In my experience, when PR is mentioned to people outside of our industry, a common reaction is “Oh… just like Samantha Jones!” – the character’ in the popular TV series ‘Sex and the City.’ As with any profession, the field of public relations has its share of public misconception. This is often thanks to inaccurate portrayals in the media, which suggest that PR is all about dining at the fanciest restaurants with clients, attending the most prestigious, swankiest events and receiving lots of free goodie bags in the course of the average day.
Of course, the truth is far less glamorous and much more prosaic. Public relations executives function almost entirely behind the scenes. Effective PR is not about fluff, it is about substance. To be really successful in the field, you have to be dedicated and love what you do, putting up with long hours, lots of weekend work and – in many cases – little thanks from demanding clients. Public relations requires a specific skill-set from its practitioners, including strong writing skills, strategic thinking, the ability to persuade, excellent communication abilities and creativity. The often cited ‘party planning’ aspect of PR work from those not completely au fait with the industry is by far the smallest facet of the PR professional’s activities.
Coming from a banking background as I do, the world of PR is a great deal removed from my previous responsibilities that involved dry statistics and lots of work with spreadsheets. You can say that I have undergone a sharp learning curve! My journey as someone relatively new to the PR industry has seen me acquire new tools as my friends. ‘Google Alerts’ and ‘Cision Point’ are essential to me now, as are media titles and publications I would never have previously considered picking up. I’ve learnt that it’s crucial to let clients know of any breaking news as soon as possible, which means that I am always keeping an eye open for coverage. Sometimes I feel when I am at home or out having some well-deserved leisure time that I’ve actually never left the office. Whenever I read a newspaper or see an industry-related article – wherever I may be – my mind is right back at work, planning up a new strategy. Sure, office hours might well be 9am until 6pm, but as far as your client is concerned, you are available 24/7. Doesn’t sound so alluring and attractive now, does it!
It can be frustrating when people don’t seem to really understand what you do as a PR professional. However, you can always set the record straight by spreading the news far and wide about your true responsibilities. Blogging is a great way to do this, enabling you to disseminate the reality of the PR world. That is why I have decided to share my thoughts and insights about my PR journey using Cicero & Bernay’s blog. No, I’m not Samantha jones and no, my life is nowhere as glamorous as hers!