Public Relations has long been associated with other “sexy” industries like event management and fashion - full of cocktails, shows, celebrity gossip, etc. Although this sounds like a dream job for fans of popular culture, more often than not the image is a facade.
So let’s dispel some myths and save a few young PR-folk heartache later down the line:
You need patience
PR is often quoted as being a “fast-paced environment.” The only thing fast-paced about PR is the speed at which you’re expected to produce work. Campaigns take time to find traction. Social communities take time to grow meaningfully. Media pitches can take time and effort to come to fruition. PR is a process. You know who makes a media splash overnight? Murderers, kinky celebrities and natural disaster victims.
Social media is more than just Twitter and Facebook
This wasn’t an issue “in my day” because we didn’t have social media. Well the Americans had started using MySpace but it hadn’t fully taken off here. Anyway, the fact that the two main channels have become such a huge part of our daily communications behaviour makes it easy to see why the lure of spending your days writing status updates and tweeting might sound appealing. Reality is you’ll more than likely spend your time fighting online fires from unhappy Joe Bloggs, writing staff policies, trying to decipher insights in a way Board members will find meaningful and explaining to your boss/clients why LinkedIn is different from YouTube is different from Flicker is different from…
The hardest part of your job will be the most important part
PR has always involved media relations and despite fears over the decline in printed publications and online paywalls, news media remains one of the public’s most trusted sources of information. After all, that’s what separates PR from advertising and marketing. Our job isn’t just about increasing awareness, it’s about gaining credibility and retaining reputation. Mainstream media coverage is still one of the most effective ways of achieving that goal. Competing for column inches or TV time isn’t easy though, especially when what your promoting isn’t the most exciting thing in the world.
You need to write. Well. REALLY well
You don’t have to be a novelist, but if you can’t write a compelling letter, research a product leaflet or most importantly, produce a good press release, then you shouldn’t be in PR. Have problems with people misunderstanding your tone in emails? Find it hard to retain brand personality while including the important information in just 140 characters? Not able to infuse excitement and storytelling into a press release off the top of your head before your first cup of coffee? You got 99 problems… And they’re all PR.
You need an interest in politics
Public Relations and Public Affairs are two very different disciplines. Although similar in characteristics and skill set, no one in each camp would claim to be able to do the other’s job. Until you’re asked to. Which could be quite often. Some clients won’t hire a PA consultant but will expect you to invite locally elected representatives to events. And then “woo” them. Which is essentially lobbying. Likewise, in-house PROs will be expected to be Jack-of-all-trades so don’t be surprised if a CEO asks you someday to lead a campaign aimed at changing a law or investing in services. If you don’t know your birthday parties from your political parties you have homework to do.
You had better like design too
Again, this isn’t a requirement of PR and it doesn’t mean you have to be able to draw, but design rears it’s head. A lot. Although most in-house folk will source graphic design services in the same way many agencies hire them in, you’ll often find yourself being asked opinions on logos, talking managers through poster layouts or signage and you might even be asked to head up an entire rebranding exercise from initial research to launch. When budgets are squeezed you’ll even end up tinkering about in Photoshop yourself. Or editing videos in iMovie. And regularly, you’ll hurt your brain trying to find novel things to do with props in photo calls to avoid the cliche “suits-line-up.” Or even worse, people holding things. There’s a whole Tumbler dedicated to one of our very own stars in this field.
Survival in PR requires copious amounts of coffee. Balls (even for the laydeez). And the odd pain killer.
But it ain’t half fun!