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Edward Bernays would dig me. Seasoned public relations strategist (10+ years in the game) who has practiced PR in multiple cities: Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago & DC. I'm an observationist and a soon to be card carrying member of the Twitterati. I love comfortable silences, revel in the Seinfeldian absurdities of life and have been described as a habitual line stepper. These are my thoughts...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

So You Want To Be In PR?

When it comes to the consensus of public relations professionals, one of the few things that we all can agree upon is that hardly anyone outside of the communications industry understands what it is that we actually do for a living (especially our relatives). Even our industry had to have a national dialogue to define the term “public relations.”

Most of the general public confusion is due in part to the role of the PR professional being so varied and stretched across multiple communication and publicity functions. Are PR people spokespeople, marketers, staff writers, event coordinators, or social media specialists? The answer is yes, and then some.

While many in our profession happily specialize in just one of the previously mentioned disciplines, many others (like me) are multi-tactical, cross functionary strategists that are required to do a lot of communication related things, and that makes the position hard to define.

To illustrate this point, I’d like to share what a typical day for me resembles in my role as director of communications for a DC-based trade association.

A Day in the Life

7-8:30am: On the commute into work I begin the mind numbing process of whittling down and reading/responding to what will be a plethora of emails I will receive throughout the day (some are carryovers from the previous day). I also begin mentally planning out my assignments for the day and prioritizing projects that are in process.

8:30-10:30am: I’m in the office but still responding to various emails, in addition to scanning through newspapers, trade pubs (online and print), the internet, and social media sites for association/issues related news items, industry trend stories/news, or significant member company related news.  Following, I evaluate the daily reports from our media monitoring service, then the fun part starts – updating division heads and executive staff of news they should be made aware of.

10:30 am-12 pm: This is usually my prime media pitching time as I distribute already approved news releases, or follow up with media outlets that were previously pitched news stories or sent releases. This is also the time I draft and distribute new pitches or return non priority reporter messages/calls.

Also, somewhere between 8:30 am to noon, I participate in Comm. Team meetings with the Director of Digital Communications and the VP of our department. During and after these meetings is prime time for creative thinking and coming up with new ideas and strategies for telling the association’s story or communicating its messages.

12-1:30pm: I spend this time updating the association’s social media communications typically, editing and/or drafting numerous written pieces such as: e-blast communications, news releases, internal departmental memos, marketing copy, meeting minutes or blog posts (I’m the red ink guy). I also use this time to update the organization’s website copy or evaluating website traffic data.

1:30-3pm: Meetings with various division heads to discuss what’s new or updates on specific issues, prep for media interviews, and occasional crisis communications as opposition groups, activists or concerned consumers outfits like to issue statements, negative studies, or invites to press conferences around this time of the day. As a result, I’m usually busy researching an issue, preparing a statement or responding to investigative media. Also during this time, I’m typically shooting down an onslaught of request from vendors looking to work with us.

FYI – The emails never stop coming throughout the day.

3-5pm: During this period I attempt to wrap up as many projects/assignments as possible (as they are almost always due by COB). I also spend this time trying to update and/or clean up the media monitoring reports so that they are ready by month’s end. This also is when I review a number of association produced materials, or products to ensure quality control and brand consistency/standards. And when called upon, I work with our affiliate groups on a number of communication needs (media relations, editing, issues management, etc.).

Then there's the impromptu meetings I have throughout the day with the VP of Comm. to give debriefs, status updates or participate in quick strategy sessions.

So as you can see, despite lacking "the sexy," it’s a pretty busy day and can be rather intense on occasion.  While each and every day does not look exactly like the example I’ve provided (new priorities pop up and the time frames aren’t so concrete), it does offer a pretty accurate reflection of what I do on behalf of the association. But it's all public relations related.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to singularly focus on media relations or social media, or if I would get bored operating in such a targeted lane. My average day working at an agency was a helluva lot different from role in in-house communications (maybe one day I’ll doing something on a typical agency day).

Now that I’ve peeled the curtain back and let you look in, do you think you’re cut out for PR work? Or if you’re already working in the profession, how does your day stack up against mine?

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