You’ve nailed your pitches. You’re securing great coverage. It’s time for you to move into a managerial role, right?
Not so fast.
While moving from tactical executor to a PR manager may seem like an obvious transition, it takes more than just a few big “wins” to get there. Managing people is much different than managing work. It’s about walking the walk, talking the talk and being ready to lead by example – all day, every day.
It requires you to think differently, organize more efficiently and train your employees well enough that you trust them to lead projects. As most type-A PR pros know, that last part in particular is not easy. The goal of becoming a manager is a continuous work in progress, but when you prepare an action plan to prove to your boss – and yourself – that you’re ready for managerial responsibilities, you’re well on your way. Here are a few ways our current managers showed us they were ready for the next step.
1. Pinpoint mentorship opportunities
Even if you don’t have direct reports, you can still practice mentorship skills with interns and colleagues. Let’s say you’re an expert at pitching influencers. Pass that knowledge on to an intern who’s shown particular interest in the subject. Set regular “training” meetings where you cover a different part of influencer relations, and at the end, evaluate how well your mentee has learned by having them attempt a few influencer pitches. By tracking this progress, you can not only feel great about sharing your expertise – you’ll have tangible evidence to show your boss just how successful your management skills have been so far. Yes, this requires you to be proactive and take initiative, but that’s truly one of the most important management traits of all!
2. Volunteer to lead
Another great way to demonstrate your leadership skills is to successfully lead a project start to finish. Sometimes this is as easy as telling your supervisor that you’d like to run a specific pitch initiative. In other cases, if the team doesn’t have a specific program for you to lead, you can create an opportunity yourself – such as launching your agency’s blog. It’s up to you to speak up and secure your opportunities, and it’s equally up to you to report back on your successes to your supervisors.
3. Invest in positive work relationships
In order to manage employees, you need to have strong employee relations skills. This means proactive communications to your superiors, positive reinforcement for your peers and, above all else, an overall authoritative (albeit friendly) tone. Your specific style of leadership – strict, laid back, etc. – is up to you. But, no matter the style, you need to show your boss that you can work, get along and garner respect from all kinds of people in order to lead your own team.
4. Provide solutions
As an executional team member, you know you can lean on your manager to help you make decisions and navigate tough situations. But as the manager? Not so much. Yes, you obviously have supervisors who can give you a gut check, but as part of this new step, your boss will expect big picture thinking – and that means strategizing your way through issues. At our agency, new (and seasoned) managers are never left out to dry – but they are challenged to think differently as they progress along in their careers. Even if it’s just presenting possible solutions to your bosses, it’s taking that extra step to consider what the final decision could or should be, that gets you practicing manager-mode right away.
It’s up to you to speak up and secure your opportunities, and it’s equally up to you to report back on your successes to your supervisors.
5. Schedule performance check-ins
I’ll say this loud and clear: You cannot reach your full potential alone. You need a strong team surrounding you – and a helpful mentor of your own – to get from one career stage to the next. Leverage your supervisor’s management and mentorship skills and schedule regular check-ins to discuss how you’re progressing along your track. That’s why they’re in a leadership role to begin with! Whether you’re learning from the content of your meetings, observing their overarching mentorship style – or both – working directly with your supervisor will get you exactly where you need to be for that promotion.
(And, quick bonus tip – remember, it’s on you to reach out and request that assistance! That within itself shows you’re taking this seriously.)
6. Become the company’s ‘go to’
There’s a big difference between answering questions and providing insight. Initially someone may ask for a contact at a specific media outlet; their next question may be for your help in strategizing the best target outlet. If you’re everyone’s ‘go to,’ it will be noticed by management. It shows that you are a team player and take an interest in having others succeed.
7. Make the ask
Everyone hopes their professional acumen will be noticed and appreciated – but, in the busy PR world, that’s not always the case. We’re lucky at our agency; our current EVP instilled a tradition of writing congratulatory notes for team members after every ‘win.’ It’s now part of our culture.
However, if you’re not in a similar situation and you feel ready to assume more responsibility, invite your supervisor to lunch and simply ask. Unfortunately, most managers aren’t mind readers, and it’s up to you to take the initiative to get them on the same wavelength. Now, just because you broach the subject doesn’t mean it will happen; be ready for whatever helpful feedback may come your way. Use the opportunity to discuss goals and the road map that will get you to the next level.
As you progress from one role to the next, from executional to management, you’re going to learn a lot, and at times you may get frustrated. Remember, your PR career is a marathon, not a sprint, and every manager had to start at the beginning!