A career in public relations has never been more relevant than now.
Oh, you might think that the internet has made it easier to disseminate information, and to do it far more quickly than has ever been done in the past, and you would be right. But the world wide web has also made the platform more cluttered with content, making it harder to get the message through.
PR still very much has its place.
However, is there a place for you?
Public relations can be a satisfying, and sometimes, lucrative career. But we’ll be blunt – you have to have the chops for it and you have to truly love what you do.
Before we even get the nuts and bolts of what you’ll do with a laptop and a phone, you must possess the personality for it. In short, you need to be a schmoozer. That is, according to the dictionary, schmoozing is ‘talking with someone in a lively and friendly way, typically in order to impress or manipulate them.’ This is where you let your personality shine. You’re outgoing, you’re not afraid to meet new people, you’re good at initiating and carrying conversation. This is the skill set that gets your foot in the door, which in turn allows you to form relationships with people in the media. Those relationships matter - a great deal.
Do you really know what PR is? When you think of PR does your mind drift to fashion week, celebrities, walking the red carpet with them? Yes, there are those publicist - but for the most part publicists are not in the entertainment world. They are pitching products - some exciting and some not so exciting. The key to being a great publicist is being able to pitch anything. It's about relationship building. It's about being creative. Especially now in the the world of P2P (pay to play) PR, influencers who charge for posts, segments that charge - the world of organic PR get smaller everyday.
Are you a "hustler"? Do you work quickly under pressure? Do you know how to turn a "no" into a "yes"? Do you know how to network? Do you enjoy maintaining relationships? Are you thick skinned? Are you ready to intern for experience - real work experience and then work your way up at a firm? Do you want to work for a PR firm with multiple clients or in-house with a brand and managing just their PR?
From there, you’ll spend virtually every day pitching reporters and booking agents, doing what trained, professional PR people do best – putting together brands/products with the public via free media. Or as the Public Relations Society of America said: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
That makes it imperative for you to have your ‘other’ work attributes.
Like communicative skills. NOT communication, communicative. You must be organized, a multi-tasker, a task-master if you’re in such a position, as well as having the ability to adapt, improvise and overcome – because things can and will change at a moment’s notice, usually with no warning and a tight window to re-create your creativity based on client needs.
PR professionals are looking for a series of skills from their employees. You need to be creative and spontaneous enough to come up with great ideas that turn into compelling content. For that, you also need well-defined writing skills and have the diligence to hit deadlines. You need to have thick skin - because you will get more "no's than yes's" and more pitching into a black hole/no replies that might send you into therapy. You have to understand when "following up" is too much or just enough. You need to create a pitch that is newsworthy, interesting, fits the demographic or "beat" of a publication, show and journalist. You need to be an "out of the box" thinker. You need to subscribe to news outlets, the magazines you are pitching so you know what people are talking about to make your pitching relevant. You need to be a great researcher! You need to not only be able to write but write creatively.
There’s more, of course, much more, but that’s just a broad overview of some of the skills you need to go into PR.
Does it sound daunting?
Because it is.
Publicists don't get to shut down at 5pm. It's a round the clock, full time commitment. When you watch a show... do you think - my client should have been in that segment? If you do then this might be the job for you.
PR pros are walking a tightrope between their own firm, the client, and the third party – the media. But the entire concept of public relations is instrumental in the success of a business or brand or product. Remember that. Remember that your personality, your initial relationship-building skills with the media, is the touchpoint to that success.
But when you do get that first placement for a client - there is no feeling like it. Your placement has the ability to change the life of a brand or small business. It puts them on the map and that feeling is unlike any other and you beat out thousands of other pitches for that placement.
If you decide it's what you want to pursue as a career - we wish you all the luck in the world!