Dear PR Students: You Don’t Know Shit About PR
October 8, 2013
Let me start by saying that I am not calling PR students or interns stupid, but rather pointing out that PR is one of those careers that you can’t fully grasp from school. So what’s the most important thing to know about joining the PR profession?
If you’re not a caffeine addict already, you better be ready to become one, as PR ranked as the fourth most coffee reliant profession.
But really, other than a need for coffee, what does it mean to be a PR pro?
According to Wikipedia (yes, I chose Wikipedia as a point of reference because most college students are probably checking this site to figure out what PR is) “public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public.” But what does that actually mean?
In college, I remember telling my family and friends that I wanted to go into PR, and when they would ask me what PR was I would say something along the lines of, “It’s a mixture of marketing and journalism. I’ll help promote companies without having to pay for something.” What that actually meant to me at the time I had no fucking clue, but it’s what I went with when explaining it to others and during my own interviews at different PR firms. Today, I have a completely different understanding of what PR is and the importance it has within a company.
After working with our BPR intern program for over a year now, I’ve interviewed individuals who have had previous experiences and those who have not. The one thing I always ask no matter their experience level when interviewing potential interns is, “What do you think PR is?” Once they share their own BS answer of what they think PR is I always respond with, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t and won’t know PR until you’re fully in it.”
At the beginning of each BPR internship we ask our interns to write down what they think PR is and what they thinkthey’re getting into. We’ve heard responses – some coming from Wikipedia – like:
- The process of communicating a company/brand/non-profit’s message in an effective way to achieve the ultimate goal of that organization.
- Managing information between an organization and its audience, often dealing heavily with the media, promoting positive stories as well as controlling negative ones.
- Helping companies announce new products, information, and present themselves to other companies and the general public.
I have to admit, these responses are correct to a degree, but they are missing many pieces of the PR puzzle. Media relations is a very important aspect of PR, but there is also analyst relations, awards, conference appearances and speaking opportunities, and company and business strategies, just to name a couple. This is our typical list of what we tell our interns they will have the opportunity to work with at BPR, but until they actually start working on it it’s hard to understand the steps, strategy and importance of each task we provide for our clients.
I’ve been with Barokas for over two years and there’s always something new to learn about how to truly succeed in PR. College will be able to teach you key skills to help you in your career, but internships will teach you what it actually means to be a PR pro.
If you’re really interested in going into PR I highly recommend beginning your internship search as early as possible, and if you don’t have time for an internship this quarter/semester, start setting up informational interviews to learn from the professionals you aspire to be.
The more you proactively reach out to PR pros to learn, whether through internships or informational interviews, the better you’ll be able to answer the question “What is PR?” Most importantly you’ll have a better understanding of what is actually involved in working in PR.
As BuzzFeed said it best: PR pros expect they’ll enjoy their job, but the reality is PR pros “can’t imagine doing anything else. At the end of the day, getting that piece in Wall Street Journal makes it all worth it.”