As a recent graduate and newbie to PR who now works for fast-moving and quite demanding startups, many right here in Chicago, I have had to quickly learn how to juggle diverse clients and multiple projects. Thankfully, I have always been an organized person (even in grade school, a brand new notebook and set of fun pencils inspired me). It seems to be working for me, so maybe my ideas to stay organized would work for another startup PR newbie:
1. Make A Fresh To-Do List
Every Monday morning, the first thing I do is make a new to-do list for the week. It helps me remember what I didn’t finish from the prior week along with creating a fresh, clean look to start my week. Monday’s are hard enough to jump into, so I make it easier by not jumping back into an old to-do list.
2. Create a Pitch Calendar
For me, keeping pitches straight can get confusing – which one was sent on which day and which require followups on Tuesday rather than Monday? So I created a pitch calendar. When I send out a pitch I put it on my desk calendar and jump ahead to schedule which days require follow ups. If you like computer calendars better, that works just as well, but I tend to remember better when it’s sitting under my keyboard as a (colorful + fun) glaring reminder.
3. Put Priorities on Post-it Notes
On those weeks that my to-do list runs onto a second page, I make a post-it note of my “top three priorities” for that day. It helps me stay on target when my list gets out of control. Also, the fun colors perk up my mood when it’s a busy day mid-winter in Chicago!
4. Follow Editorial Calendars
This year, the whole office did this by identifying magazines that our clients want to be in and pulled the editorial calendars to see where we could fit them in. I went ahead and put the articles I needed to make note of on my pitching calendar at least two or three months in advance. This helps me to keep track of what publications need what pitch and get it to them ahead of time so they include our clients.
5. Color Code/Specify
I have to admit I haven’t been as good with this one recently, but my final semester this worked like a charm. Each class was given its own pen color in my planner so that I knew what assignment went with which class. I wanted to do this per client, but haven’t stuck to it, so instead I use a type of “ticker” or symbol to let me know what client that to-do is for. For example, if I have a to-do item for our client Insureon, I put “ION” as the first word to categorize it right away. It also helps me scan the to-do list easily for how many things I have going on for any client at any time.
6. Manage Your Boss
I try to communicate clearly with my boss on deadlines to insure that he and I are on the same page with projects. Explaining to your boss how you’re best managed can help, too. For example, I explained how I like to prioritize based on deadlines which then helps my boss when assigning new tasks. Also, instead of always waiting to be told what’s next, I try to create some deliverables for him – such as brainstorming or feedback on my work. Strong communications will only help you grow your skills and reach your professional goals.
In a job where your daily to-do list can go out the window as soon as one email comes into your inbox, these tips have kept me organized and sane during my first six months in the “real world.”
— Sammi Berrafato (Iowa State, btw, class of ’16)