we know that), you’ll keep us on our toes and ready for our moment.

 

Client meeting speaking roles

Don’t relegate us to a one-liner update at the end. When a junior member says one thing at the end of the meeting (i.e. “I’ll upload the press release today”), it doesn’t allow us to show how involved we really are on the account. Consider giving us a role where we can show our contributions and take ownership of our part of the process.

Do let us touch on industry trends and creative ideas throughout the meeting. It’s rare that there’s one sole team member working on an agenda item and meetings tend to feel more productive when more voices weigh in. Whether it’s an announcement, one-off media opportunity or proactive project, there’s usually an aspect that a junior team member is working on, from research and media list building to coverage reporting. It makes all the difference to let us chime in on things like that, and overall, it will show the client the strength of the team.

Help us help you

To keep your junior staff engaged, help us stay engaged. If you don’t, promising talent can become complacent and just like that, we pivot our energy to other accounts.

It’s no secret that well-trained and engaged interns and junior staff are not only less likely to leave, but can be one of your most valuable assets to cultivate creative ideas.

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