Some PR misconceptions

They teach you a great deal in a BA Public Relations degree. One thing they don’t teach you, mind, is how many misconceptions and distasteful stereotypes float about the PR industry. They also don’t teach you just how many irks and niggles you’ll encounter along the way. Don’t get me wrong, working in PR is everything I’d dreamed it would be and more; it’s an infinitely rewarding career. However, there are a few annoyances that I didn’t expect and certainly wasn’t prepared for.

Knowing this, and feeling for sure that I wasn’t alone, I recently asked my network a simple question: what annoys you most about working in PR and communications? I expected a handful of responses, what I actually got was a boatload. So I’m not alone in getting wound up sometimes, huh? Here are the top things that wind me up the most about working in PR..

#1 Everyone Thinks You’re A Big Drinker

It’s no coincidence that this point is number one. My biggest annoyance about working in the PR industry is that the typical conception is that we’re all mouthy, loud, big-on-drinking socialites. We largely have TV stereotypes to blame for that, but also social media. Yes, you might see us attending events and awards nights from time to time on Instagram. And yes, there might be a bottle of prosecco (or two) on the table. But no, that does not mean that you’ll find ‘must be a big lover of the old drink ’in the job spec. of any PR role. I’m not a huge drinker myself, has that ever stunted my abilities to carry out great work for my clients? Absolutely not. This stereotype can be really damaging to young creative minds who might well back out of pursuing a career in communications because they fear they aren’t ‘extroverted’ enough. You do not have to be a ‘drinker’ to be successful in PR.

#2 “PR Is Free Publicity”

I think historically PR might have been sold as free publicity. I guess if you were trying to explain it in its simplest form, this is how it might come out. However, the word ‘free’ is the issue. Sure, you’re not paying an advertising fee for coverage in the news. However, you are investing in a creative ideas process and a team of professionals who will work tirelessly to protect and grow your brand and it’s reputation. The word ‘free’ really de-values the work we do as communications workers, and it’s something that winds me up often.

#3 Nobody Knows What On Earth It Is That You Do

Sometimes this can be funny. Other times, it gets bothersome. Ask your mum and dad what you do and they probably won’t understand, and that’s fine. But when brands don’t really value the work you do and the impact that it can have, well that’s when it starts to get a little annoying. Everyone who works in Public Relations knows its hard to prove the return on investment for PR. However, when you know you’re doing wonderful work for a company yet they can’t place a value on it, then this can sometimes pose issues.

#4 People Think We Spend Our Days Churning Out Press Releases

Okay so firstly, running campaigns and sending out press releases in order to try and get coverage is typically known as media relations, a branch of public eelations. And though running with campaigns in order to try and place them in well-known publications is partly what I do at the moment at Tecmark (otherwise known as ‘ethical’ link building), it’s a fraction of the bigger picture. I’m telling you now, if my job was just writing press releases and hitting ‘send’ then I’d have a pretty easy (if not a little boring) life indeed. Even when you work in Media Relations, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind-the-scenes in creative ideation, campaign executing and nurturing. If it was as easy as sending emails, then everybody would do it. And as for Public Relations, well, I won’t open that can of worms. But, I dare you to tell any PR professional that their job is just sending press releases, I can pretty much guarantee an unfavourable response.

#5 You Need Years And Years Of Experience To Be Any Good At It

And I’ve saved perhaps one of the best until last. I think this is a taboo that’s existent within every industry, but perhaps PR more than any. Many think that you have to have years worth of experience to be any good at it. When actually, the best PR and comms people embody skills that can’t actually be taught. Creativity, passion and drive are 3 core elements to a proficient PR professional, you don’t need 10 years of experience to have that. I mean, I’ve only worked in digital PR & link building for a year (full-time) now, but I’m incredibly proud of the campaigns I’ve worked on and the results I’ve achieved. Have you had told me a few years ago that I need bucket loads of experience to get anywhere, then there’s a good chance I’d have considered other career paths. In short, we need to bin the stereotype that years-deep experience is paramount. We could be losing out on incredible talent on the basis they only have six months’ worth of full-time experience as opposed to six years’ worth.

This post was written by Jessica Pardoe, Digital PR & Outreach Executive at Tecmark.