5 Life-Changing Career Lessons learned During My First Year in PR


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Written by Tessa Bonnstetter

Let me start off by saying: I had no idea I’d end up in PR. Like many of us, I grew up fantasizing about being a magazine editor. I knew I needed a creative career where I could express my unique viewpoint and assumed that meant I was made for the world of editorial spreads and “must-have-for-Fall” pages.

And I was. But in a different way.

I have come to understand that publicists are strategic storytellers. We work closely with brands to communicate their message, or sometimes create that message.

And now, here I am: a year-and-a-half in. In reflection of my time so far at a boutique beauty, health and fashion firm in NYC—behold: a list of my most valuable {work-related + personal} lessons.

1. No idea is a dumb idea

I have found that almost every time I hold my tongue in a meeting, someone says what I’m thinking shortly thereafter, and it’s perceived as a great idea. Whether you’re in a room of creative minds during a brainstorming session, or it’s the final thought that crosses your mind before bed, speak up or write it down. Maybe your idea isn’t the “one”, but it could be a stepping stone to something incredible that is about to happen. My tip is to make sure you can articulate how the idea contributes to the task at hand. Don’t worry if you don’t see eye-to-eye on every strategy; having differing opinions is how cohesive, well-thought-out ideas are realized. Trust your gut and believe your ideas are worthy.

2. Your team is everything

Not every agency or work environment is the same. I am a firm believer that you are who you surround yourself with, and in public relations, the first step to great work is a great team. You should feel inspired each day, and know that no matter what, your colleagues are rooting for you and who are always willing to see your point of view. Those who stunt your dreams, stunt your growth!

For me, it’s been important to know my own value while being open to feedback. I developed an open dialogue with my boss from the start which means that should there be any friction or miscommunication with clients I have someone reliable to talk with.

3. You don’t need to know everything right away

When you’re just getting started in public relations, the pace of everything can be stressful as you aim to keep up with the ideas that are flowing, and the acronyms and phrases being used (most of which are completely new).

It’s okay to not know all of it – but it is your responsibility to get your questions answered. Write down your questions during a meeting and review them with your team afterward. Note down any confusing language and do an online search for them later.

I used to get overwhelmed on client phone calls when five different people would be speaking on the same subject. I found that copying down the call agenda and taking my own notes on top of that helps me to stay engaged. Being present and having questions is how you grow- and learn.

4. Professional growth starts NOW

Your college degree is just the beginning. In an industry like PR where things change quickly, industry-related articles and podcasts are helpful tools that keep you excited about your work. I have also found that the more I become fluent in this industry, the more new, fresh ideas I have, which directly benefits my agency and our client base.

Podcasts are a great go-to for city girls like me. Two of my favorites include Fat Mascara and The Glossy Podcast, both have a mixture of seasoned, relatable, and unapologetically authentic hosts and guests.

5.  You must be your own biggest fan

No one matters more in your career than you. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? If you’re feeling uninspired, unmotivated, or insecure, identifying these feelings is half of the battle.

In the middle of a hectic day, you might need to take a walk around the block or break away and work independently. Being able to check in with yourself is an important part of self-care. For me, self-care is reading a book from my favorite author, a workout class taught by a motivating and empowering teacher, or a bubble bath and a podcast. The industry (and everyone in it) moves so fast that the first reaction when thinking about a quick break can be guilt, so start unapologetic self-care practices now.  Taking good care of yourself does not make you selfish, it is a way to make sure you are living your best life and contributing your best self to the task at hand in the office.

Treat yourself like you treat your best friend. Root for yourself every day and amazing things will happen.

About Tessa

Tessa Bonnstetter is a publicist at Style House PR. She lives in Hoboken, NJ with her friend Claire who is, conveniently, a makeup artist. In her spare time, you can find Tessa reading, exercising, making breakfast for dinner, watching the Food Network and Facetiming her long-distance BFF’s, boyfriend and family (including incredibly cute and brand-new twin nephews). Follow her on Instagram @TesssyBonn +  @StyleHouseCo.