This post is part of our intern blog series that aims to help young professionals land and make the most of their PR agency internships. For the next few weeks, our whiz-bang team of interns will give you some insider information on What They Didn’t Tell You about careers in PR.
I’ll admit it. My first impression of a public relations professional came from watching Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. PR seemed like it was all about attending star-studded events, dining at the hottest and newest restaurants and going to the most glamorous parties. It made me think, “Wow, being a publicist certainly seems like all fun and no work!” (And honestly, that lifestyle does not appeal to me.)
Boy, was I ever wrong. And I’m so glad I was.
Interning with an independent PR consultant and at a large agency has drastically changed my definition of public relations since the days of watching Sex and the City – all for the good. I’ve come to learn that there is so much more to public relations than planning parties, and like fellow intern Ivan Vukovic said in his blog post, there’s no one all-encompassing answer as to what PR professionals do. We develop our expertise and work together to help contribute to our clients’ businesses.
While partying it up in New York City certainly sounds fun, there’s a whole lot more to the world of PR than how Samantha Jones portrayed it. I’m going to introduce you to the “behind the scenes” of public relations. My hope is that this will help shed some light on what a typical day of a PR intern might look like.
News Monitoring and Tracking
Monitoring is an important aspect of public relations, as it’s our job to not only help our clients resonate their messages in the media, but also want to know what the public is saying about them. In this case, I can listen for breaking news and social conversations by tracking online and broadcast coverage, searching for key terms on Google and monitoring Twitter. Google Alerts is one of my best friends for news monitoring – and I’m sure many PR folks feel the same. It helps me to stay on top of things even when I’m not actively searching for news. I’ve learned that it’s crucial to let the clients know of any breaking news as soon as possible, which means that I have to always keep my eyes peeled and ears open for coverage. This week, some of my colleagues are coming into work at 6 AM to monitor news for a worldwide client conference. This is to ensure that their client has the latest news in real-time. Samantha Jones would never do this!
Media List Building and Research
As mentioned above, the message you’re trying to help the client deliver to the target audience is a major component of public relations. Finding the appropriate media contact to help get that message across is important. It increases the likelihood of getting a story, and it shows the reporters that you’re doing your homework. That being said, researching for the appropriate outlets and building media lists is just the first step, which leads us to…
On one occasion, I had the opportunity to assist a client in the technology/social media field by coming up with ideas on specific angles to pitch to reporters with. To do so, I spent time researching the client and exploring their website to find aspects that I can highlight in the pitch. I also made sure that the client’s strengths were highlighted while relating it to a current topic, so that the pitch was not only timely but also relevant. For example, summer is prime time BBQ weather; I utilized this angle by providing ideas on how one can use the client’s website to plan for summer cookout parties and showcase the client’s uniqueness. In other words, seize opportunities to make your client relevant to current topics and stand out from the rest.
Tracking and Analysis
Another part of my job is to assist with measurement reports, including data analysis on tracked coverage for our clients and their competitors. I certainly wasn’t expecting my statistics and Excel abilities to be put to use for public relations! It was a welcomed surprise as I’ve done my fair share of research work for my psychology major, and I’m glad to put that experience to use in compiling data and analyzing results to provide our clients with insights and recommendations.
It’s not exactly the first time that an industry has been portrayed inaccurately by Hollywood. To be honest, by even mentioning the concept of Samantha Jones and PR, you are perpetuating the stereotype of a false-stereotype! We (supposedly) know that stereotypes may or may not be true, and often shape biased images, yet we just can’t seem to get those images out of our heads. While I do enjoy watching Sex and the City now and then, I’d say that not all of us are Samantha Jones – in my opinion, the realities of PR are so much better than Samatha’s version of PR.
Any thoughts you’d like to share about your own first impressions of public relations? Or is there another character you’ve seen in mainstream media that you think is representing a (false) stereotype of a different profession?
Image courtesy of DavyLandman.