Why Having Mentors is Key to PR Success

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Robin Williams mentors Matt Damon in one of the most underappreciated movies of all time, “Good Will Hunting”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed, and have participated in, lots of conversations on Twitter revolving around what it takes to succeed in PR. Is it the experience you get from internships? Is it the education you receive from attending grad school? Both are important. But speaking from personal experience, nothing has taught me more than what I’ve learned from mentors.

When I left the world of sports journalism in the winter of 2005 and was hired at a mid-size PR agency in NYC, I was as excited as ever. I was also more nervous than I’d ever been. I had never taken a PR class in college, didn’t know anyone in the profession, and was incredibly scared of failure. So what got me through those critical first few months? Having people that I could look up to, ask questions of, and scrutinize the way they handled different situations with clients.

I was one of the lucky ones that first year into my new career, and two people that particularly stood out were Chris Hayes (@C_Hayes) and Joe Vasquez (@PRFlipside). Whether it was learning how to write a pitch or how to respond to client requests, these guys never turned me away when I came knocking on their doors looking for answers. Not only that, they began sending me random e-mails with links to news items that were relevant to publicists. They shared blog sites with me, pointed me in the direction of valuable conferences I might want to attend, and even spoke to me about difficult topics such as salary and how to negotiate. Without these two friends, and the other mentors whose knowledge I continue to tap into to this day, I never would have made it past an entry-level position.

I often speak to senior-level management about what motivates me and why I’d stay at a current job as opposed to looking for new opportunities (not that recruiters are knocking down everyone’s door in this economy!). How many of you would say ‘money’ as the prime motivation for being happy? Not gonna lie, that doesn’t hurt! For me, the primary goal is to work at a place where I’m continuously learning new things and being challenged. If I’m not experiencing different things then I’ll never learn from mistakes, make the type of income I want to make, and I’ll certainly never reach my full potential as a publicist. And learning can come in many different forms: new clients, different account responsibilities, or leading a team initiative. However, no matter how many opportunities I may get to do those types of things, I’m certain that I’ll never do them nearly as well if I don’t have a mentor(s) to see me through.

I’m not trying to say the secret to life is having a mentor, or that this philosophy doesn’t apply to other industries. But I’m a publicist and this has been my experience, which is why I wanted to share it with you.

Thanks to everyone that continues to help me reach greater heights. You know who you are.

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13 comments on “Why Having Mentors is Key to PR Success

  1. Great post! I completely agree. Mentors are integral to having a successful career, especially in PR. I am thankful to my mentors @rickopp and @ktchavez for showing me the way and hooking me up with the right people, especially in this economy!

  2. Great post!
    Mentoring is essential in any field, not only in PR. Not only does it help employees to improve their skills and become the best they can be, but it also cultivates great relationships and creates a better working environment, which leads to happier employees, which leads to increased productivity (although that sounds as if I am talking about robots, but it is true.)
    I think every company should have a mentoring program.

      • It should be both ways, however, every company that aspires to be successful (read every company) should consider a mentoring program. It is the best way to ensure high motivation, productivity and quality, great working environment and great employee relations.

  3. Thanks for the shout out. I remember that doe-eyed PR dude walking into the purple halls of the firm for the first time. Ok, it wasn’t that dramatic. I’m happy for you and appreciate you recognizing Chris and I as mentors. Speaking for myself, I think you would’ve been a great success story in PR no matter what. As I told you when you nailed that first major media placement, you’ve got talent, kid.

  4. Quinnipiac’s School of Comm has a mentor program. Best thing I decided to do in college, I think. I try and talk to my mentor all the time and she’s a great resource on things in the PR industry.

  5. I couldn’t agree more! I’m currently searching for that entry-level PR job and my mentors are helping me more than I thought possible. They’re doing more than just putting a good word in for me, but talking to me about where I want to be and what path is going to make me happiest. Having a good mentor is essential to having a successful career.

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