As PR professionals, we have a thousand things on our plate at once. We have to manage not only the workload, but the expectations of those that served up those priorities. Balancing what clients or our bosses want done, along with all the other things that have to be done, can be challenging. Especially when some of the things we have to do are outside our comfort zone, hard, or just plain boring.
So how do you know what to do first, or to spend the most time on? First, you have to understand the expectations of those that assigned these projects or tasks to you. And you have to appreciate how these projects or tasks fit within what they are trying to accomplish or do. You will never be able to do this if you look at your list of things to do as a simple list; like a grocery shopping list, that you can just check off items as they go into your cart.
Sometimes the simplest, most boring, or hardest task on your to-do list is the lynchpin for whatever someone else has planned. For instance, updating a press list is boring grunt work. But if you put it off or only give it a surface review instead of actively looking for new contacts and making sure existing contacts are right, then you and your boss are screwed when an unexpected announcement comes up and you don’t have the right people to pitch.
Or let’s say you have to write a release that maybe you haven’t really taken the time to understand what it is supposed to help accomplish. Maybe the release seems to you like just another release in a series of releases on your plate. So it slips and you spend your time doing other important things that are more fun/interesting/rewarding like pitching, writing a blog, or working on an upcoming event. And that release slips, then slips again. And what you don’t know, or don’t appreciate, is that this specific release is critical for a couple reasons that you didn’t consider. Maybe it’s going to help the company reiterate a product’s contributions to the market during an important customer negotiation cycle. Maybe it’s to help alleviate internal pressures from a squeaky wheel that happens to have the CEO’s ear.
There can also be external factors that impact how you view your list of priorities. Say for instance, you have to pitch for an upcoming product announcement but don’t yet have buy in on the list of media you want to pitch. Maybe the person you’re waiting on is focused on a hundred other things, or maybe they are just passive aggressive and don’t care that you don’t get what you need to be successful. That sucks but happens all the time. You’ve emailed them once or twice and not heard back. So you wait, and then work on other things. You know that your client has clear objectives that you might not meet because of the delay, but you still wait, never picking up the phone to call the person or reaching out to your client to ask for help or reset expectations. In this case, you probably understand how this specific project fits within the priorities but aren’t doing what you need to do, because it might be uncomfortable or awkward to raise the issue.
The bottom line is you’re on the hook for these priorities and it’s easy to get waylaid by someone else’s actions or your own preferences about what you’d rather do, than what you need to do or should do. That has to change or you’ll be stuck in a cycle that you can’t win. Only you can raise your hand and change things so either you understand better how things fit, or your boss/client understand why their priorities have to shift.