Whenever I meet somebody new, at some point the conversation turns to “What do you do?” The question always fills me with dread and a familiar knot forms across my stomach. It’s not because I’m ashamed of what I do, but rather because I know it’s difficult to explain in layman’s terms to people who already have a preconception of what I do. Typically, the answer “I’m in PR” is either met with a glazed look, it’s a complete conversation stopper or it leads to jokes and ridicule.
My paranoia was confirmed by a recent global survey, conducted by the online networking platform LinkedIn, into which jobs parents have the most trouble describing when it came to their offspring’s professions. PR Manager ranks number 7 in the top 10 most misunderstood jobs in Australia. http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/the-most-misunderstood-jobs-in-australia/story-fnkgbb3b-1227115361913
Not surprisingly, 54 per cent of parents in the survey think PRs hang out with glamorous clients and media at swish parties. Now, with no disrespect to any of my clients, many of whom are highly attractive and highly successful people, the idea that we are their glorified party planners is a complete misnomer. The article purports that in its purest form, we cold call journalists with stories our clients want to sell, no matter how interesting that story is. While I spend a large majority of my time liaising with members of the media, I would argue that the true skill is in making that story newsworthy and crafting a human interest angle that makes it interesting.
Taking this one step further, good PRs need to have a thorough understanding of the media, they need to be constantly scanning the news for opportunities to leverage clients and, above all, they need to be able to write well. Otherwise they and their clients may only ever end up in the social pages.