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December 21, 2014 / Stephanie Vermillion

Seven Productivity Hacks for PR Pros

Seven productivity hacks for PR pros

Image from Gratistography

Last week over dinner, one of my PR friends mentioned she’d been on a good workout streak lately, but had to give it up because there just weren’t enough hours in the day.

Sadly, she’s not alone. Whether it’s bonding with family, cooking a meal, squeezing in a workout or enjoying the outdoors, I’d wager to guess that most PR pros have “time” on their holiday wish lists.

But it doesn’t sound like the oh-so-desired 26-hour day (my dream!) is coming any time soon. Therefore, we must improvise.

From day one on the job, I’ve been doing some efficiency improvisation, testing out how certain tricks could help me become an in-the-know PR pro. And now, two years later, I think I’m getting somewhere.

So it’s time to share that progress with you. Here are seven productivity hacks I’ve adopted, refined and come to love, and I think you’ll appreciate them, too.

1. Lunch-hour webinars: Once every week, set aside lunch time for an industry-related webinar. If you’re a member of PRSA, you have access to dozens upon dozens of webinars with PR experts. If you’re not part of PRSA, check out the Spin Sucks webinar lineup. They’re free, and the variety of topics will give you a well-rounded education.

2. Podcasts during exercise: Training for a marathon takes up A LOT of time. I’m talking three-hour runs to kick off my Saturdays. Fortunately, those long runs are supposed to be low intensity, which means I don’t need my motivational workout music. Instead, I listen to a long podcast lineup consisting of Marketing Smarts, Inside PR and Media Bullseye Roundtable. It’s a great way to multitask, and I’ve actually found it helps me take my mind of the long miles at hand.

3. Keep a notepad handy – always: Whether it’s your favorite physical notepad, or an app on your phone, always be prepared to crank away at a little work when your day pauses. For example, when I’m waiting in the airport, I have my favorite notebook handy and spend the 30 – 45 minutes before my flight writing down blog post topics, social media ideas, or future campaign possibilities for clients. When I’m in line at the grocery store, I use those few minutes to brainstorm my next blog post lead. Taking advantage of even two or three spare minutes can save you a lot of headache later in the day.

4. Use Feedly: With hundreds upon hundreds of PR blogs out there, it’s tough – and daunting – to stay up on industry news. But it’s also critical. Find your top 10 to 15 blogs and set up a Feedly account. It’s similar to the beloved (and missed!) Google reader. Feedly aggregates all new blog posts into folders of your choosing. It’s my favorite way to start the day!

5. Sign up for the right newsletters: It’s tempting to sign up for every single newsletter out there – but don’t do it. Once you get too many newsletters in your inbox, you’re more likely to become overwhelmed and either delete them all, or star them for a later date (read: until they get auto-archived). Instead, sign up for five or six newsletters you find most valuable (I’d suggest the news-aggregating email service SmartBrief) and leave the rest of the blogs for Feedly.

6. Annotate your to-do list: If you’ve never color coded your to-do list, you should give it a whirl. It’s one of my favorite things ever because it helps me prioritize projects based on deadlines and importance.

For example, when I leave work in the evening, I write down everything to do for the next day. Then, I highlight in pink those tasks I need to crank out early in the morning (usually bigger projects while my brain is still fresh). I use yellow highlights for the quick, 15 to 30 minute tasks that can be finished in the afternoon. If it’s not urgent, I leave it on the list as a placeholder, but without a highlight. Yes, I realize this makes me somewhat of a crazy person, but I’ll take crazy organized over crazy messy any day of the week.

7. Wake up early: There – I said it! The productivity hack that morning people love because they’re probably already doing it, and night owls hate because there’s no way 5 a.m. equals success for them. Sure, it may not be for everyone, but I’ve found waking up even 45 minutes early gives me enough time to read all my 20+ Feedly updates, watch the national morning shows and eat breakfast – all before I step into the office.

But don’t take it from me, take it from Peter Shankman, one of the most successful entrepreneurs out there (and, coincidentally, an earlier riser, too). Here’s his tip list for waking up early every morning.

In the fast-paced world that is PR, we’re constantly looking for ways to stay updated on national news, local news, social media trends, evolving media landscapes, client industries … and the list goes on. These seven productivity hacks have not only helped me stay informed on a variety subjects, they’ve also exposed me to inspiring content that pushes me to think outside of the box, resulting in new, clever ideas for clients and for myself.

Do you have a productivity hack up your sleeve? Please share!


Leave a Comment
  1. twomensacramento / Dec 31 2014 2:53 pm

    Great advice, thank you! I am in the beginning stage of getting too many newsletters. Just joined Feedly 🙂

    • Stephanie Vermillion / Dec 31 2014 6:26 pm

      Yay! Feedly is the best. I usually set aside 30 minutes in the morning to read all the new articles from the past day. If you keep up with it every day or so, it’s easy to maintain. Much easier than newsletter overload. Good luck!

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