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One Year In PR: What I’ve Learned

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Note: This is a cross-post from the Curator blog, where I often write and publish.

Today marks my one-year anniversary as Curator’s social media strategist.

It was a big move for me because I didn’t just change jobs; I changed industries. I had been a journalist since 2005, and it wasn’t easy to make the decision to transition to something new. I was convinced, though. For one thing, the culture that our principal and founder, Scott Battishill, was building here appealed to me, and that wasn’t something I had seen so much focus on in past jobs.

But the real thing that made me jump was the opportunity to learn new things and self-improve. Sure, I’d been specializing in social media for several years, and I had learned about journalism, but this opportunity with Curator was a career move. I saw it (and I still do) as a test, and as a period of refinement of my skills and myself.

I plan to be here for a while, and in the interest of setting a marker that I can look back at in another year and draw comparisons to, I thought I’d share some of my biggest takeaways from the last year.

Time spent organizing is time well spent

I regularly work with at least seven of our clients, and I have multiple projects going on with each of them at any given time. The only way I keep it all straight is to continually organize. I mean, I make lists and then organize them, and then I make sub-lists, and then I make a calendar and set reminders in multiple places (you can never have too many reminders). It’s like Inception for lists at my desk.

It may seem complex, but the time I spend organizing from the outset is way less than the time I’d otherwise spend trying to remember, “what was that thing again?”

Excel is a social media analyst’s best friend

There are a lot of good (and free) social analytics tools out there, but nothing beats being able to isolate and analyze data to fit your exact context, and then present it in a visually legible way. I’m still learning new Excel tricks each week and running into obstacles that force me to dive deeper into the program.

Always schedule time for yourself – personally and professionally

About this time of year – fall – things get really crazy at the Curator offices. Holiday planning is in full swing, and we’re keeping up all our usual activities. It’s easy to bump all the stuff that doesn’t have a deadline off your to-do list.

But often, the stuff that’s most important doesn’t need to be done by a particular time. Me? I schedule time to learn, to read, to write, to exercise – all the stuff that keeps me feeling good and creative, which is really important for the deadline stuff that comes during the day. (How I manage to squeeze all that in is to either utilize weird parts of my day, like the time during my bus commute, or get up really early. Or both. But that’s another post entirely.)

Most importantly – especially since my son was born – I make family time mean family time, and I don’t break it except in the most extreme circumstances.

Work on your presentation skills the way you work out at the gym

This advice actually goes back to something I heard once from the great comic-book writer Brian Michael Bendis, and it applies to anything you want to be good at. If you want to get in shape, you have to go to the gym every day. You can’t go once or twice a week and expect to get stronger.

Likewise, presentation skills need constant refinement. My job is split up 50/50: 50 percent is gathering and analyzing data and the other 50 percent is presenting that data in a way that makes sense to my audience. So even if I’m the best social media strategist in the world, I’m nothing if I can’t effectively communicate my insights.

This is what I tell myself when I get ready to present: It doesn’t matter if you know your information front to back; your audience has to be convinced of it.

Next up: Year 2

What I’m most excited about is that today marks Day 1 of Year 2. I’ve got an entire year of experience to put to use, and although I know what I want to do, I know I’ll also learn a whole new batch of things I didn’t expect to.

That’s the fun of a career.

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