No matter what career you’re in, and however much you may love it (the majority of the time) there’s probably one or two aspects where you find yourself thinking…
“They didn’t mention that in the job description!”.
For me, PR wasn’t the thing I sat down with a careers advisor to discuss. In fact, it was an organic side-step from my original choice of journalism.
At the point I entered the field, it was an area I knew about only through the eyes of a media professional, receiving press releases on a daily basis and deciding whether or not to spike them in a brutal news-hound manner.
But the step from journalism into PR is one made by many, and it’s often entirely unchartered territory, just as it was for me.
With that in mind, here’s 10 things I wish I’d known ahead of my career transition.
That calling your former colleagues to chase up on press releases can feel soul destroying…
Yes, as PR types, we inevitably have to chase up on the press releases we send to the media. And with that, comes the follow-through.
As a past journalist you may think everything you send and say is held with much higher respect, but not necessarily so. You’re still one of a number of PR’s ‘selling in’ and any given time, and it can take a big deep breath and a lot of self belief each time you pick up the phone to emphasise your cause.
That PR types are lesser paid business management consultants…
As a PR you quickly understand you’re stepping in to help a brand and business, and in so doing are often wearing multiple hats in the bid to get them on the right track as part of their intended corporate journey.
You’ll learn, however, that being a ‘PR’ comes with less credibility and fee attraction than if you were branding yourself as the management consultant (which is often the role you perform!).
That clients often don’t know what PR or marketing is…
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a call saying someone ‘wants PR’, only to sit down with them and realise that they actually want something a whole lot less PR and a lot more SEO / media buying / website building.
PR is often a cover-all term that a business owner has plucked out of the air assuming it fits with what they need.
That you’ll often be subjected to beauty parades…
I’ve written about tyre-kicker approaches before, but certainly, as a PR you do have to get used to being subjected to beauty parades where businesses pitch you against others and may not even end up commissioning any external support.
It’s a frustrating process but one you find yourself getting annoyingly used to.
That collaboration may seem obvious to you – but not to your competitors…
I favour the concept of collaboration if I think working collectively with other PR and marketing specialists gives a client an even better chance for success.
You do, however, learn that some in your industry ‘fear’ collaboration and see you as a threat. Work with those who respect and trust you. Ensure the feeling is mutual.
That the sector would move at such a pace…
That’s not to say I didn’t realise things would change – of course I did. But it’s surprised me by how much different my daily offering and working practice in the world of PR has become in the last five or so years. My skillset is infinitely much higher and my ability to serve clients so much more finely tuned not only because of my experience but because of the changes in technological delivery and the aspects coming under the PR delivery banner.
That sometimes you just won’t please a client…
We’ve all had it. You know the situation – you wake up to see you’ve got your client a spread in a broadsheet or airtime on national TV, only to find the client is ‘annoyed’ or ‘disappointed’ that the message didn’t come across / that their title wasn’t written correctly / that they weren’t given chance to answer the right question.
Learn to swallow the frustration. It happens. All you can remind yourself is that YOU know you’ve done a good job.
That it would be sooooo difficult to evaluate your success…
The industry still works a lot around AVE measurement, but that alone makes it hard for a client to truly understand the level of your performance.
I’ve built in other ways of explaining my output and time against achievement, but PR can be a difficult space in which to prove tangible benefit if your client is of a particularly ‘tricky’ nature.
That even your family don’t completely understand what you do…
This takes us back to ‘clients not always knowing what PR is’.
You may have to accept that your family and friends don’t really grasp PR.
I think my father still believes I have something to do with recruitment (HR…PR…easy mistake to make).
Accept that unless the people you love have their own business and have always had a marketing-savvy mindset, you might just need to get through mealtimes and family occasions by saying “Yes, that’s right – I drink champagne a lot and attend lots of launch parties, and place adverts the rest of the time…”.
That you are always ‘at least a little bit’ at work, and that your news brain never stops…
This is particularly true of those of us who hail from a news background as a journalist, but yes, sadly, even when you think you’re ‘off work’ you’ll find yourself looking at that campaign, that TV interview or that piece of coverage and thinking ‘I wonder if I could do that for XYZ brand on Monday morning’.
Don’t beat yourself up for this ‘always on’ attitude to PR. It’s why you’re in the game – and it’s what makes you so great at what you do!
**I’m currently looking for new communications and PR projects to undertake, so if you have anything suitable you’d like to discuss, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org