Perspective: Top 4 skills for AAE’s

By Jenna Oltersdorf


In any situation, it’s all about perspective, right?

As a fresh-out-college assistant account executive (AAE), I remember many of the challenges I faced. Learning a new craft, working towards another raise and promotion and trying to navigate office life (because let’s face it: office life is its own unique snowflake). Being an AAE was one of the hardest roles in my career.

Fast forward to today and, as I lead our Snackbox team, I’m working to select and groom the next generation of AAEs. There are so many lessons that will shape the rest of their careers. As a 20-something, sometimes its hard to understand the dues you have to pay in order to gain the wisdom to prepare for your future role as senior vice president.

So what are the most important skills you can have as an AAE in public relations?

1.     Knowledge of Media: It’s one thing to be able to run a search in Cision, but what makes a great PR person is taking that media list and researching the reporters to make sure your pitch is spot on. So many trust their research in Cision as the final step in the pitching process. Not true.

Further, understanding lead times is key to success. There’s a difference between pitching a blogger and a national magazine.


2.     Relationships: Keeping a list of your favorite reporters is one of the smartest things you can do as an AAE. Connect with them on LinkedIn, watch them as their careers grow. And always look for pitch angles they can use.  When you start valuing the individual relationships you create, you become a more valued PR person.

Most AAEs won’t be leading teams at this level; however, if you do have any client contact at all, begin understanding your client’s personality, their motivations and how they think. In my opinion, the best PR person anticipates their clients questions and needs in advance of them even having to ask. The better you know your client, the better you’re able to serve their needs and the more valuable your firm is to them.


3.     Creativity: It’s an underrated skill in PR and yet I put tremendous emphasis on it at Snackbox. Creativity is key to a successful pitch campaign and the more “out there” we can get, the happier I am! It may seem like creativity comes easily to some colleagues, while others just don’t get it.  Change your perspective and start working at creativity.

Your brain is a muscle, so exercise it. Write multiple headlines for a news release, find inspiration on Pinterest, push yourself to think beyond the first idea. The more you push yourself to be creative, the more you’ll grow as a PR pro.


4.     Evaluations: Whether your employer has a formal evaluation process or nothing at all, it’s important to be able to objectively evaluate your work performance. Keep a document that outlines your successes and failures, but more importantly, keep track of what made that situation so great (or so terrible). Learn from your experiences and be prepared to talk with your supervisor about them.


Knowledge of media, relationships and creativity are the basics of our craft and consistently evaluating yourself (be honest!) will challenge you to become the best you can be.