Have you ever heard the saying, “You can pay for school, but you can’t buy class”? This thought comes to mind when I think about what it’s like working in public relations (PR), but with a slight twist. I’d say that when it comes to PR, “You can pay for school, but you can’t buy finesse.”
By finesse I’m referring to maneuvering and navigating all the quirks of working in PR that they don’t teach you in school (no love lost for my awesome PR professors). So I thought it’d be fun to pull together a list of things they don’t tell you about being a PR professional. Hopefully it can help aspiring PR pros or entry-level up-and-comers ready to take the PR industry by storm.
Practice being a know-it-all
Let’s be honest; being a know-it-all has a negative connotation. Yet in PR, it’s a must. In this profession it’s about being up-to-date on current events. This means staying in-the-know about everything from selfies and sports to Beyonce’s secret album and “The Walking Dead.” Pretty much any hot topic or trend, you ought to know about it. Why? Because as a PR person, it’s your job to know people. Specifically, what gets people talking, what makes them tick and what ways to tap into their emotions. Putting this into practice means you should read. ALOT. Books, magazines, blogs, Twitter, Flipboard…whatever you have to do to be in a constant state of learning. And when you think you’ve read enough, read some more!
Watch out for glory hogs
It never fails. No matter what PR job you have, you’ll have that one person (sometimes two) who seeks to hog all your PR efforts just to make their own limelight shine a little brighter. They’re the colleague always at your desk to tell you about the new initiative they’re involved in or the client who calls you multiple times a week looking for yet another opportunity to get their name out there. I’m not suggesting it’s a bad thing when others share their PR ideas. But when it’s for personal gain instead of the benefit of the organization or brand, that’s when you need to put on the breaks. You’ll be able to spot the glory hog rather easily as their PR ideas tend to have one consistent theme: it’s all about them!
And definitely watch out for PR wannabes
To non-PR people, your profession is a sexy one. Think about it. You’re the gatekeeper between an organization or client and the masses. You coordinate rockstar events that create buzz to help enhance brand awareness. Often, others see this and think PR is all about parties and paparazzi. The next thing you know they’re reaching out to journalists and planning events without your knowledge, hoping to get a piece of the action. Sounds extreme, but I’ve seen it happen. Keep a close eye on these types because as the PR expert, it’s your job to protect and to serve the brand, its key messages and the public’s perceptions. Watch out for PR wannabes who go rogue and could possibly end up tarnishing all your hard work.
Bone up on time management
One of the things I love about PR is that no two days are ever the same. As exciting as this sounds, juggling multiple high-priority tasks and having the ability to shift focus at a moment’s notice takes some getting used to. Learn how to manage your workload so that you a) get stuff done b) have room for flexibility and c) can still relish in and enjoy working your craft.
Be prepared to defend
Ahh! This one’s my personal favorite. The main thing I wish I knew before getting into PR is the amount of public defending I’d have to do on behalf of my craft. Since PR isn’t like sales and other functions where a direct line to revenue can typically be made, clients and organizational leaders frequently need to be reminded of the value of PR. With the amount of data that’s available and tools to measure PR efforts, it’s up to us to deliver. For more on this topic, have a read at my previous post Communicating the Value of PR: Stop Dodging, Start Measuring.
What are some of the quirks about working in the PR industry you wish you’d known before starting your career? Tell me about them in the comments section and how you’re using finesse to navigate and maneuver.
Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a certified news junkie and an aspiring world traveler. Check out Andrea’s back story here then follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carterandrea/.