Three negative (and false) PR stereotypes

Last year, I landed my first job out of university as a digital PR executive. 

Having just completed a Psychology degree, I had little to no knowledge of the PR industry, and even less knowledge of how to employ traditional PR tactics for digital PR and link building purposes. 

But what I did have knowledge on, long before I learned everything I needed to know on how to become a great PR, was the widely-held and flawed stereotypes of PROs.

A few months in and I was confused – everything I had experienced working as a PR completely contradicted these cliches – yet so many of us in the industry still experience these misconceptions every day. 

Here are the top three PR stereotypes that are broken by the PROs I work and interact with every day: 

1. All PROs are extroverts
In TV and film (such as Samantha Jones in Sex and the City), PR professionals are commonly presented as extroverted, glamorous party people, who spend their lives networking with influencers, and attending boozy lunches and launch events. 

The idea that you have to be loud, party-loving and extroverted to work in PR is damaging for those who do not consider themselves as overly confident and therefore may avoid pursuing a career in PR or communications for fear of not being ‘confident’ enough.

2. Anyone can do PR
I’ll admit, the stereotype that anyone can do PR was one that I myself had before knowing anything about the industry, not realising the perseverance, creativity and strategy needed to work in PR and land amazing coverage. 

It can take months to come up with, plan, execute and pitch a campaign to land some half-decent coverage, so you need to have skills in all of these areas (plus a lot of hard work) to ensure the campaign is a success.

If a campaign is not getting the pick-up we’ve expected, or we need to get a story out quick, my colleagues are some of the most quick-thinking and innovative people I’ve ever met, persevering until we get an angle that works. Definitely not everyone can do PR, and a strong and specific set of skills  is needed to be a great PR. 

3. PROs are desperate
One of my biggest bugbears working in PR, is the constant abuse and judgement from journalists, with one of the most common judgements being that all PROs are desperate or ‘thirsty’.

Journalists that think that every mode of communication from a PR has some kind of ulterior motive means the PROs are often starting on the back foot, but we are all just normal people, who do not in fact live and breathe our jobs. Sometimes we just fancy a chat with someone else working in the industry!

KPIs need to be hit and so trialling new creative angles or campaigns is not us being “desperate”. We want our campaigns to perform well, just like a journalist would want a feature to be received well or get lots of reads – we’ve all got a job to do, just like a journalist hitting a deadline. 

Spread the word!
These long-standing and out-dated misconceptions about PROs are damaging, as we may be losing out on great talent if they’re judging how suitable they are for the job (or vice versa) based on misinformed stereotypes. 

To break these PR stereotypes we need to be more open and honest about our experiences and our goals – with ourselves, our peers, and others we work with.

Written by Abi Bennetts, digital PR executive at agency Aira Digital