What They Don't Tell You About Public Relations

So I wrote a piece about what you should know if you Want a Career in Public Relations!  Apparently, it is was extremely helpful because I receive quite a bit of emails and calls from PR newbies! Well if that was helpful then I want to add just a touch more for aspiring flacks so you have a true understanding of the behind the scenes rules of PR.

Of my years running MEPR Agency I have had the privilege of working with some really amazing young, rising stars.  But I believe even as dynamic as anyone is there is always room for improvement.  This is a compilation of some of the areas you only learn…the hard way!

The industry is really small: I know, I know everywhere you look there are PR pros, publicists, social media gurus, and marketers and promoters impeding on the space too.  But the reality is that within your market you will find some key firms and then whittle it down to the key influencers within those companies.  Those people, the ones at the tops of firms, all speak to each other, do lunch (or tea in my case), sub-contract work with each other, and ultimately make the decisions within your city or industry.   The bottom line is that you never know what one relationship can turn into and on the flip you never know if you don’t get the job because of a previous mishap.  Keep it cool, don’t burn bridges, be thankful, and remain humble!

We do actually talk to each other: There is such a large myth that I want to dispel.  My competitors are not my enemies; we just work for different agencies.  I love working in PR in Nashville because I know some great PR folks.  While I don’t chat with them all the time I know that I am able to call on most as our schedules fit. Bottom line: read the last two sentences of #1.

You can be blacklisted: Very rarely I meet up with a colleague, have a phone chat or just run into them and I get some disturbing news.  What could it possibly be? “Have you heard XYZ is unable to find a new position?” You see every now and again there is just such a stench on a person that can’t be dusted off.  Remember, that each decision we make can directly affect the rest of our lives and our career. Don’t get stopped before you even get started by having an off the record convo with a reporter, using inappropriate or unscripted language during a crisis, or even fraternizing within the workplace.   Bottom line: be careful to stay off the ‘list’!

You are being followed: I, along with many of my colleagues, believe in virtual stalking. Before you get scared and click off let me share what that means.  Virtual Stalking is the opportunity for me as an employer to go far beyond a basic Google search and begin really digging into your online footprint for fact checking.  If this was a recording I would suggest you pause the tape (do they make those anymore) and do an intense scrubbing of your online profiles.   It’s not a matter of taking down vacation pictures but it is a chance for you to add work skills, examples, and even a resume…wow, what a thought!

Google could change your life: Ok so now you have the job and you are asked to work on some client research.  In that moment Google could become your best friend and help you navigate what competitors are saying, the tone or language that the client uses, and even any gripes that might be out there from former customers of the client.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions but by all means if it is something that you can search for then please do!

Instructions should only be given once so take notes: one of my biggest gripes with the younger generation is the thought that they can retain everything.  If you have a weekly meeting by all means please bring some paper and pen or an ipad to take notes.  The worst thing is to leave and then get bombarded with 20 questions that were all answered in the previous meeting.  Now I do believe you should be able to ask follow up questions and there is nothing wrong with being even more knowledgeable but if you ask the same question or have trouble with something covered it is a great indicator of how you will act/react when given larger responsibilities.  So, if all else fails bring your cell phone and take some quick bullet pointed notes.

This is one of the hardest industries you will encounter: I truly believe that aside from medicine, science, the military, and police, EMT, and firefighters, public relations might be among the hardest industries.  This is not frilly or Samantha Jones-esque by any stretch and you may have many days with tears, anger, or even wanting to quit.  As you are on your journey looking for an opportunity or if you are a newbie at a firm make the best of every moment, even the tough ones.  Honestly, you will have two opinions: you will understand your value OR you will run away and never look back.  It is my hope through programs like the Mentorship Project that you will stick it out and make an impact.

Thankless but rewarding! Of course I can’t leave you on a sour note because this last thought is so true.  You don’t always receive a ton of hugs and bouquets of flowers but I will say that the PR industry is extremely rewarding. I encourage you to find your specific passion and try to work in it, even on a small scale, so that you can feel the reward as you impact communities and empower people to movement. After all isn’t that why you entered this career?

Kia Jarmon is a brand strategist and PR coach with boutique public relations firm, The MEPR Agency. She speaks, blogs,mentors, and is soon to be an author. You can find more information at her personal brand site, www.KiaJarmon.com