I loved studying Public Relations as a subject back in university. It all sounded like quite a fun profession, at least within the four walls of the Lecture Room it did…until my first job was as a PR Executive and I realized it was a tough job. Here's a funny meme I came across...
Jokes apart, here's reality:
1. You slog hard to make someone else or something famous
8 hours of your every working day, you work to shed limelight to your client or client’s product. It is a result of your own effort of pitching your story to the journalist and coaxing them that your client gets featured on the cover page or even gets a quarter page clipping in a magazine. Think how selfless you have to be when you sport a genuine smile while you see your excited client reading about himself in that magazine.
2. You blame Sex and the City where Samantha make her PR job seem glamorous
Always on the phone, in demand, dressed immaculately and propped in pencil heels, Sex and the City’s Samantha seemed to have the best job as the owner of a PR company. A self-driven career minded Samantha is seen spending lavishly on dining at the poshest of restaurants when not dating and being flown in to Abu Dhabi to devise a PR campaign! But you realize that was on celluloid. In reality, your job is tough and invitations to fly are if not few, non-existent!
3. Your hands shiver and your heart is in your mouth when your client calls
You see your smart phone buzzing constantly, and no it’s not your mum or your boyfriend. It’s your dear client. What did you do wrong now you begin to wonder! Dreading it, you answer the call. Pat comes a bout of yelling for a goof up you or your team made for having missed out on something no matter how big or trivial. And there is nothing you can do but retort with an apology. After all, it’s the fee your client pays that takes care of the bills of the company you work for.
4. You are so used to hearing ‘get me a full page story’ and you roll your eyes in response
Sometimes clients need to understand the ground reality – what is desired does not necessarily equate to what can materialize. Just because your client wants its product featured in a magazine because he/she thinks it deserves to, does not mean the journalist will think it important enough a piece to feature it. So managing a client’s expectations is a daily battle a PR professional goes through.
5. Your fingers tire of cutting newspaper clippings
I first learnt the word ‘dossier’ in my PR job. At the end of every month, this dossier needs to be prepared which contains all the month’s press clippings with your client mentions/features. This requires you to cut the clipping from the newspaper, scan it and send it to your client and later paste the clipping with gum on a sheet of paper. Now imagine, there could be around hundreds of such clippings in one month!
6. You’ve never read so many newspapers and magazines in your life before
Every morning, you read every paper that’s printed to see if there is any news where your client has got featured or news which would be of relevance to your clients. And only in PR do you realize the sheer number of publications that get printed every day! Your eyes could ache going through each line of every story in every paper. And God bless you if your client finds out about a clipping you’ve missed out on tracking and sharing with them!
7. You have the media in your pocket. Well that’s what the client thinks.
‘I want this journalist to carry my story by hook or by crook!’ says your demanding and delusional client. And you think ‘If I was that journalist right now, trust me, I would not even so much as give your story a consideration’. Remember, that is all you think but in most cases cannot say.
8. You spend more than half your day over the phone pitching and convincing journalists
PR is all about talking, and talking more. It could be in person, but more often than not, you are talking over the phone. Your handset might as well be all you need to set up shop. Journalists are not the easiest people to get on a call. One of your day's biggest victory could easily be a five minute chat with that Editor you've been trying so very hard to get in touch with. And when you do, you sweet-talk them, massage their ego, tell them you love their writing, pitch your story, not push it, but convince them artfully…
9. You have a way with words and ace at writing jargon
You draft client briefs, press releases, crisis statements, profiles, interviews and what not day in and day out. You have to create something magical on paper out of the little you are briefed with. More of than not, you end up writing a note which says the same things but in many different ways – enter jargon!
10. You have mastered the art of fake-smiling and flattery
A PR professional is constantly sandwiched between these two stakeholders, and the nature of their work require them to be on the good side of both, regardless of whether they feel like or not. You have to be good to your client because their retainer foots your company's bills and your salary, so you have always got to be on your best behaviour. And you have to make journalists your best friends, force a smile on your face and compliment them just to get your client's story featured.
A year and a half is how long I worked in PR before I finally switched to marketing. Three jobs, and five years later, I still look back at that job as one of the most thankless and humbling experiences of my career. Kudos to everyone in PR!