In Public Relations, Doing Your Job Won’t Get You Promoted

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Doing your job – in other words, doing what you are paid to do – is unlikely to get you that much coveted promotion, nor will it make you attractive to other employers.

It may allow you to keep your job, if you’re lucky, until someone else comes who can either do a far better job than you do or do it for less money than you get.

It’s harsh, but it is just the way things (and businesses) work.

I had a discussion earlier this week with a good friend. He shared with me his frustration of having been in the same “position”, i.e. holding the same job title, for quite a while and with little to no prospect of career progression.

“Doing your job” and “having happy clients” is what each and every one of us working in the world of PR and Comms should aim for. It is what we get paid for.

We don’t get paid to sit prettily on a chair and look fabulous because we are “social media influencers/gurus”. We get paid for the work we agreed and committed to.

Moving away from the politics engrained in every PR agency or in-house department (let’s face it, there’s hardly any organisation in the world of work which doesn’t have any “games” going on), we get to the gist of “career progression” only by asking ourselves some really tough questions.

For someone working in a PR agency, their “worth” is much more financially driven than the “worth” of someone working for an in-house team.

Getting good client coverage or having a good relationship with journalists is not enough – is simply not enough.

Being “famous” in your own right, as an individual, is also not enough; if you work in a PR agency and are a known social media “influencer”, the expectations from you to “bring home the bacon” are much, much higher than they would be from a regular, “non-influencer” PR/Comms person.

While notoriety and exposure for an agency which employs an influencer are higher – naturally, the agency’s name will be associated with that individual’s – your monthly salary is not paid in “likes, shares and retweets” but in actual hard currency. And this currency comes from paying clients and billable work.

If you want to progress in a PR agency and take your well prepared “why I deserve a raise/promotion” pitch to your line manager or to the MD/CEO, don’t be surprised if the conversation doesn’t focus on your “celebrity” status or vanity metrics but on hard numbers and facts, and includes one or more of the following questions:

  • How have you raised the profile of the agency among its current clients and how has that translated into more work for us?
  • How many new clients have chosen us (how many new accounts have we won/been given) because of your direct impact / awareness raising of our services or USPs?
  • How has your time with us contributed to enhancing our competitive advantage on the markets we operate in?
  • What solutions (data-driven, technical, conceptual, strategic) have you devised or contributed to, to make our agency’s offering more attractive, more financially competitive and quality driven?
  • How many clients have come to us, who have used our direct competitors in the past, due to something that can be directly attributable to your efforts?

If you want to progress in a PR agency, you must be able to answer at least one of the questions above (which, by no means, are exhaustive).

You don’t get paid in vanity metrics or impressions, you get paid for doing your job; if you do your job well, that is “expected” not “rewarded”.

If you do more than your job – and by that I do not mean working 12 hours a day, through the night and weekends – you will get promoted. In the world of work today, time spent/served is no longer a measure of success, but of loyalty.

And while people do get rewarded for their loyalty, yet they will hardly ever be promoted for it.

Showing initiative, entrepreneurial spirit/drive, real passion for your employer and their services/products, pride in promoting what your employer does and how they do it, articulating your employer’s unique selling proposition and bringing something they didn’t have or couldn’t get before you came on board, are just some of the asks that will surely get anyone promoted.

Doing just your job, the job you were paid to do in the first place, will never get you promoted.

Put yourself in your employer’s shoes: would you promote someone just for doing their job?  

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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