If you’re all about getting the job done, and you’re not happy until your client is ecstatic, you might just make one heck of an account executive. But before you make any rash career decisions, read on to see if you’ve got what it takes—we’re betting you do—and if an account executive job is everything you’re looking for.
What exactly does an account executive do?
Whether working in public relations or at a radio station or a pharmaceutical company, an account executive scouts and builds relationships with new clients and cultivates relationships with existing ones.
An account executive is the point of contact for clients and brand teams, often interacting with both daily. Elements of the job include planning and coordinating account activity, including press releases, media pitches, blogger and influencer outreach, press conferences, product samples for editorial placement and promo events, such as photo shoots and videos.
What skills do you need?
“First and foremost, an account executive must be a good writer—it’s non-negotiable,” says Arzu Yonak, owner and creative director of Addicted Youth Public Relations. You have to be able to communicate your client’s message effectively, in a way that’s engaging to the media and target audience.
Good customer service, strategic planning skills, creativity and attention to detail are also important, notes Erin Pieretti, a senior account executive with the Bauserman Group.
You need solid sales skills too. If you’re an account executive at a magazine or TV station, for example, you’re responsible for securing ads, which help keep the publication or network afloat.
Are the skills required of an account executive at a PR firm different than those required at another type of company (e.g., website, radio station)?
The skill set is essentially the same; there’s just a difference in how they’re applied, says Yonak.
If you’re working as an in-house account exec for a company, you’re all about the positioning and strategy of that company’s brand. At a PR firm, you’re likely overseeing various accounts, each requiring its own strategy.
Who is an account executive’s boss?
Each company’s internal structure is different, so hierarchies vary, but an account exec reports to a designated senior account executive, account manager or a department director. In some cases, he may report directly to the director of the agency or the president/principal.
Are there other titles with similar responsibilities?
This may depend on the internal structure of a company. At Addicted Youth Public Relations, for example, account execs are essentially mid- to senior-level publicists responsible for specific accounts.
The role of an account manager is similar to an account executive, though some agencies choose to reserve this title for a supervisory position, someone who oversees a team of account execs.
What do I need to get ahead in this position?
Hard work and dedication. This isn’t a typical 9-to-5 job. You have to be driven. You have to be available to your client and able to work in a fast-pace environment.
You should also be simultaneously creative and strategic—you control your client’s message, so you have to be mindful about what you put out there to ensure the message aligns with the brand.
How can I get my foot in the door?
You’re off to a good start with a degree in business, marketing/advertising, public relations or communications, says Pieretti. And if you want to work at an agency, Yonak adds, your best bet is starting with an internship and working your way up the ladder at an agency or in the media industry to build contacts.
Get a fast-track into working in PR by taking a Mediabistro online course on public relations.