“What do you actually do?” is the typical response of my parents when I try to explain to them what I am majoring in. PR is a misunderstood field and most people, even students majoring in PR, are not quite sure what this industry entails. Yet, as society becomes more digitally involved, PR is increasingly important.
While most people believe PR is filled only with red carpets, luncheons and glamorous parties, working in PR takes hard work and commitment. Receiving an internship at Fox Searchlight Pictures, I became aware that the “real world” is much harder than it looks. Here are five truths about working in public relations that I wish I had known prior.
There is much more to PR than what appears on television
Upon hearing the expression “public relations,” most everyone has a preexisting bias of what this entails. Characters such as Samantha from “Sex and the City” or Olivia Pope from “Scandal” appear in our minds. Yet, this image portrays public relations professionals as those who solely spin the truth and attend luxurious events. In reality, PR is a multifaceted industry. In order to become a high-ranking PR professional, one must have around 3-5 years of previous agency experience. The public relations field requires attention to detail, management skills and a great deal of research. One of my favorite things about PR is the ability to be creative, however, communication strategies and campaigns are being increasingly influenced by data. Research, case studies, press releases and media relations are all important facets in public relations and balancing all of these takes devotion and hard-work.
Patience is key
While public relations is often referred to as a fast-paced environment, what people do not tell you is that patience is necessary for success. Paul Blanchard, founder and principal consultant of media consultancy, Right Angels, commented, “PR is not a sprint…PR is a marathon in which persistence and tact pay off.” Campaigns take time to grow and media pitches often require patience for completion. While the world of public relations is ever evolving, public relations professionals need to be aware that changes do not happen overnight.
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable
The best thing about public relations is that no two days are alike, but this can cause unwanted stress. This means you cannot slack off. Staying up to date with trends in the marketplace, while also maintaining your tasks, is crucial. According to Marsh, Guth and Short (2017), “Well-run organizations have goals consistent with their values. To reach those goals, the organizations often need resources that they do not control.” Because you cannot control what your clients or employers say or do, it is your job to use integrity to overcome every obstacle that comes your way.
Rejection is common
The field of public relations is competitive. Involvement in clubs and completing an internship will not land you a job. While internships sometimes turn into job opportunities, this is not a guarantee. You must be an opportunist by reaching out to connections or your boss to share your ideas. Having thick skin is essential. Jon Smart, head of public relations and content for Purpose Media, commented, “Good PR is about maintaining good relationships with the media and understanding why your stories might not get covered, so you can explain this to your bosses or clients, and refine your strategy for next time.”
Organization is crucial
Working at Fox Searchlight pictures, I came to find that managing multiple projects can be stressful. Because PR is fast paced, handling several projects for multiple clients can be overwhelming, especially when deadlines need to be met. Keep your calendar up-to-date and prioritize. Make notes of which items are urgent and which tasks can take longer to be completed, as sudden changes in the industry are common.
While PR is constantly misinterpreted, public relations is a demanding and rewarding field that constantly keeps you on your toes. It is rewarding to know that through an important message one can bridge a gap between a company and its target audience.
What other realities have you found in the field of public relations? Follow me on Twitter to share your personal experience!