by Rachael Taylor, Junior Account Executive
During the last family reunion I attended, I was asked a lot of typical questions such as, “are you dating anyone” and “how’s your cat?”, but my favorite was “Rachael, what do you actually do at work?”
This brought up an interesting point: most adults wouldn’t ask a teacher or an accountant this question, but the job description of a public relations professional is vaguer and oftentimes, difficult to understand.
After I explained my role to my family member, they asked, “Oh, like Samantha in Sex and the City?” Well, not quite. Another person stated, “Oh you must go to an event every night.” Wrong again.
This interesting situation led me to think, because the public relations industry may not be as widely understood as others, many people often mistake widely known misconceptions of my career choice as fact.
Here are some that I hear on a weekly basis:
“It’s A Usual 9-5 Desk Job”
One thing is for sure, public relations is not the typical “desk job.” We may spend time at our desks monitoring news and writing emails, however, some important tasks like media relations and client support frequently takes us out of the office.
When media coverage is secured for a client, the public relations professional is regularly brought along to the television or radio studio to make the client feel comfortable and to answer any questions.
“Public Relations Professionals Constantly Attend Openings and Events”
TV shows like “The Hills” portray public relations as a glamorous industry filled with parties and events. However, many times this is not the case. These events are more common for agencies involved in fashion, food or entertainment, but not usually for those in the B2B tech space.
When these events do come up, I attend only after a full day of work and spend most of the time networking.
Networking is a very important aspect of public relations. Making connections with other public relations professionals gives you the opportunity to learn from someone that is in a similar role. Networking also helps you meet new clients. You never know what relationship, or a simple hello, may lead to a business deal or media placement.
“You Don’t Have to be Detail Oriented”
As I was entering the “real world,” I was unaware of the need to be detail-oriented.
I have always put care and thought into my schoolwork but turning in a report to a client is a lot more important than turning in a paper to a professor. If a professor finds a typo or a formatting error, he/she may deduct a few points. However, if a client finds a typo or a formatting error, it could mean trouble for the relationship.
As this is so important, I oftentimes proofread a project two to three times before sharing it with my supervisor.
“You Just Need to Be a Good Writer to be in Public Relations”
Public relations is closely associated with writing and journalism. While this is accurate to a point where we do spend a lot of time drafting pitches and releases, the typical, savvy public relations professional is more well-rounded than that.
An average day for a public relations professional could include writing, pitching, researching for media lists and meeting with clients. It is important to have great writing skills in order to do well in the field, but public relations professionals also need to have an interest in news and media as well.
These are some misconceptions that I discuss on an almost daily basis with my friends and family. After doing my best to explain my job, I make sure they know that while public relations can be tough and fast-paced sometimes, I could not imagine being in any other profession.