Details, details… Why You (as a young PRo) Need To Be Nit-Picky NOW.

picture-1I am not the most detail-oriented person. Not by a long shot. I am more what you’d call a “Big Picture,” conceptual person. Which is why, in the first months of my job, I struggled a lot with not seeing the value in details and not grasping for a while just HOW MUCH I needed to harness those details on all of my teams.

If your work environment is anything like mine, you’re on multiple teams and it’s very collaborative. Everyone does everything until the job gets done. It’s nice to see the managers of accounts chiming in and even sometimes drafting pitches and releases.

These are wonderful things to be able to expect from your teams and and managers. However, bear in mind what is expected of you at the bottom of the totem pole:

1. You are the gate-keeper of information. Your account managers will often be overseeing all of the high-level activity in several accounts, not just yours. It’s up to you to be on top of every single detail and moving part within your account so that if they need to know if a client has sent their feedback on a release, you can update them right away.

2. You are the task master. If someone’s been assigned a new Washington Post target, you need to check and make sure they’ve been pitched. You need to be sure of everyone’s pitching progress at any time. You need to know everyone’s progress on everything at all times. Don’t be afraid to manage up on this one.

3. Your clients probably care. Client-facing emails, especially with small companies aren’t uncommon for the young AA or AAE. Typos (and believe me, I am THE WORST with typos, just read some of my past blogs) look so bad to clients. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short, logistical (“Please use the usual dial-in”) message or a large, content-heavy correspondence. Same for client deliverables – PR reports, tracking sheets, whether hard copies, PDFs or Google docs, these need to be flawless.

4. Your teams DO care. They definitely care if they can’t trust you to send simple messages that are error-free to clients. Especially avoidable errors. Spell-check and have them proofed (it’s a killer to your writer/communicator’s ego, but worth it when you start to pick up the nuances of client communications). Never send a client email without letting your team know, or CC-ing them (once again, please learn from MY mistakes here).

5. It kind of becomes second nature. At some point you just learn how to do it without thinking about it. And you’ll find that as your organization increases so does your productivity. So it’s definitely worth the extra care and time that you put into it now.

6. Important: If you let them, disorganization and small mistakes WILL run the way you do things and define you as a professional. Small mistakes that go unchecked can quickly brand you as sloppy and unprofessional and will even faster become habits and harder to manage and rid yourself of.

This has been one of the most aggravating things to learn as I’ve gone out into the “real world.” Do whatever it takes to incorporate this into your work habits even if you’re cursing those detail oriented, anal-retentives who sit next to you. Eat some humble pie and learn from them.

*Organization tips to follow. Photo courtesy of Details magazine.


7 responses to “Details, details… Why You (as a young PRo) Need To Be Nit-Picky NOW.

  1. Megan,
    I’m glad that you’ve written about the importance of being detail-oriented when you’re just starting out in a career. Like you, I’m much better at conceptual, outside-the-box thinking and I don’t excel naturally at linear, detail-oriented work strategies. However, it’s become clear to me that in order to get promoted to the big-picture kind of positions, you first have to prove yourself as someone who can manage tasks and timelines. There are a lot of great resources for learning organizational strategies and new employees need to learn them if they want to move on to “bigger and better” positions someday.

  2. Great advice. When I started out, the anal-retentiveness of my PR colleagues is something I didn’t expect (no one taught me in school that it’s actually a job requirement!).

    I’d add that it’s important to be detail-oriented anytime you’re communicating with your co-workers — even if it’s not related to work. Early on, I e-invited my office mates to a party at my house, and (because I rushed and it wasn’t “important”) the e-mail had more than one typo. I realized even a quickie e-mail can impact how you are perceived. Excellent post!

  3. Pingback: Details, Details (Continued)… Resources to Help You Get There « Searching For Savvy

  4. This blog post was really interesting to read. Honestly, it made me nervous about getting my first job out of college. I don’t think we learn the important of details enough in college. We get to rewrite for a better grade, or drop one of our quiz scores that we forgot to study for. That does not happen in a professional environment. Details are so important, especially the first time around.

  5. Pingback: Working out the Kinks « PRogressing Forward

  6. Megan,

    As a journalism PR major I understand the importance of paying attention to detail, but I often find myself procrastinating on my work and not revising or rechecking my work to look for errors. Your post has really hit home for me the importance of paying attention to details and making sure my work is error free, because when I get out into the “real world,” I will be paid for my services, and I understand that clients won’t be interested in paying me for work that contains errors. It’s so important to make sure that you’re promoting a positive image of yourself to your clients, and the best way to do this is to prove to them that you pay attention to details, research ahead of time, and spending quality time working on plans and proposals.
    Thanks for the great advice!

  7. Pingback: PRos in Training » Blog Archive » Social Linky Love

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