The entire job market has been impacted by the pandemic, and the PR industry has felt its effects deeply. Some PR agencies have been working overtime to showcase their clients’ COVID-19 protocols and issues, while others had to furlough employees during client downturns.

Now that businesses are attempting to figure out the “new normal,” the PR industry is slowly starting to welcome back new professionals. However, the pandemic has made it critical that you enter the field with a plan for success to integrate yourself in your organization and make yourself valuable to employers and clients. Following are some suggestions on how to enter the field effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn virtual professionalism

Whether you’re meeting with your internal team or your clients, you need to be able to maintain professionalism, no matter the format. Although you’re not in the office, remember that you’re still representing your organization and clients and need to appear in a professional setting. Avoid the temptation to wear sweatpants and instead choose business dress to ensure you make a good impression, even in virtual meetings. Then, check your background. What’s showing behind you on camera? Is the room messy, or are your roommates walking around? Whatever is on your camera is a reflection on you, so choose your background wisely, and if all else fails, sit in front of a blank wall.

Additionally, now that Zoom meetings are the norm, be sure you’re comfortable speaking on camera and maintaining eye contact with coworkers and clients. Familiarize yourself with the video software and its different offerings so you understand how to use it to your advantage and maintain a mature tone.

Stay educated on industry changes

With the landscape of the pandemic and economy always changing, it’s important that you stay up to date on the most recent shifts in conversation and sentiment so you can ensure you’re providing the best PR to your clients. Read your client industries’ trade publications, follow the insights of successful PR and marketing professionals through publications like PR Week, and ask your press contacts how their organizations are shifting. Being on top of the latest news will help make you a better PR professional in these uncertain times and help you provide the most value to your customers. 

Create a productivity-focused office

Studies show that your environment can have an impact on your ability to focus. As a PR professional, you’ll have a lot on your plate to balance, and with returns to the office becoming more unclear, it’s imperative that you have a space that will support your efficiency. If you find it difficult to concentrate, consider moving your desk to face the window and adding office plants near your chair. This will help you feel refreshed and energized while working. If you’ll be writing a lot, consider purchasing a sofa and colorful artwork to give yourself a soft seating option in your office that offers a more comfortable environment that spurs creativity. Lastly, if you struggle to stay organized, invest in labels and an expandable folder to categorize your paperwork and avoid interrupting your workflow. These small changes can make your home office inviting and help you stay productive as you begin your PR career.

Take online courses

Entering any new field comes with a large learning curve, but this is especially true in the PR field during the pandemic. While you’ll likely be trained by your professional mentors, manager, or team members, you should continue to seek out learning opportunities when you can to make yourself a valuable asset to your organization. And, with virtual learning sessions more widely available nowadays, you have unprecedented access to many insightful speakers and lectures. Use any downtime you have to attend meetings or become certified in different aspects of the field. Organizations like LinkedIn, Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and the Institute for Public Relations have several PR-specific learning opportunities available that can help you get up to speed quickly.

Think long-term

It can be easy for a newcomer to the PR field to be swept up into a crisis. While it’s important to be focused on the short-term response to the changing news around COVID-19, it’s also critical that you don’t forget the big picture of your client’s goals and needs. Take time regularly to take a bird’s eye view of your accounts and plan for post-pandemic strategies. This will help you ensure that you keep your client stay relevant and competitive when current events change.

Entering the PR field at this time is a unique opportunity to get in at the ground level of the changing landscape. Use these tips to ensure you begin your PR career successfully, despite the pandemic.