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What do PR people do all day?

There is no question that life in PR ain’t what it used to be, with less time lunching and more time online. However, a great deal of PR work has remained the same, from coming up with brilliant campaign ideas to pitching to journalists. We asked PR people, client and agency side, what they spend most of their time doing these days. It seems like you need to have a head for figures as well as be good with words to cope with the need to carry out comprehensive evaluation whilst meeting the demand to write attention-grabbing press releases.

How I spend my time in PR

Elayne Phillips, insight and evaluation, Prime Minster’s Office and Cabinet Office Communications: “The reality is that I have a top few things that I spend most of my time on rather than one core activity. These are: 

  • embedding use of the new Evaluation Framework across the Government Communications Service community and helping to evaluate government priority campaigns to ensure we achieve value for money for the UK tax payer; 
  • using the GCS Website and our Twitter account as energetically as possible to keep the GCS community inspired and providing a platform to share experiences from across Government; and
  • working with the industry so that UK Government Communications is following best practice like the Barcelona Principles and is influencing the future direction of the industry.

“Plus our new Modern Communications Operating Model means we're focusing team structures around the future skills needed for high-performing, professional and agile teams. This shifts importance towards being data and insight driven, and includes horizon scanning, strategic communications and campaigns. Transitioning into this new model has different challenges for different Government organisations and helping them to apply the structure and ways of working in practice is a very interesting piece of work.”

Rebecca Armstrong, consultant at agency Aberfield Communications: “At Aberfield we spend a considerable amount of time researching and getting to know our target audiences before we do anything else. We take an audience-first approach – using insights and data to understand how audiences communicate with a brand/organisation in order to influence how they think, feel or behave, so the research stage is incredibly important.

“We also focus on delivering creative, impactful PR campaigns, so providing new, inspiring ideas for our clients that will influence their audience is extremely important to us. It’s this ethos that has allowed us to win and maintain many of our clients.

“This integrated campaign approach means we spend a lot of time creating planned content and copywriting, not just for the media, but for social media and wider marketing channels that will also influence our target audience.

“There’s also now an element of time we can’t plan for. The speed of communication and social media means we have to be timely and reactive as well as proactive with our comms – ready to turn around a creative in a matter of hours or respond to a crisis as it happens. 

“Evaluation has also come a long way and thankfully, gone are the days of spending hours and hours calculating AVEs. Instead we spend time looking at measures which show the direct impact our PR has had, from engagement rates to sales figures and web stats, which allows us to provide a meaningful ROI on communications – something that has historically been extremely difficult to do.”

Emma Shiggins, PR officer at charity Cancer Research UK: “I work in the PR team at Cancer Research UK, promoting and raising awareness of our fundraising and health awareness campaigns and how people can get involved across all national media.

“We have a lot of campaigns at the charity, ranging from large-scale events like Race for Life and Dryathlon, to smaller-scale projects like our celebrity designed wedding favours.

“A typical day includes scanning the newspapers, online, and magazines, brainstorming creative ideas, planning campaigns, spotting trends, selling in to media, writing press releases and briefs, and responding to incoming journalist queries. We get particularly busy in the run up to a big campaign launch, for example at the moment we’re at a really key point in our Race for Life PR campaign – we’re selling in case study stories, planning a photoshoot with our celebrity ambassadors, and inviting journalists to take part in a 5k Summer event. We’ve found it works really well to invite journalists to take part in our events where possible, so they can get a feel for what the event is really like.

“We have a separate social media team, but we work really closely with them – creating joint content and ensuring we work all our assets as much as possible across the different channels. Across both teams we also ensure we are up to date with what’s going on in the news so we can react to any relevant breaking stories.

“No day is ever the same, but it’s rewarding to know that all the work we do helps the charity get one step closer to its aim to beat cancer sooner.”

Jessica Phillips, account executive at technical PR agency Stone Junction: “It's hard to define a typical working day in public relations, but one thing that has become apparent is that an increasing amount of time is now being spent monitoring and updating social media on behalf of our clients.

“Traditionally, news stories would break in newspapers or news websites. Now, you can get more up-to-date information by monitoring trending hash tags on Twitter. After identifying a relevant news story, the next step is to respond while it's still breaking.

“A large percentage of my day is usually spent researching the latest technological advances. As a technical PR agency, it's important to be up-to-date with the latest technologies, buzzwords, product releases and industry trends. Being in-the-know allows us to write informative pieces of technical content for our clients, and get to know their industry better.

“When I'm not finding and responding to news items, or researching my next piece of technical content, you'll find me chatting to clients and journalists. The digital world may be taking over for news jacking, but there's nothing better than a good old chinwag.”

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