By David Grover
Public Relations seems to be the hot new trend in exciting careers. It’s a fast-paced, modern, and lucrative business to be in–if you can cut it. Not everyone is cut out for working PR, though there are certainly varying levels of involvement. If you’re working PR for a small start-up, your job will be very different than if you’re working PR for a politician, or for a Fortune 500 company. No matter where you go though, there are certain expectations you’ll have to meet, and certain sacrifices you’ll have to make.
Here are a few things that you need to consider if you’re pondering a career in PR:
1. You Need to Be Driven
When a business or company hires a PR person, they are looking for someone with the skill set and knowledge to help them, because they don’t know what they’re doing. Unless you’re specifically signing on with a PR firm to gain training and experience, no-one is going to tell you what to do or when to do it. You need to be a strong self-starter, and be motivated. If you find yourself in over your head, it’s up to you to figure out how to dig yourself out, preferably without letting your client know that you’re struggling. It can be a difficult balancing act at the beginning, and you have to be prepared to manage by crisis until you really learn what you’re doing.
2. You Need to Be Assertive
PR is not a field for the meek. You need to be chock-full of confidence in all of your dealings. You need to be able to instill confidence in your ability to get the job done for your client, and you need to be able to project a feeling of confidence in the product or service to the public that you are trying to market to. There’s no room in PR for being unsure or questioning yourself. You’re the “public” face of the product, and if you seem unsure or reserved, potential customers will be too.
3. You Need to Be Flexible
This isn’t a nine-to-five job. Expect to work long hours, evenings and weekends. You’re on call to handle PR disasters 24/7, and you’re expected to be available for dinners, events, shows, and business meetings. Getting a call after hours when you’re just getting ready for bed is par for the course, and can lead to you coming up with a game-plan to combat a problem at 3AM on a Tuesday. The upside is that you can often have flexibility with your daily schedule when you know that you’re going to be handling a long weekend or going to a formal dinner. This can allow you to deal with doctors’ appointments, banking, or other “during business hours” errands without having to use your vacation time.
4. You Need to Work Well Under Pressure
Deadlines don’t move because something didn’t come back from an editor on time, and the pressure to meet those deadlines when things go wrong can leave you pulling more all-nighters than you did in college. And you’re still expected to arrive fresh-faced in the morning ready to give a presentation to a room-full of executives. If your drive to succeed increases when you’re nearing a deadline, or if you are the person that does well in a crisis, you should be just fine. If you’re the type of person that needs to take some down-time to recover after handling a mess, you’re probably not cut out for this type of work.
5. You Need to Be Able to Multi-Task Like a Pro
A morning can find you picking up pastries before a meeting, grabbing some press materials from a printer, and scheduling a catering meeting, all before arriving at the office. As the point-of-contact for the public, you’re handling information flow in both directions, and it can be a non-stop exercise in juggling tasks. Can you type an email while on a conference call with a client, and be interrupted to approve a color scheme for a print campaign, all without losing your place? This type of fast-paced working environment is a normal part of working in PR. While it isn’t a constant flow, and there will of course be periods of calm, you will occasionally find yourself in the middle of chaos, and you need to be able to keep up with what’s going on around you.
6. You Need to Be Outgoing
You’ll find yourself making a lot of calls, introducing yourself, and networking throughout most of your activities. Your job is to be the bridge between the public and your client, and it means doing a lot of communicating. Press-releases and interviews are an expected part of the job. If you’re someone that thrives on social interaction, you will probably love this aspect of things. If you’re easily drained by meeting new people and having to keep up appearances, this may not be the job for you.
7. You Need to Have Great Communication Skills
From cold-calling potential buyers to meeting with reporters and journalists, you need to be eloquent, clear, and at the same time cautious in what you say. Reading body-language and adjusting your tone or approach based on the other parties’ comfort level is critical in reaching compromise. It’s not just oral communication either; writing press-releases, coming up with marketing campaign ideas, and communicating with the public are all necessary skills you need to have in order to succeed in a career in PR.
If you’re an extroverted, high-energy individual with a strong interest in social media and current trends, PR might be a good option for you. If, however, any of the above issues turn you off or intimidate you, it’s likely that you may have some trouble establishing yourself as a PR professional. Even if you are realizing that you might not be cut out for a high-profile position in PR, there is still a need for behind the scenes writing and marketing work. Otherwise, the real way to find out if PR is right for you is to dive in and see if you can succeed.
David Grover is a Communications Manager at Timeo, a useful tool for businesses in the UK. He’s also a freelance career coach, who’s always eager to share his experience. In his free time he enjoys traveling.