Welcome fellow Me-generation comrade to the world of communications! You've told your hiring manager that it's YOU they need to hire. You are a jack of all trades, hungry to learn, and ready to take on the world of finance.
Now that you've been hired and thrown into this world of corporate communications, where do you start?
Think of your first year as a game of Pac-Man. You have a maze of opportunities (Power-ups, fruits = bonuses, increases in client retainers, etc.), in addition to challenges (Ghosts, goblins, and monsters = angry bosses, demanding clients, and tight deadlines). With each level you pass, you'll get better opportunities, yet greater challenges.
So, how do you stay in the game? Here are four ways to survive your first year in corporate communications:
1. No two clients are the same -- When you're given a suite of clients ranging from asset managers to private equity, take the time to understand who they are, what they do, and what makes them unique to the market. Build your knowledge base of the industry that your client lives day in and day out, and understand their business. Understanding their business is the beginning of adding value.
How do you build industry knowledge? Read, read, read. You will start to understand how events in the news are impacting your client's decision-making. It will be painful at first (like getting on a treadmill after a year of eating pizza on a couch), but it will all start making sense.
For example, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes an announcement for further economic reform. What's the impact? The immediate impact is that investors may want to increase their investments in Japan. How does this impact you directly? Your asset manager client who has holdings in Japanese companies like Toyota may now choose to increase those holdings. This may be an opportunity for a client to comment on a story about their on-the-ground views on how Abenomics will impact the Japanese economy or investors.
When you read, you become informed. Your counsel to clients becomes informed. Your decision to reach out to The Wall Street Journal versus the Financial Times becomes tailored and targeted.
P.S.: Don't forget to develop tools for learning that works best for you. I have a suite of news apps and newsletters to keep me abreast of industry developments, such as Flipboard, the Quartz Newsletter and app, and Talking Biz News.
2. Don't be a fly on the wall; ask questions. When you begin, task yourself with asking at least five questions of each member of your team. Questions can relate to a client's business, finance, or communications. Why is this important? Our role as communications specialists is to be able to understand and diagnose a client's problem, and offer a solution. This is day-to-day. When you ask questions and get answers, you begin to draw conclusions about what really matters to your clients and more importantly, their stakeholders. Start small and use a more forgiving audience -- your colleagues.
From an office perspective, you don't want to be typecast as the disengaged introvert glued to your computer screen.
3. Take notes. Take good notes. Yes, there is such thing as bad notes. When you begin, one of your key tasks will be to take call/meeting notes. This is a basic task and is important. Ask yourself, what do we need to get out of this meeting? Have I answered the five “W”s (who, what, why, when, where) in my notes?
Good notes include a clear pipeline for client initiatives and next steps. Good notes have all t's crossed, i's dotted, and there are no miscellaneous bullet points running around. This is a life skill.
The best way to get off on the wrong foot with your account team and manager is by sending them lax and sloppy notes with missing content. Moral of the story: Send immaculate notes.
4. Write good emails. Pretend Dan from Dragon Star Capital is a client. The last thing he wants to see in an email (in order of importance):
1) “Don” -- his name spelled wrong;
2) “Dragon Stir Capitol” -- the company name spelled wrong;
3) Missing details; and
4) No detail.
An email suffering from any of the above is like giving someone a cake, half-eaten. Who wants a half-eaten cake? Nobody.
Tips for email improvement include:
1) Check for tone, spelling, and grammar, then check again;
2) Read emails out loud three times before sending; and
3) Have someone else re-read your email before sending.
Hope this helps. Good luck, fellow Pac-Man.
Peggy Wu is a senior account executive and digital strategist at Ryan Financial Communications in Hong Kong.