Three hundred and sixty-five days ago I was head-down studying for my final round of exams; pouring over PR textbooks, PR cases and wrapping up final campaign reports. Thinking back on it now, even though I was stuffing my brain with PR theory, if you asked me to define PR, I’d have to do a sneaky search on the PRINZ website.
It wasn’t until I started working next to PR people in a PR agency that I actually understood what PR was. The theory and practice finally clicked. So here we are on my first anniversary of professional PR life, and I’m happy to report that I can answer five simple questions about it. Yay for finally understanding!
Five questions I can finally answer after a year in PR:
QUESTION ONE: What is public relations?
This question, as my parents have reminded me many times, can also be rephrased as “So, what do you actually do?”
Answer: In a nutshell, PR means doing two things:
1) Stepping into the shoes of an organisation and thinking what it is they want to say and finding different ways of saying it
Think of something as simple as #431am to something as elaborate as Emma Watson’s He for She campaign. The PR people on the Fonterra team wanted to show they weren’t some big corporate who couldn’t care less about people. So they decided to give big ups to farmers by saying “It’s those that get up to see the sunrise that get this country going” and spread the message through videos, social media, influencers like Richie and the hashtag #431am.
2) Being a reputation guardian
It’s the PR person’s job to look around corners for possible risks to an organisation’s reputation and possible opportunities to capitalise on it too. This job done badly, can mean major backlash from a once loyal fan base *cough cough* Dove
QUESTION TWO: What question should you ask yourself before starting any task?
Answer: “What are we trying to achieve?”
The PR person is the ‘big-picture’ person. Sitting in on client meetings, I can see how the PR person takes a step back to see where the organisation’s actually headed. They can then direct traffic towards the end goal. This way, every press release, meme, campaign, video or other tactic, has a place and a purpose in the big-picture.
QUESTION THREE: What does a ‘typical day’ look like in the office?
Answer: First, sitting with a client to ask question two; second, doing question one; then, spending the rest of the time making question one happen – plus a few emails, phone calls, meetings and trips to farms in the mix too.
QUESTION FOUR: What skills do you need to work in public relations?
Answer: Good writing, problem solving, working with people, creativity, openness to learning.
I’m sure there are hundreds of other skills you could add to the list, but every day you’ll be using all five of the above, so practicing these could be a good place to start.
QUESTION FIVE: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to enter PR?
Answer: Do gratitude.
PR is all about relationships. Whether it’s with your clients, your colleagues, the media, the public, or the Prime Minister. So if the key to good PR is good relationships, then the keyhole is gratitude. A smile, a thank-you email, or some other gesture that shows people you appreciate them can go a long way.
One year on, I think I’ve only scratched the surface of what PR is and what it can do. So bring on the second year… then the world.