Get into PR and I guarantee two things. Family and friends outside of the media will never understand what you do. And to rise to the top, you will need to work/network your arse off.
PR is not for everyone. Ever the need to be the mediator, you’re likely to receive flak from journalists because of clients, and from your client because of circumstances beyond your control.
But mainly it’s exciting. Always varied. And at a recent PRCA event I tried to inform the next generation of PR folk on what they can expect. Here are three of the most common misconceptions:
1. PR is one long list of parties
OK, so there’s Cannes Lions. Oh, and Ad Week Europe for those of us in media/advertising. But that’s about… actually, how could I forget SxSW. However, those who think the role is endless alcohol-drenched soirées have not spent weeks researching a plan for a campaign, only for it to get pulled at the last minute. It can feel like half of your time is spent justifying what you’re spending the other half of your time doing. Slight exaggeration maybe, but your administrative skills need to be sharp. Prioritising double-digit task lists is key. Get it done, accurately, and move on to the next.
2. Public relations is all about spin
The phrase covering a turd in glitter comes to mind. Malcolm Tucker-style tirades. Bullshit artists right? Not quite. PR is actually about honesty. Holding a mirror up to a client and persuading them to become a better version of themselves. Journalists are rightly cynical when speaking with PRs. But once you establish a relationship with those in the media and remain truthful, your words carry a new sense of value. So earn the right to be listened to. And demand the tools you need to deliver great coverage for clients. Ultimately both will respect a frank and open discussion. Take what clients want to say and couch it in terms the media will find newsworthy and the bridge is built. More translator, less salesman.
3. The customer is always right
Like a patient who doesn’t listen to their doctor, or gym bunny who ignores their trainer’s advice; those who disregard counsel will never get healthy. So focus on your relationship first and the rest will follow.
We can only prescribe the solution, it’s then those clients willing to invest the time that will reap the media rewards. No quick fixes I’m afraid. The best advice I’ve had is that clients will forgive mistakes if you’re straight with them. After all, who wouldn’t want to work harder for someone who shows measured compassion; everyone loves a redemption story, right?