The PR field is a diverse one. It spans industries, countries and definitions. These six insider tips tell you all you need to know to keep any conversation about PR going.
It started back at university. The blank faces, that moment of hesitation while my fellow students would debate asking me the question:
“So…what is it exactly that you do?”
This was usually the point where I confessed that I studied “something related to media and communications.”
But it was never enough to satiate the inquirer. If anything, even more questions followed.
Spoiler alert: this scenario has carried over into my professional life. When mentioning that I work as an account executive for a global communications agency, the same question pops up again and again.
At first these questions brought me to the point of exasperation. Is it not obvious what a communications agency or PR professional does?
Yet I struggled to explain what my typical day looked like. And I realised that I, too, was continuously learning new things about my industry that I had not previously known.
Having reached my one-year anniversary at REDHILL, I decided to take the opportunity to sum up what I consider to be the pillars of a PR job. I hope this list will help you have better conversations with PR professionals or, if you’re a PR professional, do a better job of explaining what we do.
Press releases used to be a staple of PR. If in doubt, send a press release went the motto. When working as an intern during my university days, 90% of my time was spent writing press releases nobody would ever read. Over the nine months I was there, albeit part-time, I must have churned out more than 20 of them.
In the year I have been working for REDHILL, I have written a total of two. You know why? Because PR does not stand for “press release.” PR is about building relationships, not blasting out press releases to 500 random journalists.
See points 5 and 6 for more on this.
Advising clients is at the core of PR work. That does not mean agreeing to and implementing every plan the client has. It is considering the usefulness and relevance of client intentions to maximise PR value. Strategic advice is guidance and honest counsel on the best path to take. For instance, saying no to a press release and suggesting a more targeted approach instead.
It is rare that a business opportunity will just come to you. Your network, and your network’s network, is the most likely source of new business. Use it and expand it!
For the extroverts among us, this is one of the best parts. You get to attend events, enjoy the free drinks and snacks, and meet people in a relaxed atmosphere.* There is an event for any industry, no matter how niche — so if you are looking for specific connections, do your research!
Which brings me to my next point …
In your university days, social media meant procrastination. In PR, social media is an essential research tool — one that will increase your chances of success.
When you find an article that is of interest to you, research whether the journalist tends to report on the same topic or if this was a one-off. Journalist media profiles and Twitter feeds are helpful resources for this. If the journalist proves to be relevant, take the research further: RocketReach or Hunter can help you find professional email addresses.
Dive into these platforms and find out everything you can about the journalists you want to get in touch with, the outlet(s) they write for, and current trends in the industries you cover.
The last step is personalising your email to them, which should be easy with all the knowledge you have gathered about them.
This lays the groundwork for the next point …
To provide real value to journalists, look at what they have reported. Share stories from your clients with them that may be relevant for their area of reporting. Show that they are not just another name on your media list. Do not think about what journalists can do for you, think about what you can do for journalists.
Media degrees are often discarded as a “soft subject,” at least in my experience. While it may be true that you will not be learning the skills to design Elon Musk’s next rocket, you will learn how to tell people about it.
After all, what would the point of a fancy rocket be if nobody knew about it?
Navigating the media landscape and understanding the science of communication are valuable skills — so much so that clients actually pay you for your expertise. So be proud of your work.
And while there are certainly more than six things to know about the PR industry, one valuable lesson you learn is: keep it short.