It is an irony that an industry concerned with both good and bad press gets such a bad press itself. We are surrounded by the outcome of public affairs work everyday in all aspects of the media and the public image of PR tends to be of schmoozing and cover-ups, an ‘old boys network’, or cronyism. PR is really more of an art than a science and is certainly about more than just the ‘press release’. If you are considering a public affairs career then you need to challenge the myths and misconceptions that still exist about PR.
The Press Release –
This is the classic way that a company will communicate a story to the media but PR is not all about the ‘press release’ or the ‘press conference’. Overuse has made this a less effective tool. This doesn’t mean that they are no longer important but that they should be saved for the biggest events and the biggest stories otherwise there is a danger of the media taking no notice and clearly this is counter-productive. Remember the journalists will be receiving thousands of press releases a day via email and you need to stand out and use all of your communication outlets.
Schmoozing, Wining and Dining –
The perception is that public affairs are all about parties and schmoozing, wining and dining. In fact, PR has been listed as one of the top ten most stressful jobs and editors don’t always want to be wined and dined. There isn’t usually time for the long lunch cliché, the words needs to be written and the stories need to be published. The idea that it is all about parties sounds very nice and glamorous but the reality is more like a very long day at the office.
Publicity is Cheap or Free –
This is another common myth. Yes, PR is cheaper than advertising but it is still not cheap and certainly not free. PR is a full time professional job and successful PR people will need strong writing, verbal and presentation skills, be well organised, assertive and confident. Money needs to be spent to make money and PR creates visibility, credibility and good impressions.
PR is Quick and Easy –
Actually, public relations takes a great deal of time and it is as crucial to invest in this as the money. You need the best people to do the job. It is not a matter of luck. Timing is crucial and PR is most effective over a long period. So, if you’re not put off by having some of these myths debunked and you still feel a PR job is for you then have a look at some tips for a career in PR.
HJ Buckland is a journalist specialising in PR jobs and Public Affairs.