Raising Your Hand Isn’t the Only Way to Get Noticed

Female office worker holding pile of paperwork, gesturing with handAt any stage of our PR careers, most of us have our eye on the next rung of the hierarchal ladder. Chasing after the next promotion isn’t the only reason we give everything we have to our clients, but let’s be honest, we didn’t jump into the sandbox to avoid building a castle. When I entered the PR world, I thought the clearest path to an upwardly mobile career was to raise my hand for every new project, taking on as much as I could.  Taking this approach puts you in the position to be the one to secure that big placement, execute on a massive client program or contribute to a new business win. Of course all of these things make us tick, make us challenge ourselves and they’re viewed pretty positively by our bosses. Sounds like a pretty good plan, right?

For the most part, it is. Being perceived as a reliable go-getter that will do whatever it takes to get the job done can’t be a bad thing and it’s a trait in PR pros that I truly respect. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t separate you from the pack as much as you think. Anybody can raise their hand (not that everybody does), there are only so many projects to go around and to raise your hand, you need to wait for somebody to ask for your help. The other option is being a go-getter that works smart. Working smart means taking a big step back to identify the various ways you can not only benefit your career, but also your employer and/or your clients. Here are a couple ways that you can stand out from the crowd instead of just raising your hand.

Be Known for Something

When your boss says, “We need to get so and so’s insight before we do anything” or “We need to have so and so work on this project to be successful,” that’s being known for something. PR fundamentals aside, there are several way to be an expert on something. For example, you can be an industry/discipline expert (consumer, B2B, technology, non-profit, internal communications and digital communications), which means you have a deep understanding of the competitors and players in the space, media outlets that are applicable and of course, relationships with editors or reporters that you can leverage. To name a few others, you could be a go-to person for things like monitoring tools, graphic and presentation development, writing, etc.  Over the past several years, the sexy thing to be known for is your prowess in social media. I hope you’ve paid a little attention to that one.

Create Something New

Every year, I tell myself that I’m going to develop one new program or project. This year I started my own little Posterous. In the past I’ve created more agency-centric programs. The benefit of creating something on your own besides getting credit for doing it in the first place is that you will likely manage it moving forward, and as it grows, so will your management opportunities. The important thing is that you don’t bring something to the table just to do it, make sure that when you do that you present a strong business case for doing it. Creating something new for your company is an indicator that you’re contributing to the growth of the company and an active participant in its long-term strategy.

Refine a Program

We’ve all had to deal with the frustration of an inefficient or broken program. It could be a clip report process or the way research is done for a new project or the way your company hires interns. No program is too big or small to fix. These problem programs slow you down, give you a headache and ultimately, keep you from pursuing opportunities that could benefit your employer or client. Identify the issue and figure out a solution that makes the program more efficient and productive.

Bring in Business

Duh, right? Besides doing stellar work that keeps clients around, nothing will make you stand out more than increasing revenue. Find ways to bring in new business or organically grow the relationship that you already have with existing business partners.

I’ll cut it off there since I’m sure Cog will call me long-winded again if I go any longer. What have you done in your career to stand out?

Alex’s postings on this site are his own and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of GolinHarris or those of GH clients.

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  • As an intern, I think we're breed at a young age to learn how to always raise our hands so we can gain more and more experience. I think that “intern” mentality can find its way into entry-level PR jobs as well. However, as an advertising major in PR internships, I've learned to leverage my graphics and visual communication skills to my advantage and often become “that person.” Hope its applicable in the real world too 🙂

  • arikhanson

    Love this post, Alex. I can't help but think of our friend, Chuck Hemann here. Chuck really carved out a niche as a go-to digital measurement guy online this year. I watched him evolve right before our eyes. It was incredible. And now, it led to a new job.

    One idea that's worked with me in the past. Not getting the opportunities you'd like at work: Make them on your own time/schedule. Just because your boss says you can't do something doesn't mean you can't. Find opportunities outside the workplace. Volunteer. Work for your church. Freelance. Never take no for an answer and, like you said, work “smart.”


  • Arik – thanks very much for the shoutout here. It's always nice to be recognized for a contribution, whether that contribution is online or off.

    Alex – I'm pretty brand new to PRBC (sorry), but I've already subscribed because of posts like this. Great thoughts. What I think you've outlined here is the importance of adding value to any request that you receive. Receiving a request, and then satisfying it are fine but will likely result in you getting passed over by other colleagues. Whether the value is completing the request in a more timely fashion, or even finding an error in a press release before it gets issued, determining how you can add value to a request is a critical skill for all PR pros.

  • “Over the past several years, the sexy thing to be known for is your prowess in social media.”

    I don't know if “sexy” is the word for it, but I know what you're talking about. Just a quick word of warning: when you become the “social media” person in the office, you often become the de facto tech support person. Don't you know, SM peeps? You're in charge of the ENTIRE internet! I would recommend pasting this to your wall: http://xkcd.com/627/

  • I love this post! You are so right, and it just reminds of the idea that going through the motions makes you deserving of something. Just offering to do projects (ahem, your job!) does not make you special. Going the extra mile and taking initiative makes you stand out, you have to work hard if you want to advance.

    I'm no Chuck Hemann, but I've tried to carve out my niche as a measurement fiend in the social media world. I focus my blog on measurement and I tweet about it, and I just try to learn as much as I can. Basically, a big part is to just show your true passion and desire to learn and grow. It will take you far.

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  • Rebecca – that's awfully nice of you to say, but I'd say you are successfully carving out a nice for yourself in the measurement space as well. Keep doing what you're doing. You rock.

  • Alex,

    As a PR firm owner and manager, I can tell you from experience that all of the above will get one noticed.

    New business, however, is a differentiator for obvious reasons. If you can bring in your share over time that can not only cure a lot of ills, but it makes sure that you can rise above the pack.

    Great post,


  • Great point, Arik. From a much broader career perspective, seeking out opportunities that exist outside of the office can be just as much of a differentiator for you. Also, I don't like the answer, “no” very much either.

  • Chuck – I'm pretty new to PRBC, at least as a contributor (this was my first post here!). This crew has put together an amazing collective of insightful folks and it shines through in their posts.

    I agree with you, its important to always evaluate how you're adding value in everything you do whether it is part of a project you're handed or if its an initiative you've identified as something you want to tackle proactively.

    Everybody – Chuck's great work is bringing him to Texas, so clearly he's figured out a recipe for success.

  • Amen!

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