Next in our series of blog posts from Group Gordon’s summer interns, Hyunji Ward challenges common myths about public relations with evidence from her first experiences in the industry. 7.23.15
In the stress of hunting for a position in the professional world, either as a recent grad or an intern, it can be difficult to distinguish between different career paths. For those whose studies don’t necessarily point to a specific career path, finding something relevant to your experience and education can seem all the more daunting.
Many young people choose the PR world for their first professional forays and job opportunities in the field are growing. But the reality is that many are still unsure of what exactly ‘Public Relations’ means.
Thinking back to my own misconceptions about PR before starting an internship in the field, here are some common myths and corresponding facts to clear things up for all the aspiring public relations associates out there.
Myth: It’s all about being social.
Fact: There’s A LOT more to it!
To an outsider, the ‘relationship-building’ that’s always referenced as the key to PR can be envisioned as a typical movie montage of professional life: fancy client dinners and drinks, followed by golfing or boating. While good social skills and the ability to cultivate and maintain clients’ and journalists’ trust do remain at the forefront of PR, many people don’t understand the work – from coordination and written communication to research and measurement – required to establish and maintain productive relationships. Clients won’t put their trust in you just because they like you – you need credibility and concrete results to back you up.
Myth: It’s not really advertising, but it’s basically the same as marketing.
Fact: Advertising, marketing, and PR often work together, but they’re all distinct fields!
In the age of social media and content creation, the line between PR and marketing has been blurred – but it still exists. PR is definitely a piece of the marketing puzzle for most businesses, and confusion can sometimes arise when press releases appear alongside marketing campaigns or ads on Twitter and Facebook. The real difference is that marketing focuses on promoting a company’s products and services, with a more direct line to driving sales and revenue. PR’s impact, on the other hand, is less directly quantifiable; it primarily focuses on building a company’s profile and reputation. While they do work in conjunction with one another, it’s important to take into consideration the goals, strategies, and tactics that distinguish the two.
Myth: It’s all corporate or for luxury brands.
Fact: Any company or organization can use PR!
Misconceptions are common specifically about the clients most PR firms serve. While there is certainly a PR need among brands offering luxury services and products, there is just as much value in PR for many nonprofits, public affairs groups, or B2B companies. And while some agencies specialize in just one industry, it often benefits agency PR professionals to be well-rounded, flexible, and prepared to work with a wide variety of clients. Moreover, working with diverse clients can help individuals think critically and creatively about how to target all kinds of audiences and make an impact in different ways.
Myth: PR success is based totally on chance.
Fact: While there’s an element of unpredictability to PR, success is really based on strategy.
Another common take on PR is that not much planning goes into it – that PR pros just push press releases or spray their message indiscriminately to the media, hoping for an easy hit. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
PR is all about timing and strategy. Most successful PR professionals are news junkies, which is helpful because a huge and essential part of the job is staying up-to-date on current events, trends, and breaking news.
If anything relevant to your client is going on in the media, you need to act quickly and approach clients with a plan of action for leveraging the opportunity before someone else beats you to the punch. While it may look like certain articles or announcements get published just because the topic is inherently interesting, PR teams work hard on behalf of their clients to cultivate relationships with reporters and prove that certain stories are relevant and worth printing.
Entering into the workforce is stressful enough as it is. Taking a job you don’t really understand can make it even worse, so make sure to have all the facts straight. If nothing else, it’s clear that PR is a field that brings together all kinds of skills and interests – now decide if it’s right for you.