Claire Lister explains why you need to enhance your creative thinking and marketing skills

The administrative world is continuously changing, roles are fluid in description, and responsibilities vary. Boosting your skills and integrating yourself more and more closely into the business is a smart move – but when deciding what skills to boost it can be tricky to focus.

We recently put a talk on at Office* where we covered how a Assistant can become a PR  – it went down so well we thought we’d share some of the insights more widely with you here, as it seems this is an area in which many Assistants are already being asked to up-skill.

One common theme that will always play a part your job description is ensuring your executive, the business and teams always look good. If you can step into the shoes of a marketer and publicist you’ll be more invaluable than ever.

Imagine if you could develop your skills helping you to use your knowledge to:

  • Support the publicity of your executive
  • Channel your knowledge into creative ideas which will get you, the business and your executive noticed
  • Establish processes within the business that boosts the company’s marketing efforts
  1. Why Assistants should have a knowledge of PR

First let’s look at why PR fits so well within your role:-

  • You could potentially stop PR disasters in their tracks, as you could be the one who foresees situations arising, and can then plan how to manage them
  • You are an expert at communicating and getting people to do what you want – this is a transferable skill, and one that is essential when the media want a piece of your executive
  • If you’re the gatekeeper, you will most likely willingly or unwillingly be the first port of call for media should any ‘trouble’ hit the fan. You need to know how to handle these calls and how to protect your executive and the business
  • You have many existing skills – diplomacy, managing tricky situations, spinning several plates – you look after the PR for your executive already without even realising it
  • You may need to liaise with external agencies as part of your role, and as the middle man you are a key cog, a doer who can facilitate their ideas and vision, and a lynchpin who can keep an eye on what value they are providing the business
  1. Why you make a great undercover PR… Why you are the best person to identify PR opportunities

Getting to the bottom of PR and Marketing opportunities is just like being a detective. You need to dig out the story, piece together broken up information and get under the skin of seemingly uninteresting situations to uncover stories you can tell.

All of those board meetings, corporate events, 121s with your executive – seemingly day to day occurrences, are hiding a multitude of secret PR and Marketing opportunities – they need to be revealed. Consider it your mission.

So, what makes a good detective?

Strong intuition, patience, good observational skills, a logical mind, and working with others, gaining their help to shed light on clues and scenarios. Check.

Think about:-

  • Who knows best what makes your executive tick? You
  • Who knows the most about the business? You
  • Who can help push the business forward by getting it talked about? You

Yes you can, even if you don’t think it’s within your skill set.

You have the following at your disposal:-

  • Your 360 view of the business, tapped into the tone of the business
  • Your position of trust and high level of insider information
  • The ear of your executive – something marketing and PR agencies would give their right arm for
  • Your existing communication and project management skills
  1. So what are you looking for?

 If you come across any of the following in your day to day work, a flag should go up, as any of these could be PR & marketing opportunities for the business:-

  • New team members joining
  • New products being launched
  • Topical debate in the news that your executive could contribute to
  • Community/charity involvement as part of CSR activity
  • Award wins to prove your credibility
  • Company milestones that showcase growth, history, expansion
  • Customer stories that highlight the need for your product
  1. How you can add value by enhancing your skills

 We believe you could get started exploring this role extension pretty much straight away as there are many things that you already do that you could adapt to be PR & Marketing friendly. Have a think about what communication channels you could adapt/improve to benefit the business. Think about what information you are privy to and how you could generate new ideas from this. It’s time to open up your eyes to PR opportunities, and trust me, they’ll be everywhere!

  1. Telling the story

Once you have established that you have information worth sharing (and have gone through the right channels to get approval on releasing it!) next consider how you want to communicate this.

 Tapping into the media

Some stories will be press worthy. What they media will expect is a press release which is a standard way they are used to receiving information. There are lots of press release templates available online so help is at hand.

The important things to remember when dealing with the press are: they are busy; they can be a bit grumpy; you need to ensure you have a strong story that they will find interesting and are not wasting their time. Make sure you know their publication well before sending them anything, then you can talk to them about why your story will fit.

Using social media

Once you have a story, sharing it on social channels can massively increase its reach. Drip feed bits of information, link to any media coverage and tag people in your sector who might find it interesting – this way they’ll help you share your news too.

Considering wider communication channels/marketing and PR activity

Don’t forget the basics of company newsletters, intranets, blogs and mailers. These are all valuable ways of spreading information once you have a story worth sharing. The best impact you’ll get is when you use a mixture of the above channels to reach people in multiple ways.

  1. How to get started

 Once you’re hooked on this being a progression route for you, you need to make it happen.

Ways to get started include:-

  • Getting some formal training – an online course is a great way to build up new skills at a pace to suit your current workload and lifestyle
  • Working with a mentor – see if there is anyone in the business you can shadow to learn from, or a supplier you could work closely with
  • Adapting ways of working to create processes that will feed you PR information
  • Being good at PR and Marketing also requires creativity – but worry not – it’s not as hard as it seems:-

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.”- Steve Jobs

“You can’t have good ideas unless you’re willing to generate a lot of bad ones.” – Seth Godin

Joann, Assistant to the board of directors at Pitman Group says “I completed the Executive Secretarial Diploma with Pitman, and chose an elective course of Marketing Essentials. This coupled with my position within the business, and access to senior members of the company, mean that I am ideally placed to signpost PR opportunities.  I enjoy what is essentially a new area of expertise for me and hope to get more involved in marketing in the future as a result of my studies.”

Whatever route you decide to go for when up-skilling I wish you the best of luck, as an Assistant who evolves is an Assistant that succeeds. Go for it!

Claire Lister is the former Owner of Pitman Training Group ( Pitman is a market leader in the PA and secretarial training industry, delivering exceptional results for tens of thousands of students each year. Pitman also provide ... (Read More)

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