Four Ways That Being In Public Relations Is Like Being a Backup Singer

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When I first watched the 2013 documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” I was captivated by the storytelling, the history, and the music that made it an Oscar-winning film. I also felt some personal connection to the characters, and I couldn’t help but see their relevance as metaphors for the public relations profession, at least as I know it.

In my experience, being a PR professional has been all about working outside of the spotlight to make others look good. Rather than a Flavor Flav-type hype man, if the client is the “star,” then in many cases I’m the “backup singer,” adding detail, accentuation, and the necessary ideas to flesh out a plan or initiative and make it feel complete. In that spirit, here are four ways that being in PR is like being a backup singer.

1. You work to make the star shine brighter

There’s no doubt that public relations takes talent to perform well, but you’re always applying your skills to draw the attention to the main attraction, whether that’s an individual, a business, or a product. It’s a role we play mostly anonymously. Some PR folks do become rock stars in and of themselves, like Richard Edelman or Peter Shankman to their Luther Vandross/Sheryl Crow counterparts, but it’s clear that they’ve succeeded on the merits of their core work ethic in addition to their talent.

2. You understand what can be accomplished as part of a team

There are great independent practitioners out there, but nobody works in a complete silo, especially those of us at agencies. When you have colleagues that you can bounce ideas off of, share insights with, and talk through problems with, it’s possible to work at a different level than you can alone. As recounted in this Washington Post article on the movie, a festival-screening participant addressed director Morgan Neville, saying; “Most of us work collaboratively, for bosses, in positions we’re proud of and which are key to the successful running of an operation, creative or otherwise.” I believe this is true no matter how talented you are.

3. It’s the depth and details that sell the story

What would “Young Americans” be without the backup singers? Would “Walk on the Wild Side” even be considered a classic if not for the “do do do’s”? Let alone the wailing of Merry Clayton in “Gimme Shelter”? The details and the hooks brought out by the backup singers add richness to the story of the song, and are often what sell it to the listener. In much the same way, PR professionals find the information that substantially transforms an ordinary pitch, press release, or piece of marketing content into something much more valuable.

4. Success is defined by the love of the art

As Merry Clayton says in the film, “there’s no guarantees in entertainment,” and the same is true in public relations. We can’t guarantee a media placement. We can’t guarantee the messaging will be relayed verbatim, or even accurately. We can’t guarantee an article run date. But we can guarantee putting in the time and critical thinking and creativity to make sure a client’s goals are achieved to the best degree possible. Every one of the best public relations practitioners I’ve worked with has had many times where things didn’t work out as planned, but they’ve continued to persevere in the industry because of their integrity and their work ethic. What keeps a true PR pro going is the inspiration of helping to get a story told, just as delivering the music drives the singers in the film.

Public relations has its ups and downs, just like any job. We work not to garner accolades, but to provide a foundation for communications and often guide the direction for clients. It’s a presence that is felt and is vital, yet when executed properly is hardly noticed. By filling in the details, public relations ensures that the background is developed, providing complete harmony instead of an awkward silence.

Adam Leiter is a PR professional with ab+c Creative Intelligence, responsible for the strategic development and implementation of communications programs for clients in a variety of industries. Working with a team of communications professionals to earn media opportunities for accounts including B2B, B2C, non-profit, and civic engagement programs, he seamlessly weaves in social media strategies, digital services, and creative development to ensure an integrated marketing program on behalf of clients.

*This post was previously featured on LinkedIn.

 

Ready. Set. Collaborate – Five Ways PR is a Team Sport

Word PR.Working in public relations is as exhilarating as it is demanding. I can say with assurance that no two days are alike and that a career in this field promises to keep you on your toes at every turn. Most would agree that PR is for those who prefer to create their own destinies, blaze their own trails. There’s plenty of opportunity for this in our field, and that’s why we love it, right?

Sure, but as much as PR allows us the creative freedom to come up with ideas that’ll knock the socks off of our key audiences, PR is very much a team sport. Here are the top five ways.

Teaming up with customer service
In nearly all organizations, there is a segment of the team dedicated to one audience and one audience only: the customer. Since, ultimately, it’s the job of the PR person to attract more of them, you better believe that the customer service team is a key player in the success of the PR team. No need to be a mind reader when your fellow team members are talking to the customers day in and day out; getting to know their needs, their wants, their pain points and so much more. So what do you do? Turn that information into fuel for awesome PR campaigns and strategies.

Collaborating with designers
Once you’re ready to implement a campaign idea, it’s likely that you’ll want some creative assets to go along with it. In the visual storytelling age in which we now find ourselves, having a talented graphic designer on your side is priceless. Whether it’s creating an image to add to your press release or turning facts and figures into a beautiful infographic that can be shared across the web, a graphic designer can add tremendous value to the success of a PR team.

Tapping the stats guy (or gal)
Speaking of stats, nowadays we have more and more companies with a dedicated team member (or an entire team) who simply does data all day long. This is great news for the PR team because we all know journalists love data. Everything from customer trends and company growth to website traffic and Google Analytics; the data guys and gals are on it. Another reason you want to stick by the data miners is to help show and tell the value of PR and how it’s impacting the bottom line. For more on this subject, check out the previous blog post Communicating the Value of PR: Stop Dodging, Start Measuring.

Working with in-house experts
As PR people, we’re usually fielding media requests and coordinating interviews for others. Whether you’re on an in-house PR team or on the agency side, collaboration with your internal experts and thought leaders is a must. Successful teamwork requires more than just setting up time with reporters. It means collaborating on story ideas and PR opportunities that match the person’s expertise and that align with the organization’s goals and key messages.

Cooperating with journalists
Finally, we sync up with journalists to bring value to our respective audiences. Media pitching an idea and working with a reporter to bring a story to life requires input that meets the needs of both sides. On the one hand, reporters have a story to tell. On the other, PR pros have key messages to deliver to their target audiences. The happy medium is a story that adds value and brings something new to the audience.

What are some of the other ways you see PR as being a team sport? Would love to read about them in the comments section!

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/.