Laura Petrolino

On-the-Job PR Training: Four Lessons from Four Years at Spin Sucks

By: Laura Petrolino | October 30, 2017 | 
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On-the-Job PR Training: Four Lessons from Four Years at Spin SucksEvery year on my Spin Sucks/Arment Dietrich anniversary I write a post to celebrate (because why wouldn’t I celebrate ME?!?).

This year, especially as our business continues to focus more and more on PR training and professional development for public relations professionals, I thought it only fitting to discuss a few of the many, many, many (x infinity), many things I’ve learned in my four years working, learning, and living Spin Sucks.

After all, I’m not only a Spin Sucks team member. 

I’m also a student.

When Work and PR Training are One in the Same

We practice what we preach when it comes to public relations professional development and online learning.

In fact, our entire culture revolves around professional development. 

Gini Dietrich makes sure every team member is provided the resources to make it a priority.

Last week I was thinking about the mere monetary value of the professional development opportunities the Spin Sucks team are provided (as well as some of our part-time contractors).

It’s easily more than $10,000 annually, NOT counting one-one-one mentorship and coaching.

That’s pretty amazing.

Not many organizations can say they offer that level of PR training and professional development investment in each and every one of their team members.

I say this not to brag (ok, sort of the brag, because how in the world did I land such an amazing job, right??!), but to point to the fact that PR training and on-going learning isn’t what we do, it’s who we are.

Four Years of Professional Development Training

It’s impossible to choose just four.

But I tried to bucket them in some major categories.

Otherwise, we’d be here all day.

Better Writing Means Better Communication

My first year here I told Gini I desperately wanted to be a better writer.

Writing has always been something I loved but never thought I was skilled at.

I’m also “right-brained” enough, my writing, while amusing, was often not organized or intentional.

She told me the best thing I could do was to write and write often.

And so I did.

I set aside an hour to write, just write, each day for a while.

I also observed how Gini and other writers I really admired crafted their content.

I didn’t try to replicate but instead take the lessons I learned from them and mold them to work for me.

Then I got the opportunity to write for this Monday morning slot and it allowed me to really focus on intentional writing, and test what worked and what didn’t.

This combined with a better understanding and mastery of how to effectively use keywords and SEO, drive leads through content, and own my voice, helped transform the quality and strategy behind my writing.

In general, I work really hard to make my content intentional, valuable, and effective.

Additional Helpful Resources:

  • Time devoted to writing
  • Our Modern Blogging Masterclass: content creation, keyword, and public relations training online.
  • Several of the free public relations courses online we offer.
  • Andy Crestodina: just him, in general. Sometimes I just stare at his blog posts and try to absorb some of his brains through osmosis. But really, his blog posts are all gold. 
  • AND we just released an advanced content marketing webinar with Gini and Andy to the PR Dream Team. It blew all of our brains right out of the water.
  • Moz: both their tools and their content. Use it. Love it. I no longer write content without Moz by my side, cheering me on.

Further Reading:

PR Measurement is Life: You Accomplish What You Measure

You might be able to make it through half a blog post here on Spin Sucks, before you realize PR measurement is big for us.

  • PR measurement is important externally to show your boss or client how PR drives real business results.
  • PR measurement is important internally to make data-driven decisions about what to do, what not to do, and how to redirect PR strategy to be more effective.

Prior to joining here, I realized and appreciated the importance of measurement.

I reported results to clients and explained to them how things worked and why it mattered.

But I often focused on more vanity metrics and there were only a very few cases I could clearly show how my work from a PR perspective had directly driven business or generated revenue.

When you work here you must be a true student of PR metrics and measurement.

It must be part of your PR training.

And to really be good at it, you can’t just go through the motions and check things off a list.

You need to have a legitimate curiosity about how, why, and what data you need to put all the pieces together.

You need to be a PR measurement detective.

Call yourself “Sherlock Measurement,” if that helps.

What’s been most effective for me is to be hands on. Get into analytics and explore.

Play around and think about what different things mean and why that’s important. And then let that exploration guide your research into the whys.

Additional Helpful Resources:

Further Reading:

How to Be a Real Leader

I’m the type of person who has spent my entire life being put in positions of “leadership.”

(Note quotation marks.)

From the time I was small, anytime I’m placed in a group situation, I’ll end up taking over.

Often by choice.

Sometimes because of some weird, collective group default, which just handed things over to the bossiest person in the room.

And while I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to use the word “bossy,” I’m bossy.

I was bossy when I was three. I’m bossy now.

Randy Hall essentially told me during one of our coaching calls I was addicted to being bossy.

And this is true.

So while I spend my entire life in positions of authority, it wasn’t until I joined Spin Sucks that I learned to actually lead.

Spoiler Alert: Leading, isn’t actually just ruling everything and telling people what to do. I know, right? You don’t even get minions!

Between the daily guidance, mentorship, and observation of Gini, coaching with Randy, and making a lot (A LOT) of mistakes…..I’m still bossy.

BUT, I’m slowly but surely learning how to be an effective leader (I’ve even learned, reluctantly, how to delegate), and that’s something I’m very proud of.

I listened to an excellent podcast on disruptive leadership the other day.

They interviewed Sheryl Sandberg, General Stanley McChrystal, Seth Godin, and Drew Dudley.

General McChrystal mentioned that the only thing you can ever count on when it comes to leadership is you are going to fail at it every single day.

That seems about accurate.

That said, I’d rather be an “OK” leader, who works hard every day to support and cultivate the colleagues around me, than a bossy manager who bulldozes through everyone to get things done.

(Although, I still wouldn’t mind minions). 

Additional Helpful Resources:

Further Reading:

Breaks Make You a Better Professional

How does not working count as PR training?

Before I joined Spin Sucks I hadn’t taken a vacation, a true vacation where no work was done, since college.

I didn’t really understand the value of it and so I worked and worked and worked.

Sure I’d go places and travel.

Visit friends and explore.

But I’d work a bit at night, maybe wake up early, and so on.

We are big on working hard when you are working and NOT working at all when you aren’t.

Ask anyone on our team and they’ll confirm this is something we are very serious about.

Gini will cut you off from email, Slack, and organizational files if you are caught working during vacation.

There is endless scientific data which speaks to the value, and necessity of vacation and mental downtime (like breaks on evening/weekends).

And I can tell you from my own experience, it’s true.

Not working 24/7 makes me better in all ways.

It makes me more creative, more detail oriented, more strategic.

Just better.

I’ve learned how to take vacation since joining the Spin Sucks team.

I’m a much better professional because of it.

Further Reading:

Four Years Down, Zillions More to Go

I learn something new every single day I go to work, and that’s beyond exciting.

And while I’m super lucky to work in an organization which values PR training to an extreme level, everyone can make PR training a part of their on-the-job daily work.

In fact, as PR professionals in a constantly evolving field, in a rapidly changing world, we don’t have any other choice.

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • Dawn Buford

    Four years! Woo Hoo! Here’s to another four. Rock on!

  • WOO HOO! Congrats on your 4-year anniversary, Laura! Many more to come! 🎉 🎉 🎉

    I agree 1000%! Intentional learning makes you a better professional and a better person. Having a growth mindset and always looking for opportunities to improve are the keys to a successful career in PR, and not only.

    • Yes! These lessons apply universally for sure! The day you think you’ve learned all you need to know is really the day you should just quit at life. It’s always amazing to me when I talk to people who say “well I’ve been working on the field for xx years, I don’t need professional development)

  • I really can’t believe it’s been four years. Sometimes it feels like it’s been 20…and that’s not bad. You are my rock, my inspiration, and my outlet. Thank you for everything you’ve done for this organization!

    • Ditto on the rock. I feel pretty lucky to be part of this organization, and thankful to have the leaders we do on the Spin Sucks team.

    • OMG! I missed these last few comments! I’m so glad I came back over here to double check. Thank you so, so much. For this wonderful comment and, moreso, for serving all the same roles for me. I feel so lucky to have some how found an amazing career and an even better friend as part of this job. <3 (And it DOES feel like 20….in a really good way.)

  • This is great. And true >> Andy Crestodina: just him, in general. Sometimes I just stare at his blog posts and try to absorb some of his brains through osmosis. But really, his blog posts are all gold.

    Someday I hope someone refers to me (in a professional, though-leadership capacity) as that “him. Just him” person.

    • LOL! I appreciate you added in “in a professional, thought-leadership capacity,” just to be safe. We don’t need women flooding our site in hopes of some Mike “eye candy”

  • Debbie Johnson

    These are great resources, Laura. Thanks so much for sharing. I am going to incorporate a lot of these into my professional development.

    And I love that Gini makes everyone vacation. I wish more people would follow her lead.

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